Linette Morrison became a victim advocate for a sheriff’s department in West Virginia in 2021.
“I fight hard for my victims, because I know what it’s like,” she said.
Eight years ago, on the morning of December 20, 2014, Linette received a call from her eldest brother: Their brother, 57-year-old Joseph Mullins of Portage County, Ohio, was missing.
“They had searched for him all night,” Linette told Dateline. “They wanted to know if I knew where he was or if I’d heard from him.”
But Linette hadn’t heard from Joseph. “I knew something was wrong,” Linette said.
Nine days later, Joseph’s body was found in Cleveland.
Linette told Dateline that despite their 11-year age gap, she and Joseph were extremely close. “He got up in the morning dancing and he went to bed dancing,” Linette said. “He was a bubbly personality in life.”
According to Linette, Joseph is originally from Ohio but moved to West Virginia after their mother and Linette’s father got married. “My dad was originally from West Virginia, and I guess he was [in Cleveland] for work,” Linette said. “He met my mom and they got married and then soon started a family.”
She said the now-blended family of eight moved back to her father’s home state of West Virginia.
Before long, Joseph also got married. “He got married and raised a stepson [in West Virginia],” Linette said. “They were married for several years and they divorced.” Linette told Dateline that Joseph then moved from West Virginia back to Ohio and eventually got married again. “He worked at her print shop,” Linette said. “He was married to her up until -- I mean, she was his widow.”
Dateline spoke with Joseph’s wife who said for her safety, she prefers to not be named. She told Dateline that the two met at work. “He was just an absolute blast,” she said. “Very happy, very personable.”
“You either loved him or he annoyed the living hell out of you,” she said, with a laugh. “[He was] a giant child.”
According to Joseph’s wife, December 19, 2014, started out like any other day. She said Joseph went to work that morning and returned to their home in Portage County, Ohio. “He came home and was expecting a friend to come over,” his wife recalled. “[He] was gonna borrow some tools.”
Joseph’s wife told Dateline that she believe he may have gone “out to the garage thinking that the neighbor had come to get the tools,” and that “[He] was surprised by people he didn’t know.”
Joseph’s wife told Dateline that she initially wasn’t alarmed when she returned home from work that evening and her husband wasn’t there. “It was weird that he hadn’t called or left a note or anything,” she said. But “It wasn’t weird between him helping his cousin redo his house and his friend redoing their dog lot,” that he wasn’t home.
Joseph’s wife said she began to grow worried around 9:00 p.m. “I started calling his friend to see if he was still there because I had brought home dinner,” she said. “He hadn’t seen him.”
Joseph’s wife told Dateline that she immediately called the sheriff’s office and began searching for her husband. “By midnight we had all kinds of sheriffs and dogs and law enforcement,” she said. “First thing when it got daylight, we had helicopters and everything else.”
But there was no sign of Joseph.
According to the Ohio Attorney General’s website, “Portage County Sheriff’s Office responded to the Mullins' residence during the early morning hours of 12/20/2014. Mullins’ wife was reporting that she arrived home on the previous evening, Thursday 12/19/2014, at approximately 21:30 hours.” It goes on to say that “when she arrived home she found indications that Joseph had been there but was missing” and that “with the assistance of family friends, Mrs. Mullins attempted to contact Joseph by his cell phone but was unsuccessful.”
Linette told Dateline that she drove to Ohio from West Virginia shortly after finding out about her brother’s disappearance. “I said, ‘I’m gonna go look and do something,’” Linette told Dateline. “Everybody was searching for him.”
According to the Ohio Attorney General’s website, “a search of the area did not locate Joseph.”
Authorities also searched within the Mullins residence. “During the investigation, blood was found by the detached garage that belonged to Joseph. A blood smear was found on a bedspread in the master bedroom that also returned to Joseph,” the Ohio Attorney General’s website said. Despite the spots of blood found, “nothing in the house appeared to be missing or disturbed.”
Linette said that she knew her brother wouldn’t just up and vanish. “I kept saying he would not have done this willingly,” Linette told Dateline. “He wouldn’t have done that.”
Joseph’s wife also told Dateline her husband wouldn’t just disappear. “It wasn’t like him to not be on his phone to tell me where he was,” she said.
They were right.
“On December 29, 2014, Joseph Mullins' body was found in the warehouse district of downtown Cleveland. His death was determined to be from blunt force trauma,” the Ohio Attorney General’s website states.
“I don’t think there was a spot on his body that hadn’t been beat on,” Linette told Dateline. “There was a lot of blood.”
Joseph’s wife told Dateline she was told about her husband’s death while she was in the sheriff’s department. “They asked me about identifying Joe and identifying marks and then they told me that they thought Cleveland had found him,” she said.
Linette said she was at Joseph’s house when she got the news of her brother’s murder. “I seen [his wife] come in and she was just crying,” Linette said.
Dateline reached out to the Portage County Sheriff’s office for additional details but has yet to receive a response.
Linette Morrison said she will continue to fight for justice in her brother’s murder.“I just don’t want him to be forgotten,” Linette said, tearfully. “I just can’t accept that. I just cant.”
Although Joseph’s wife still hopes for justice, she told Dateline that what she wants more than anything—is to move forward. “December’s a horrible month for all of us,” she said. “But we have to move forward to exist.”
“What happened to Joe didn’t just happen to Joe,” Joseph’s wife said. “What these animals did — ruined so many lives. This should have not happened. It’s just incomprehensible.”
Anyone with information on Joseph’s murder is asked to call the Portage County Sheriff’s Office at 330-296-5100.