Decades-long seek for Florida mother’s killer ends with arrest of son’s childhood soccer coach


On Sept. 4, 1981, Jeff Slaten, 15 and his brother Time, 12, have been woke up by Lakeland, Florida, police and advised their mom, Linda Slaten, had been murdered. Investigators collected a rape package and lifted a palm print from the windowsill the place the killer had entered. They questioned a slew of suspects, however nobody was charged, and the case went chilly.

Prior to and after Linda Slaten’s homicide, Tim’s soccer coach, Joe Mills, would often drive Tim to and from soccer observe. Coach Joe grew to become a task mannequin for the younger boy, who proudly hung up his soccer group picture in his room the place Mills stood proper behind him.

Linda’s sons spent a long time dwelling in concern of the person they known as “the Monster.” Nearly 40 years later, advances in DNA expertise revealed Linda Slaten’s seemingly killer: Coach Joe.

“I looked up to this guy,” Tim tells “48 Hours” contributor Jim Axelrod. “And I had a picture in my house ever since then, and never knew it was him.”

“He’s a cold-hearted monster, that’s for sure,” says Jeff.


Jim Axelrod: On the morning of September 4th, 1981 … you are going to stroll three doorways down —

Judy Butler: Mm-hmm.

Jim Axelrod: — and have a cup of espresso together with your sister.

Judy Butler: Right.

When Judy Butler knocked on her older sister’s entrance door, Linda Slaten by no means answered. At the time, the sisters each lived in a Lakeland residence complicated.   

Jim Axelrod: So, you began to stroll again to your house, and what occurred? 

Judy Butler: And I flip, and I see that the display is out of the window.

Linda’s bed room window was extensive open.  Judy walked over and seemed inside.

Judy Butler: And my imaginative and prescient comes throughout her.

Jim Axelrod: Where was she?

Judy Butler: She was laying … as an alternative of up and down on the mattress, she was laying crossways. … And at first, I believed perhaps she was asleep. … And then, then, I simply began screaming.

Linda Slaten's bedroom window
Linda Slaten’s killer entered via her bed room window.

Lakeland Police Department

When police arrived, they discovered the partially nude physique of Linda Slaten, 31, with a wire coat hanger wrapped round her neck.  The killer had entered her bed room via the open window. 

The crackle of police radios contained in the small two-bedroom residence wakened Linda’s 15-year-old son, Jeff, who was sleeping on a cot in the lounge.

Jeff Slaten: I requested, “What is goin’ on?” He stated, “Police officers. … Put on some clothes and go outside.” And he made certain I went out the entrance door.”

Jeff Slaten: And when I went out there, it looked like every cop in the state of Florida … news crews, and my Aunt Judy was out there crying, and she told me my mom been murdered (cries).  And I just couldn’t believe it.

In the apartment’s second bedroom, another officer woke up Linda’s younger son, Tim, then 12 years old.

Tim Slaten: He goes, “You have to get up and go exterior together with your brother.” He never mentioned my mom.  I’m like, “why’s he not saying my mother?  And why’s a cop waking me up?”

Still in his pajamas, Tim walked previous his mom’s closed bed room door.  Suddenly, it swung open, as an officer left the room.

Tim Slaten: And I noticed the entire crime scene. … I imply, I noticed my mother’s bloody physique with a coat hanger round her neck (cries).

Jim Axelrod: You cannot unsee that.

Tim Slaten (very emotional): No. … And I nonetheless see it.


Linda Slaten
Linda Slaten

Jeff Slaten

In 1974, Linda Slaten was a 24-year-old single mother — lastly free.  She had simply divorced Jeff and Tim’s abusive father, Frank Slaten, after 9 unstable years of marriage. 

Jeff Slaten: He was a violent alcoholic to be trustworthy with you.

Tim Slaten: Yes.

Jim Axelrod: Did he hit your mother?

Jeff Slaten: Oh, yeah.

Tim Slaten: Yes.

In the years that adopted, nothing was simple for the younger household.  Linda struggled for work, made her personal garments to save cash, and could not afford a automotive. 

Jim Axelrod: If you could not get a journey to observe, who would take you?

Tim Slaten: Coach come choose us up.

That’s “Coach Joe,” as the children known as him.  He typically drove Tim and another boys to and from soccer observe.


On the final full day of her life, Linda and Jeff argued.  Tensions had been rising along with her teenage son. 

Jeff Slaten: I bear in mind coming residence, there was nothing to eat in the home. … You know the way it’s once you’re a 15, 16-year-old child, you are mouthy and …

Jeff Slaten: I received mad, and I went out the door and received on my bicycle and highway 11 or 12 miles to the northside of city … to go to my grandma and grandpa’s home to get somethin’ to eat. 

