Sean Mulhall is a man who knew the worst side of Charlotte. For 11 years, he was captain of the Homicide and Missing Persons Division, leading Charlotte-Mecklenburg police investigations of high-profile cases that made national news. Mulhall retired last September after 28 years, vowing he'd try something new that didn't involve police work. Following are excerpts from an interview with staff writer Mark Price.
Q. You didn't stick to your vow. You started Mulhall-McMurray Investigations, a firm that finds missing people and investigates wrongful death cases. What gives?
You have all this experience and you like that type of work. What can I say? People feel comfortable doing something they know. … Quint McMurray (his new partner) retired from the department a few years before me. I knew he wasn't doing anything, and I asked him about starting something. He said, “I thought you'd never ask.” We're not policemen anymore, and we're not trying to be. We just want to help people.
Q. You've joked that you went 11 years without a Friday night off: What did you do that first Friday night after retiring?
My kids and wife were, like, “What are you doing here?” They made me a bowl of popcorn, gave me a soda and said “Sit on the couch and watch TV.” I was just glad to be home. There wasn't going to be any stress, or getting calls in the middle of the night. We had a nice summer together. My kids are 16 and 18, and a lot of time went by when I was (working).
Q. Are you grateful not to be getting calls in the middle of the night about a murder?
I miss a lot about my job, but I don't miss that part. There is life after CMPD. There are a lot of people who are afraid to take that step. It was a good part of my life, but it was also a small part of my life. You have family, and family is important to me. I've been married for 20 years. I met Julie when I was in vice. She was working at the U.S. Attorney's office, as a paralegal for one of the U.S. attorneys.
Q. Are there any homicide cases that prey on your mind?
Gregory Goodson (who was reported missing three years ago and later found dead). He was 16, a high school student, never been in trouble before. Most of the time, you can put someone's name into the computer, and you'll see they were arrested five times. Not that it means they deserved to be killed. In his case, he was a clean-cut kid from a good home. He was left in a wooded area, in a desolate spot. Why? I'd like to know why it happened. … I had a lot of dealings with his mother during that time, and I always hoped that it was a case we could clear.
Q. What has been the hardest habit to break?
You are always scoping things out when you go some place. You are looking all the time for bad signs. That's the bad thing about being a police officer: You see a lot of the worst in people. … I'm overprotective of my children because I've seen so many terrible things.
Q. What was your most disturbing case?
Those two Crespi girls (Tessara and Samantha) stabbed to death. They were so young (5 years old), and it was one of the most horrible homicides I saw. (Autopsy reports in 2006 showed each was stabbed more than a dozen times.) You don't forget the truly tragic things you see.