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DNA Match Leads to Arrest of Coach 38 Years After Killing

Joseph Clinton Mills sometimes would drive victim's son home
By Bob Cronin,  Newser Staff
Posted Dec 21, 2019 8:35 AM CST

(Newser) – A DNA trail has led to an arrest in the 1981 killing in Florida of Linda Slaten. Joseph Clinton Mills, 58, is charged with the crime. He was her son's football coach at the time of the slaying, CNN reports, and sometimes drove him home after practice. "He was the last person on my brain," Tim Slaten said Thursday. "We had all these other suspects for years." His mother, who was 31, was sexually assaulted and strangled in her bedroom while her two sons slept in the apartment. Genetic genealogy was used to tie Mills to the crime. Mills' fingerprints were found on a window, per the Tampa Bay Times; police said the killer apparently entered the apartment through an unlocked window that was missing its screen.

Mills told Lakeland police this month that he had no relationship with Linda Slaten, then said a week later that she'd invited him over for "a good time." He said that she had a wire hanger around her neck when he climbed through a window, and that she passed out as he twisted it tighter. Mills said he didn't know she had died until police contacted him. He's in jail now, charged with first-degree murder, sexual battery and burglary with assault and battery. "I saw the crime scene," Tim Slaten said. "It's still burnt in my brain today." Over the years, the brothers stayed in touch with the detectives working the case. Jeff Slaten named his son after one of them. "He really wanted to solve it pretty bad," Slaten said. (Read more DNA evidence stories.)

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