At 8:30 that night time, Tim got here residence from soccer observe.

Tim Slaten: The coach introduced me residence.

Around 9 p.m., Linda took Tim to a celebration subsequent door to play playing cards.

Jeff Slaten: Grandma and grandpa introduced me residence by, I feel it was round 9 — 9 or 9:30 or so.

Linda and Tim got here residence about 11.  By midnight, Jeff made up together with his mother, he says, and nonetheless remembers their remaining second collectively.

Jeff Slaten: She’s washin’ the dishes and stuff. When she went to go to her bed room and … I stated, “I love you, Mom. I’ll see you tomorrow,” you understand.

Sgt. Edgar Pickett
Sgt. Edgar Pickett was a legendary fingerprint knowledgeable with the Lakeland Police Department and led the crime scene unit when Linda Slaten was murdered.  Sergeant Pickett recovered a palm print  from the bed room windowsill — a bit of proof that will later play a vital position within the investigation.

Edgar Pickett/CBS News

Jim Axelrod: What do you bear in mind in regards to the Slaten case?

Sgt. Edgar Pickett: I may bear in mind every part about it.  Goin’ to that window and lookin’ at it, the place he went via it. … Then I went in there and the youngsters was asleep.  And I noticed that coat hanger round her neck.  

Former Sergeant Edgar Pickett, now 94 years outdated, was a legendary fingerprint knowledgeable with the Lakeland Police Department.  He led the crime scene unit.  In truth, the crime lab bears his title.  But that type of recognition was a very long time coming.

Arriving on the Slaten crime scene in 1981, Pickett, then 53, was only a 12 months away from retirement.  But his hard-earned fame had by no means spared him from prejudice.

Jim Axelrod: So, you pull up on the scene, and one other detective says what to you?

Sgt. Edgar Pickett: That “A Black man don’t have any business lookin’ at a naked white woman.”

Jim Axelrod: Even although she was a murder sufferer?

Sgt. Edgar Pickett: That’s appropriate.

Sergeant Pickett believed Linda Slaten had been strangled with a coat hanger from her personal closet.  He dusted many of the bed room for fingerprints, even the ground.

Sgt. Edgar Pickett: And then I received that print off of that windowsill. … It was a palm print … it wasn’t a fingerprint.

Jim Axelrod: You received an important print there may be.

Sgt. Edgar Pickett: I do know it.

The proof Pickett uncovered would play a vital position a long time later — particularly the palm print. 

Sgt. Edgar Pickett: I had actually had by no means seen anyone within the form that that girl was in.  And I’ve seen a lotta individuals killed.

An post-mortem later confirmed what he already knew: Linda Slaten had been sexually assaulted and strangled to loss of life.  Swabs taken and preserved in a rape package revealed semen.  That morning, Pickett says, his ideas saved returning to Linda Slaten’s boys.

Sgt. Edgar Pickett: I had youngsters too. And I actually wished to clear that case.  I did. 

Jeff and Tim Slaten
Jeff and Tim Slaten stand exterior their former residence.

CBS News

Jim Axelrod: You guys are standing on the spot the place your life modified. 

Tim Slaten: Yes, proper right here.

Jeff Slaten: Yeah, once I stopped being a child was proper there (pointing).

Jim Axelrod: You have been 15. 

Jeff Slaten: 15.

Jim Axelrod: You actually felt like this was the top of your childhood, proper right here?

Jeff Slaten: Yes, sir. I feel that is precisely when it ended, when my Aunt Judy advised me my mother had been murdered. 

Emerging via the phobia and tears that September morning 41 years in the past, the questions saved coming.  Why?  Who?  Who may have carried out such an evil factor?


On that late-summer morning in 1981, Jeff and Tim Slaten confronted a daunting world they not acknowledged, a world with out their mom.

Jim Axelrod: How do 12 and 15-year-old boys course of that, take care of that?

Tim Slaten: It was arduous.

Jeff Slaten: Yeah. I thought of committin’ suicide a pair instances (cries). It was that unhealthy.

The brothers moved in with their grandparents, Clarence and Margaret Harris.

Tim Slaten: We simply, we stayed in the home. We did not go wherever.

Jeff Slaten: Scared to loss of life. 

Tim Slaten: Scared to loss of life to do something.

For these first terrifying days, the household slept in the identical room — besides Grandpa Harris.

Tim Slaten: He would stand guard with a gun all night time whereas we slept.

The grandparents hoped a fast return to acquainted routines would assist their distraught grandsons.  A couple of weeks after their mother’s funeral, the boys have been again at school.

Tim Slaten: And simply you understand, being with pals and simply — simply began livin’ life once more, I assume. … You know, goin’ again to soccer.

