ELMORE COUNTY, Ala. (WSFA) - The years-long search for a missing Elmore County woman has come to an end with the positive identification of her remains and the arrest of a suspect.
Starr Mulder was last seen alive on June 11, 2016. At the time, she was experiencing health problems and had plans to travel to UAB in Birmingham. She never made that trip and was never heard from again.
Mulder was still living with her ex-husband, Thomas Whitehurst, at a house on Redland Road at the time of her disappearance.
The Elmore County Sheriff’s Office searched for the 52-year-old, but was unable to find her. Years went by without answers.
“You know, technology and science are amazing tools,” Sheriff Bill Franklin explained.
A year ago, deep in the woods of the Conecuh National Forest in Covington County, forestry crews managing a controlled burn, “actually came across partial remains of the body,” the sheriff said.
The forest is more than 130 miles south of Elmore County. At the time, it wasn’t clear who the skeletal remains belonged to, but authorities new they were dealing with a homicide. Franklin said an analysis showed the victim had been shot once in the head with a small caliber handgun.
Whitehurst, according to Franklin, had always been a person of interest, but the case went cold and no arrest could be made.
“Some of the forensics evidence that was found were blood droplets,” the sheriff explained. “I would say were in the car in the garage. He could not explain that.”
Detectives needed a body or remains to connect the dots. Forensics finally delivered a long awaited answer, and the missing link in the investigation, last week. The remains were those of Mulder.
Investigators said this is by no means an open-and-shut case but they feel very strongly about the evidence gathered so far.
After two days of surveillance, sheriff’s deputies made their move, activated their blue lights and pulled the 65-year-old suspect’s vehicle to the side of the road.
Whitehurst was traveling down U.S. Highway 231 South, not far from Redland Road, on his way to work in Montgomery when the arrest was made. The sheriff said he was taken into custody without incident.
Detectives said once they started questioning him, the suspect asked for a lawyer.
Whitehurst is now being held on a $1 million bond at the Elmore County Jail.
As for a motive, the sheriff declined to speak on it for now.