• Wed. Jun 23rd, 2021

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Supporters of Mikayla Miller push back on suicide ruling for Massachusetts teen

Attorneys and relatives of Mikayla Miller, the Massachusetts teenager whose death last month roiled residents of the small town she called home, pushed back Wednesday against the medical examiner’s determination that she died by suicide.

“The only thing I want out of all this is to find the truth,” said Calvina Strothers, Mikayla’s mother.

Mikayla Miller’s death was ruled a suicide.Justice for Mikayla Miller

“The conclusion they made yesterday,” Strothers said, referring to the suicide ruling, “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.”

A jogger discovered Mikayla’s body in woods early April 18 near her apartment complex in Hopkinton. A death certificate filed by the state medical examiner’s office concluded that Mikayla, 16, a high school sophomore, died by asphyxiating herself, NBC Boston reported.

Strothers was part of a contingent Wednesday who spoke over teleconference and demanded a transparent investigation into Mikayla’s death. Mikayla’s growing network of supporters also announced that prominent civil rights lawyer Benjamin Crump would be representing Mikayla’s relatives.

Mikayla’s death has attracted a national spotlight as questions are asked about whether her race and her sexual identity influenced investigators. Critics of the ruling also point to a physical fight between a group of teenagers and Mikayla on the afternoon before her death.

Hopkinton, about 35 miles west of Boston, is best known for hosting the starting line at the Boston Marathon. The town has about 18,000 residents.

Advocates for Mikayla on Wednesday continued to criticize what they deemed a lackluster investigation, first mangled by the Hopkinton Police Department and then Middlesex County District Attorney Marian Ryan.

While noting Ryan’s office is the lead investigative agency in the case, Hopkinton police on Wednesday released a slew of records pertaining to Mikayla’s investigation. One of the documents made public was the department’s log from April 18, the day her body was discovered, in which the department documented the death as a suicide.

Also included in the department’s released records were dispatch radio transmissions; recordings from the town’s fire department’s response, and dashboard camera recordings for the entire morning shift April 18 with “no edits or redactions,” police said.

In a statement, Hopkinton Police Chief Joseph Bennett said he “believes the release of the records is the prudent course of action given the volume of records requests received and the amount of public commentary already made regarding this case.”

He also said in the statement: “The death of a child is a universal tragedy, and it is the most difficult situation a police officer or firefighter can be called to respond to. We generally do not comment publicly on such cases. I appreciate and understand the tremendous public interest in this investigation. We all want answers.”

A spokeswoman for Ryan said in a statement Wednesday the investigation remains active.

“We have received notice that the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner has ruled that Mikayla Miller died by suicide. We have been in conversation with her family’s attorney regarding this development,” the statement read.

“However, our investigation into the events surrounding Mikayla’s death remains active and ongoing,” the statement said. “We will continue to explore every investigative angle necessary as we do that work and intend to issue a complete and thorough report at the conclusion of the investigation.”

Mikayla was openly gay and supporters have speculated her sexuality was a factor in the investigation into her death. David Johns, executive director of the National Black Justice Coalition, an advocacy group for Black people within the LGBTQ community, also called into question the medical examiner’s ruling.

“There is no way Mikayla could have killed herself,” Johns said, disputing multiple reported details about how her body was found, including saying that a belt at the scene did not belong to the teen or her mother.

Mikayla underwent an independent autopsy, but those results were not made available.

Crump said he expects results from the family’s autopsy to be released “sooner, rather than later.”

Ryan said earlier this month Mikayla was in an altercation on the afternoon prior to the discovery of her body with two other teens, a male and a female. They scuffled at Mikayla’s apartment complex.

Five teens in total were with Mikayla that afternoon, officials said.

Mikayla’s mother called Hopkinton police and reported her daughter had been jumped. Investigators noted the teen’s bloody lip, Ryan said.

A jogger found Mikayla’s body about 7:45 a.m. April 18, about 1,300 steps away from her home, investigators said.

Ryan has said the whereabouts of the five teens at the time Mikayla was last seen alive have been verified through multiple forensic measures such as cellphone GPS data, video footage, highway EZ Pass records and video footage. Witness statements were also taken, Ryan said.

Mikayla’s supporters questioned why none of the teens involved in her alleged assault have been arrested or charged.

During Wednesday’s teleconference, one reporter asked about a recent report from the Boston Herald which said Strothers has an open assault case against a family member.

Boston anti-violence advocate Monica Cannon-Grant, an organizer of a vigil in Hopkinton earlier this month in which Strothers levied public criticism against investigators, said Strothers was told by Ryan the assault case would be thrown out due to lack of evidence.

Cannon-Grant said Strothers showed up to court the day after the vigil earlier this month, on May 7, expecting the case would be dismissed, only to be told the case remained open because Strothers spoke during her daughter’s vigil.

“This was retaliatory,” Cannon-Grant said.

A spokeswoman for Ryan’s office would not comment on the allegation from Cannon-Grant about Strothers’ court case, or any of the criticisms and allegations made Wednesday about Mikayla’s case.

If you or someone you know is in crisis, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255, text HOME to 741741 or visit SpeakingOfSuicide.com/resources for additional resources.