#CrimeTime with Alicia Dean ~
Scene of the Crime with Tony Harris, Season 1, Episode 5, “Deadly Breakup”
Monroeville, Pennsylvania – August 15, 2007
Fifteen year old Demi Cuccia was a beautiful, popular high school cheerleader. When her older brother’s friend, John Mullarkey, expressed an interest in her, she was thrilled, and they began dating.
Outwardly, things appeared fine between the couple, but a year after they started seeing each other, John’s controlling possessiveness finally became too much, and Demi broke up with him. He wouldn’t leave her alone, though. He did not want to accept the breakup. He texted and called her over and over, insisting, begging, harassing.
On August 15th, the day after Demi’s sixteenth birthday, her mother was taking son Jake to a community college for orientation. Demi wasn’t feeling well and stayed home. Just before they left, Demi was laying on the sofa, and her phone rang. It was John. Demi was annoyed and didn’t answer. She told her mother that all she wanted to do was rest, and he wouldn’t leave her alone. Demi called her father that evening and said she was supposed to be working on cheerleading posters but wasn’t feeling well. She didn’t mention to him that John was coming over to talk about their relationship.
Later that evening, Officer Sarah Bonner received a call that there had been a stabbing. She arrived at the location and a neighbor waved her down. Not knowing if the assailant was nearby, Officer Bonner drew her weapon. As she approached the neighbor, she saw Demi at the neighbor’s feet, covered in blood. The officer holstered her weapon and focused on Demi, reassuring the girl that she would be okay. Down the street, a man was laying on the ground. He’d slit his own throat after stabbing Demi sixteen times. The ambulance arrived and went immediately to him, rather than Demi. Officer Connor directed them to Demi, and said, “I have the victim here.” They treated her and rushed her to the hospital, but her injuries were too severe. She died at the hospital. The man—who turned out to be John survived.
Demi’s devastated parents were interviewed during the episode. Her father had videotaped his son’s graduation only two months prior, and he’d videotaped John graduating as well. How could someone who was their son’s close friend, someone they’d welcomed into their home, do something so heinous to their beautiful child?
The truth came out during the investigation. There was a dark side to Demi’s life that she didn’t share with her parents. Her friends knew just a little of what was going on, but not the extent of the obsessive nature of their relationship. John didn’t want Demi hanging out with her friends. He kept close tabs on her and wanted her all to himself. His behavior became more and more abusive and controlling, but Demi didn’t understand the danger she was in.
John was charged with first degree murder, but his defense claimed he didn’t intend to kill her and wasn’t aware of what he was doing. He was suffering psychosis from taking the acne drug, Accutane. The prosecution believed he went to Demi’s with the intent of either getting the answer he wanted, or killing her. He texted beforehand, asking if her brother was going to be there. And…he brought the knife, the murder weapon, with him. Sounds like his intentions were clear.
The jury took just forty-five minutes of deliberation to agree, convicting Mullarkey of first-degree murder. He was sentenced immediately to life in prison without the possibility of parole. The only time the defendant showed emotion was when he was handed the sentence. He never once apologized to or addressed Demi’s family.
After sentencing, John’s family hired an attorney to try to get John’s sentence reduced. John’s family refused to be interviewed for the show, but the attorney agreed to speak with Tony. He claims that Mullarkey had ineffective counsel and that the jury didn’t have all the facts. He found a forensic psychologist who will testify that John was in a frenzied, maniacal state and would not have acted without provocation. Tony asked the attorney, “Do you believe there was provocation?” The attorney replied, “There was a dispute between these two at the time.” Tony said, “He was texting her non-stop, she’d moved on, he had not.” The attorney blithely stated, “But, he didn’t break the door.” I know it’s his job to defend his client, but his statement infuriated me. It was obvious it pissed Tony off as well. He said, “Wow, she didn’t tell him to bring a knife to stab her. You can’t blame Demi for this. Sixteen stab wounds, doesn’t that speak to intent?” The attorney replied, “No, it was in the heat of passion.”
Such a tragic story, and unfortunately, not all that uncommon. Many teens are in controlling relationships and are the victims of abuse. Demi’s parents are on a crusade to get the message out and they travel around to various schools to tell their story, hoping it will save other teens from this same fate. The message is simple, if someone is trying to control and isolate you, then those are serious warning signs. It’s not normal…it’s not love…it’s not okay.