LAKELAND, Fla. – During the early morning hours of September 4th, 1981, Joseph Mills, broke into the bedroom window of Linda Slaten.
Linda, 31, and her two young sons were sleeping in the residence.
After sexually assaulting and murdering her, Mills escaped through the same window he entered.
For the next four decades, the Lakeland Police worked to find Linda’s killer and bring him to justice. At the same time, Mills was a trusted member of the community where he coached one of Linda’s son’s football teams.
Advances in DNA technology led to a new lead in 2019.
Working with the State Attorney’s Office, the Lakeland Police Department was able to develop a suspect and arrested Mills.
On February 9th Mills, now 61 years old, pled guilty and was sentenced to four life terms in Florida State Prison.
The tireless effort of all involved ensured Mills was held accountable for Linda’s death.
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48 HOURS and contributor Jim Axelrod report on how detectives and a DNA genealogist finally were able to catch Joe Mills.
Prior to and after Linda Slaten’s murder, Tim Slaten’s football coach, Joe Mills, would regularly drive Slaten to and from football practice.
Coach Joe became a role model for Slaten, who proudly hung up his football team photo in his room where Coach Joe stood right behind him.
But nearly 40 years later, advances in DNA technology and a carefully stored rape kit revealed Linda Slaten’s likely killer: Coach Joe.
“I looked up to this guy [Joe Mills],” Tim Slaten says. “And I had a picture in my house ever since then, and never knew it was him.”
“He’s a coldhearted monster, that’s for sure,” Jeff Slaten says.
“The Betrayal of Linda Slaten,” will be broadcasted Saturday, Dec. 3 (10:00 PM, ET/PT) on the CBS Television Network and streaming on Paramount+.