His teammates, and Coach Joe specifically, have been all the time supportive, all the time rooting for him, says Tim.

Tim Slaten: And I seemed as much as this man. He was my assistant soccer coach. … Give me rides to the video games, rides to observe.

Football team pic with Tim Slaten and Coach Joe
Tim Slaten’s soccer group picture was taken a month after Linda’s homicide. Tim hung it on his bed room wall as a reminder, he says, of one thing his mother taught him: to maintain shifting ahead and by no means quit.

Tim Slaten

Tim’s group soccer picture hung in his bed room.  It was taken only one month after the homicide.  The image was a reminder, he says, of one thing his mother had taught him:  to maintain shifting ahead and by no means quit. 

Jim Axelrod: She was a fighter?

Tim Slaten: Yes. Oh, sure.

Jeff Slaten: She mighta solely weighed 100 kilos soakin’ moist, however she was fairly powerful.

Judy Butler: Everybody favored her that met her. Everybody was asking her for a date. … Cause she was so younger and fairly.

And then Linda met and married Frank Slaten.

Judy Butler: He was a imply, no-count scoundrel.

Slaten family
As detectives looked for the killer, Linda’s ex-husband, Frank Slaten, grew to become an individual of curiosity resulting from his historical past of abuse in direction of her. But investigators ultimately appeared glad that Frank was residence in Alabama on the night time of the homicide.  

Jeff Slaten

The brothers say it is arduous to know when their dad started to beat their mother.  The extra he drank, the extra violent he grew to become.

Jeff Slaten: Yeah, I bear in mind one time I used to be within the toilet. He had her by the throat with a gun to her head and I used to be comin’ there tryin’ to get him off of her. … And I felt like I had saved her that, you understand, that night time. That day.

Jim Axelrod: But you have been just a bit man your self.

Jeff Slaten: Yeah, I used to be solely … 6-and-a-half, 7 years outdated.

Frank Slaten’s historical past of abuse made him an individual of curiosity for Lakeland detectives.  But investigators appeared glad that Slaten was residence in Alabama on the night time of the homicide.  At the time of her loss of life, Linda had a boyfriend. He, too, had a reputable alibi.  Others have been checked out — just like the partygoers subsequent door — however nobody was charged.

Jeff Slaten: The Lakeland Police Department … they used to come back all the way down to take me out of college and so they was all the time interrogating me on a regular basis.

Jim Axelrod: In the early days, it feels like who the police actually have been most thorough in trying out —

Jeff Slaten (Jeff raises his hand): Was me. 

Tim and Jeff Slaten
The Slaten brothers instantly moved in with their grandparents. They needed to face a brand new actuality of life with out their mother. A couple of weeks after their mother’s funeral, the brothers returned to high school and acquainted actions.

Jeff Slaten

As a 15-year-old, Jeff had loads of typical teen conflicts together with his mother, which he readily admitted to detectives — together with that heated argument on the final day of her life.

Jeff Slaten: I do know they’d me, put me on a lie detector take a look at one time. … And I handed it. Then they wished to do it once more. … They was wantin’ to place me below hypnosis.

Jeff Slaten: And then there’s one time, one of many cops … he is, like … “You got big arms on you. And you’re strong enough to put your hands around your mom’s neck and kill her.” 

Jeff Slaten: Wha…who would try this to a child?  I used to be a 15-year-old child hurting, and say that to me? I imply, that is— that is all the time damage. 

Finally, Jeff’s grandparents stated, “Enough.”

Jeff Slaten: They’s, like, “Get out there and find who killed my daughter. Leave this kid and leave this family alone.”

Two weeks later, in line with the Lakeland Police report, Jeff took a second polygraph take a look at and was cleared.  At that time, the investigation slowed, then floor to a halt.

As the years handed, Jeff and Tim began their very own households.  But to today, there may be nonetheless grief and guilt for not listening to something that night time — for not coming to their mother’s rescue.

Jeff Slaten: I (would have) died that night time tryin’ to avoid wasting my mother. … I imply, we’re proper there in the home. How may you not hear somethin’ like that?

And they lived in concern of the person they known as, “The Monster.”  Unless he was lifeless, he was on the market … someplace.

Around the twentieth anniversary of their mother’s homicide, Jeff and Tim met with Lakeland Detective Brad Grice, who was taking a contemporary take a look at the case.

Det. Brad Grice: Soon as Jeff and Tim walked within the door, I spotted I had identified Jeff for years, since I used to be in my twenties … via bowling.

Jeff Slaten: I used to be, like, “Brad.” (laughs). … Sure sufficient, I knew him from bowlin’ years in the past.

