Police still investigating Webster killings

Posted Dec. 02, 2009, at 9:38 p.m.
Last modified Jan. 30, 2011, at 12:08 p.m.

WEBSTER PLANTATION, Maine — State police continued to search Wednesday for a mysterious woman seen leaving a Tucker Ridge Road mobile home shortly before a couple was discovered inside, the victims of apparent homicide.

Detectives continue to interview friends and acquaintances of Michael and Valerie Miller, both 47; respond to the scant few reports that have come in regarding the woman; and examine evidence gathered from their home and autopsies, said Stephen McCausland, spokesman for the Maine Department of Public Safety.

“They continue to work the investigation,” McCausland said Wednesday.

One of the couple’s sons, Matthew Miller, 26, called the killings “very strange.” He said Tuesday that the family is willing to put up money for a reward, if necessary, to get information leading to arrests.

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

Teams of state police detectives have used a Maine Department of Transportation garage in Springfield as a gathering point for the investigation. Webster Plantation is a tiny rural community of about 70 people located between Springfield and Kingman in northern Penobscot County.

Michael Miller was found lying faceup in his kitchen, with his legs folded behind him. Valerie was next to him with her head on his chest, family members have said.

“There’s only a limited number of people who knew what went on in that house,” said McCausland. “We are not going to be getting into a lot more details in this case until it’s a lot farther along.”

Before the autopsies led to Monday’s double homicide ruling, investigators told family members that they suspected the two died of carbon monoxide poisoning, heart attacks or some other form of illness or sudden-onset affliction.

Since the ruling, state police have refused to comment on how the Millers died or whether the woman they seek is a suspect or person of interest. Detectives would like anyone who traveled on Tucker Ridge Road between 9 a.m. and 2 p.m. Saturday to call them at 1-800-432-7381 or 911 on a cell phone, McCausland said.

The woman they seek is described as about 5 feet, 4 inches tall, 130 pounds, in her mid-50s, with bifocal glasses and graying dark hair tied in a ponytail.

Valerie Miller’s brother, Kevin White, said Tuesday that his brother-in-law helped others and provided loans. He also said Michael Miller didn’t believe in banks.

Michael Miller ran what might be called an informal pawnshop. A neighbor, Terrence Mulligan, said locals would give him firearms and other possessions in return for a loan, “then they’d come pay him and he’d give them back.”

Detectives are aware that Miller loaned out money, but aren’t speculating whether it had anything to do with his death, McCausland said.

Miller, who filed for bankruptcy 10 years ago, wasn’t particularly wealthy and lived frugally, White said. He was a seasonal employee of Walpole Woodworkers, which operated a mill that made cedar fences, and was laid off on Nov. 20.

When it came time to pay taxes, Miller would drop by the Webster Plantation home of Theo Jipson. The 81-year-old Jipson was the tax collector for 57 years until her retirement in March.

“He always said if I need any help, give him a holler,” Jipson said.

He also owned a property in Lincoln assessed at just $8,700, but he was behind on his property taxes. He was delinquent on taxes for the past three years, according to the Lincoln tax assessor’s office.

Part of the vast woodlands of northern Maine, Webster is dominated by marshlands and streams, and has only two roads — Tucker Ridge and Pickle Ridge roads. The town office is a white clapboard building at the junction of the roads. The modest homes are located on large lots that have plenty of privacy.

There used to be a stop sign, but it was knocked over years ago. The town never bothered to replace it, Jipson said.

According to the most recent statistics available, Webster Plantation’s median household income is barely half of the state average. The poverty rate is nearly double, and the unemployment rate for 2008 was triple the state average. The high school graduation rate stood at under 60 percent.

Double homicides are unsettling anywhere, but particularly so in a community where everybody knows everybody.

“It’s kind of mind-blowing, especially in such a small area,” said Dorothy Glidden, who lives a few houses down from the victims.

Kevin Mulligan, 39, went to school with the couple’s sons.

“It seems like it’s really safe until this happens,” he said.

Bangor Daily News writer Nick Sambides Jr. and Associated Press writers Glenn Adams, Clarke Canfield and David Sharp contributed to this report.

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