Northeast Times

Reward offered in Lawncrest double murder

  • Searching for justice: Heather Muller Kunf speaks of her family’s heartache over the January murders of Donna and Richard Muller in Lawncrest. MARIA POUCHNIKOVA / TIMES PHOTOS

  • Searching for justice: Catherine Rohland speaks of her family’s heartache over the January murders of Donna and Richard Muller in Lawncrest.

  • Richard and Donna Muller were shot and killed during a Lawncrest home invasion on Jan. 19.

When people die like Donna and Richard Muller did, there can be a tend­ency to sus­pect that the bul­lets were some­how meant for them. But noth­ing could be fur­ther from the truth, ac­cord­ing to re­l­at­ives of the Lawn­crest murder vic­tims.

Speak­ing last Wed­nes­day in the ves­ti­bule of St. Wil­li­am Church, Heath­er Muller Kunf de­scribed her late moth­er and broth­er as “de­cent, hon­est, hard-work­ing people,” not the kind of folks who end up on the wrong end of an as­sas­sin’s pis­tol.

Capt. James Clark, com­mand­er of the Phil­adelphia Po­lice De­part­ment’s Hom­icide Unit, said that de­tect­ives are start­ing to run out of leads in their ef­fort to identi­fy the killer, al­though $40,000 in re­ward money is avail­able for in­form­a­tion lead­ing to the killer’s ar­rest and cap­ture.

The murders oc­curred on Jan. 19. Po­lice were called to the Mullers’ rowhome on the 300 block of Stevens St. at about 3:20 p.m. They found Donna Muller, 49, ly­ing in a second-floor hall­way with a single bul­let wound of the head. Her son Richard, 22, was ly­ing in a second-floor bed­room with a single head wound. There was no sign of forced entry in­to the home or that any prop­erty had been stolen. Both vic­tims died at the scene.

“Our fam­ily has deep roots in this com­munity. We do not know why someone chose to murder them,” said Cath­er­ine Roh­land, sis­ter of Donna Muller. “What is cer­tain is that Donna and Richard should not be dead. They were not vi­ol­ent people.”

“We don’t have a motive,” Clark ad­ded. “You heard from the fam­ily. The moth­er and son were both good people. We have no reas­on why any­body would do this to them. But we feel someone knows who did this double murder.”

The double slay­ing co­in­cided with a rash of killings in the neigh­bor­hood. Five days later, Linden Henry, 32, of Wil­low Grove was shot fatally as he sat in the driver’s seat of a parked Ca­dillac on the 5700 block of Wey­mouth St. On Feb. 13, gun­men entered a twin house on the 6300 block of Mar­tins Mill Road and shot three men fatally. There were no signs of forced entry, but the in­teri­or had been ran­sacked and two of the vic­tims bound with duct tape, po­lice said at the time.

Clark said last Wed­nes­day that de­tect­ives have not ruled out a link between the Muller slay­ings and those on Mar­tins Mill Road, which may have been re­lated to il­li­cit drugs, po­lice re­vealed at the time. When asked if the Muller slay­ings might have been a case of mis­taken iden­tity, the hom­icide cap­tain said that any­thing is pos­sible.

Bal­list­ic evid­ence does not match in the two mul­tiple killings. Po­lice be­lieve that one per­son com­mit­ted the Muller murders be­cause they have found no evid­ence to the con­trary. De­tect­ives found DNA evid­ence at the scene and sub­mit­ted it to a lab hop­ing that it will match a known sample already in the FBI’s COD­IS data­base.

Clark and the Mullers’ fam­ily be­lieve that cit­izen tips may help un­lock the mys­tery.

“The three of us were Lawn­crest people for just about all of our lives,” said Heath­er Muller Kunf, re­fer­ring to her mom, her broth­er and her­self, “and I am beg­ging this com­munity that has ex­per­i­enced so many acts of tragedy and vi­ol­ence in re­cent months to come to­geth­er and push back against this vi­ol­ence. This neigh­bor­hood needs to re­gain some sense of peace, safety and se­cur­ity.”

To re­port in­form­a­tion about the murders, call the Hom­icide Unit at 215-686-3334 or 3335, call the an­onym­ous ti­p­line at 215-686-TIPS or text to “PP­DTIP.” ••

You can reach at wkenny@bsmphilly.com.

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