Lebanon — Dennis Mullendore fumbled to pick up his “Every Man’s Bible” with shackled hands, then was escorted out of the courtroom to begin serving a 73-year sentence for stalking and murdering his estranged wife.
In August of this year, Mullendore was convicted of murder, stalking, intimidation, attempted intimidation and false reporting. He was sentenced by judge Rebecca S. McClure Tuesday afternoon in Boone Superior Court II.
Beth Mullendore died on Jan. 6, 2007, after being shot as she drove along Interstate 865 on her way to work at St. Vincent Hospital. During the jury trial, Mullendore admitted to stalking and intimidating Beth, but he maintained his innocence in the murder. The court found him guilty of shooting her with a shotgun from another vehicle, with the prosecution using cell phone records to place him in the area of the crime.
During the sentencing hearing Tuesday, family and friends from both sides were given a chance to present aggravating and mitigating factors to be factored into the length of the sentence given.
Beth Mullendore’s daughter, Bobbi Noland, told the judge that her life changed forever the day her mother died.
Noland said she tried to call Beth to talk to her as she drove to work, but that Beth never answered. When Beth didn’t call back, Noland said she began to worry. Then Noland’s grandmother told her that Beth “had been in a car accident and that she did not survive,” Noland said, speaking quietly and beginning to cry.
“I thought it was a bad dream,” she said.
Soon afterward she learned her mother had died from a gunshot wound — not a crash.
Noland continued to weep as she read from notes on folded white sheets of paper, saying her mother enjoyed helping others, and going out after work with her friends. She said Beth had put herself through nursing school.
“She worked very hard for everything she had in her life,” Noland said.
Since Beth Mullendore’s death, Noland said, she worries about her children and is always watchful, concerned for her own safety.
“My world has completely changed, and I’m OK with that. But what I’m not OK with is why this happened. ... The unanswered question — why they had no other option but to kill.”
Three people testified on behalf of Dennis Mullendore, Pastor John Hattabaugh, longtime family friend; William Fullerton, the husband of Mullendore’s cousin; and Deana Mullendore, his ex-wife and mother of his two children, Kelly, 27, and Derek, 19.
Although they have been divorced about 15 years, Deana Mullendore said she had an ongoing relationship with Dennis Mullendore because of the children. She said Mullendore was a good father who provided for their children, and later for Beth Mullendore’s children, and that he kept up with child support payments until his incarceration.
Pastor Hattabaugh and Fullerton told the judge that Mullendore’s life revolved around his family, his farm and the church.
“He is a thoughtful and helpful person,” Fullerton said. “It is my estimation that Dennis has a good heart and that he is a good man.”
He asked McClure for mercy and leniency in the sentence.
“More than one family has been hurt in these proceedings,” he said.
And for the first time, Mullendore spoke on his own behalf.
Mullendore offered condolences to members of Beth Mullendore’s family. “I’m deeply sorry that Beth died.” But he said of the guilty verdict for murder, “it’s an injustice to me.”
After the statements, Boone County Prosecutor Todd Meyer, asked McClure to sentence Mullendore to the maximum of 65 years for murder, with the maximum 8 years for stalking added onto that sentence.
Meyer said the premeditation required for the killing, and the frequency and language used in voice mail messages left for Beth Mullendore were aggravating factors. Meyer also said that Mullendore tried to use his son and son’s friends to help him establish an alibi, which should be considered an additional aggravator.
Meyer also cited Mullendore’s lack of remorse, saying that Mullendore didn’t apologize for Beth’s death, but only offered condolences.
Mullendore’s attorney, Michael Gross, did not represent Mullendore during the trial. In September, Mullendore fired his defense attorney, Gary Colasessano, and Gross was appointed to represent Mullendore during the sentencing hearing.
Gross told McClure that the level of premeditation and intimidation were already considered as elements of the crimes, and should not be considered as aggravators.
Gross said Mullendore’s character was a mitigating factor, and that a lack of remorse is appropriate if a person is not guilty of the crime. Meyer had brought up two arrests in Mullendore’s past — one for battery, and one for hunting off season — but Gross said Meyer was making “much ado about nothing.”
The defense asked for sentences to be served together, and to be at or below the recommended sentence for the crimes.
After a brief recess, McClure said that, except for the past criminal history, the prosecution’s arguments were considered aggravating factors. She said that the fact that Mullendore had been a respected member of the community prior to the incident was a mitigating factor.
She sentenced Mullendore to 65 years for murder, with 8 years additional time for stalking. Sentences for less than two years each were given for intimidation, attempted intimidation and false reporting, and are to be served concurrently. Because Mullendore has been declared indigent since his arrest, McClure waived all fines and court costs, but did require him to pay $17,436 to Indiana Farm Bureau for costs associated to insurance paid after the crash.
Mullendore has already served 654 days. With good-time behavior and time served, Mullendore will still spend almost 35 years in jail. He is 54.
Gross told McClure that Mullendore plans to appeal.
Monday afternoon, Boone County Sheriff Ken Campbell said he appreciated all the hard work that went into the case, which started just five days into the sheriff’s administration.
“I can’t say enough about the job the investigators, police officers and prosecutors (and their staffs) have done,” Campbell said.
The sheriff said that it had been a long case, and that family members on both sides should be commended for handling the trial and sentencing well.
“There are no winners here,” Campbell said. “Both families have suffered a loss.”
According to detectives, Beth Mullendore "was shot in her left cheek or left side of her head. A single shot we believe."
Police think the fatal shot came from a pickup as it drove alongside Beth Mullendore. Married 15 years and with no children, the couple was in the final stages of divorce. Court records show Beth Mullendore had a restraining order against her husband. It was a stormy marriage, say police who had been called to the couple's Lebanon home six times for domestic disturbances from 1997 until a month before Beth Mullendore's death.
In addition to murder, this week prosecutors also filed intimidation and stalking charges against Mullendore who remains held without bond that the Boone County jail.
"From November of 2005 until Mrs. Mullendore's death there were incidents that support that charge," said Meyer.