Family awaits more answers after find in Portland
By ERIC TICHY
The family of a 50-year-old Buffalo woman whose body was found in Chautauqua County in late September is hoping to hold a proper funeral sometime soon while also awaiting answers to a lingering question: Why would someone harm Marquita Mull, a loving person who long struggled with mental health issues but often helped others through volunteer work.
The Chautauqua County Sheriff’s Office is working with the Buffalo Police Department on what began earlier this summer as a missing person investigation. Mull was last seen on June 25 in Erie County and was reported missing on July 18 to authorities.
“We have been working with the Buffalo Police Department since Oct. 1 (when speculation was first made that the body was Mull), and discussing with them and sharing information and them sharing information back with us, and we’re going to continue working closely with Buffalo Police Department,” Sheriff James Quattrone said during a press conference Oct. 7 in Mayville.
Mull’s body was found Sept. 27 in some thick brush off a trail in the town of Portland — a day after a hiker found what they believed was a human skull and resulted in the discovery of human remains in a shallow grave about 6 inches deep.
When investigators were doing a grid search for other evidence, they came across Mull’s body 10 yards from the spot where the first person was buried. That body was estimated to have been there two to six months.
Marquita Mull’s sister, Wendy, said the family hasn’t learned much more regarding the investigation since last month’s discovery. She said the family is waiting for the remains to be released so the family can hold a funeral.
“Even though she had her issues, she was a great person,” Wendy Mull said in an interview. “I loved her with all my heart. She was just so sweet, and when she died, my heart died.”
No official cause of death has been released, Quattrone said Monday. However, the sheriff said during the press conference that the death was suspicious and foul play was suspected.
Marquita Mull had struggled with mental health issues for a number of years. Wendy Mull said her sister suffered from depression and anxiety, an issue made worse when Marquita Mull was struck around 2012 by a vehicle in a hit-and-run incident in Niagara Falls.
“My sister didn’t bother anybody,” Wendy Mull said. “We stuck together. I go through my own problems, too, and we would talk. The last time we walked into her at the (Walden Galleria) Mall, we hugged for 20 minutes. She had a lot of anxiety; she had been through a lot, and when she got hit by that car, that’s what triggered a lot of things. She always had issues and that just made her mind get worse.”
The family remains baffled on what may have led to Marquita Mull’s death. They are pained by the thought that her body was dumped in rural Chautauqua County, just over an hour away from her home in Buffalo. The family knew Marquita Mull had likely been located when investigators asked of a description of the missing woman.
“She wasn’t this piece of property you throw away like garbage,” Wendy Mull said. “She was a loving person who did community service. … My sister was the most beautiful person in the world, even with her issues, she showed compassion. She tried to contain the mental health issues, and she still had a heart of gold.”
Wendy Mull said she continues to grieve the loss of her older sister; the family has not yet visited the site where her remains were found but is planning on honoring her once more information becomes available.
“Whoever did it, I’m not mad at you. God will have the final say in that,” Wendy Mull said. “Whatever happened there is karma. The biggest thing for me, whoever did it, you threw her away like trash. It was not called for and that will always be with me.”
Marquita Mull’s aunt, Betty Coleman, noted that “everybody has problems dealing with life and she did the best she could. She did not deserve the outcome she got, really. Nobody does. She never deserved any type of harm.”
Quattrone noted the importance of collaboration in the case, not just for Marquita Mull but also for the first set of human remains found. A portion of those skeletal remains were being sent to the New York State Crime Lab in Albany for further analysis.
In addition to the New York State Police, the Sheriff’s Office has received assistance from the local FBI office, Lakewood-Busti Police and Mercyhurst University’s applied forensic sciences department, among other agencies and organizations.
“I really think it’s imperative that we work closely together sharing information, sharing of ideas,” Quattrone said. “We’ve been able to not only share the information back and forth that we already have but to collaborate and share ideas and the next steps that we can do. It’s kind of nice to be able to bounce the ideas off and look at the pros and cons of doing different things because, while we want to solve the missing person and identify the person that was left there, we also want to be able to hold whoever is accountable accountable. We have to make sure we’re taking every step that we can to make sure any evidence is admissible.”
Regarding Marquita Mull, Quattrone said the Sheriff’s Office is working with the Buffalo Police Department’s missing person unit and homicide bureau. He said investigators were looking into Marquita Mull’s last known locations and the people she may have been with at the time she went missing.
“Once we get cause of death we will be able to move forward on that,” Quattrone said, adding later, “We do suspect foul play.”
The Sheriff’s Office is awaiting further analysis from the state police Crime Lab on the first set of remains found. Using dental records, forensic experts were able to rule out Corrie Anderson and Lori Ceci Bova, two high-profile missing person cases in Chautauqua County.
The Sheriff’s Office is looking into the missing person case of Patricia Laemmerhirt, a Westfield woman who has been missing for 45 years.
“We continue to look outside the scope while, because of the proximity, we have to consider Patricia Laemmerhirt,” the sheriff said. “But we have no other indication other than proximity and the rough estimate how long the remains have been there.”
Regarding the discovery of two sets of remains within 10 yards, Quattrone said, “While the bodies were both discovered close we don’t have any evidence other than that, which is purely speculation, that they’re related. I know it’s a strong, unlikely coincidence, but at this point we have no other evidence indicating that they’re connected, so we’re going to continue to follow the facts and try to develop more facts. … We fear when we start speculating that that takes us away from the investigation.”