Search intensifies for killer of Fort Mitchell woman

FLORENCE, Ky. - Who would want to murder Michelle Mockbee?  

That's the question Boone County Sheriff's Office investigators and friends of the Fort Mitchell woman are asking, but the answer isn't readily available.

"It was a total shock," said Virginia Avenue neighbor Ken Tarvin of Mockbee's killing.  "There's no reason I can understand why anyone would do this."

Mockbee's body was found early Tuesday in the Human Resources area of the Thermo Fisher Scientific office and warehouse on Empire Drive in Florence. Her husband, Dan, also works at the company.

As investigators search for the killer, they're likely to cast a net far and wide.  Was it one of the 30 to 35 employees of the laboratory equipment warehouse?  Was it one of the truck drivers picking up or dropping off loads?  Was it one of the people she reportedly sold items to on eBay?

Whoever it was, Boone County Sheriff's Office Spokesperson Tom Scheben said a tight-lid is being kept on the investigation.  He said the key is building the timeline of Mockbee's last hours before a co-worker found her body and called 911.

That 911 call made to police isn't being released.  Search warrants have been executed at the Florence facility and the Mockee home, but the results are sealed.  Boone County Coroner Doug Stith has determined the cause-of-death and turned it over to investigators, but it's being kept secret as well.  

Virginia Avenue is one of those tree-lined Fort Mitchell streets where people trust one another, look out for each other and make sure children are protected in a safe environment.

"We wave in this neighborhood to acknowledge and to to make sure that you know that we're there," Tarvin said.  "If you're a stranger and if you're a friend we still care."

Tarvin said Dan and Michelle Mockbee were the best of parents to daughters ages 10 and 7 and the best of neighbors.
"Dan and Michelle took excellent care of their daughters. That was their whole center of life," he said. "Michelle was bubbly and friendly and she was the Girl Scout cookie mom in the area."

Both parents were active at Beechwood Elementary School, where their girls were enrolled, according to Principal Jamee Flaherty.

"We are deeply saddened at the loss of a Beechwood parent," Flaherty wrote in a statement.  "Our thoughts and prayers are with the family at this difficult time."

Michelle Mockbee was known as Michelle Whalen as she spent her formative years growing up in Fort Mitchell and rising through the grades in the Beechwood Independent School District.  She graduated from Beechwood High School in 1987.

Kenton County Circuit Court Clerk John Middleton was one of her classmates.

"She was quiet and kind of shy, but still had a good personality," he recalled.  "It's such a senseless act."

Middleton was one of Mockbee's friends on Facebook and word of her death spread quickly to other Beechwood graduates via the social media site.

"They were supporting her family in their prayers.  Some were angry at what happened.  They just want answers," he said. "I'm sure Boone County Authorities are working very diligently to do what they need to do."

Michelle's parents, John and Patricia Whalen, live a short distance from the Mockbee home.  Both declined comment on Wednesday.

Thermo Fisher Scientific Spokesperson Karen Kirkwood provided a statement saying, "Our deepest sympathy goes out to the family of the victim. Our focus now is on cooperating with the law enforcement investigation, supporting our employees and assuring the safety of our facility."

Security guards were posted at the entrance to the Florence facility on Wednesday as it reopened for business.  It had been closed Tuesday as investigators searched for clues that might lead to a suspect in the case.


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