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‘It has hit everybody, just a shock’

Citizen Staff Writer

Spree stuns picturesque town

A town where holiday scenes resemble ‘a Norman Rockwell print’ tries to understand a 15-year-old’s alleged rampage.


Citizen Staff Writer

ELGIN – When Jonathan McMullen attended Elgin Elementary School he was “quiet, shy, polite,” Lynn Gillman, Elgin School District’s superintendent, said yesterday.

The day before, Jonathan, 15, was picked up by authorities, accused of fatally shooting his mother and trying to kill his father and his younger brother Jack, 12.

Jonathan was adopted by the McMullens. Jack is his biological brother.

Gillman said Jonathan never showed extreme anger: “He was never in my office for discipline.”

As for Jack, “Jack’s all boy,” Gillman said. “He was on the track team with Jonathan; they liked to run.”

Both boys were good students, Gillman said.

As to what happened in the McMullen home Thursday and why, Gillman said, “That’s the hardest question of all. Nobody knows what happened.”

After learning of the shootings Thursday and that Jonathan McMullen was being sought, Gillman said, the elementary school went on “lockdown” from 7:30 until 11 a.m., when school authorities learned the teen had been captured.

Yesterday, counselors visited the school to help children deal with the news of the shootings and Jonathan’s arrest and the alleged attempted killing of Jack and Andrew McMullen.

There are 140 pupils attending the school, and many of them knew Jonathan or Jack or both boys, Gillman said.

The children asked, “How could anyone be so mad?” or “Could something like this happen here?” Gillman said.

“It has hit everybody, just a shock,” Gillman said of news of the shootings.

Residents of Elgin yesterday were looking for reasons why the shootings took place.

“I have no idea” why this happened, said Penny Higdon, who lives about a mile from the McMullens.

Elgin “is a pretty close-knit community. I think everyone just feels bad for the family and I know everyone wants to do just everything they can to help,” said Higdon.

She said when she heard of the shootings, “I was shocked.”

“We just couldn’t imagine it could happen here. That sounds trite, but that’s how we feel,” Gillman said.

Crystal Robbins, a worker at the Village of Elgin Winery, said a lot of people move to the area so they can raise their children in a safe community, “and generally it is, which is why people are so shocked.”

No motive for the shootings has been found by authorities, who say they have talked to Jonathan.

Elgin, although it is a rural community, has a sophisticated, relatively wealthy and highly educated population.

Many of the people who live here are business executives, university professors and other professionals.

“Some of the ranches are huge,” Gillman said. “Some of them go up to 600 acres.” Many have barns and horses.

Jonathan McMullen was transferred yesterday to Tucson from the Santa Cruz County Jail, charged with murdering his adoptive mother and trying to kill both his adoptive father and his younger brother in their Elgin home. He will be tried as an adult.

While the 15-year-old was making the move to Pima County Jail, where he remains on $1 million bond, his father and brother were recovering at a Tucson hospital.

Elgin is rolling grassland surrounded by majestic purple mountains.

Cattle graze on open land and horses are corralled outside many homes.

Many of the houses, some miles apart, are multilevel luxury homes.

The McMullens’ nearest neighbor is about a quarter mile away, along a dirt road.

Some of Arizona’s wineries are in the Elgin area.

“This is a special place,” Gillman said.

On holidays, she said, community members hold barbecues at Elgin Elementary School, which Jonathan and his 12-year-old brother, Jack, attended last year.

“It looks like a Norman Rockwell print,” Gillman said of the Elgin holiday gatherings.

Jonathan is accused of taking a small-caliber rifle at about 1 a.m. Thursday and shooting to death his adoptive mother, Kristina McMullen, 56, and shooting and critically wounding his biological brother Jack McMullen, 12, in a bedroom in the gray masonry home, said Santa Cruz County Sheriff Antonio Estrada.

Gunshots awoke Jonathan’s adoptive father, Andrew McMullen, 55, Estrada said. When he confronted the boy, Jonathan allegedly shot him in the face before the elder McMullen disarmed the youth and called 911.

Andrew McMullen’s 16-year-old son, Matt, slept through the shootings and was unharmed, Estrada said.

Jonathan’s little brother, Joe, 9, and his 9-year-old friend, who was spending the night, also were unharmed.

Said Debbie Briles, who lives near the family but didn’t know them: “Everyone just feels really bad when something like this happens. It’s a terrible tragedy for the family.”

Kristina McMullen was well known in her community for her work with children.

“She did a lot of theatrical work with children.”

Seated in her office yesterday afternoon at the elementary school, Gillman said Kristina McMullen “had a little camp at the barn behind her house and she put on theatrical productions with the kids” from the community.

And, Gillman said, “I just know that she was an involved-with-her-children mother.”

Neither Higdon nor Briles knew the McMullens.

Gillman, however, was acquainted with Kristina McMullen through Jonathan’s and Jack’s attendance at the school.

Jonathan graduated last year and Jack was not currently enrolled in the school, Gillman said. “We were under the understanding they were being home schooled.”

Estrada said Kristina had been a teacher. Although she had not taught professionally for several years, Estrada said, he had heard she was returning to the profession.

After the shootings, Jonathan and a 12-year-old boy who was visiting him fled in one of the family cars. They were picked up by Cochise County deputies after abandoning the car near Willcox.

Jonathan initially was booked into the Santa Cruz County Jail, but was transferred here because Santa Cruz County does not have jail facilities for juveniles charged as adults and the jail in Tucson does.

MAP: Elgin

Source: Tucson Citizen


Crime-scene tape yesterday marked the Elgin home (above) where Jonathan McMullen, 15, allegedly killed his adoptive mother and shot his father and brother. The Santa Cruz County community is set amid rolling southern Arizona grassland (below).

‘We just couldn’t imagine it could happen here. That sounds trite, but that’s how we feel.’ – Lynn Gillman, Elgin School District’s superintendent

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