Middlesex District Attorney Marian Ryan, speaking at a Tuesday afternoon press conference, provided key details regarding the investigation into Mikayla Miller’s death, while stressing that her office’s investigation has not been completed and “no final conclusions have yet been reached.”
The 16-year-old Miller, a Hopkinton High School sophomore, was found by a jogger on a trail off West Main Street on the morning of April 18. It has been reported that she was hanging from a tree, but Ryan would not reveal details about the scene, stating, “We cannot comment on the cause or manner of death.”
In recent days her family and supporters have made accusations that Miller was “murdered” and “lynched,” and they claim it had to do with the fact that Miller was Black and gay. They have been highly critical of the investigation, and they have planned a rally in downtown Hopkinton this Thursday at 4:30 p.m. to “demand answers.”
Said Ryan: “Let me also speak to the calls and questions that we have appropriately received from concerned citizens regarding the notion that this office has in some way neglected Mikayla’s case or worse — so much worse — is engaged in some sort of cover-up because Mikayla was Black or because she was a member of the LBGTQIA community. That is patently false.”
Ryan said her office has been in “close, almost daily communication with Mikayla’s family’s representatives,” and she said the primary question as to what was the cause of Mikayla’s death “lies with the medical examiner,” but a ruling as to the manner and cause of death has not yet been received. Additionally, results of forensic testing on “certain samples and items” have not been received as well.
Ryan said that her office has interviewed dozens of witnesses and conducted forensic analysis, and she laid out the following timeline of events in the final hours of the teen’s life.
“We know that on Saturday there was an encounter which led to a physical altercation at what’s referred to as a clubhouse or a common area at the apartment complex in which Mikayla lived [on Revolutionary Way, which is off Lumber Street]. We know that that occurred sometime between 5:17 p.m. and 6:41 p.m. based on cell phone data, text messages and GPS data.
“We believe that at one point Mikayla had been at that clubhouse/recreational area with two friends. Those two friends left, and she was joined by four other teenagers [including, Ryan said later, a girl with whom Miler had been in a relationship]. There was an additional female teenager who remained outside in a car. At some time between 5:17 and 6:41 that physical altercation occurred between Mikayla and two of the teenagers, one male and one female. We know that after the physical piece of that altercation, Mikayla and the four teenagers spent about 20 minutes together, continuing to be together in that clubhouse.
“At 7:20 on Saturday evening, the Hopkinton Police were dispatched to Mikayla’s home after her mother had called and reported to police that her daughter had been jumped. When interviewed by the police, Mikayla reported that during that physical altercation a short time before she had been pushed and punched in the face. Officers noticed that she had a mark of blood, some blood on her lip, consistent with what she told them. The investigation into that assault remains open, and there are no charges pending on that at this point.
“At 7:43 that evening, the Hopkinton Police left Mikayla’s house and they went to the residence of one of the females who had been involved in the altercation and took a statement. They then returned to the apartment complex and observed some damage both inside and outside of the clubhouse, which they photographed.
“Mikayla at this point was still at home in her apartment with her mother. At approximately 9:30-9:45 that evening, Mikayla’s mother went to bed, believing that Mikayla was still in the apartment. Mikayla’s cell phone had a health app on it. That phone indicated that between 9 and 10 p.m. on Saturday night, that phone traveled a distance of 1,316 steps. That distance of 1,316 steps is approximately the distance between Mikayla’s home and the place where her body would subsequently be located.
“And it was at approximately 7:45 on Sunday morning the 18th that an individual jogging in the area of 34 West Main St. in Hopkinton located Mikayla in the woods off of a walking path and reached out to the police. When Mikayla was discovered, her phone was on her person, and her backpack and other belongings were close by.
“In the days since Mikayla’s death we have pursued, as I mentioned, an extensive investigation. We have confirmed the whereabouts of four teenagers who were inside the clubhouse in the altercation with Mikayla on that Saturday night. And to reach that conclusion where they were and that they were not in the area of 34 West Main St., we relied upon cell phone data and other digital evidence.
“Based on both witness statements and cell phone GPS, we know that the two females who were in the clubhouse earlier have a location confirmed overnight from 8:43 p.m. on Saturday to 5:48 a.m. on Sunday.
“The two males that were inside the clubhouse left Hopkinton with a family member after the altercation and the conversation in the clubhouse. The vehicle that they were traveling in passed through the E-ZPass on the MassPike [west]bound at 8:08 p.m. and exited the MassPike at 8:58 p.m. in Charlton. The two males were also observed on a surveillance video inside a car buying and eating food at the Wendy’s in Sturbridge at 9:06 p.m.
“As to the third female who remained outside, we have witness information indicating her whereabouts being at her residence that evening.
“Let me emphasize one thing, nothing about what I have said brings Mikayla back or consoles her family as they grieve. What we can do, and what we really owe her is an accurate and fulsome accounting of what happened and what led to her death. You have my word both as the District Attorney and as a mother, who cannot imagine the tragedy of losing a child, that I will deliver those answers. It is going to take us some time to get the results that we need to do that.
“But in accordance with that pledge that we will get to the answer for Mikayla, I’m going to make another promise. When this investigation concludes, I will — if appropriate with the permission of the family — release every shred of legally releasable information on our website for you to see and review. You have my word on that.
“I have long recognized that our obligation is twofold. It is to do a thorough and unbiased inquiry, and to then make the results of that inquiry available so that the public has confidence in that inquiry. I assure you that both will be delivered in Mikayla’s case.”
Asked about the possibility the attack was racially charged, Ryan — after saying the teenagers who visited Miller in the clubhouse were a “variety of races” — said: “I have clearly heard that allegation. I think this office has a very strong record of being clear of naming hate crimes, proceeding and charging appropriately in those cases. I do not have a reason — this is preliminarily — to believe that. We do not have any evidence either positive or negative as to whether that is the case in this circumstance.”
Ryan said she can “completely sympathize” with the family’s frustration that no conclusion has been reached more than two weeks after the teen’s death.
“It is a great disappointment always that we cannot immediately give families those answers,” she said. “I completely understand that. And that all a family wants to hear is tell me why, tell me how, tell me what those last few minutes were like. That is something that I think is a universal reaction. I don’t expect that us saying we are awaiting a ruling from the medical examiner or we’re awaiting results from the lab gives much comfort to a family when they are waiting for answers.”