February 3, 2020 | By Holden Jung
This story is part of a collaborative project between Project: Cold Case and a University of North Florida Journalism class. The student credited above wrote this story as a class project.
Candy Lynn Sharp and April Jolicouer have continuously sought justice for their mother, Donna Geneve Mullen. The 33 years since her disappearance have been difficult on the sisters, struggling to move forward under the weight of not knowing the truth. “I still think about it every day, and it’s very hard not knowing what happened,” Candy stoically shares.
Donna Mullen was a beloved mother, friend, and citizen of the Jacksonville Beach community. She had strong ties to the beaches, working at the historic Ritz beach bar while juggling motherhood and maintaining close relationships with those around her.
Candy described her mother as “a sweet woman” who would “do anything for anyone and would help whenever anyone asked.”
Donna fought her fair share of demons. Her daughters share stories of their mother’s struggle with alcohol addiction and even a bout of tuberculosis. “When sober, she would come and visit me. She would bring my sisters to visit,” Candy recalled.
Candy fondly shared stories of the family visiting their uncle to watch his baseball games. “I remember she would get on to me and call me ‘rotten ass’ if I got into trouble,” she shared with a laugh.
On July 19, 1986, Donna Mullen was reported missing. She had last been seen by a neighbor near her home on North 2nd Street in Jacksonville Beach.
Donna was 37 years old at the time, 5 foot 1 inch tall, with brown hair, and blue eyes. The mother of three had affectionately been known as “Duck” due to the noticeable waddle in her stride.
Donna had a few distinctive tattoos, including a black panther on her left shoulder and two red hearts with a black “K” on her right wrist. She also had pierced ears and a scar from a hysterectomy on her abdomen.
She hasn’t been seen since.
The Jacksonville Beach Police Department followed many leads, but none led to information regarding Donna’s disappearance.
Donna’s disappearance has left her family with many questions and much time to speculate about what happened to her. Candy said many of her family members suspected Donna may have been a victim of a “drug deal gone bad.” Donna’s Harley-Davidson motorcycle had been found with cocaine on board.
Candy was just 16 when her mother disappeared. She was adopted by another family in Ohio, but always kept in contact with her biological mother. In June of 1986, Candy saw her mother for the last time.
Donna and her boyfriend at the time spent a weekend in Ohio before traveling to Michigan to buy a new Harley. They then swung by Russellville, Kentucky, to visit April before returning to Jacksonville.
Both Candy and April shared frustration with the investigation process, stating they felt like annoyances to law enforcement. In 2019, they had the opportunity to sit down with the investigators at Jacksonville Beach and share their thoughts and frustrations. They were once told that the Donna Mullen case file was nothing more than a single paper but were surprised to see a full case file on the table at the meeting.
In 1987, a man from Savannah, Ga. reported that he had found bones which were speculated to be Mullen. The Georgia police collected the bones before being transferred to the FBI. The family supplied their DNA to law enforcement. The DNA was uploaded to NamUS, the National Missing and Unidentified Persons System, for comparison with other unidentified remains, but matches have not been found.
Through this journey, Candy and April have both been relentless in their pursuit of the truth and making sure that their mother’s story is heard and remembered.
“She had so many friends and knew a lot of people,” Candy shared. “Someone somewhere has to know something, and that is why I hold out hope that someday I will finally understand what happened to my mom 33 years ago.”
If you have any information on the unsolved murder of Donna Mullen, please call the Jacksonville Beach Police Department at (904)-270-1661. To remain anonymous and possibly be eligible for a $3,000 reward, call First Coast Crime Stoppers at (866) 845-TIPS.
Research & Impact
Project: Cold Case, along with Innovative Forensic DNA and the Southeastern Homicide Investigators Association (SEHIA), recently launched the “Upload for Justice” campaign to educate the public on the impact that their DNA and genealogy testing results could have on the more than 250,000 unsolved homicides in the United States.
Opting in to allow law enforcement the ability to cross-reference provided DNA results in a searchable database to compare against the samples collected at crime scenes has been the focus of this campaign. This process has already been credited with helping solve numerous cold cases across the county, including the notable Golden State Killer case.
This DNA testing can also help identify unidentified bodies. The DNA Doe Project was born to help identify unknown victims and assist law enforcement in the process. They have helped identify numerous victims, including Marcia Sossoman King, a young woman whose remains were found 40 years ago in Miami.
While there is a growing ethical conversation on the use of DNA and the privacy concerns involved, for families like the Mullens, waiting for the identification of their loved one with this technology is welcomed.
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If you have a loved one that is the victim of an unsolved homicide, please submit their case here for consideration in a future Cold Case Spotlight post.