Grice took DNA samples from the brothers to clear them once more, then gave Jeff one thing in return — a promise.

Det. Brad Grice: He made me promise that I would not retire till I solved his mom’s case. And I wished to so unhealthy for him and his brother. I did.

Grice had already despatched DNA from the Slaten rape package to the state’s main crime lab on the Florida Department of Law Enforcement — the FDLE. 

Jim Axelrod: Do you’ve gotten any confidence that you can remedy it?

Det. Brad Grice: I used to be hopin’ DNA would, you understand?  It was becomin’ a giant instrument.

By March 1999, the FDLE had developed a full DNA profile of Linda Slaten’s nameless killer.

Jim Axelrod: All you want is a DNA match.

Det. Brad Grice: Successful. … That’s all I wanted was a success within the database. 

Detective Grice took dozens of DNA samples from prior individuals of curiosity, submitting them to the FDLE for comparability.

Det. Brad Grice: We have been tryin’ every part.

Even the brothers’ father, Frank Slaten — who had stopped ingesting — volunteered a pattern.  None matched. 

Then in September 2001, Grice received a tip.  Nearly a 12 months after the Slaten killing, a 24-year-old man named Jimmy Ulmer pulled a 10-year-old woman via her bed room window and almost killed her.  

Det. Brad Grice: He was convicted of that and sentenced to, like, 80 years in jail.

The savage assault appeared eerily much like the Slaten case.  And Detective Grice found that, across the time of Linda’s Slaten’s homicide, Jimmy Ulmer had been staying with a good friend who occurred to dwell in the exact same residence complicated as Slaten.

Jim Axelrod: Hang on. Jimmy Ulmer … was staying in an residence proper throughout the best way from the Slatens?

Det. Brad Grice: Yes.

Jim Axelrod: You should’ve felt like that is our man.

Det. Brad Grice: I felt very robust. I did.

Ulmer had died in jail 5 years earlier in 1996.  But Grice received a DNA pattern from his mom.

Det. Brad Grice: I actually felt that once we received the outcomes again that we might know who did it.  Then we get the discover that it wasn’t him.

Jim Axelrod: At that time, you have to’ve been, like, “We’re never gonna solve this thing.”

Det. Brad Grice: It certain felt that means. It was very discouraging.

Jeff Slaten: You know it is like, “Oh my God, we’re back to square one again.”

Tim Slaten: It felt such as you was on a rollercoaster for just about your entire life.

By 2005, 24 years after the homicide, Detective Grice was heading up a brand new chilly case unit.  And the FBI was working the DNA profile of Slaten’s killer repeatedly via all federal databanks.  But the years continued to move with out a match.

Det. Brad Grice: Jeff would name. And “Jeff, I — I got nothin’ for ya,” you understand? … It damage my coronary heart too, you understand?

Grice had a rising suspicion he was chasing a ghost.

Det. Brad Grice: I actually thought the suspect may be deceased.

He had made that promise to the brothers that he would not retire till their monster was caught.

Det. Brad Grice: I had some medical issues that have been poppin’ up.

It was a promise he could not hold.  Detective Grice retired in 2015.  

Jim Axelrod: There was in all probability nothing in your skilled life you wished greater than to name Jeff Slaten and say, “Got him.”

Det. Brad Grice: Absolutely.

Jeff Slaten: After Detective Brad Grice retired, I’m like, I stated, “Well, I’ll probably take my last breath and not know who murdered my mom.”  I used to be already beginning to come to phrases with it.

But three years later, there was renewed hope.  A groundbreaking DNA expertise started to affect the regulation enforcement neighborhood.  And Genetic Genealogist CeCe Moore was taking up the Slaten case.

CeCe Moore: I used to be decided I used to be going to assist these boys discover out who killed their mother.


CeCe Moore is a famend knowledgeable within the area of investigative genetic family tree.

CeCe Moore: If you’ve gotten that DNA there is no such thing as a motive you can’t remedy that thriller, no matter that thriller is.

During the post-mortem, swabs have been collected from Linda Slaten that contained semen. Investigators rigorously preserved the contents of the rape package for years to come back.Forensic DNA evaluation did not exist till 1984. Later, it could show key to fixing this case.

Lakeland Police Department

Moore launched her hunt for Linda Slaten’s killer by importing the nameless DNA from Slaten’s rape package to a public family tree web site known as GEDMatch.  She then meticulously constructed — department by department — his genetic household tree.

CeCe Moore: I constructed the household bushes of these individuals who shared DNA with him.  And then I establish frequent ancestors between these individuals.

She made these connections by poring over start certificates, marriage licenses, obituaries and social media to fill within the household tree with names.

