Florida cop finds bottle containing ashes, dollar bills and a touching message

“This bottle contains the cremation ashes of my son, Brian," the letter read. "I’m sending him on one last adventure."
Sergeant Paula Pendleton, of the Walton County Sheriff's Office.
"Who would have known when it washed up on our shores it would have gotten to me?" said Sergeant Paula Pendleton.Walton County Sheriff's Office / Walton County Sheriff's Office

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By Caroline Radnofsky and Ali Gostanian

A Florida police officer has helped a grieving family send a much-loved father on one last, unexpected, wild ride.

Sergeant Paula Pendleton was on patrol on Sept. 5 in Walton County, Florida when an item of lost property was handed in from one of the panhandle's Gulf of Mexico beaches: a bottle containing four dollar bills, a handwritten note and a small pouch holding what appeared to be human ashes, according to a post on her force's Facebook page.

“This bottle contains the cremation ashes of my son, Brian, who suddenly and unexpectedly passed on March 9, 2019," the letter explained. "More than anything, he longed to be free, so I’m sending him on one last adventure."

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Brian Mullins, from Dallas, Texas, was just 39 years old and was "deeply loved," the letter said.

“Hi, my name is Peyton,” added another note, this time from Brian's daughter. "When my father passed, I was 14-years-old. It has struck our whole family pretty hard and, so far, it has been a very hard road. But, like my granny said, he loved to be free. So, that’s exactly what we are doing,” she wrote.

Walton County Sergeant Paula Pendleton says she drove around with the bottle in her passenger seat all morning until she had a chance to read the letter inside.Credit: Walton County Sheriff / Credit: Walton County Sheriff

Enclosed were contact details for the letter writer and her granddaughter, with instructions to use the cash to cover the cost of a phone call to let Brian's family know where the bottle had been found.

The discovery was particularly meaningful for Pendleton, the sheriff's office explained in its post, because she is a recent widow. Her husband passed away in April 2018 aged 50 after a sudden illness.

“Who would have known when it washed up on our shores it would have gotten to me?” Pendleton said.

Brian Mullins' family had launched the bottle containing his final remains in Destin, Florida, on August 1 they wrote, just one county away from where Pendleton found it, so she decided to help give his trip a little boost.

"I am delivering it to one of my fishing charter buddies so he can drop Brian way out in the Gulf while he's out there, so he can get [to] travel and explore this great big world," she texted the family in-between the day's assignments, according to a Facebook post by Brian's 66-year-old mother Darlene Mullins.

Pendleton also wanted the family to know, she wrote, that "Brian got to do a ride-a-long with a deputy sheriff before he drifted out on his adventures once again."