Neighbors: Suspect in slaying ‘very thoughtful, very respectful’

Posted Dec. 13, 2009, at 8:57 p.m.
Last modified Jan. 30, 2011, at 12:08 p.m.

BURLINGTON, Maine — Polite. Thoughtful. Well-mannered. Quiet.

The words friends and neighbors use to describe Nathaneal Nightingale, 31, account for what they describe as their shock Sunday at his arrest on two murder charges Saturday. The man they describe as gentle and unassuming is charged with shooting Michael Miller Sr. and Valerie Miller, both 47, at their Webster Plantation mobile home on Nov. 28 in what state police called a robbery gone wrong.

“Some people you can see getting into trouble. Not him,” said Beverly Jipson, 60, a clerk at Burlington General Store at 34 Main Road. “He was always polite and never gave you an attitude.”

A next-door neighbor of Nightingale’s, Angie Belanger, said that, like Jipson, she couldn’t believe the news when she heard it. Nightingale lives in Burlington with his mother, she said, and would watch the Belanger home for Belanger whenever she needed him to.

“I have known him all his life,” Belanger said Sunday. “He’s a very good kid. He was very thoughtful, very respectful … He was always helping me out. I think the world of the kid.”

Workers at the general store, a gathering point in this tiny Penobscot County town about 10 miles east of Howland — population 384, according to the latest census — said Nightingale was a regular customer. Once a week or so he would stop by, usually to purchase cigarettes and soda.

About 5 feet 7 inches tall and perhaps 140 pounds, Nightingale was a member of the wrestling team at Penobscot Valley High School in Howland. He was a standout student, neighbors said.

Nightingale was a member of the Howlers’ wrestling team that won 72 straight meets. His team was among those that won five consecutive state titles, two Penobscot Valley Conference crowns, and ranked among the top 50 high schools nationally.

He graduated in 1997 and won a scholarship upon graduation from Hallett’s Doors and Windows.

A criminal history check Sunday revealed Nightingale has one previous conviction, for operating under the influence in Rangeley from May 2005 for which he paid a $500 fine.

No one interviewed in Burlington on Sunday recalled the Millers or knew of the connection between them and Nightingale, but they confirmed that he is a first cousin of Alexis Lord. She is the fiancee of Michael Miller Jr., one of the Millers’ sons, and a daughter of a sister of Beth Coyle, Nightingale’s mother.

The Coyle family is well-regarded in Burlington, neighbors said. Beth Coyle is the town’s relief postmaster and works for the post office branch in Burlington on Saturdays. She is described as a very kindhearted woman.

Tom Coyle, who might be considered Nightingale’s stepfather, is a retired teacher who worked at Enfield Station School in Enfield. Nightingale also has a sister, Charity, an educator who lives out of state, and a daughter, whose name no one could immediately recall.

“He was not in any trouble growing up,” said one neighbor, who declined to be identified. “He came from a broken family, and that comes with some baggage, but who doesn’t, nowadays?”

“His mom was always there for him,” Jipson said. “She was not overly strict, but she didn’t let him get away with a lot, either.”

No one answered the door at the Coyle residence on Fogg Lane on Sunday.

The Coyle family has lived in Burlington for at least 15 years, but Nightingale probably first lived in the Sherman-Patten area, where his mother’s family has relatives, before her divorce from Nightingale’s father, whose name neighbors did not recall. A neighbor who just moved to Fogg Lane a week ago recalled going to grade school with Nightingale in that area.

Several neighbors said that Nightingale also serves or did serve in the military, but no one recalled what branch. In Jipson’s last conversation with Nightingale, in August, he very politely asked about her daughter Sara Watson, a U.S. Army specialist who recently deployed to Iraq, and said he might contact her, Jipson said.

Beth Coyle also told Jipson within the last few weeks that her son was due to deploy to Afghanistan soon, Jipson said. Others said they believed that Nightingale made his money from his military service.

“He just seemed to me like a kid who had everything going for him,” Jipson said, “and now this. I really don’t know what to make of it.”

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