Polk County cold case suspect indicted, ordered to stay in jail

Polk County

BARTOW, Fla. (WFLA) – The man accused in a 1981 homicide has been indicted by a grand jury on six charges, including first-degree murder.

Joseph Clinton Mills, 58, of Lakeland, faced a Polk County judge Friday related to an indictment on six counts: one count of first-degree murder, two counts of sexual battery, one count of burglary with a battery or assault and two counts of perjury.

Mills is being held without bond.

Police say 31-year-old Linda Slaten was sexually assaulted and strangled in her Lakeland apartment on North Brunnell Parkway on Sept. 4, 1981.

Her two sons, Tim and Jeff, were home at the time. They were 12 and 15 years old.

Mills was Tim Slaten’s football coach. He drove Tim home the night before his mother was found dead.

“She always took care of us. She was always there for us,” said Tim Slaten at a press conference Thursday.

“We didn’t have a whole lot, living in government housing on food stamps and welfare. She was trying to do the best she could to take care of us. This monster took her away from us,” said Jeff Slaten at the press conference.

Detectives turned to genetic genealogy, cross-referencing DNA on file with online ancestry databases to try and crack the case, working with a genetic DNA analysis company called Parabon Nanolabs.

“These are public databases that other people such as themselves have entered their DNA profiles and have opted in to allow law enforcement to search against,” said Donna Wallace, Chief of Forensic Services at the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.

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.

Mills is due back in court Dec. 31.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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