Investigators say they don't yet know how a 16-year-old girl from Hopkinton ended up dead in a wooded area not far from her home two weeks ago.
Mikayla Miller's death and the speculation that she was murdered have circulated on social media with the hashtag #JusticeForMikayla. Activists point to a physical altercation between Miller and several other teenagers in the hours before her body was found and have questioned the thoroughness of the investigation.
Miller's mother told The Boston Globe that police dismissed her daughter’s death as a suicide and that the family has unanswered questions about what happened. Attempts by WBUR to reach Mikayla's mother or other family members were unsuccessful.
Middlesex District Attorney Marian Ryan, whose office is investigating Miller's death, said right now, there is no final conclusion about how Miller died. Speaking during a press conference Tuesday, she wouldn't say whether there was any foul play or whether suicide was suspected. She said that decision is with the state medical examiner.
"Our investigators have been fully committed to determining exactly how Mikayla's precious and promising life ended," Ryan said. "Make no mistake, there is no truth to the allegation that we have reached a final conclusion."
Ryan said that this case is not being ignored or neglected, and is not being dismissed because Miller is Black or a member of the LGBTQ community. Nothing thus far indicates Miller was targeted because of her identity, she said.
Ryan outlined the details of what investigators know now, from witness interviews, cellphone records and other evidence. According to Ryan:
The evening of Saturday, April 17, around 5 p.m. Miller was involved in a "physical altercation" with two teenagers — a girl and boy — at the "clubhouse," or common area, of her apartment building. Two other teenagers were inside the building at the time, while a third waited outside. When asked, Ryan said the group was not all white.
Ryan said Miller had a romantic relationship with one of the teenage girls.
Miller's mother later called Hopkinton police to report her daughter had been jumped. Officers noted Miller had a cut lip consistent with being attacked and that the clubhouse had some damage. They also interviewed one of the teenage girls.
Miller's mother went to bed that night, believing her daughter was at home. But an app on Miller's phone showed she took about 1,300 steps between 9 and 10 p.m. — roughly the distance to the location where her body was found the next morning by a jogger. Ryan declined to describe the scene.
None of the teenagers have been charged for their role in the fight, and Ryan declined to identify them, noting that some are minors. That assault investigation is still open.
She said witness statements, phone GPS, surveillance video and highway toll transponders confirm that the five teenagers involved in the earlier altercation were not near Miller or her apartment complex in the hours after the physical altercation.
"Nothing about what I have said brings Mikayla back or consoles her family as they grieve," Ryan said. "What we can do and what we really owe her is an accurate and fulsome accounting of what happened and what led to her death."
Hopkinton police, which is not actively investigating Miller's death, issued a statement Tuesday saying they could not comment or provide information beyond what Ryan already had.
Ryan committed to releasing as much of the investigative file as legally possible after the conclusion of the inquiry. Investigators are still working through troves of cellphone data and texts, she said.
A vigil for Miller is planned for Thursday in Hopkinton. Several groups have signed on to the demonstration, including Lawyers for Civil Rights. Executive director Iván Espinoza-Madrigal said the organization is supporting the family and community groups as they seek more transparency.
"As a matter of best practice, open lines of communication with affected families go a long way in generating trust between the community and law enforcement," he said in a statement.
After Ryan's press conference, Monica Cannon-Grant, with former Boston City Councilor Tito Jackson, and Rep. Ayanna Pressley called for an independent investigation into Miller's death.
Ryan said she understood the family's frustration and their desire to get information, including turning to social media. She said her office has been in daily contact with the family's representative.
"I don't expect saying we're waiting for a ruling gives much comfort to a family waiting for answers," Ryan said.
This article was originally published on May 04, 2021.