Body found off Palmetto confirmed as missing teacher

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MANATEE COUNTY - The Manatee County Sheriff's Office says that the body found near the mouth of the Manatee River Tuesday has been positively identified as missing Palmetto High teacher Patrick Mullins.

The body was found by a fisherman in about three feet of water about a half mile from Emerson Point, west of Palmetto.  Mullins has a 25-pound anchor tied around his body, according to authorities.

The 52-year-old Mullins, a media specialist at Palmetto High, was reported missing Sunday night after he didn't return from a boating trip in his 16-foot Stump Knocker.

His unoccupied boat was found Monday near Egmont Key at the mouth of Tampa Bay.

The sheriff's office says an autopsy performed Wednesday confirmed the person's identity as Mullins, but was inconclusive regarding the cause of death.  A toxicology test is being done.

A source at the scene Tuesday tells ABC 7 that in addition to the anchor tied around his waist, he had a mis-shapen head, likely due to a gunshot.

Family members described Mullins as an avid fisherman, but students at Palmetto High School described him as a teacher and friend.

At Tuesday night's regional finals soccer game, the news of his tragic death was affecting students and parents alike. “He was just a good teacher that the kids liked. I think our kids learned a lot from him,” says Michelle & Caleb Grimes.

“He was just a fixture here at the school. You think of library and you think Mullins,” says student Kevin Franco.

“There's a lot of student body, teachers and a lot of his family that worked here, so it’s devastating for students and faculty,” says parent Lisa Lawrence.

At Palmetto High School Wednesday, students were mourning the loss of a teacher, who they also describe as a friend.

Maria Holguin is a junior at PHS. “He was very happy. He was never the kind of person who was upset, sad, down, always outgoing, making everybody loving. He was always cracking jokes.”

She says Mullins was the type of teacher who everyone liked and got along with. “There was this one time I remember, one of my friends was sleeping in the library and he came over and said, ‘You know you need to wake up, you can't sleep in the library’, and he was ok, yeah, and then he left and I went back to sleep, so he was like ok, and he went and got a trumpet and started playing the trumpet in front of everybody, and everybody thought it was funny.”

Even students who didn't know Mullins knew of him, and say over the last week and a half it's been all everyone is talking about. “My teachers said he was a good guy, so I guess he was a good guy,” says Jerome Robinson.

“He will be very missed. He was very happy and it's just sad to see he's not here with us anymore,” says Mullins.

The family of Patrick Mullins released a statement Wednesday morning:

"The family of Patrick Mullins is in mourning. We request your understanding and compassion in giving us our privacy at this time. We wish to thank you from the bottom of our hearts all the many loving and concerned individuals and organizations that have contributed their efforts and resources to resolving his disappearance."