ELMORE COUNTY, Ala. (WSFA) - Call it ‘inside baseball’ information pertaining to the murder investigation now surrounding Thomas Whitehurst in connection the disappearance of his ex-wife.
Whitehurst stands accused of fatally shooting Starr Mulder in a crime that’s been hidden in a forest more than a hundred miles away for five years.
It was a case that was cold but not forgotten, and it involved a homicide investigator’s vow to Whitehurst at his home in 2016 during a crucial moment in what was at the time only a missing persons probe.
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.
In the summer of that year, Elmore County Sheriff Bill Franklin and his team of investigators knew the case involving Whitehurst had taken an ominous turn.
“Blood, droplets I would say, that were in the car in the garage, he could not explain that,” said Franklin.
But they would need more evidence.
With that alleged response from Whitehurst, the investigator leading the probe made a promise to the man.
“He was told we’re stepping away but the next time you see us, we’ll have a warrant for your arrest,” Franklin recalled.
Five years later, on what could have been another typical Tuesday morning commute to work, Whitehurst would get that second visit from deputies. The arrest played out along Highway 231 South near Redland Road.
When it was over, Whitehurst was in cuffs and charged him with murder, mere days after Mulder’s remains were officially identified.
The victim’s skeletal remains were actually found in early 2020, about 130 miles south and deep in the woods of the Conecuh National Forest in Covington County.
It took a year for forensics to identify her.
“He’s got property down there, family down there,” Franklin said of the suspect’s connection to south Alabama.
With that promise fulfilled, the investigation now moves to the next phase; Thomas Whitehurst will have his first court appearance Thursday morning. It’s an arraignment in which the court will officially inform him of the murder charge and that he has a right to an attorney.
Back at the brick home the two shared in the Wildwood subdivision off Redland Road, the motive remains unclear, at least for now. It’s also not clear whether the homicide happened there or somewhere else.
But this much is known; that homicide detective made a promise. He kept it.
Elmore County jail records show Whitehurst is still incarcerated on a $1 million cash bond.