Thursday, June 15, 2000

Prank call compounds Butler Co. family's tragedy

Man due in court today on phone harassment charge

By Janice Morse
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        OKEANA — Shirle Weartz said it was creepy to hear a man's voice on her answering machine, talking about her daughter-in-law's decade-old death.

        It also seemed cruel that the call came May 15, the day after Mother's Day, and the caller insisted on talking with the victim's daughter, now 121/2.

        “I freaked out. I got hysterical. I didn't know what to do or where to turn,” Mrs. Weartz, 73, said Wednesday,a day after police said they had charged a suspect, Larry Mullins, 53, of Hamilton.

        “It still bothers us, because we don't understand why someone would do something like this.”

        Police say Mr. Mullins kept detailed notes on fatal traffic crashes and missing persons cases, then made prank calls to the victims' relatives years later. They confiscated more than 230 journals from his Hamilton home Tuesday, and said Mr. Mullins may have made more than 100 similar calls over the years.

        “I wish all those people would come forward so something will be done that he can't do this anymore,” Mrs. Weartz said.

        Butler County Sheriff's Maj. Anthony Dwyer said Wednesday detectives were following up on about a half-dozen reports from possible victims.

        Mr. Mullins, who couldn't be located for comment, is scheduled to appear in Butler County Area I Court in Oxford this morning on the Weartz telephone harassment charge.

        Mr. Mullins faces another charge in Clermont County's Miami Township. Police there charged him with obstructing official business, and issued a warrant Monday, Miami Township police Lt. Steve Rogers said.

        Mr. Mullins is accused of hampering that agency's in vestigation of the disappearance of 18-year-old Karen Spencer, Lt. Mullins said.

        Ms. Spencer vanished in 1989. Mr. Mullins apparently saw a TV news report on the case this January, shortly after the 10-year anniversary of her disappearance, Lt. Rogers said.

        The news report apparently then prompted him to call a Symmes Township telephone number and claim he knew where Ms. Spencer's body was buried. Police learned about the call and began investigating.


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