In January 1990, John Winchester arrived in Windom, Minnesota, where a string of grave robberies occurred. Joe Barton, then the deputy, assisted in solving the case. Upon completion, Joe received an award for the case. Initially, he claimed solid police work was responsible for solving the case, although according to his wife, Lisa Barton, after a few beers, Joe admitted he had some help. Even then, Joe only ever said the assistance he received was from a "specialist".
Sometime after, Joe became a bartender in a local pub. About 20 years after, Joe went missing, around the same time another string of grave robberies began. Sam and Dean Winchester later discovered that the offspring of the ghoul John killed wanted revenge. The ghouls targeted everybody who was involved in the first case, so they killed Joe Barton, Kate and Adam Milligan.