Mikayla Miller death: Race, sexuality and policing laid bare in sleepy affluent town
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Mikayla Miller, a 16-year-old Massachusetts girl, was found dead and tied to a tree in her suburban hometown hours after a fight with other teens last month — prompting fear, confusion and speculation of foul play in the small community.
Authorities have not yet announced an official cause of death, but Miller’s mother, Calvina Strothers, maintains that she was prematurely told by Hopkinton Police it was a suicide – prompting speculative allegations that investigators were neglecting a full probe because of the victim’s race or sexual orientation to swirl on social media – and claims from activist groups that there was foul play involved.
Hopkinton is about 30 miles west of Boston and is best known as the starting point for the Boston Marathon – where a vigil for Miller was scheduled Thursday at 4:30 p.m. ET.
Miller’s family and activist groups are demanding a more thorough investigation and more transparency from Middlesex County District Attorney Marian Ryan’s office.
Ryan stressed during a news conference Tuesday that the investigation remained ongoing and that her office was exploring all leads in the case.
Mikayla Miller, 16, was last seen on April 17, and had been in an altercation with a group of two teen boys and two teen girls, Ryan said. The victim is believed to have had romantic ties to one of the girls.
Miller’s mother wrote in a Facebook post that she called police to report five teens had jumped her daughter. She said police questioned one of the teens and left – adding she believes her daughter had been lured outside “by one of them” later that night.
Ryan said investigators had accounted for the whereabouts of all of those teens – two involved directly with the altercation, two more who witnessed it and a fifth who remained in a car outside. None of them were at the location where police discovered Miller’s body, in the woods near her home, Ryan said – but she said investigators had not yet ruled out whether someone else had been there.
“From the beginning of this investigation, our investigators have been fully committed to determining exactly how Mikayla’s precious and promising life ended,” Ryan said. “Make no mistake, there is no truth to the allegation that we have reached a final conclusion.”
She said her office was still waiting for the medical examiner to determine a cause of death and that other physical evidence had been sent to a lab for testing. And she vehemently denied accusations that her office was neglecting or trying to cover up any details about the case.
“That is patently false,” she said.
According to a timeline of events Ryan provided, Miller was in a common area of her apartment complex between 5:17 p.m. and 6:41 p.m. on Saturday, April 17. She was initially accompanied by two friends, who left before the encounter between Miller and a mixed-race group consisting of two males and two females, one of whom Ryan said she may have had romantic ties to. Another teen, a female, remained in the car the group arrived in.
One of the males and one of the females were each involved in the physical altercation with Miller, Ryan said, and the teen later told police she had been shoved and punched in the face. Officers found Miller with a bloody lip.
After the fight, the teens remained in the common area for roughly another 20 minutes, Ryan said, and Miller’s mom called police at around 7:20 p.m.
At around 9:30 p.m., Strothers went to bed, believing Miller was still in the home.
But records from Miller’s smartphone fitness app show she took about 1,316 steps between 9 and 10 p.m. that night, according to Ryan, and that distance roughly aligns with how far away a jogger found her body the next morning.
The jogger found her on Sunday, April 18, with her phone and belongings nearby. She had been “bound by the neck” to the tree with a black belt, according to Strothers.
In a GoFundMe campaign, the mother wrote that she had no reason to believe her daughter was suicidal, heartbroken and confused when police knocked on her door on April 18 and allegedly told her that Miller had committed suicide in the woods.
“It is unacceptable that my daughter’s death was considered a suicide without an investigation,” she wrote.
Strothers described her daughter as an honors student who loved basketball and dreamed of studying journalism at Howard University or Spelman College. She identified as a member of the LGBTQIA community.
She is demanding more transparency from Hopkinton Police and Ryan’s office, including the release of the police report she filed after her daughter’s altercation.
The department did not immediately respond to Fox News requests for comment on the suicide claim or confirm whether a report or 911 call transcript exists.
Ryan pledged to release “every shred” of information related to the case once the investigation comes to a close, if Miller’s family agrees.
She also said there was not immediately any evidence suggesting a hate crime had occurred.
“Very often, as everyone knows, things may appear to be one thing and then we learn more information,” she said. “I think that is why initially we always indicate that this is at this time. Clearly, often, things come to light as we proceed further.”
If you or someone you know is having thoughts of suicide, please contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).
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