Man with history of mental illness pleads guilty plea to raping, killing 3 homeless women

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MEMPHIS, Tennessee — A man with a history of mental issues pleaded guilty Friday to raping and fatally beating three homeless women in Memphis.

Michael Mullins, 53, was then sentenced to three terms of life in prison without parole.

Court documents show Mullins was arrested June 7, 2012 after the bludgeoned body of Gwendolyn Jackson, 67, was found near a Memphis church. Authorities said DNA testing then linked Mullins to the beating deaths of 46-year-old Valerie Ector in 2011 and 43-year-old Beatrice Cole in 1999.

Mullins' lawyer, Robert Gowen, said Mullins, who had a history of mental health problems and drug addiction, had been found competent to face trial.

"He wanted to plead guilty," Gowen said. "He was sorry for what he had done."

After his arrest, investigators obtained Mullins' fingerprints from a paper sack found nearby.

Prosecutors said his DNA was entered into the FBI's national database in 2008 after a 78-year-old Knoxville woman was severely beaten and raped. Samples taken from the Memphis killings matched Mullins'.

Detectives said Mullins confessed to the Memphis murders and to the attack on the Knoxville woman.

Doctors at Middle Tennessee Mental Health Institute in Nashville said in Shelby County Criminal Court that Mullins would be unable to help lawyers in his defense and that he could not understand the charges against him. Still, the doctors said they believed Mullins understood the crimes were wrong when they were committed and he was not eligible to be sent to a mental institution.

He was later seen by a doctor retained by the defense.

Mullins was sentenced to life in prison for the murders and to three 15-year prison sentences for the aggravated rapes. The sentences run concurrently.

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