Pat Mullins disappeared in 2013 while testing a boat motor. His body was found nine days later in four feet of water, tied to a boat anchor. He had been killed by a shotgun blast to the side of his head. (Photo courtesy Jill Mullins).
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By Lee Williams

Pat Mullins’ near headless body was found partially submerged in the Gulf of Mexico, tied tightly to a 25-pound boat anchor. He had been shot in the side of the head with a shotgun. The fatal wound was fired from a short distance and forensic experts couldn’t rule out that he hadn’t been shot multiple times.

Mullins was in good health, was financially secure, had a loving family and never even owned a shotgun. But despite all of this and even more evidence of murder, Manatee County Sheriff’s Detective Darryl Davis somehow concluded Mullins killed himself. It was the rookie detective’s first solo death investigation.

Since his 2013 death, Mullins’ widow, two sons and hundreds of friends have never accepted that the popular 52-year-old high school librarian killed himself – far from it. He was just months away from celebrating his retirement and his 30th wedding anniversary and had everything to live for.

Now, his family has enlisted Netflix’s “Unsolved Mysteries” to help them prove Pat was murdered and that anyone who believes he killed himself was terribly wrong. The Season 3 episode is titled “Body in the Bay,” and is available at

Throughout 2013, I wrote a series of investigative stories trying to prompt the Manatee County Sheriff’s Office to reopen the case, which is why I couldn’t agree fast enough when “Unsolved Mysteries” producers asked me last year to help with their examination of the killing.

You don’t need to be a certified crime scene investigator – if it matters, I got my CSI certification from the Kansas City Police Department Crime Lab in the mid-1990s – to recognize how badly the case was bungled and then covered up. All you need is a modicum of common sense, which Davis and his chain-of-command apparently still lack.

Davis simply made a bad call, which certainly can happen in death investigations. But rather than admitting he screwed up, Davis and his department have been covering up his mistake and ignoring the obvious for nearly 10 years, while Mullins’ family have been pleading for a fair and impartial investigation.

To be clear, Davis and the Sheriff’s Office never officially classified Mullins’ death as a suicide. Right now, it is “undetermined.” They just told the family they believed Pat killed himself, and then used it as an excuse for their lack of follow-up investigations. Over the past nearly 10 years, the case bounced from one detective to another, and has been classified as both “active” and “inactive.”

At one point Davis even told Pat’s widow Jill Mullins she had to be “reasonable,” and accept that Pat killed himself. Davis denies saying this, but he did offer to pray with Jill to help her accept her husband’s suicide, and he sent her several religious-themed emails, which seemed less designed to ease her suffering than they were to stop her from asking embarrassing questions. Things got so bad Jill had to retain a private attorney, because the Sheriff’s Office ignored her pleas and pressured her to keep quiet and not complain publicly about her husband’s death.

Overwhelming evidence

Pat Mullins loved to refurbish old boat motors. It was the perfect hobby, since there was a creek behind his home that flows into the Braden River where he could test his mechanical skills.

On Sunday, Jan. 27, 2013, Mullins set out in his 16-foot Stumpknocker to test one of his newly reconditioned boat motors. He never went far from home during these tests, certainly not into the Gulf of Mexico. He never returned from the test run. His boat was found two days later in the Gulf – in neutral and out of gas. Mullins was nowhere to be seen. There was no sign of foul play in the Stumpknocker: no blood, no skin, no bits of skull, hair or brain matter was found inside the vessel.

Suicide by shotgun is an incredibly violent and explosive act. If Mullins, as law enforcement still insists, shot himself in the head with a shotgun, his boat would have been covered with biological evidence. No amount of rain could have washed it clean. Instead, there was none. Also, no shotgun was ever found.

Mullins’ body was found by a fisherman in four feet of water seven days later. Medical examiners noted Mullins was shot below and behind his right ear, with a slightly upward trajectory that they had never seen before in a suicide.

They saw no stippling near the gunshot wound. Stippling looks somewhat like tattooing and is caused when particles of burning and unburned gun powder become embedded in the skin. It almost always indicates a contact wound – a gun barrel pressed against flesh, or close to it – so the lack of stippling indicated Mullins was shot from a distance, which would have been difficult for him to do, especially while tied to a boat anchor.

