WCSO: Couple's death case closed
by Anna Oakes
The Watauga County Sheriff's Office has closed its investigation of the incident in Deep Gap, which authorities initially characterized as an "unlawful death" and a suicide. Officers responded to the couple's residence at 447 Wildwood Drive, where they found Curtis, 62, and Julie, 56, unresponsive.
"All the evidence in this case indicates that the only people involved were the deceased. There is no evidence to indicate that any outside persons were involved. Therefore, the case is closed," said Dee Dee Rominger, captain of investigations for the Sheriff's Office, on Monday.
Rominger said investigators were unable to determine a motive for the deaths.
Eddie Pippen, the medical examiner assigned to the case, said in March 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."
An autopsy report from the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner dated May 30 confirms that Julie Miller died from a gunshot wound to the head in a suicidal manner.
The medical examiner's summary of circumstances surrounding the death indicated that a .357 handgun was used, and that Julie Miller was found in a bed lying next to her husband. A last will and testament was found on the kitchen table, the report said.
The Watauga Democrat has not yet received a requested autopsy report for Curtis Miller from OCME.
"I don't have an estimate on when they will be released -- autopsy turnaround time can vary based on a number of factors," said Kirsti Clifford, a press assistant for the Department of Health and Human Services, on July 3.
In March, Assistant District Attorney Britt Springer said that evidence was being sent to a State Bureau of Investigation lab for additional review, with a request for expedited processing.
But Rominger said that the evidence was returned to the county unprocessed by the State Crime Lab because of new regulations.
"The SBI will not process gunshot residue kits if there is no suspect in the case," Rominger said.
N.C. Department of Justice spokeswoman Noelle Talley confirmed that a new policy took effect Sept. 1, 2013.
"The State Crime Lab does not take gunshot residue kits from victims of gunshot wounds for analysis," Talley said. "The reason for the change is that processing a gunshot residue kit from a victim of a gunshot wound (as opposed to a potential suspect) does not provide any meaningful scientific or investigative leads since the victim would already be known to have been in close proximity to a firearm when it was discharged."
A call to Donnie Miller, Curtis' brother, was not returned as of presstime Tuesday.