Lady in the Harbor

A woman with dreams of becoming a star finds a gruesome Hollywood ending

Three years after a painful divorce, Bruce and Barbara, now just roommates, along with their teenage daughter Rachael, were all living under one rather dysfunctional roof. Rachael says there were arguments, mostly about money.

"She would say somethin' to Rachael, like, 'Well, you know, your dad is spending too much money. So he's gonna whore you out on the streets so he can pay the bills,'" Bruce says.

Asked why he let Barbara move in with him in the first place, Bruce tells Moriarty, "Rachael begged me, Rachael asked me."

But, Rachael says, things went way beyond that. "I was known at school as the girl with alcoholic parents."

Both parents, but her mother was what they call a "mean drunk."

So it was no shock that Rachael turned to alcohol to escape her parents' divorce. "I started drinking. I didn't know what else to do, where else to turn."

She turned on herself, cutting her body with razor blades.

Rachael's friend Kelsey Douglas was often around the Mullenix household in those tense teenage years. "She tried really hard to please her mom. And when she couldn't she just cried. It just made her really upset. I never heard her say anything bad about her mom. She loved her mom. She really did."

Kelsey says she would have described Barbara's behavior toward Rachael as mentally abusive.

But Rachael says she never really blamed her mother. "My mom had a really difficult life ever since she was born. She had a really difficult life."

For example, Rachael knew that when her mother was a teenager she had been raped. Perhaps that's why Barbara was so understanding when at 15, Rachael herself became pregnant and eventually had an abortion.

But little things would send Barbara into a rage. Detective Mack wondered: did Barbara's drinking cause Bruce to snap and kill her?

There was one problem with that theory: Bruce's story that he was out of town the night of Barbara's murder checked out. That left investigators at square one. They took a closer look at what was going on inside the Mullenix home and learned Rachael had a new boyfriend, Ian Allen, and Barbara was feeling left out.

"She began to get a little more worried about being alone at some point and that's why she was trying to control Rachael," Mack says. "And I think that was the big source of the friction between the two."

Ian Allen, 21, was four years older than Rachael. "He was a great catch," Rachael says. "I fell hard and fast."

Early in the budding relationship, Ian would do chores for Barbara, then hang around their house. But the atmosphere soon changed. "As things became more intense and Ian and Barbara started to compete, if you will, for control of Rachael, then that's when Ian started to get a taste of who Barbara really was," Bruce says. "Barbara was very intimidating."

Within a few short months, Rachael, then 17, and Ian, 21, announced their engagement, and Rachael pushed her parents into signing a very unusual document. "In July of 2006, they wrote a note to whom it may concern - I give permission to Ian Allen to date our daughter," Detective Mack explains.

Ian carried it in his wallet, not wanting to risk arrest for statutory rape.

Bruce says Ian was adding to Barbara's anxiety over losing Rachael. "The more serious that Rachael was getting with Ian, Barbara thought that this idea that she's gonna kind of have Rachael to help her survive after Rachael turns 18 or when my money stops, I think that was, now, being threatened. And the threat was Ian," Bruce says.

Then late one summer night in 2006, when Rachael failed to meet her strict 1:00 a.m. curfew after a date with Ian, her mother exploded.

"My mom shows up at his house. And just humiliating," Rachael remembers.

She says her mom was angry and making a scene. Asked how Ian felt about Barbara showing up, Rachael says, "Ian was livid. He was livid."

Just ¬four days later, Barbara's body was found floating in Newport Harbor. Police wanted to question Rachael and Ian, but they were nowhere to be found.

"If Ian did this, then Rachael's in danger. And that's why she didn't call me. That's the first thing I thought. 'Where is Rachael?'" Bruce says.

Detective Mack says they couldn't find Ian. "I put out an all points bulletin to be on the lookout for Ian and Rachael and their pickup truck."