As questions about the death of a 16-year-old Black girl found dead in the woods not far from her Hopkinton, Massachusetts, home remain unanswered, advocates for the family of Mikayla Miller are saying the Middlesex District Attorney’s Office has done a poor job of conducting the investigation of the teen’s case.
Massachusetts Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley took to Twitter on Tuesday and called for a “full, transparent, independent investigation” into Miller’s death.
“Mikayla Miller deserved to grow old. She had so many basketball games, road trips and HBCU homecomings ahead of her. She deserved childhood — uninterrupted.”
District Attorney Marian Ryan said there is not yet a conclusion about how Miller died, but provided an outline about what investigators know so far.
On Saturday, April 17, at about 5 p.m., Miller was involved in a “physical altercation” with a teenage boy and a teenage girl at a common area at the Windsor at Hopkinton apartment complex. Two others teens were inside the building at the time, while one was outside.
According to Ryan, Miller had been in a romantic relationship with one of the teenage girls. After the altercation Miller went back home with a bloody nose.
Her mother reported the incident, and Hopkinton police arrived at the apartment at about 7:30 p.m. to take a report. About 90 minutes later, Miller walked away from her home after her mother had gone to sleep. An app on her phone showed that she had taken about 1,300 steps between 9 and 10 p.m. and had walked close to where her body was found the next morning by a jogger.
According to Monica Cannon-Grant of the Violence in Boston organization, Miller sent a Snapchat message that would have alerted her peers of her location.
Of the five teens Miller had encountered, two girls were accounted for between 9 p.m. April 17 and 6 a.m. April 18. Two boys went out of town with family and were seen on video at a Wendy’s some 35 miles away in Sturbridge, Massachusetts, at 9 p.m. on April 17, and the fifth teen was at home over that Saturday night.
None of the teens was charged for involvement in the fight, and Ryan did not identify them because some of them are minors, but she said they were white and Latino. Ryan also wouldn’t say if Miller was assaulted during the altercation.
The medical examiner is currently working to determine Miller’s cause of death.
Police allegedly told Miller’s mother, Calvina Strothers, that the teen committed suicide without a investigation, but Ryan wouldn’t say on Tuesday whether foul play or suicide was suspected.
“My concern is did they really thoroughly look at the crime scene?” Strothers said. “Or did they just dismiss it because she’s a Black girl on a tree in Hopkinton?”
Strothers said on Facebook that Miller was found bound by her neck to a tree with a black belt, and also said her daughter had been assaulted by the five teens. She claimed Miller had been lured outside by one of the teens, and criticized authorities’ handling of the case. Strothers doesn’t believe her daughter was suicidal.
Ryan has defended the handling on the case, saying, “Our investigators have been fully committed to determining exactly how Mikayla’s precious and promising life ended.” She added, “Make no mistake, there is no truth to the allegation that we have reached a final conclusion.” She added that so far, evidence doesn’t show that Miller was targeted because of her identity. Ryan said someone from her office has been in contact with Miller’s family daily since April 18.
Hundreds of people attended a vigil for Miller on the afternoon of Thursday, May 6, in downtown Hopkinton to bring increased attention to the case, with many bearing signs reading “Black Lives Matter” and “Justice for Mikayla Miller,” local station WCVB reported. Strothers spoke at the event, where she described her daughter to the throng as a “bright and shining star.”