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UNSOLVED: The 1986 disappearance of Donna Mullen

When looking for a missing person, where do you even begin? Without a body, leads can often be scarce, especially when the crime is more than three decades old.

JACKSONVILLE BEACH, Fla. — The wait for answers is never easy. Just ask the surviving daughters of Donna Mullen.

"We just need this closure, we need to know where she is," said Candy Sharp, as she holds her mother's picture.

Pictures and memories are all Candy Sharp and April Jolicoeur have left of her. It was June of 1986 the last time Sharp saw her mother, who had made a trip out to visit her in Ohio alongside her boyfriend.

"I was supposed to come down and stay with her in August of that year and see if I liked it and of course that never happened," Sharp said. 

Just a month later, Mullen was reported as missing by her sister to the Jacksonville Beach Police Department. The last time anybody could remember seeing her was after she left work at the Ritz Bar on July 19, 1986.

"After that, nobody knows," said Detective Justin Thompson, with the Jacksonville Beach Police Department. 

Thompson with the JBPD is the current detective on this case, but it isn’t easy. Of the six prior detectives who have worked it, only one is still alive to talk to and the years have taken its toll on those that knew Mullen.

"A lot of the original people interviewed have passed away since so much time has gone on," Thomp The others have scattered across the United States," explained Thompson. 

Mullen was a bartender at the Ritz Bar in Jacksonville Beach in 1986, and police say there's nothing to indicate that she had any enemies, and her belongings were all still found undisturbed in her apartment. Yet, people were not forthcoming with information for detectives back then, a struggle the family has endured too. 

Sharp says she had her mother’s address book and wrote a letter to every person in it, asking if they had any information about where her mother could be. She didn’t get a single reply.

She was just gone.

"This long without any contact and any signs of anything, I hope she is still alive, but it definitely looks like she might be dead," Thompson said.

With no new leads coming in, the trail has run cold.

Leaving her daughters holding onto the memories of their mother who they say was kind, friendly and loved to take her kids on trips to their grandfather’s house.

"We would do all kinds of things, we had a good time, we always had a good time," Jolicoeur said.

Over the years, they and investigators had moments of hope that maybe her body had been found. In 2006, bones were found on the Georgia property of a person that knew Mullen. But after DNA was tested, it wasn’t her.

Sharp and Jolicoeur say their older sister struggled with not knowing what happened and has since passed away herself. Now the two hold out hope that someone will have a tip that could lead them to their mother in some way.

 "If we ever found her, maybe forensics could tell us how she died, when she died, if she is dead, we don’t know where she is," Sharp said.

 At this point, investigators say that is what it will likely come down to someone coming forward with new information to bring closure to this case.

"Any leads at this point would certainly help us and point us in a direction we could possibly try and follow," Thompson said. 

If you know anything about the disappearance of Donna Mullen in 1986, please contact the Jacksonville Beach Police Department at 904-270-1667 or CrimeStoppers at 1-866-845-TIPS.

For a look at the Project: Cold Case database, click here.