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Christie Mullins death

Friends hope reopened cold case will find killer

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Barbara Kerns Sanford simply burst into tears.

When word reached the Lancaster resident last week that the Columbus Division of Police was at last bowing to public pressure and reopening the investigation into the Aug. 23, 1975, murder of her girlhood friend Christie Lynn Mullins, emotion overcame her.

"I cried," Sanford said. "I feel very thankful for everyone who's tried to bring it into the news.

"I think if they look beyond the evidence box, if they go back and they interview all of us, I think they are going to find the truth about what happened."

The death of her 14-year-old friend, who was beaten to death with a board behind the Graceland Shopping Center, shocked Clintonville and all of Columbus.

"I can remember that day just like it was today," Sanford said. "Each one of us who were there that day feels the same."

Jack Carmen, a man with severe developmental disabilities, was eventually arrested and put on trial for the murder, but was acquitted in December 1977.

Since then, Sanford said, nothing.

Her friend's death, and the fact that no one has ever been brought to justice for Christie's murder, have weighed on Sanford all her life.

"I had just turned 17," she said. "When it happened, 'traumatic' doesn't cover it. The thought of anyone being murdered, it was horrific. Then you couple that with the fact there was a trial with someone who wasn't the murderer and you wait for the police to say, 'We'll keep on investigating.'

"Christie was really pushed to the side. This time around, the focus will be on Christie."

Sgt. Eric Pilya, who oversees the Columbus police cold-case unit, announced May 7 that a detective, Steve Eppert, has been assigned to review the evidence in the girl's murder.

"It's a very good development, obviously, and one that the Justice for Christie group has been hoping for for a long time," John Oller, a New York City attorney-turned-writer, said in an email.

Oller, who was a student at Ohio State University at the time the Christie Mullins murder case was making headlines, helped revive interest in the murder as he began doing research for a book.

"I think the question on people's minds now is how vigorously and effectively it will be pursued," Oller said.

"In my opinion, simply looking back at the old file, which mainly focused on the acquitted man, Jack Carmen, is less likely to accomplish something than talking to people who either were never interviewed before, or who were interviewed and testified but may not have told everything they know.

"There is one individual, in particular, who most people are convinced could largely solve the crime if she could be persuaded to talk and were meaningfully confronted with her prior contradictory statements. DNA testing is nice, and that should definitely be looked into, but old-fashioned gumshoe and police interrogation techniques are probably a more likely avenue for solving this crime at last."

Oller went on to say "quite a bit of new information" is included in the ebook he published about the murder and additions he has been making to it as new evidence comes to light, along with developments like the renewed investigation.

"CPD needs to consider that information, not just what's in a dusty old file," Oller said.

Oller and several Justice for Christie members appeared at the Clintonville Area Commission meeting April 3. They were appealing for a letter from the panel seeking to have the case reopened.

Sanford and her oldest daughter, Mara Weber, returned to the CAC earlier this month to complain that nothing had come from that letter, but they weren't on the agenda and Chairman Daniel B. Miller directed them to speak with the new community liaison officer, who had just introduced himself at the meeting.

"We did feel slightly dismissed and did not want to go back in as we did not really feel welcome or that the CAC did really feel the importance of our plea," Weber said after of the meeting. "The officer was great and we were very happy to steal his ear for a while."

"We were the 'Girls of Summer,' " Barbara Sanford said, of Christie and other teens who hung out at the Broadmeadows Apartments pool.

One of those girls, perhaps accompanied by a friend, or not -- and Sanford has her doubts -- was lured to the Graceland Shopping Center by a call, allegedly from a disc jockey inviting her to a cheerleading tryout behind the former Woolco store. Subsequent events indicate that may have been a prank totally unrelated to the murder.

"I've never forgiven myself for not going with them because it would have been one more person who could have stopped the animal from doing that to Christie," Sanford said.

"This time around, if they listen, it's a new set of eyes, new people. I believe with all my heart that the truth is there ... the truth of who killed Christie that day is there, and I believe the Columbus police department will name a suspect."

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