Hairdresser tells jury Nightingale confessed to killings

Posted May 25, 2011, at 1:48 p.m.
Last modified May 25, 2011, at 7:15 p.m.
Nathaneal Nightingale in the courtroom during the first day of his trial at the Penobscot Juditial Center in Bangor. Nightingale alledgedly shot and killed Michael Miller Sr. and his wife Valerie Miller in Webster Plantation 18 months ago.
Nathaneal Nightingale in the courtroom during the first day of his trial at the Penobscot Juditial Center in Bangor. Nightingale alledgedly shot and killed Michael Miller Sr. and his wife Valerie Miller in Webster Plantation 18 months ago.

 

BANGOR, Maine — Eighteen months ago, Brooke Dawson thought of Nathaneal Nightingale as her very best friend.

The two saw each other every day, Dawson, 22, of Howland, testified for the prosecution Wednesday. She stuck by Nightingale, 32, of Burlington when others were convinced he was responsible for the Nov. 28, 2009, deaths of Michael Miller Jr. and Valerie Miller, both 47, of Webster Plantation.

Dawson, a hairdresser, told the jury on the third day of Nightingale’s double murder trial at the Penobscot Judicial Center that everything changed for her when Nightingale confessed to the killings on Dec. 11, 2009, the night before he was arrested and charged with two counts of murder.

“He told me that he did it,” a tearful Dawson said. “He said, ‘I did it. I killed Mike and Valerie.’”

Dawson told the jury Nightingale confessed to her when they went for a ride in his car after he had been interviewed for about eight hours by police. Nightingale said that he accidentally shot Miller, then panicked and shot Valerie Miller, Dawson testified.

“I was crying hysterically,” she said when asked by Assistant Attorney General Andrew Benson to describe her reaction to Nightingale’s revelation. “I’d been defending him to everybody.”

Under cross-examination by defense attorney Jeffrey Silverstein of Bangor, Dawson admitted that she often smoked marijuana and used illegal prescription narcotics with Nightingale. She said that the two used both the night of Nightingale’s confession.

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.

His trial began Monday at the Penobscot Judicial Center.

Earlier Wednesday, a Maine State Police detective testified that a portion of the timeline the defendant gave police did not match the video surveillance retrieved from a camera at a Lincoln funeral home.

In a taped interview with detectives less than 24 hours after the Millers were found shot to death in the kitchen of their Webster Plantation home, Nightingale told police in a recorded interview played for jurors Tuesday that he left the Millers’ double-wide trailer between 10 and 10:15 a.m. Nov. 28, 2009, and would have returned home by 11 a.m. at the latest because the drive took from between 30 and 45 minutes.

But Detective Darrin Crane told the jury that the surveillance video showed a Pontiac Bonneville, the same type of car Nightingale was driving 18 months ago, pass by the funeral home at 11:18 a.m.

The Millers’ bodies were discovered in their kitchen about noon that day, according to previous testimony.

Nightingale’s statements to police that he passed through Lincoln on his way to the Millers at about 8:30 a.m. did match the video, Crane said. The surveillance showed he passed the funeral home at 8:35 a.m.

Crane also testified that he retrieved a .22-caliber Ruger revolver from Nightingale’s stepfather, Thomas Coyle, a week or so after the slayings.

Cathy MacMillan, a DNA analyst with the Maine State Police Crime Laboratory in Augusta, testified Wednesday afternoon that DNA that was consistent with Nightingale’s was found on the grip of the gun.

A firearms examiner from the lab is expected to link the bullet recovered from Miller Sr.’s body to the revolver.

Nightingale allegedly shot Miller Sr. 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 Monday that both Millers died of small-caliber gunshot wounds to their heads.

The motive for the killings, according to prosecutor Benson, was money. Nightingale allegedly ripped Miller Sr.’s wallet from his belt loop and stole a safe from the house when he left.

Defense attorney Silverstein said in his opening statement Monday that another person who owed Miller Sr. money, including his son Matthew Miller, could have pulled the trigger.

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

The trial might go to the jury Friday but could go into next week, Superior Court Justice William Anderson, who is presiding over the trial, said Wednesday.

If convicted, Nightingale would face a minimum sentence of 25 years and a maximum sentence of life in prison on each count.

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