Prosecutors alleged Wednesday that a well-known carpenter and former Christian school leader strangled his wife so he could pursue relationships with other women.
"It's very clear that ... divorce was not an option, that it was frowned upon by the Lord, he believed," Assistant Dist. Atty. Brandon Jones said. "This was the easier way out for him, rather than divorce."
At the time of his wife's death, Martin K. "Marty" Miller, 46, was advertising himself on Internet dating sites and having an affair with a woman he'd met in an online adult chat room, according to testimony at Miller's preliminary hearing in District Court.
The daylong hearing was the first time prosecutors have described evidence against Miller. At the end of the hearing, Judge Paula Martin ordered Miller to stand trial even though she found there was no "direct evidence" linking him to the death.
Instead -- as in the case of a Kansas State University professor on trial this month in a neighboring courtroom for the stabbing of his ex-wife -- the case against Miller will rely on circumstantial evidence, such as inconsistent statements and suspicious Internet searches.
The two key witnesses against Miller are his junior-high-age children, who say they heard their mother scream and make raspy noises during the night.
"It was a very frightened scream," 14-year-old Melodie Miller testified on Wednesday. "It sounded muffled."
According to testimony, Miller told police that on the evening of his wife's death, he stayed home and watched TV while his wife and children went to vacation Bible school at Victory Bible Church, 1942 Mass.
When they got home, his son went to bed first. Mary Miller, a librarian at Kansas University, went grocery shopping, then worked on cooking lunch for the next day.
Miller said he went to bed about 11 p.m., and his wife later joined him. The last one up in the house was Melodie, who testified she stayed up chatting with friends on the Internet.
She said she got into bed about midnight, heard footsteps coming toward her room, and saw someone she thought was her father stick his head in the door and look at her.
"I was kind of pretending to be asleep," she testified. "I wasn't supposed to be up that late."
Melodie testified she then heard the beep of a computer starting up in the next room, which was used as an office. Then she fell asleep.
About 12:48 a.m., someone using a computer in the office searched Google.com for "sleep pattern" and "deepest 'sleep pattern,'" according to Lawrence Police Detective Scott Slifer, who examined the computers seized from Miller's home.
Marty Miller told police that he got up about 2 a.m. that night, told his wife his hip was hurting, went to get a pain-reliever and fell asleep in a recliner in another room.
He told police he awoke about 6 a.m. in the chair and heard his wife's alarm going off. When he came into the room, he said, he nudged her and could tell she was dead, police said.
His children told a different story.
Melodie Miller testified she woke up at an unknown time during the night and heard her mother screaming. She said her mother was saying, "No" and "Please Don't," and she heard her father say "shh," "calm down" and "it's going to be OK."
"I figured she was trying to hide under the covers because she was having a nightmare," Melodie Miller said.
Her younger brother, Matthew -- whose bedroom is closer to the parents' room -- testified he heard his mother making raspy sounds and heard his father's voice in the room, but he couldn't recall exact words.
In an interview that morning at the police department, Miller told detectives he didn't have an explanation for his children hearing screams, Detective Jack Cross said. Miller told police he didn't hear anything because he'd been sleeping.
Inside the Miller's home, police found the book "Living With Your Husband's Secret Wars," a Christian-oriented book to help women deal with their husbands' sexual addictions.
Based on information provided to police by Miller's daughter, detectives asked Miller whether he knew a woman named Carole Parbs. Miller initially described Parbs as a family friend, then admitted he'd had a sexual affair with her after meeting in an online adult chat room, Cross testified.
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Miller told police the affair ended in fall 2003, Cross said, but later admitted the affair was ongoing.
Parbs took the stand Wednesday and said that after the couple met online and had their first sexual encounters, she moved from Roeland Park to Eudora. Parbs said that to conceal their affair, she went as far as getting a false Eudora telephone listing under the name "Fred & Randi Peters."
Miller would come to her home for a liaison after telling his wife he was going to Bible study at Fred Peters' house, Parbs said.
Eventually the couple talked about getting married. Parbs said she became involved in the Millers' church and school activities.
But Miller told her that if he got a divorce, he could lose his position on the Veritas board of directors, lose his home and shop, and have a rift with his daughter, she said.
"He knew that according to scriptures, God was very much against divorce," Parbs said.
Parbs said that shortly after Mary Miller's death, Marty Miller mentioned to her that he couldn't collect life insurance because he didn't have a death certificate. On cross-examination, defense attorney Mark Manna asked whether Miller ever talked about killing his wife. Parbs said no.
Slifer, who examined Miller's computers, found that on the morning of the death, Marty Miller sent Parbs an e-mail that read, "Mary died in her sleep. Don't know why. MKM."
Slifer also described finding thousands of pornographic images and nearly 300 pornographic videos on Miller's computer, some hidden in invisible folders.
Police didn't arrest Miller after his initial interview. Instead, they waited until Coroner Erik Mitchell examined Mary Miller's body and ruled it a homicide.
Mitchell testified Wednesday that his internal examination of her neck showed bruising that indicated there had been force applied to the neck.
Manna asked Mitchell whether he agreed with the findings of another medical examiner who believed the cause of death was the crook of an elbow pushing on the middle of the neck.
"I think that's an overstatement," Mitchell said.
Martin scheduled Miller's two-week trial to start June 13. His next court date will be May 5. He remains free on $150,000 bond.