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Genetic genealogy leads to arrest in 1981 cold case murder of Lakeland woman

Polk County

LAKELAND, Fla. (WFLA) – Authorities have arrested a man in connection with the 1981 murder of Linda Patterson Slaten, Lakeland police announced Wednesday.

Police said Slaten was found dead in her apartment on N. Brunnell Parkway on Sept. 4, 1981. She had been sexually assaulted, and her home had been burglarized. Police said her two sons, ages 12 and 15, were sleeping at the home the night she was murdered.

Clinton Mills was questioned by police two days after the murder but never arrested. The case went cold for nearly four decades.

Detectives were able to crack the case using DNA and fingerprints from an unrelated arrest in 1984, and said that a DNA match confirmed Mills as the suspect.

According to a police affidavit, Mills was the football coach of Slaten’s youngest son.

That same affidavit reads that detectives turned to genetic genealogy, cross-referencing DNA on file with online ancestry databases, in 2018 to try and crack the case.

Results came back in mid-2019 pointing to Mills as the likely killer. He was living in Lakeland and new DNA collected from his garbage matched that from Slaten’s rape kit, according to court documents.

In a 2011 interview, youngest son Tim Slaten told 8 On Your Side he believed the suspect was likely someone the family knew.

(Photo: Lakeland Police)

Mills, 58, was arrested and charged with first-degree murder, sexual battery, and burglary with assault and battery.

He is being held at the Polk County Jail.

Now-retired Lakeland PD detective Brad Grice was previously the lead investigator on the case. By phone, he told 8 On Your Side Wednesday that he stayed in contact with the Slaten family after all these years and is thrilled to see an arrest in the case.

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