Jim Axelrod: It feels like principally you are placing collectively a large jigsaw puzzle.

CeCe Moore: Yes. My work is consistently placing collectively puzzles. Piece by piece by piece.

CeCe Moore (referring to part of household tree): These matches all share DNA with one another. So, they’re my first genetic community.

CeCe Moore uncovered three genetic networks — branches of the killer’s household tree that in the end narrowed to the one individual most certainly liable for the homicide of Linda Slaten.

CeCe Moore: Fortunately, these three genetic networks converged into one household tree that pointed at one speedy household. And he was the one son in that household. And we knew the killer was a male. So, it needed to be him that was the DNA contributor.

After a whole bunch of leads and lifeless ends, after dozens of suspects have been investigated and cleared, CeCe Moore recognized the possible killer in a single weekend. 

CeCe Moore: There was only one one who was excessive confidence.

Jim Axelrod: And who was that?

CeCe Moore: Joseph Clinton Mills.

Joseph Clinton Mills — Coach Joe — who drove Linda Slaten’s 12-year-old son, Tim, to and from observe.  But authorities wished to make certain earlier than they notified the brothers.

CeCe Moore: And then there may be type of exhilaration as a result of he is alive. … And so there’s an actual probability for justice and perhaps even solutions.

CeCe Moore’s remaining 2019 report confirmed that Joseph Mills, then 58, was dwelling in Kathleen, Florida, about half an hour from the crime scene.

Det. Tammy Hathcock: I reviewed the case, and … I’m like, “I remember that name.” … I bear in mind seeing that title. That — that man was interviewed.”

Detectives Tammy Hathcock and Russell Hurley have been the subsequent era of Lakeland investigators main the Slaten chilly case. 

Det. Tammy Hathcock: I’m telling you, it is like I received the lottery.  I bear in mind grabbing that piece of paper from the report and simply working down the hallway to my sergeant saying, “Oh, my God he was interviewed! He was interviewed!”

According to the case file, investigators did query Joseph Mills, then 20 years outdated, simply in the future after the homicide.

Det. Tammy Hathcock: He was very principally touched.  I imply like only a very transient interview.

And it was carried out on the telephone, not in individual.

The incontrovertible fact that investigators by no means questioned Mills head to head suggests he was by no means thought-about a suspect. During the transient name, Mills acknowledged he had pushed Tim Slaten residence from soccer observe on September 3.  Just hours later, Linda Slaten was lifeless.

Jim Axelrod: How was Joseph Mills not adopted up on extra aggressively in 1981?

Det. Tammy Hathcock: At that time, I imply he was only a soccer coach that had dropped off Timmy. … He was by no means on their radar to … be a suspect simply primarily based off of the knowledge that they got by Timmy and by Mr. Mills.

Joseph Mills' 1984 palm print
Detectives Hathcock and Hurley found that in 1984, Mills had been convicted of grand theft for forging a will. He by no means went to jail, however police collected fingerprints and palm prints from him. In 2019, investigators in contrast Mills’ palm print from  in 1984 to the palm print that was lifted off Linda Slaten’s windowsill in 1981 and so they have been a match.

Lakeland Police Department

Joseph Mills was convicted in 1984 of grand theft for forging a will.  He by no means went to jail, however he was fingerprinted.  Lakeland police additionally took a palm print.  In August 2019, investigators in contrast these prints to the palm print Sergeant Pickett lifted off Slaten’s windowsill almost 38 years earlier than.

Jim Axelrod: When the prints got here again, there was a match?

Det. Russell Hurley: Yes.

High-tech genetic family tree had recognized Mills because the seemingly killer, and an old school palm print match helped affirm his id.  But Hathcock and Hurley nonetheless wanted to check a contemporary DNA pattern from Mills to the decades-old DNA recovered from the crime scene. 

Det. Russell Hurley: ‘Cause we needed to get his DNA with out his data and see if we will get a match. …We needed to do some surveillance.

Det. Tammy Hathcock: It was a number of weekends that we have been following him round …

Det. Tammy Hathcock: … attempting to get discarded DNA.

Jim Axelrod: Just on the lookout for a cup that he drank from or a tissue that he used.

Det. Tammy Hathcock: Anything.

After monitoring Mills with no luck, the detectives determined it was time to get their fingers soiled.  They covertly took Mills’ trash again to the police division

Det. Tammy Hathcock: Here we’re in gown garments simply digging via trash luggage. … Not probably the most glamorous factor.

They found a bit of used medical adhesive tape and despatched it off to the FDLE crime lab for testing.  After looking Mills’ trash, they dug via his life.

Det. Tammy Hathcock: He’s been married to the identical girl. And he lived in the identical place.