Investigators also focused on the weapon, since Mullins never owned a shotgun. A forensic audit revealed he had not withdrawn enough cash to buy a shotgun in the days before he was killed. They also questioned every vendor who attended a nearby gun show that was held the weekend of Mullins’ death. None of the vendors sold him a firearm of any kind.

Mullins left no suicide note, nor did he display any type of suicidal behavior. Earlier on the day he was killed, he purchased parts for a small air-conditioner he was fixing, as well as a pair of welding goggles that were on sale – not exactly the type of behavior you’d expect from someone contemplating self-harm. Also, his doctor said Mullins was not suffering from any serious illness and was in good health.

Financially, Mullins was in great shape. As a member of Florida’s Deferred Retirement Option Program, or DROP, he would have received $150,000 when he retired, more than enough to launch a boat motor repair shop, which he and his brother often discussed.

Therefore, in order to accept Detective Davis’s suicide theory, you have to believe Mullins somehow tied himself tightly to a boat anchor, threw the anchor overboard and then somehow got up onto the gunnel while waiting for a strong breeze, so no biological evidence would land in his boat, before shooting himself in the side of the head by pulling a trigger he never could have reached, on a shotgun he never owned, for a reason no one could ever discover.

A real theory

Mullins’ family described him as a very courteous and helpful boater. If he saw a boat in distress, he would always stop to offer assistance. They believe he stopped to help someone on the river and saw something he shouldn’t have seen, most likely drugs. They hope the Netflix episode will prompt someone to come forward with a lead that will reopen the case.

In the meantime, Jill Mullins is putting up small flyers and posters urging people to watch the episode. She had tried to rent a large billboard.

“I am extremely hopeful the show will help,” she said Monday. “The viewership is significant, and we need people to know Pat’s case remains unsolved. It was not a suicide.”


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This story is part of the Second Amendment Foundation’s Investigative Journalism Project and is published here with their permission.

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  1. “Netflix Series Investigates 2013 Florida Murder That Was Ruled a Suicide”

    Just a note. ~66% of deaths initially ruled suicide (by firearm) and appear in stats as (firearm) suicide are later found to have been accidents or murders staged to look like suicide. These are never removed from stats for (firearm) suicides leaving (firearm) suicide stats numbers greatly over inflated.

    • “66% of deaths initially ruled suicide (by firearm) and appear in stats as (firearm) suicide are later found to have been accidents or murders staged“

      Interesting, could you please advise the source for that statistic, thanks!

    • Not only is leaving (firearm) suicide stats numbers greatly over inflated exploited by the anti-gun industry and anti-gun advocates it also lets murders go free because although a (firearm) suicide may later be found to have been murder staged to look like suicide the case is very unlikely to be actively re-opened and investigated as a murder after a length of time and it gets put in cold case files as there simply is no actual suspect. Most times the family is never told it was actually murder or an accident, leaving them to grieve their loss and also as because of something they missed or didn’t do for adverse mental health state (all actual suicides are due to an adverse mental health state that drives them to commit suicide) thus compounding their own guilt that torments them, and this is simply cruel.

      • Murders staged to look like suicide has been growing at an alarming rate over the past 22 years.

        Some notable cases of murder staged to look like suicide (I use these because the police were actually able to get a suspect which is rare):

        Jeanette Jumping Eagle in 2020 – ruled as suicide by firearm, later found to have been murder staged as a suicide. In this case the police were able to discover and arrest suspects. This one is interesting as it represents the shortest time ever in police coming up with suspects in a murder staged to look like suicide.

        Meg Purk in 1985 – ruled as suicide by hanging. This one is interesting because of the way it was prosecuted. Eventually decades later her murdered, Scott Purk her husband, was sentenced for the murder. It was not until Scott Purk had committed two more crimes years later (arson) after the murder did he come back on police radar (although police were suspicious at the murder scene, but ruled suicide so case closed). Although he was convicted for the murder (and the two arsons), the prosecution had to exhume Meg’s body and rely on marks on the body to make its case and it was a weak case because all the other evidence had been destroyed years before (common in ruled suicide, there is a time limit sometimes). But the jury believed the prosecution and convicted Scott Purk, but although now convicted if Scott Purk had not committed those two arsons he would never have been caught for the murder. During the investigation into one of the arsons Purk made an odd remark about his wife and this caused the police to look further and make him a suspect.

        There have been many. Except for very few cases, the police never have a suspect and never go back and pursue investigation of the case as a murder.

    • HaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaHaaaaaaaaaHaaaaaaaa BWAAAAAAAAHAAAAAAAAHAAAAAAA……HaaaaHaa… And pigs are flying over my house as we speak. Seth Rich is WAY too close to Hildabeast/Obummer/Braindead for Netflix to ever touch.

    • @I Haz A Question

      Netflix did, in May 2022.

      Netflix did a documentary called ‘Web of Make Believe: Death, Lies and the Internet’. It examines the murder of Seth Rich and also goes into details of the unfounded conspiracy theories and his family.

        • Netflix says

          “The murder of a political staffer in 2016 spawns a myriad of unfounded conspiracy theories as the man’s family — and the truth — hang in the balance.”

        • Progs LOVE “unfounded” when trying to discredit the opponents of their wacko ideas. Tied with “conspiracy theories”.

  2. My maternal grandmother allegedly committed suicide in Honolulu back in 1955 by shooting herself in the side of the head with a Higgins, .22 caliber, bolt action rifle. She had bought the rifle that day at Sears along with a box of .22 caliber shorts. As many of you know, a .22 caliber short fired from a bolt action rifle is subsonic and quieter than a pellet rifle. None of the neighbors in her apartment building heard the gunshot. There was stripling to confirm a contact range shooting. The projectile shattered into three fragments as it penetrated her skull then penetrated less than an inch into her brain. She died from slowly bleeding to death.

    My maternal grandfather somehow managed to arrive in Honolulu during business hours the next day via propeller driven airplane the next day. He identified her body, told the police that his ex-wife was “having woman problems,” went to the Federal courthouse to submit a copy of her old will that would have whatever portion of her divorce settlement that he hadn’t embezzled to him if it hadn’t been invalidated because she died just six months and a few days after the divorce decree was issued, told my then teenaged mother to be “later bitch” and left her on her own to attend the Punaho school in Hawaii, then flew back home to Portland to marry the other woman a fortnight later.

    Suicide? Yeah, that’s the ticket.

    • “As many of you know, a .22 caliber short fired from a bolt action rifle is subsonic and quieter than a pellet rifle.”

      Nope. Not at all true. I’ve been using my trusty bolt-action .22 rifle with Shorts to dispatch vermin in my back yard for years. In fact, that rifle is leaning up on the wall next to me right now. Shorts are pretty much as loud as standard LR loads, and WAY louder than a pellet gun. I know this because I always take a single shot at an invading rabbit with the Short, then follow up with my pellet gun at point-blank range to the brainbox just in case the Short didn’t provide an immediate kill. I don’t like suffering. The pellet gun is indeed quiet. The .22 Short is loud.

      • Nah, I stopped using a pellet gun because it was so damn loud. .22 Short is quieter than a pellet gun indeed.
        Interestingly, a suppressor doesn’t make the shorts seem any quieter. It changes the sound, but not the volume or intensity.

      • depends on the loading and barrel length. heavier, lower velocity bullet and longer barrel is quiter.

        • Remington cartridges.
          Winchester 25″ barrel.
          The Shorts still go boom as loud as the LRs I put thru it.
          The pellets just go pop.

        • There are .22 shorts, and then there are CB shorts. The CBs mimic the old shorter CB/BB rounds intended for indoor use. They don’t have powder. The bullet is propelled only by the primer and are pretty quiet.

  3. And sometimes suicides by firearm are ruled “accidents” because the family doesn’t want to admit it was a suicide (perhaps for religious reasons), so they call it an “accident” instead.

    Personally, I had an Army buddy in my brigade who killed himself by shooting himself in the head while he was in a car. His family called it an “accident,” but unlike his family, who lived far away from where we were stationed, I’d seen him just a couple days before he killed himself, and he seemed depressed. Also, nobody “accidentally” shoots themselves in the head while inside a car, as that’s not usually where people clean their guns.

    • My 10th grade shop teacher killed himself while driving on the expressway (sort of) around Savanah Ga in 1976 or so. They wrote that one off as a traffic accident even though most of Mr. Greene’s head was gone from the 1911 they found in the floorboard and the Hardeeville detective got a box of .45’s out of his desk in the shop. He asked us if we had been helping him drink the bottle of Four Roses in his desk and we told the truth and he let us boys have it.

  4. Netflix should tread lightly. Suicide by shotgun to the side of the head and tied to an anchor before being tossed in the water? Might be a Clinton thing.

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