Memphis man convicted in 2008 Knoxville cold case thanks to DNA evidence

Michael Mullins (source: KCSO)

KNOXVILLE (WATE) – A man already serving a life sentence for three murders and rapes in West Tennessee was convicted and sentenced Friday in the attempted first degree murder and aggravated rape of a 79-year-old Knoxville woman in 2008 thanks to DNA evidence.

According to Knoxville District Attorney General Charme Allen’s office, Michael Mullins, 53, pleaded guilty to the charged and received the maximum sentence of 50 years in prison.

Previous story: Memphis man charged in 2008 beating, sexual assault of 79-year-old Knoxville woman

A group playing Frisbee found the victim, Jessie Maples, lying near some bushes in East Knoxville’s Morningside Park on April 18, 2008. She was unconscious and partially clothed. Officers say she had been sexually assaulted and had severe head injuries. She was unable to identify her attacker and the case went cold.

Jessie Maples (source: Knoxville Police Department)
Jessie Maples (source: Knoxville Police Department)

Maples spent several days in the hospital and was never able to return home. She died in 2012 in an area nursing home.

A Knoxville Police Department investigator received a tip from the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation in February 2012 that DNA from the 2008 attack matched a recent sample submitted to the Combined DNA Index System from Mullins. At the time, Mullins was under investigation in Memphis for a series of attacks similar to the one in Knoxville.

Memphis Police Department detectives interviewed Mullins, and he admitted to the Knoxville attempted murder and rape.

Mullins was convicted in Shelby County of three separate murders and rapes and is serving a life sentence without the possibility of parole. Gen. Allen said she still wanted to hold him accountable for the 2008 cold case in Knoxville.

“Even though Mullins was never going to see the light of day, it was still important to prosecute this case. Every victim deserves justice. Every victim deserves closure,” she said.

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