Maine police seek answers in suspicious deaths

Posted Nov. 29, 2009, at 1:58 p.m.
Last modified Jan. 30, 2011, at 12:09 p.m.

WEBSTER PLANTATION, Maine — State police are investigating the suspicious deaths of a husband and wife found next to each other in the kitchen of their Tucker Ridge Road mobile home Saturday.

Maine Department of Public Safety spokesman Stephen McCausland said Sunday that the bodies were those of Michael Miller Sr. and Valerie Miller, both 47. Autopsies were performed Sunday at the State Medical Examiner’s Office in Augusta. The cause of the deaths was not released.

The bodies were found just before 1 p.m. Saturday when a visiting friend called 911 because no one answered the door, McCausland said.

“We have had a team of detectives up there tonight,” McCausland said Sunday. “They have been gathering evidence inside the home and talking to family and neighbors. Tomorrow we will consult with the Attorney General’s Office and have additional conversations with the medical examiner.”

Valerie Miller’s brother, 44-year-old Kevin White, of Waldoboro, expressed shock that the deaths might be homicides. Family members told him that Michael Miller was found lying face-up in his kitchen, with his legs folded behind him. Valerie was next to him with her head on his chest, White said.

Investigators told White early Saturday night that they suspected the two died of carbon monoxide poisoning, heart attacks or some other form of illness or sudden-onset affliction, White said. They later discounted carbon monoxide poisoning, he said.

“I know she had health problems, but I don’t know that she had a heart attack,” White said. “My brother-in-law is diabetic.”

Valerie Miller had complained of chest pains recently, but she didn’t believe the pains were connected to any heart ailment, said White, who has had four heart attacks himself.

“She just couldn’t lift anything heavy,” White said. “When I was up here last, about three weeks ago, they were fine.”

The idea that carbon monoxide poisoning killed the Millers puzzled White almost immediately.

“If it was that,” he said, “then why didn’t their animals die?”

The Millers have a cat and a dog, he said.

White said he also heard from family members that the Millers “had some problems with” two younger men, including one who is listed as a convicted sex offender. They met the two men through White’s nephew, White said.

“They did have some problems with a couple young guys that my nephew knew. All I know is that my nephew was going to find the young guys,” White said. He identified the men, but their names are being withheld.

“I don’t know if it was robbery or what,” White said. “Everybody knew Valerie and Mike had money, but that they would help anybody, so I can’t understand why anybody would rob them. All they had to do was ask Mike for help and he would help them.”

A professional fisherman and lobsterman, White said he first heard of his sister’s death when his son Alan White telephoned him at home at about 1:30 p.m. Saturday and told him to get to his sister’s house.

“He said, ‘You gotta get up here. Something’s happened to Valerie and Mike,’” White recalled.

When White arrived at about 5 p.m. Saturday, he found three game wardens and a police officer who told him that his sister was dead.

“The officer said a lot of stuff was going on. He didn’t say anything else,” White said.

White was among about a dozen relatives and friends who gathered on a property adjoining the Miller residence in Webster Plantation, a rural community of fewer than 100 people between Springfield and Kingman in northern Penobscot County. It is about 30 miles northeast of Lincoln and Interstate 95.

Michael Miller was a recently laid-off millworker; Valerie Miller, a housewife. They married when she was 17 and had two sons, Matthew and Michael J. Miller Jr. Though their relationship was sometimes contentious, they seemed content, if not happy, with each other, White said.

“They had their problems, like anybody else, but they always worked through them,” he said.

When she last spoke to him Friday, Valerie told White that her husband, who had finished an addition to his home a month ago, was getting ready to build another. She said her health was mildly erratic, discussed their children, but didn’t mention any other problems, he said.

White said he would especially miss his sister.

“She was like my best friend,” he said.

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