Joseph Clinton Mills was arrested on December 18, 2019 and charged in the September 4, 1981 rape and murder of 31-year-old Linda Patterson Slaten in Lakeland, Florida.
Slaten had been murdered by an intruder who broke into her bedroom. She was found when her sister came to ask her to go for coffee the next morning. The dress she had been wearing the night before was pulled down and up to expose her sexual organs, and she had been violently sexually assaulted. A wire coat hanger had been twisted around her neck. Slaten had two sons, one 12 and one 15, who were sleeping nearby when she was killed.
A DNA profile was obtained from the sexual assault kit taken at Slaten’s autopsy. The FGG investigation was performed by Parabon Nanolabs and the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE). The initial confirmation was made through the surreptitious sampling of items taken from Mills’ trash.
Mills was the football coach for Slaten’s teenage son. He had brought her son home to their apartment on the evening before she was killed, and he met her then.
Mills claims that the sex he had with Slaten was consensual. He stated to police that he parked down the street and came in through the window. She already had the wire coat hanger wrapped around her neck, which he consensually twisted until she lost consciousness. He then exited from the same window as she lay unconscious in the bed.
The case against Mills proceeded in Polk County Circuit Court. In February of 2002 he changed his plea to guilty and was sentenced to life in prison to avoid the death penalty. His only comment at the sentencing hearing was to state, “I am a good person. I’m not that person they’re painting me out to be.”
Berkowotz, Kathy Leigh. “Lakeland Police Make Arrest in Cold Case Murder.” The Ledger, December 18, 2019, last modified December 19, 2019. Accessed December 26, 2020. https://www.theledger.com/news/20191218/lakeland-police-make-arrest-in-cold-case-murder.
City of Lakeland. “Arrest Made in 38-Year-Old Cold Case.” City of Lakeland (Press Release), December 18, 2019. Accessed December 26, 2020. https://www.lakelandgov.net/news/posts/2019/december-2019/arrest-made-in-38-year-old-cold-case/.
Lakeland Police Department. “LPD News Conference: Arrest in Cold Case Murder of Linda Slaten.” Lakeland Police Press Conference (Facebook post), December 19, 2019. Accessed December 26, 2020. https://www.facebook.com/lkldnow/videos/lpd-news-conference-arrest-in-cold-case-murder-of-linda-slaten/579832626173968/.
Schottelkotte, Suzie. “Grand Jury Indicts Lakeland Man in 1981 Cold Case Murder.” The Ledger, December 19, 2019, last modified December 20, 2019. Accessed December 26, 2020. https://www.theledger.com/news/20191219/grand-jury-indicts-lakeland-man-in-1981-cold-case-murder.