Det. Russell Hurley: He was a enterprise proprietor … a cleansing service.

Det. Tammy Hathcock: …he was a truck driver over time.

Det. Tammy Hathcock: He had a household.

Jim Axelrod: Married, youngsters

Det. Tammy Hathcock: Married, youngsters, grandkids

Eleven days later, the beautiful lab outcomes: Joseph Mills’ 2019 DNA discovered on the medical tape and the 1981 unknown DNA from Linda Slaten’s rape package have been a spot-on match.  That’s when the brothers have been advised the monster had been discovered.

Jim Axelrod: This man you final knew as Coach Joe, oh my goodness, it was him.

Tim Slaten: And I had an image in my home ever since then, and by no means knew it was him.

“Coach Joe”Mills and Tim Slaten

Tim Slaten

Tim’s 1981 group soccer picture, a supply of satisfaction for years, sickens him at the moment. Because standing straight behind him is the person he as soon as trusted and admired. Coach Joe.

Tim Slaten: I’ve been carrying the killer’s image in my home this entire time and by no means had a clue.

Even after the homicide, Joseph Mills continued driving Tim to and from soccer observe — choosing him up and dropping him off at his grandparents’ home.

Tim Slaten: He’d ask us how the case was goin’. … He would not ask questions on it. He simply, “Well, any new news or any new leads?”  And I used to be, like, “No, nothing.” You know.

Jim Axelrod: He’s talkin’ to a 12-year-old boy and tryin’ to maintain tabs on a homicide investigation via the son of the murdered girl?

Jeff Slaten: Yeah. 

Tim Slaten: Yes.

Jim Axelrod: When he is aware of precisely who did it.

Jeff Slaten: He’s a cold-hearted monster, that is for certain.

On Dec 12, 2019, the detectives moved in, arresting Joseph Mills.

Joseph Mills arrest
Joseph Clinton Mills  was arrested 38 years after Linda Slaten’s homicide.

Lakeland Police Department

DET. TAMMY HATHCOCK (sitting subsequent to Mills in backseat of police automotive): You have the suitable to stay silent.  Anything you say can be utilized in opposition to you in a court docket of regulation …

Det. Russell Hurley: He was calm, cool, and picked up prefer it was one other day on the seashore. … Most individuals’s response can be, “Why am I bein’ arrested?” 

Jim Axelrod: “Why are you takin’ me in?”  You anticipated a few of that?

Det. Tammy Hathcock: Right, some form of emotion, and nothing.


DET. RUSSELL HURLEY (police interview): It’s been 38 years, and I’m certain you go to mattress each night time serious about this. I’ve little question in my thoughts.

Detectives Hathcock and Hurley lastly had Joseph Mills proper the place they wished him — within the claustrophobic confines of a police interview room.

JOSEPH MILLS (police interview): When I picked the boys up, we — we — we stayed within the car.  And I do not recall going to, in or out of the home, interval.

Det. Tammy Hathcock: There’s no means that’s the reality. I imply, he is saying he is by no means been in there. … We received him.

DET. TAMMY HATHCOCK (police interview): What now we have tells us a distinct story.  OK. You have been in that residence.

Ratcheting up the stress, the detectives advised Mills they’d overwhelming proof putting him inside Linda Slaten’s bed room.

DET. TAMMY HATHCOCK (police interview): Your fingerprints matches you, the DNA matches you.

Joseph Mills question by detectives
During his interrogation, Mills advised detectives that Linda Slaten invited him over for consensual intercourse, which investigators knew was a lie. “I think it’s pretty evident that he targeted her,” Det. Russell Hurley says.

Lakeland Police Department

That’s when Mills’ story started to alter.

DET. RUSSELL HURLEY: And then how did you find yourself crawling via her window?

JOSEPH MILLS: It was like an invite.

An invitation from Linda Slaten, Mills claimed, for consensual intercourse — a flat-out lie, say the detectives.

Det. Russell Hurley: He stated it was a intercourse recreation, that she had the hanger round her neck when he got here via the window and he or she requested him to tighten it down. 

DET. RUSSELL HURLEY: And then did you … begin making use of stress?


Det. Russell Hurley: And once I identified effectively the brutality of the hanger and the way deep it was into her pores and skin he caught with the “It was a game.” 

DET. RUSSELL HURLEY (to Mills): You purposely killed her. We’re all sittin’ right here, we all know that.

Jim Axelrod: At the top of the day what occurred right here?

Det. Russell Hurley: I feel it is fairly evident that he focused her.

After dropping off Tim from soccer observe on Sept. 3, 1981, Joseph Mills returned later that night time, the detectives say, breaking in via Linda Slaten’s bed room window.  No one heard Mills, they imagine, as a result of nobody was residence.  Jeff was nonetheless at his grandparents’ home; Linda and Tim have been on the celebration subsequent door.

