Cody Mulligan wasn’t known to shy away from a challenge.
Diagnosed at age 4 with juvenile Batten disease — a rare neurodegenerative disorder that causes blindness and loss of developmental skills, motor abilities and cognition — the Dundalk native inspired those who knew him with his positivity, humor and resilience.
Being blind “never stopped him from doing anything he wanted to do,” his father Mike Mulligan said.
It didn’t keep him from winning matches on the Sparrows Point High School junior varsity wrestling team, nor from hunting with his stepfather.
“He was my ultimate hero,” Mike Mulligan said. “People loved him. This is just … a senseless thing that happened for no reason.”
Cody died Jan. 7, succumbing to injuries suffered when he was attacked and stabbed outside his Rosedale home in the 1000 block of Sumter Avenue on Jan. 2.
Police say his assailant, 47-year-old James John Marchsteiner III, had been walking down the street at the same time Cody exited his home. Unprovoked, Marchsteiner ran toward Cody, stabbing him several times, police say.
The Baltimore County State’s Attorney’s office is seeking a first-degree murder charge against Marchsteiner, who according to online court records has a history of nonviolent offenses along with an assault conviction.
Marchsteiner is being held without bail. A preliminary hearing is scheduled for Feb. 5 in the Essex district courthouse.
At 14, Cody made headlines winning wrestling matches as a freshman on his high school’s junior varsity team.
The Sparrows Point High School community saw Cody as an inspiration.
“He didn’t let anything stand in his way,” said Michael Whisner, Cody’s former wrestling coach.
Former classmate Mitch Hammond remembers Cody as someone “who was always cheerful.”
“No matter what, he would make a joke about anything — you could have a crappy day, and Cody would sit there and turn it around,” he added.
Cody also enjoyed hunting and riding motorcycles, his father said. In 2014, Cody, his mother Sarah Hessler and stepfather Jay Hessler were featured in a Baltimore Sun story about Cody’s shooting skills after he earned his hunting license.
After high school, Cody focused his attention on physical fitness, and was working to become a personal trainer, Michael said.
“He’s just a true inspiration for anyone with any physical disabilities that they think they can’t overcome,” his father said.
“There was not a bad bone in his body,” he added.