Rose Marie Mojica Mallette
November 28, 2009
Hampstead | More than eight years have passed since Paul Mojica saw his younger sister alive. When he visited her grave last Saturday, he traced the letters in her name – Rose Marie Mojica Mallette – and a rose engraved on her grave marker, dusting away sand that had collected in the crevices.
The 38-year-old arranged and re-arranged the small, blue My Little Pony toy figure and numerous angels guarding the grave like a small army of plastic soldiers. With his new wife on one side and his mother on the other, the three sat on the grass in a cemetery remembering the woman the family knew as “Rosa.”
“She was buried in a baby casket,” Mojica said, looking down at her grave marker. “What was left of her anyway.”
Mojica appeared calm during the visit to his sister’s grave, but his peaceful demeanor belied his daily struggle to cope with her unsolved murder.
Someone bashed the back of Mallette’s skull, wrapped her body in a blanket and dumped it on the side of some railroad tracks. She was reported missing Sept. 15, 2001, but her decomposed remains weren’t discovered until March 8, 2002 underneath pine straw behind MCO Transport, a trucking company, off U.S. 421 North in a no-man’s land of industry in New Hanover County. She was 26 years old.
Knowing this, Mojica wrestles with resentment and anger. Anger over the way his sister was living before she died. She was married to a registered sex offender with drug convictions and hooked on crack, selling her body to support the habit. Anger that he couldn’t help her because he was involved in his own legal troubles, dragged down by his own demons. Anger at the person who left her for dead like a piece of garbage.
And finally, anger – and resentment – that Mallette’s murderer hasn’t been brought to justice.
“She was my sister. A mother. A daughter,” he said of Mallette, mother of three daughters and two sons. “I would like to be able to just look at him and tell him what I think.”
In a letter Mojica wrote several weeks ago, he outlined the fate he thought his sister’s killer should suffer. Disease, death and destruction were all mentioned.
Mojica’s mother, on the other hand, is subdued and soft spoken about her daughter’s death and says she has had vivid nightmares about the person who killed her. In Ida Rigsbee’s nightmares, she has seen her daughter’s skeleton.
“I don’t like to think about it ‘cause you just don’t want to think about something like that happening to someone – especially your children,” she said. “Someone leaving her out there wrapped in a (blanket) to rot. The person didn’t have a conscience.”
Mojica wonders whether detectives have done enough to solve his sister’s murder. He wonders if less effort has been exerted to solve her killing because of her lifestyle.
Detective Ken Murphy with the New Hanover County Sheriff’s Office said all cold cases sit at arm’s length from him. Even Mallette’s case.
“Rose isn’t forgotten,” he said.
Life on the streets
While Mallette’s family thinks about her often, they said there was little they could do about her lifestyle.
Her mother says she had an idea of what her daughter was doing, but she didn’t ask her daughter about it.
“I couldn’t tell her what to do ‘cause she’s old enough to do what she wanted,” Rigsbee said. “She’s limited in her thinking. Feeble minded. She let people take advantage of her.”
Mallette’s family said her husband, Anthony Mallette, was a negative influence on her. A registered sex offender, Anthony Mallette also has a laundry list of drug convictions. He could not be reached for comment.
Rigsbee said she would see her daughter occasionally when she would stop by with her husband to eat a sandwich, drink tea and borrow money. Then one day, she realized she hadn’t seen her daughter in a while. Rigsbee said her daughter’s death has taken a mental, emotional and physical toll on her.
“The only thing keeping me going is God,” she said.
The last memory Mojica has of his sister is seeing her walking down the street followed by her husband, who was several feet away from her. He was in a car with his mother when he saw her wearing a skirt with her hair fixed up.
Detective Murphy said Rose Marie Mallette’s risky lifestyle made her a vulnerable victim – especially to the man he suspects killed her.
Waiting for a break
Though there isn’t enough physical evidence yet to charge someone with Rose Marie Mallette’s killing, Murphy said all signs point to John Wayne Boyer, a 52-year-old man in prison for killing Scarlett Wood, who was last seen alive on Jan. 27, 2003. The 31-year-old went missing for more than a year after a party until her skeletal remains were found in woods off North Kerr Avenue. Boyer, who’s serving between nine and a half and 12 years in prison, pleaded guilty to second-degree murder on April 16, 2007, in Wood’s killing. Murphy said Boyer, a trucker, dumped Wood’s body next to a spot where he used to park his truck.
Boyer also is a suspect in a Tennessee murder case. He was indicted earlier this year in the slaying of 25-year-old Jennifer Smith, of Bucksnort, Tenn., whom he’d picked up at a truck stop. Smith’s body was found in an abandoned parking lot in Hickman County in 2005.
But the evidence in Mallette’s case still is only circumstantial.
“Do I think we’re on the right track with Rose Marie Mallette’s murder? Yeah, I do,” Murphy said. “It’s just we’ve got to get there.”
When authorities arrested Boyer in Georgia for Wood’s murder in January 2006, he told a detective during an interview that he knew Mallette, Murphy said.
“But he wouldn’t go further than that,” he said. “Do I think it points in the direction of John Wayne Boyer? There’s a strong possibility.”
If Boyer were to be convicted for the Tennessee murder and gets life, Murphy said he may talk.
“You just have to give somebody some time,” he said, adding it’s possible to retest some physical evidence in the case or interview Boyer again. He wouldn’t disclose what physical evidence exists in the case, but an autopsy report said two rings were discovered with Mallette’s remains.
“Each case has a good suspect,” he said. “It’s just a matter of having enough evidence to charge somebody.”
Mojica wishes that day would come soon.
“I hope one day he admits to doing it, and I want to be in court,” he said. “I want to have that chance. I want my mother to have that chance to tell him what we think of him so he’ll never be able to do it to another human being.”
Loss hits hard
Mallette’s death has left an unfilled void in her family. Born in Houston, she was the third oldest of five children. She eventually settled in Wilmington with her family, enduring an abusive father, her family said.
“All she wanted was somebody to love her,” Mojica said. “She felt she needed a man to love her. She was real kind-hearted.”
Mallette lived in Leland with her husband. Before she died, her children ended up being adopted mostly by family. None of the children were his.
When Mojica saw her children at her daughter’s graduation party, he thought about her and how he wished she could have been there. When he sees her children, he’s reminded of Rosa.
At his sister’s grave, Mojica laments that her husband’s last name is on her marker. But he also thinks about her smile and how she used to like horses.
Rigsbee stands and takes in the view.
“It’s peaceful out here,” she said, surveying the field of flat gravestones punctuated by bursts of color from flowers marking other grave sites at Sea Lawn Memorial Park, her daughter’s final resting place.
Mojica sat in the grass thinking about his sister.
“It doesn’t seem like that long ago,” he said. “Eight years has gone by quick.”
But not without pain.
New information continues to surface about accused serial killer John Wayne Boyer. Detectives said Boyer was a suspect in the beginning stages in the death of “Rosa” Mallette in New Hanover County in 2002. Her case remains unsolved.