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Alabama Woman Vanished Nearly 5 Years Ago And The Case Nearly Went Cold, But Her Ex-Husband Has Just Been Arrested For Her Death
Kimberly "Starr" Mulder's body was found last year in a forest 130 miles from where she went missing by rangers doing a controlled burn. That paved the way for the arrest of her ex, Thomas Whitehurst.
Nearly five years after an Alabama woman disappeared, her ex-husband has been arrested and charged with her murder.
Thomas Whitehurst, 65, had been a “person of interest” in the disappearance of his ex-wife, 53-year-old Kimberly “Starr” Mulder, shortly after she disappeared in July 2016, Elmore County Sheriff’s Office Chris Ogden told Oxygen.com; however, without any proof that Mulder had been killed, the missing persons case went cold.
Mulder’s body was discovered in March 2020 in the Conucuh National Forest by forest rangers who were doing a controlled burn in the area, AL.com reports. But she wasn't be positively identified by the Alabama Department of Forensic Sciences until last week, finally giving Elmore County investigators the break they needed to arrest Whitehurst.
“We just needed that last piece,” Ogden said.
Mulder was last seen alive on July 11, 2016.
Whitehurst—who had been living with his ex-wife at the time—told authorities that she had left the home on her own volition and was on her way to Birmingham when she disappeared, according to the Sheriff's Office.
“Pretty early on we suspected foul play,” Ogden said. “We figured that something had happened to her, just based on our investigation and also the evidence that we had initially collected but, you know, it’s very difficult to pursue murder charges without proving a death and we just didn’t have enough to prove a death.”
Sheriff Bill Franklin told AL.com that investigators had discovered some “damning evidence” that would lead “any sane man or woman” to suspect that Whitehurst was involved in the disappearance after they administered search warrants at their Redland Road home.
Investigators allegedly found Mulder’s blood in Whitehurst’s car and in the garage of the home.
“He could not explain that away,” Franklin said.
But without more evidence, investigators decided to hold off on making the arrest. They would get the critical piece of evidence they needed when Mulder’s body was found last year about 130 miles away in Covington County, but the connection took time to establish.
“They had actually initiated their investigation thinking it was possibly a cold case that had occurred in their jurisdiction, so it was sort of a surprise to everybody,” Ogden said of discovering earlier this month that the remains belonged to Mulder.
She had been killed by a single gunshot wound to the head, Ogden said. He declined to discuss a possible motive for the slaying.
Whitehurst was arrested without incident on Tuesday.
After being taken into custody, Whitehurst declined to talk with investigators and requested an attorney, Ogden said.
He is being held on a $1 million bond. His case is expected to be presented before a grand jury to secure an indictment.
Franklin told AL.com he was able to talk with Mulder’s family and described them as relieved an arrest had finally been made in the case.
“I am glad for the family,” he said Tuesday. “I know it’s not what Mr. Whitehurst expected today.”
The couple had reportedly divorced in 2013 but continued to live with each other off and on in the years that followed.