• 63°

Puzzling tragedy

Pedro resident Linda Miller painted a vivid picture of a woman fearing for her life after enduring years of domestic abuse in silence.

Two months later the 57-year-old elementary school teacher shot her estranged husband three times before turning a gun on herself, leaving authorities and the community trying to piece together the tragic events from that snowy morning on Jan. 8.

The first public signs of problems in this Lawrence County household surfaced Nov. 7 when Linda Miller called the sheriff’s office to report an incident in which she claimed husband John Miller allegedly assaulted her and threatened to kill her.

“She states he had been threatening her all day,” Deputy Jason Newman’s report said. “She states he had tried to run over her with a tractor. She states he had told her he would burn down the house with her and her mother in it.”

The report stated John Miller agreed to leave the house but that Linda Miller alleged he grabbed her by the face, knocked her down and held her down before doing so. No injuries were visible upon the officer’s arrival, the deputy wrote.

In his report, Newman said Linda Miller told him, “She is in fear of her life as well as her mother’s life” and “this has been going on for over 30 years” but that she had kept it from everyone.

John Miller left the house before the deputy’s arrival and his comments, if he ever made any, were not included in the report.

It was a little more than two months before law enforcement was again alerted to problems in the Miller household when Frances Besco, Linda Miller’s mother who also lives in the Miller residence, called 911.

According to an investigation report filed Jan. 8, the day of the double shooting, John Miller had been living elsewhere for the past five or six weeks but had called and asked to come home. He moved back in on Jan. 7.

Members of Linda Miller’s church had visited that evening. Besco told authorities everything seemed fine when she went to bed that evening but when she awoke the next morning she heard a commotion.

Besco went to investigate what the problem was and found John Miller holding his chest.

According to the sheriff’s report, Besco told authorities Linda Miller was attempting to reload the .22-cal. semi-automatic handgun she had used to shoot her husband three times in the upper torso.

Sheriff’s Detective J.D. McDaniel said it appears Linda Miller was unable to reload the gun and laid it on the table after she shot John Miller with it. Linda Miller was at that time threatening to kill herself as well, McDaniel said.

The report said Linda Miller then went next door and awoke a neighbor, who is also a family member, by banging on the door. The neighbor, disoriented because of having been asleep, allowed Linda Miller to come inside her home.

McDaniel said Linda Miller had first asked to use the neighbor’s telephone but then asked if the woman still had a handgun. When the gun was retrieved from a back room, Linda Miller used that gun, a .22-cal. revolver, to shoot and kill herself in the neighbor’s home.

Deputies arrived at the Miller residence just after 8 a.m. that morning and are still trying to determine exactly what events led up to the tragic ending.

Friends and family of both John and Linda Miller are left reflecting on the loss of their loved ones.

A family member of John Miller disputes the claims of abuse.

The family member, who asked not to be identified, said John Miller, a heavy equipment operator and mechanic who most recently worked at Osco Industries in Portsmouth, was a good person and questioned why he would build a new home for someone he was abusing. The Millers were in the process of building a new home when the November incident occurred.

“Anything you’d ask, he’d do it,” the family member said.

Linda Miller is remembered as a dedicated teacher by former colleagues in the Rock Hill School District. She taught second grade and had retired last spring after more than 30 years, Superintendent Wes Hairston said.

“She was an outstanding teacher but an even better person,” he said. “I had known her a long time. She was respected by colleagues, peers and certainly her students.”