Det. Russell Hurley: If you take a look at the crime scene and all that — the hanger clearly got here from the closet. … We figured that is what occurred … is he was hiding within the closet.

DET. RUSSELL HURLEY: Were you ever within the closet?

JOSEPH MILLS (lengthy pause): No sir.

In the ultimate moments of her life, the detectives imagine that Linda, after saying goodnight to her sons, walked into her bed room and closed the door — by no means realizing that Mills was already inside ready for her.  There was no invitation, no consensual intercourse, they are saying.  Joseph Mills raped and murdered Linda Slaten.

Detective Brad Grice all the time suspected the killer’s title was buried someplace within the thick police case file.

Jim Axelrod: Why do you are feeling that the investigation did not circle again to Joseph Mills?

Det. Brad Grice: Well, clearly, I put a lotta that on me now.

Jim Axelrod: You do?

Det. Brad Grice: I do.     

Joseph Mills arrest photo
The crime lab’s outcomes revealed that Joseph Mills’ DNA on the medical adhesive tape and the unknown DNA recovered from the rape package have been a spot-on match. 

Lakeland Police Department

Grice blames himself for not taking a more durable take a look at Joseph Mills — a sentiment not shared by the Slaten brothers.  They really feel nothing however gratitude to the detective and good friend who spent 17 years chasing the elusive killer.

Jeff Slaten: I may inform how — how arduous he wished to unravel it.

Jeff Slaten: And I really named my son after him. My son’s named Brad, too.

Det. Brad Grice: Jeff put a bit of stress on me over time, you understand, he did.  You cannot retire till you remedy this case, after which he named his son after me.

Det. Brad Grice: And actually, I simply wished to unravel this case for them greater than something.

So did this former investigator — 94-year-old Edgar Pickett.  The brothers had all the time wished to satisfy him.

Jeff Slaten: So, I wanna thanks for all you probably did for our mama again then. … If you hadn’t of carried out it, this monster would nonetheless be working free at the moment.

Sgt. Edgar Pickett: Sure would, huh?

Jeff and Tim Slaten meet Sgt. Pickett.
Jeff and Tim Slaten meet Sgt. Pickett for the primary time, thanking him for his position in fixing their mom’s homicide.

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It is poignant reward for Sergeant Pickett, who lifted the palm print that helped establish the monster, Joseph Mills.

Sgt. Edgar Pickett: That’s the case I can always remember.

Sgt. Edgar Pickett (pointing to his head): It’s up right here, I am unable to eliminate it.

During his distinguished and trailblazing 29-year profession, Sergeant Pickett had seen all of it.  And but, it is the Linda Slaten case that haunts him to today. He by no means knew police had questioned a person named Joseph Mills simply in the future after the killing. 

Jim Axelrod: You did not know for 38 years that he was talked to right away afterward?

Sgt. Edgar Pickett: No, I did not.

Instead, Pickett says he was requested to check prints of quite a few black males who have been questioned within the days after the homicide following neighbors’ experiences of suspicious exercise. 

Sgt. Edgar Pickett: They saved pickin’ up a lotta Blacks.  And they was given me their prints for me to take a look at theirs.

It not simply haunts, however angers Pickett: Black males have been rounded up and fingerprinted, whereas the White soccer coach — driving Linda’s son to and from observe — was never thought-about a suspect.

Sgt. Edgar Pickett: They simply talked to him and let him go.

Jim Axelrod: You’re telling me this case … may’ve been solved within the first days after the homicide…if they’d simply taken a print from Joseph Mills?

Sgt. Edgar Pickett: That’s appropriate.

Jim Axelrod: There’s lots of people who got here earlier than you. I get it. … But you bought a palm print within the windowsill nearly instantly. … Wouldn’t you simply get some prints from the man, anyone who had been close to the home within the 24 hours previous to the homicide?

Det. Russell Hurley: There was no indication that he had been in the home. I imply, all of the witnesses stated that he dropped the child off from observe and by no means received out of the truck, so … The solely motive why he was spoke to was as a result of, after they backtrack on the earlier 24 hours, he was in that equation

Jim Axelrod: You do not feel like he slipped via the online?

Det. Tammy Hathcock: No.

Det. Russell Hurley: No.  

Joseph Mills’ day of reckoning would lastly come 40 years later.

Jeff Slaten: He’s received chilly, black, murderin’ eyes, this Joseph Clinton Mills.  He simply sit there. … Not a phrase…


Tim Slaten: Our mother was individual. He took that away from us.

