Mikayla Miller, a gay 16-year-old black girl from Hopkinton, Massachusetts, was found dead, hanging from a tree along a walking trail that led to her apartment last month.
In the days that followed her death, Mikayla's mother fueled a social media storm with a post accusing police of turning a blind eye to the teenagers who she says bullied, ambushed, and murdered her daughter.
Timeline of Events Leading to Miller's Death
Miller's body was discovered by a jogger at about 7:45 a.m. on Sunday, April 18, a day after she reportedly got into an altercation with some other teenagers.
On April 17, Miller, a sophomore at Hopkinton High, was with two of her friends in the common area, or "clubhouse" of the apartment complex where she lives. The two friends left, and she was joined by four other teenagers – two males and two females – while another female teenager remained in a car outside, according to District Attorney Marian Ryan.
One of the female teenagers inside the common area was in a relationship with Miller. Sometime between 5:17 p.m. and 6:41 p.m., a physical altercation occurred between Miller and two of the teenagers, a male and a female, in the common area.
Miller's mother, Calvina Strothers, told the Boston Globe that the five teenagers involved were white and that the altercation happened because her daughter got into a fight with her girlfriend.
At 7:20 p.m., Hopkinton police responded to Miller's home after Strothers reported that her daughter "had been jumped." Miller was interviewed by police and told officers that she was pushed and punched in the face during the altercation. Officers noted that she had blood on her lip.
Between 9 p.m. and 10 p.m., a health app on Miller's cellphone recorded that the phone had traveled 1,316 steps, which is the approximate distance from the apartment complex to the woods where her body was found the next morning, according to Ryan.
Strothers: My Daughter was 'Murdered' and 'Tied to a Tree'
"My daughter was jumped by a group of kids on Saturday April 17th, 2021, and was then murdered hours later in Hopkinton, tied to a tree and left," read the alleged statement from Strothers, which was tweeted by Violence in Boston Inc.
Strothers also said in her statement that law enforcement did not conduct an investigation into her daughter's death, not only dismissed it as "suicide" but also withheld information from her and that the state trooper in charge told her that warned her against going to the media as it would expose Miller's "sexuality." At the time, the district attorney's office said publicly her death was not considered suspicious.
Miller's post drew angry online support from people claiming the teen was "lynched" because of her race or sexuality, or both. The speculation that she was murdered started circulating on social media with the hashtag #JusticeForMikayla with activists questioning the thoroughness of the investigation.
DA Says Investigation is Still Open, Cause of Death Remains Unknown
On Tuesday, District Attorney Marian Ryan held a press conference, where she denied claims her office turned a blind eye to Miller's case before providing an extensive update on the "open" investigation.
"First and foremost, Mikayla Miller, as many of you may have seen, was a beautiful child," she said. "She was a cherished daughter, a gifted student, a talented athlete, and a loyal friend. Mikayla's death is an unspeakable tragedy, for her loved ones and for the entire community of Hopkinton. From the beginning of this investigation, our investigators have been fully committed to determining exactly how Mikayla's precious and promising life ended. Make no mistake, there is no truth to the allegation that we have reached a final conclusion."
Ryan confirmed that Miller was involved in a physical altercation the evening before her body was found, but according to "cellphone data and other digital evidence, the four teenagers present involved in the altercation had not been to the area where Miller was discovered. She added that authorities are still waiting for the medical examiner to determine the manner and cause of death, and they are also waiting on forensic results of "samples and items" sent to the lab.
Ryan promised to get answers to the remaining questions about Miller's death and said she would be as transparent as possible once she did. "Nothing about what I have said brings Mikayla back or consoles her family as they grieve," she 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."