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.” ••