To keep away from a trial and a doable loss of life sentence, Joseph Mills pleaded responsible to all prices — together with first-degree homicide, sexual battery and housebreaking.  At his sentencing, what Linda Slaten’s household wished most was the answer to at least one query.

JEFF SLATEN (yelling at Mills in court docket): Why?  I simply need to know why, Joe?  Why’d you are taking my mama from me?  I liked my mama.  We was glad.

Tim Slaten: My blood would begin boilin’ each time I take a look at him.

The brothers, and Aunt Judy, tried to look him within the eye.

Judy Butler: To see if there was any human being in there, to see if he was alive, to see if he had a soul. Never noticed it.

His silence infuriated the household.  And a couple of minutes later, so did his feedback to the court docket.

JOSEPH MILLS (in court docket): I’m individual.  I’m not that individual that they are portray me out to be …

CeCe Moore: I feel this case made me the angriest out of the a whole bunch of instances I’ve been concerned in as a result of what he did along with her youngsters there. … And then the issues he stated about her.

Jim Axelrod: That she lured him in.

CeCe Moore: Even all these years later he was prepared to attempt to make her look unhealthy, to denigrate the sufferer, and her boys have to listen to that. It’s simply sickening.

JUDGE: I’ll sentence you to life in jail with out the opportunity of parole … 

And similar to that, Joseph Clinton Mills was gone — dealing with 4 life phrases and at last, a measure of justice. 

Jim Axelrod: Maybe not full justice in your view.

Tim Slaten: It’s not full justice, on no account.

Tim Slaten: I wished him to go to trial. … I wished to see him up on the stand and inform everyone why he did this, and he by no means did that.

The Slaten brothers really feel some consolation realizing Joseph Mills won’t ever depart jail alive.  But there’s nonetheless anger, they are saying, as a result of Mills by no means took full accountability for the premeditated rape and homicide of their mom.  He by no means apologized.  And there have been all these years of freedom.

Tim Slaten: He lived his entire life. He raised his household. You know, he had life.

Linda Slaten with her sons
The Slaten brothers really feel some consolation realizing Joseph Mills won’t ever depart jail alive, however there’s nonetheless anger, as a result of Mills by no means took full accountability for the premeditated rape and homicide of their mom.  

Jeff Slaten

It’s the brothers who really feel they have been handed the much more extreme sentence: life with out the opportunity of rising up with their mother.

Jeff Slaten: She’d nonetheless be right here at the moment. She’d solely be 72, you understand?  Coulda had her my entire life.

Jeff Slaten: I simply marvel what life may have been prefer to have her.

Jim Axelrod: Any a part of you when you concentrate on all of this … in any respect indignant with the best way the police dealt with it, that it took this lengthy to get Joseph Mills?

Tim Slaten: You may take a look at it that means. I do know it is a lotta arduous work behind the scenes that individuals do not see that goes on. You know, what they do, the hours upon hours they put in. I imply, you can get mad, however solely a lot could possibly be carried out in a day.

CeCe Moore: We owe an enormous debt of gratitude to these authentic crime scene investigators. Because on the time this crime was dedicated, they did not even know DNA was going for use in felony investigations. … And so the very fact they collected that after which it was saved responsibly and punctiliously all these years by that division is so essential. If that hadn’t occurred, we could not have carried out our work.

Jeff and Tim say they’re decided to maneuver on as finest they will, to dwell life effectively for his or her mother and for his or her households.

The brothers additionally know they by no means would have survived their ordeal with out one another.  They stay extraordinarily shut, dwell only a few miles aside, and share passionate hobbies, like restoring vehicles.

Jim Axelrod: You give the credit score for dwelling this life to the spirit of your mother?

Tim Slaten: Yes. 

Jeff Slaten: Most positively.

Linda Slaten gravesite
 “Sure do love you, Mom.  I miss you so much every day,” say Jeff Slaten together with his brother Tim at their mom’s gravesite.

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Jeff Slaten: My mother, she’s trying down on us and would need us to dwell our lives and do good. You know. … And I all the time suppose she’s trying down on us. I need to make her proud.

Tim Slaten: Yes.

Jeff Slaten: Want to make her proud.

Tim Slaten: Yes.

The Slaten brothers go to their mom’s grave collectively typically.

Jeff burns a candle subsequent to a portrait of his mom yearly on the anniversary of her loss of life.


Produced by Mead Stone. Gabriella Demirdjian is the sector producer. Marc Goldbaum and Sara Ely Hulse are the event producers. Nancy Bautista is the printed affiliate. Mead Stone, Greg Kaplan and Grayce Arlotta-Berner are the editors. Peter Schweitzer is the senior producer. Nancy Kramer is the chief story editor. Judy Tygard is the chief producer.  


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