Mikayla Miller, a 16-year-old girl from Hopkinton, was found dead in the woods off of a walking path in the town on a Sunday morning last month.
With her family and the community still pleading for more information as to the circumstances surrounding her death, and a vigil and rally planned for this Thursday, Middlesex District Attorney Marian Ryan provided an extensive update on the investigation in a press conference Tuesday afternoon.
“First and foremost, Mikayla Miller, as many of you may have seen, was a beautiful child,” she said. “She was a cherished daughter, a gifted student, a talented athlete, and a loyal friend. Mikayla’s death is an unspeakable tragedy, for her loved ones and for the entire community of Hopkinton. From the beginning of this investigation, our investigators have been fully committed to determining exactly how Mikayla’s precious and promising life ended. Make no mistake, there is no truth to the allegation that we have reached a final conclusion.”
— WBZ | CBS Boston News (@wbz) May 4, 2021
Ryan went on to say that Mikayla had been involved in a physical altercation the evening before her body was found, but that the teenagers present had not been to the area where her body was discovered. She said authorities are still waiting for the medical examiner to determine Mikayla’s manner and cause of death, and they’re still waiting on the results of forensic testing on “samples and items” sent to the lab.
“We know that everyone would like to have the answers as to what happened with Mikayla,” Ryan said. “We know it is difficult to wait for those answers.”
“We have to get to the answers in this case, as in every case, with due speed but in a way that does not compromise the integrity of the investigation,” she added.
Ryan also responded to calls and questions she said her office has gotten from concerned citizens and adamantly denied that her office has “neglected” the case or “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,” she said.
Mikayla’s mother, Calvina Strothers, told The Boston Globe that authorities initially told the family her daughter’s death was a suicide. At the time, Ryan’s office said publicly her death was not considered suspicious.
“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 also told the Globe that Hopkinton police have been hostile and have withheld information from her. She said she believes her daughter’s race has led to less media coverage of her death.
Ryan said authorities have been in “almost daily” communication with a family representative and said she understands why the family wants answers “immediately.”
“It is a great disappointment always that we cannot immediately give families those answers,” she said.
Here’s a timeline of the weekend Mikayla died based on the preliminary investigation, which Ryan said was informed by interviews with dozens of witnesses, forensic analysis of electronic devices, and other evidence, including surveillance video.
“This case will not be closed until we have exhausted all avenues,” said Ryan, who stressed the preliminary aspect of the investigation in her remarks.
Saturday, April 17
Mikayla was with two friends in the common area, or “clubhouse,” of the Revolutionary Way apartment complex where she lived. The two friends left, and she was joined by four other teenagers — two males and two females — while another female teenager remained in a car outside. One of the female teenagers inside the common area was in a relationship with Mikayla, according to Ryan.
Sometime between 5:17 p.m. and 6:41 p.m., a physical altercation occurred between Mikayla and two of the teenagers, a male and a female, in the common area, Ryan said.
When asked, Ryan said she had “clearly heard” the allegation that race played a role in the altercation. “I do not have a reason, this is preliminarily, to believe that that — we do not have any evidence, either positive or negative, as to whether that is the case in this instance,” said Ryan, after noting the other teenagers inside were of “a variety of races” when asked if they were white.
Strothers, Mikayla’s mother, told the Globe the five teenagers involved are white and that the altercation happened because her daughter got into a fight with her girlfriend.
After the altercation, the teens spent another 20 minutes together in the same area, according to Ryan.
At 7:20 p.m., Hopkinton police responded to Mikayla’s home after Strothers reported that her daughter “had been jumped.”
Mikayla was interviewed by police and told officers that she was pushed and punched in the face during the altercation. Officers noted that she had blood on her lip.
“The investigation into (the) assault remains open, and there are no charges pending on that at this point,” Ryan said.
At 7:43 p.m., officers left Mikayla’s home and went to the residence of one of the females who had been involved in the altercation. They took a statement and returned to the apartment complex, observing some damage both inside and outside of the common area, according to Ryan.
Mikayla was still at home with her mother in their apartment.
Between 9:30 p.m. and 9:45 p.m., Strothers went to bed “believing that Mikayla was still in the apartment,” Ryan said.
Between 9 p.m. and 10 p.m., a health app on Mikayla’s cellphone recorded that the phone had traveled 1,316 steps, which is the approximate distance from the apartment complex to the woods where Mikayla’s body was found the next morning, according to Ryan. Mikayla’s last known communication was around 9 p.m., to a teenager who was not involved in the earlier altercation, she said.
Sunday, April 18
At 7:45 a.m., a jogger located Mikayla’s body near 34 West Main St. in Hopkinton in the woods off of a walking path and called police. Mikayla had her phone on her, and her backpack and other belongings were found nearby, according to Ryan. When asked, Ryan wouldn’t go into more details about the scene.
She said using “cellphone data and other digital evidence,” authorities confirmed the four teenagers present in the common area during the altercation had not gone to the area of 34 West Main St., where Mikayla’s body was found, on the night in question. Based on witness information, authorities also believe the teenager who stayed in the car had not gone to the area.
Ryan promised to get answers to the remaining questions about Mikayla’s death and said she would be as transparent as possible once she did.
“Nothing about what I have said brings Mikayla back or consoles her family as they grieve,” she said. “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.”
Watch Ryan’s full press conference:
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