The family and other representatives of deceased Black LGBTQ teen Mikayla Miller continued their push for an independent, transparent investigation on Wednesday following news that the her death last month was officially ruled a suicide.
Civil rights attorney Ben Crump, who also represented the families of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, spearheaded the group’s dispute of the Massachusetts Chief Medical Examiner determination that Miller died by self-asphyxiation last month during a press conference Wednesday. Crump said that Miller’s death being ruled a suicide “defies common sense,” claiming that Miller’s body was upright when it was found unlike previous reports which stated she was found hanging.
Miller’s mother, Calvina Strothers, said neither she nor Miller owned a belt that resembled the one found around Miller’s neck at the crime scene. Strothers maintained her stance that her daughter’s death was the result of a homicide. “The conclusion they made yesterday is the conclusion they made the first day they walked into my house. There is no difference. But I know the truth, and it’s not what they say,” Strothers said. “I will fight tooth and nail until the day I leave this earth for the truth of what happened to my daughter.”
National Black Justice Coalition executive director David Johns also questioned the state’s determination. “There is no way Mikayla could have killed herself,” Johns said. “What Calvina and the family of Mikayla Miller want to know is was she lynched and, if she was, why aren’t we saying that,” Crump said.
Strothers has continually pointed to a group of teenagers, including Miller’s ex-girlfriend, that allegedly assaulted her at her apartment complex’s clubhouse hours before Miller was last seen. Hopkinton police responded to the incident and documented that Miller had marks consistent with being assaulted, but Middlesex District Attorney Marian Ryan stated that investigators didn’t place any of the teens involved in the earlier incident at the location of Miller’s body. The apartment complex’s security cameras were not operating at the time of the alleged assault or Miller’s death.
Amid a growing public outcry for transparency in the investigation of her death, the Hopkinton Police released a selection of files relating to the case on Wednesday, including the initial 911 call and police dashcam footage from the morning Miller’s body was found. Another notable revelation from the release was that Miller’s death was marked as a suicide on the department’s log on the day her body was discovered, April 18. Strothers claimed that investigators told her Miller’s death was a suicide very shortly after her body was discovered.
Crump stated that an independent autopsy was conducted on Miller’s body sometime before the teen was cremated on May 13 and that the findings from that examination would be released to the public “hopefully sooner rather than later.”
Violence in Boston’s Monica Cannon-Grant also claimed that Middlesex District Attorney Marian Ryan used an open assault case against Strothers as a “retaliatory” measure for her speaking publicly about her daughter’s case and criticizing the investigation, which is being led by Ryan’s office.
According to Cannon-Grant, Ryan told Strothers that the case, which alleges that Strothers assaulted one of her children in March 2020, was going to be dropped due to lack of evidence. When Strothers appeared in court on May 7, the day after she spoke at a vigil organized by Violence in Boston for Miller, the case wasn’t dismissed. Cannon-Grant believes this was done because Strothers spoke during the vigil the previous evening.
Ryan’s office has not commented publicly on any allegations or statements from Wednesday’s press conference. A statement from Ryan’s office following the ruling on Miller’s manner of death stated that the investigation “remains active and ongoing.”