Massachusetts mom wants outside review of Black teen’s death
HOPKINTON, Mass. (AP) — Family members and activists are demanding answers in the death of a Black teen whose body was found near her home in a Boston suburb last month.
Authorities said they have not determined how 16-year-old Mikayla Miller died. Her body was found on April 18 in a wooded area roughly a mile from her home in Hopkinton. County prosecutors have said they are awaiting a medical examiner’s report before reaching any conclusions.
Miller’s mother, Calvina Strothers, has blasted the police response, saying officers hastily concluded it was a suicide and failed to complete a thorough investigation. She said her family has faced “disrespect, slammed doors, misdirection, glaring inconsistencies, extreme confusion, and ultimately, silence.”
“The only thing these authorities have proved since April 17th is that they are completely incapable of properly investigating this case,” she wrote in a message on the fundraising website GoFundMe. “We demand an independent investigation. Mikayla and our family deserve so much better.”
The case has ratcheted up tensions in the mostly white town of about 18,000, known for being the starting point of the Boston Marathon. Hundreds of people gathered Thursday at a rally to mourn Miller’s death and demand an outside review.
Middlesex District Attorney Marian Ryan promised on Thursday to release “every shred of legally releasable information” once the investigation is complete. Until then, she asked for the public’s patience.
“Nothing can bring back Mikayla or console her grieving family,” Ryan said in a statement. “But what we can do — indeed what we owe her — is an accurate and fulsome accounting of what led to her death. You have my word as your district attorney and as a mother, that I will deliver that answer.”
Strothers has challenged the suggestion that her daughter’s death was a suicide. Mikayla was a joy to friends, family and teammates on her basketball team, and she “wasn’t a troubled child,” her mother said.
Instead, Strothers has drawn attention to an alleged attack on her daughter the evening before her body was found. She said Mikayla was attacked by five white teens in Hopkinton. Strothers called the police and filed a report soon after. Mikayla is believed to have died hours after the attack.
According to an account from the county prosecutor, Miller was involved in an altercation with two teens at a residential building in Hopkinton the evening of her death. Two other teens were also in the room, and another was in a car outside. After the fight, police were called to Miller’s home and found she had been punched in the face. Officers went to the homes of the two others involved in the fight and took statements.
But a preliminary investigation found that all five of the teens involved were elsewhere later in the evening, according to Ryan’s office. Investigators used cell phone data and witness accounts to confirm the teens’ whereabouts, the prosecutor said.
Authorities say information gathered from a health app on Miller’s phone tracked movement from 9 to 10 p.m. It showed that she traveled about 1,300 steps, which matches the distance between her home and the area she was found, Ryan’s office said.
Her body was found by a jogger the following morning.
Miller’s family disputes some of the details put forward by authorities. Her mother has said Mikayla’s cell phone was not activated and would not have tracked her movement.
Activists have suggested that the death could be a hate crime. Miller was Black and a member of the LGBT community. Some are calling on the FBI to take over the investigation. Authorities have said there is no evidence so far that the death was the result of a hate crime.
Strothers also alleges that Ryan did not contact her until 12 days after her daughter’s death. Ryan said her office reached out to Strothers on April 19.
Family members said they want accountability and transparency, adding that police have refused to answer their questions about the death.
The Hopkinton police department didn’t immediately respond to an Associated Press request for additional comment Saturday. In a statement this week, the agency said the investigation is “open and ongoing, with no final conclusions of any kind.”
“The Hopkinton community mourns the tragic loss of 16-year-old Mikayla Miller,” the department said. “Our most heartfelt thoughts go out to her family and all those who care for her.”