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Double murder trial begins with retelling of discovery of bodies

Posted May 23, 2011, at 1:15 p.m.
Last modified May 23, 2011, at 11:09 p.m.
Nathaneal K. Nightingale in the courtroom during the first day of his trial at the Penobscot Judicial Center in Bangor. Nightingale alledgedly shot and killed Michael Miller Sr. and his wife Valerie Miller in Webster Plantation 18 months ago.
Nathaneal K. Nightingale in the courtroom during the first day of his trial at the Penobscot Judicial Center in Bangor. Nightingale alledgedly shot and killed Michael Miller Sr. and his wife Valerie Miller in Webster Plantation 18 months ago.

BANGOR, Maine — When Allen Richardson stopped by to see his friends “Big Mike” and Valerie Miller about noon on Nov. 28, 2009, and return a gas can, everything looked normal from the outside.

Both the Millers’ vehicles were parked in the dooryard and nothing appeared to be amiss at the double-wide trailer on Tucker Ridge Road in Webster Plantation except the front door was locked.

That was unusual. So Richardson, 36, of Danforth peeked into the half-moon-shaped window in the top of the door that opened into the Millers’ kitchen.

“I seen Mike lying on his back and Valerie lying down with her head on Mike’s chest,” Richardson said.

Richardson was the first witness to testify Monday in the double murder trial of Nathaneal K. Nightingale, 32, of Burlington at the Penobscot Judicial Center. Nightingale is charged with killing Michael Miller Sr. and his wife, both 47, with a .22-caliber revolver 18 months ago.

Nightingale sat attentively during the first day of the trial at the defense table dressed in a suit, dress shirt and tie. He made notes during testimony and conferred often with his attorney.

The defendant allegedly shot Miller Sr., known to friends and family as “Big Mike,” in the back of the head before turning his revolver on Valerie Miller and shooting her in the temple.

Dr. Margaret Greenwald, the state’s chief medical examiner, testified that both Millers died of single gunshot wounds to their heads.

The trial began with opening statements from Assistant Attorney General Andrew Benson, who is prosecuting the case, and defense attorney Jeffrey Silverstein of Bangor. Both told the jury that Michael Miller was a recently laid-off millworker but ran an unlicensed pawn shop, loan sharking business and bought and sold prescription drugs from the couple’s home. Valerie Miller was a housewife.

Nightingale, who confessed to police, shot and killed the couple for money, stealing a safe after the attack, Benson said. The prosecutor described the defendant as one of “Big Mike’s steady customers.”

“Nathaneal Nightingale was into Big Mike for thousands of dollars,” Benson told the jury of nine women and seven men, including four alternates.

Silverstein described Nightingale as a member of the Miller family and warned the jury not to put much stock in his client’s alleged admissions. “Even one of [Michael Miller’s] own kids called around the night before the murder asking for the same type of gun used to kill the Millers,” the defense attorney said.

Nightingale was arrested on Dec. 12, 2009, on two counts of intentional or knowing murder. He pleaded not guilty in March 2010 after being indicted by the Penobscot County grand jury the previous December.

He has been held without bail at the Penobscot County Jail while awaiting trial.

Nightingale told police he was a family acquaintance of the Millers and sat with a forensic artist to create a composite sketch of a suspect woman who is not believed to exist, according to previously published reports.

The defendant has one prior conviction for operating under the influence in Rangeley in May 2005 for which he paid a $500 fine.

Nightingale is a 1997 graduate of Penobscot Valley High School in Howland and was a member of the Howlers’ wrestling team that won 72 straight meets. His team was among those that had won five consecutive state titles and two Penobscot Valley Conference crowns and ranked among the top 50 high schools nationally.

The trial is expected to last through Friday.

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