- Associated Press - Saturday, June 3, 2017

BECKLEY, W.Va. (AP) - It’s a case that has baffled generations of Beckley Police Department detectives, but BPD Cpl. Morgan Bragg said Tuesday that a recent ad by Crime Stoppers of Southern West Virginia may lead to a break in a 1981 murder case of a local teacher.

Cynthia Jane Miller, a Raleigh County educator, was 27 years old when she was shot to death inside of her Miller Street home in Beckley on Aug. 26, 1981, one day before her marriage to a Lester Police Department officer.

Her murderer has never been captured, but Crime Stoppers of Southern West Virginia, a local non-profit organization that offers monetary rewards for anonymous tips leading to the arrest and conviction of crime suspects, has offered a $10,000 reward in the Miller case.

The group has also assembled a team of detectives to review the case and has taken out a billboard on S. Fayette Street that asks those with information on the homicide to notify authorities.

“We are following up on some leads that we feel are very pertinent,” Bragg said. “I’m not going to say that we have a prime suspect, per se, but the idea is, we’ve got this group of officers together, new sets of eyes to review this material, to go back and comb through it.

“We have a direction the investigation is going, but we don’t want to get to the point that we lock onto a particular direction and discredit other ideas. We’re keeping our minds open.

“It’s a massive amount of material the investigators put together over the years, several generations of investigators,” he said.

In 1981, Miller was 27 years old and engaged to Gary O'Neal, who was then a police officer in Lester. A few weeks prior to Miller’s death, the two had set a wedding date of Aug. 27.

Miller, a teacher in Raleigh County, was looking forward to starting a new job at Park Junior High School, said Bragg. Her parents and a sister all lived in Beckley in 1981.

On the evening of Aug. 26, 1981, Miller was inside of the home she owned and shared with O'Neal. The couple had moved into the upstairs portion of the home around a year earlier. A tenant lived in the downstairs of the residence, Bragg said.

O’Neal told investigators he had gone to his parents’ home in Princeton to discuss wedding plans on Aug. 26. As the evening wore on, O'Neal said, he tried calling Miller at their home several times from his parents’ house.

When he was unable to reach her, O’Neal told police, he left Princeton to drive back to Miller Street. When he walked inside the home, he discovered Miller’s body. She had been shot multiple times at close range.

There was no sign of a struggle or a break-in, which led the first team of investigators to believe that Miller knew her assailant.

Miller had not been sexually assaulted, and there was nothing stolen from the apartment. Police were unable to find a motive of revenge when they interviewed Miller’s family and friends and others who knew her.

“I think that’s one of the disturbing parts about it,” Bragg noted. “She seemingly had no enemies.

“The information that was gleaned when they looked at her lifestyle, it was all positive and all geared toward a very good person and somebody that shouldn’t have enemies, or that would have enemies that would do something like this.

“Because of the type of the victim in this case, we are not discounting any types of motives,” he added. “We’re keeping our minds open as to what could’ve occurred.”

O'Neal is now deceased, said Bragg. He added that the original detectives on the case found phone records that supported O'Neal’s account of calling the Miller home from Princeton on Aug. 26.

“From what the original investigators put together in the file, it appears there wasn’t any signs of any kind of discord that particular night,” he reported. “We haven’t uncovered anything that makes us think they were having any kind of turmoil the night before their wedding.”

Bragg said crime scene reports indicate that Miller was shot inside the residence, but the downstairs tenant reported hearing no gunshots.

BPD Capt. Paul Blume had investigated the cold case in 2002, when he was assigned to the detective bureau. He said there’s a strong possibility that Miller knew the person who took her life.

Blume still believes that Miller’s killer will be brought to justice.

“To me, it was the case that stood out above any I’ve ever looked at,” said Blume. “I still feel like, with just the right piece of evidence, that’s a case that can be solved.

“Because it’s a cold case doesn’t mean that we’ve forgotten it,” he added. “We’ve hit a standstill, but we haven’t quit on it.

“We’ve never forgotten.”

Within the past six months, Bragg said officers have spoken to several witnesses and are paying attention to “persons of interest” in the case.

“The original investigators amassed a lot of materials,” Bragg said. “They identified a lot of people we would consider persons of interest in this day and age, and we can’t discount those.

“We still have to comb through it and evaluate each person and each witness anew.”

Bragg urged anyone with information on Cynthia Miller’s murder to contact Crime Stoppers at 304-255-STOP or to visit crimestopperswv.com.

A $10,000 reward is available to the anonymous tipster who provides information leading to the arrest and conviction of a suspect.

___

Information from: The Register-Herald, https://www.register-herald.com

LOAD COMMENTS ()

 

Click to Read More

Click to Hide