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Family Members of Cold Case Murder Victim Confront Killer in Court: ‘Why’d You Take My Mama?’

Jeff Slaten, Joseph Clinton Mills

Jeff Slaten (L) confronts Joseph Clinton Mills (R), who pleaded guilty to murdering Slaten’s mother Linda Slaten in 1981. (WFLA screengrab)

The family of a woman murdered in 1981 confronted her killer in court, demanding that he explain to them why he did what he did, but they did not get any answers before a judge sentenced the defendant to life in prison.

Joseph Clinton Mills, 61, sat motionless before Jeff Slaten and Judy Butler in a Florida courtroom on Wednesday, local NBC affiliate WFLA reported.

Mills was in court to plead guilty to the 1981 sexual assault and murder of Linda Slaten, 31, Jeff’s mother and Butler’s sister.

She was found strangled to death with a wire coat hanger, WFLA had previously reported.

“Why Joe? Why’d you take my mama?” Slaten demanded, according to WFLA, his voice emotional as he asked variations of the same question. “I don’t know why you can’t tell me why. Why you have to murder my mama?”

Butler was supposed to have coffee with her sister that day, according to WFLA. Instead, when Butler arrived at Linda’s apartment, she found her sister’s body.

“As I screamed, my eyes scanned the scene,” Butler said.

“Joe, how could you do that?” she asked in Mills in court. “Do you have any soul? Do you have any remorse?”

Linda’s sons Jeff and Tim Slaten were home at the time she was killed, WFLA reported. They were 12 and 15 years old, respectively.

“We was scared to death because of you, man,” Slaten told Mills in court, per WFLA. “Always looking over my shoulder, scared to death, sleeping with a switchblade knife under my pillow, sleeping with it.”

Mills, who was Tim’s football coach, was questioned at the time of Slaten’s death, according to WFLA. The day before Slaten’s body was found, Mills had picked Tim up at his home, drove him to practice and took him home, WFLA said, citing Mills’ arrest affidavit.

Mills told detectives at the time that he only met the victim once and did not return to the apartment after dropping Tim off that night, the WFLA story said. Slaten said that Mills was the “last person on his radar,” and said that Mills continued to drive him places after his mother’s murder.

The case remained unsolved until a breakthrough in 2019, when updated genetic tracing technology provided a link to Mills from DNA taken from Linda’s rape kit, according to WFLA.

Mills was arrested and charged with Linda’s murder in December 2019, WFLA reported. Now, more than two years later, he changed his plea to guilty. His attorney said he changed his plea because it was “in his best interest to do so,” WFLA said.

While Mills didn’t respond to Linda’s family members, he did speak to Judge Kevin Abdoney before receiving his sentence.

“I am a good person,” Mills said, according to WFLA. “I’m not that person that they’re painting me out to be.”

Abdoney then sentenced Mills to live in prison without the possibility of parole, WFLA reported.

[Images via screengrab/WFLA.]

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