by Anna Oakes
The Watauga County Sheriff's Office has determined that the Feb. 28 deaths of a Deep Gap couple were the result of an "unlawful death" and a suicide.
"Evidence indicates that the mortal wounds sustained by the victims, Curtis and Julie Miller, indicate an unlawful death and a self-inflicted gunshot wound," Sheriff Len Hagaman said in a statement Tuesday.
Dr. Selly Strauch of Winston-Salem's Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center on Monday confirmed the preliminary autopsy results for Curtis Miller, 62, and Julie Miller, 59, stating that both died from gunshot wounds to the head. Strauch performed the autopsies March 1.
Eddie Pippen, the medical examiner assigned to the case, said that Julie Miller's injury was noted as a "gunshot wound to the head in a suicide manner" and that Curtis Miller's injury was noted as a gunshot wound to the head "in an undetermined manner." Pippen could not recall the estimated times of deaths when reached Tuesday.
"The Watauga County Sheriff's Office continues to investigate possible motives. However, it may be difficult to fully understand the tragic actions taken on Feb. 28," Hagaman said Tuesday.
"The district attorney's office has reviewed the evidence in the case and has made the determination that no criminal charges will be filed," Hagaman added.
The Sheriff's Office responded to 447 Wildwood Drive in Deep Gap at approximately 2:31 p.m. on Feb. 28, when deputies entered a two-story residence and found a couple to be unresponsive, Hagaman said. The Sheriff's Office noted that day that no suspects or persons of interest were being sought related to the case, but the office did not release more information about the nature of the deaths until Tuesday.
"We are obligated to gather factual, accurate and complete evidence," Hagaman said. "This includes a vast amount of evidence collection and literally dozens of interviews of individuals for possible motive of death. The preliminary medical information alone took a span of three days ... as it involved two jurisdictions of medical examiners."
Sheriff's Office officials met with Assistant District Attorney Britt Springer Tuesday to review the deaths as part of the investigative process. Springer said she is seeking additional information "to be able to close the book" on the case, but at this time no one can be criminally charged.
"It was a horrible, tragic event, and two people are dead," she said.
Springer said that evidence is being sent to a State Bureau of Investigation lab for additional review, with a request for expedited processing. But the SBI review could take anywhere from one to six months, she said.
Curtis Miller was born Sept. 4, 1951, in Watauga County, according to his obituary. He was a truck driver for J.W. Hampton Construction Co. and member of Mount Ephriam Baptist Church. Memorial services for Curtis Miller will be held at the Hampton Funeral Home Chapel in Boone at 7 p.m. Wednesday.
Julie Miller's obituary states that she is survived by several relatives in the Boone, Deep Gap and Sugar Grove area. Private memorial services for Julie Miller will be conducted at a later date, the obituary stated.
Allison Haver contributed reporting to this article.