Elgin teen pleads guilty in shooting
By Rhonda Bodfield 
Wednesday, November 27, 2002

A 15-year-old Elgin boy Tuesday pleaded guilty to one count of reckless manslaughter in the shooting death of his adoptive mother last year. 

In exchange for the guilty plea, Santa Cruz County prosecutors agreed to drop the first-degree murder charge Jonathan McMullen faced in the death of Kristina McMullen, 56, as well as two attempted murder charges for shooting his adoptive father, Andrew McMullen, and a biological brother, Jack, in September 2001. 

An emotional McMullen, who is being charged as an adult, paused frequently to dab at his eyes and nose as he told Superior Court Judge Michael Brown what happened that night. He said he and a 13-year-old accomplice the night before talked about taking his adoptive mother's car to Willcox. Afraid they would get caught, he said he decided to shoot the family. 

At some point, he and his accomplice, armed with a knife, went to the bedroom of Kristina and Andrew McMullen's then-16-year-old biological son. They argued over who would "do it first" and ended up leaving the older boy sleeping. 

Around midnight, McMullen said, he got his adoptive father's rifle. In response to a question from Brown about why he got the weapon, he said, "Because I decided that shooting people at the house was a quicker death than using a knife." 

After the shootings, Andrew McMullen wrestled the weapon from the boy. The two boys escaped, taking the car to Willcox. They were caught when the car got a flat tire. 

In response to a question from Brown, McMullen acknowledged he would have continued shooting if he hadn't run out of ammunition. He said he was not angry at his victims. 

The then-12-year-old victim, Jack, three months ago went to live with Andrew McMullen's sister-in-law because of behavioral and academic problems. But Andrew McMullen said he and his family agree with the plea. "We've wanted to balance justice and mercy," he said. "The law has to be served, but if we do this wisely, we might be able to salvage Jonathan. We hate the crime - it's terrible - but we don't hate the perpetrator." He said Jonathan will be welcomed back into the family when the ordeal is over. 

Under the agreement, the two attempted murder charges would be dismissed without prejudice, meaning they could be refiled at any time for any reason until the statute of limitations runs out on the crime in 2008. 

Prosecutor Marc Offenhartz noted that Jonathan McMullen has cooperated with authorities, had no juvenile record and is not considered likely to commit other crimes. 

Brown rejected several earlier plea agreements in the case and on Tuesday did not formally accept the plea, which could carry a prison term of three to 12.5 years.

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