Archive for Saturday, July 31, 2004

Spouse faces murder charge

Carpenter shop owner, Christian school trustee jailed in wife’s death

July 31, 2004


Police on Friday arrested the chairman of Veritas Christian School's board of directors on suspicion of murdering his 46-year-old wife at their landmark home at 21st and Carolina streets.

Martin Kenneth Miller, 45, a carpenter also known for helping form the Centennial Neighborhood Assn., was arrested about 6 p.m. Friday after an interview with Lawrence Police at their westside investigations center, 4820 W. 15th St. Miller is suspected of killing his wife of 25 years, Mary, a Kansas University librarian who was found dead in her bed about 6 a.m. Wednesday at 2105 Carolina St.

Sgt. Dan Ward, a Lawrence Police spokesman, said Wednesday that a coroner who had been to the scene didn't see anything that indicated foul play but would conduct an autopsy.

"When we have something that appears on the surface to be natural or unsuspicious, we still treat it as a possible homicide," Ward said Friday night. "This is why we do it."

Veritas Christian School, a nondenominational private K-12 school at 256 N. Mich., has about 135 students. School administrator Jeff Barclay said Friday night the school didn't have any comment about Miller's arrest because it's an ongoing criminal case.

"We're certainly praying for the Miller children," he said.

Martin Miller initially told police he had been sleeping in a different room and awoke shortly before 6 a.m. to the sound of his wife's alarm going off, Ward said.

He told police that when he came into her room, he found her not breathing and called for help, Ward said. The couple's school-aged son and daughter also live in the home.

The family's home is instantly recognizable in Lawrence for its nautical-themed yard, which includes a lighthouse, rope strung between posts, and a wooden boat with a cross. Police attracted attention in the neighborhood Wednesday by stringing crime-scene tape around the yard as investigators worked inside.

Ongoing investigation

Ward described police treatment of the scene as a precaution taken with any unattended death involving a young person with no medical history.

That all changed after the coroner's autopsy came back later in the week. Police announced the arrest about 9 p.m. Friday. Police have not said exactly what the coroner found in the autopsy -- only that it determined Miller was the victim of a homicide.

As the coroner worked on the autopsy, police continued to talk to Martin Miller.

"That's when they started finding some inconsistencies with the suspect's statements, which raises red flags," Ward said.

Miller was booked late Friday into the Douglas County Jail on suspicion of first-degree murder but probably will not be charged until Monday. Dist. Atty. Christine Kenney said her office would review the case today and that there would be a hearing before a judge today to set Miller's bond.

"Let's wait for the facts to come out. In the meantime, we're shocked" said Jeanne Klein, a neighbor who's worked with Martin Miller to resolve flooding issues in the Centennial neighborhood. "Of course our hearts go out to the kids and to the whole family."

Involved family

Klein said Mary Miller was the first editor of the Centennial Neighborhood Assn.'s newsletter after it was founded in 1993. The family also was active in the Lawrence Children's Choir, and Martin Miller was one of the chaperones on a recent choir trip, Klein said.

Martin Miller also ran a well-known carpentry business, "The Carpenter's Shop," out of his home.

"There's a lot of upstanding things about this guy," Klein said. "We can make a long list. We can make a long list for Mary."

Another neighborhood association member, Betty Alderson, said the arrest was especially shocking because the neighborhood is tight-knit.

"We're concerned about our neighbors," she said. "We live in a relatively quiet neighborhood, so when there's police tape around a house, we immediately wonder what's going on."

This is the second homicide reported in Lawrence this year. In the other case, a 24-year-old Lawrence man, Lafayette Damon Ester Cosby, is charged with shooting an acquaintance, Robert T. Martin, 28, at a late-night party at Jefferson Commons, 2511 W. 31st.

Commenting has been disabled for this item.