Status report

YOKNAPATAWPHA COUNTY SHERIFF'S DEPARTMENT

Investigating Officer(s): Det. T. Armstrong, Det. S. Murphy
Incident No.: 004651-29J-2020
Case Description: Frederick Miller death investigation


INVESTIGATION STATUS REPORT SUMMARY
All detailed reports on file.

November 6, 2020

Witness interview

Investigators re-interviewed people who attended the Sewcial Compassion event, and only one had any information of potential note.

Shelley Mitchell – Ms. Mitchell's exchange in the hallway with Stephanie Bragg outside of the Fellowship Hall was of particular interest. So far, Ms. Mitchell is the only person with specific knowledge of Mrs. Bragg being outside of the Fellowship Hall that evening.

Ms. Mitchell was forthcoming with information and was calm throughout the interview. She answered confidently and with no hesitation. It was apparent that Ms. Mitchell holds Ms. Bragg in high esteem and did not question Mrs. Bragg's leaving the room where the event was taking place.

Investigative action:

Follow up with church staff regarding after-hours procedures for access to other areas, particularly the kitchen.

Re-interview Stephanie Bragg.

Sales records

Deputy Willits contacted each Happy Hunter customer who purchased 60X Series Buck Buster carbon arrows with G5 Montec 85 gram broadheads between January 1, 2019, and October 29, 2020.

Alvarez, Manuel — purchase date: January 18, 2019

  • Mr. Alvarez is not a resident of Oxford and said he did not know Frederick Miller.
  • Mr. Alvarez was in Oxford visiting friends last year when he made the purchase.
  • Home address and employment in Jacksonville, FL, confirmed.

Couch, Bruce — purchase dates: March 4, 2019; April 26, 2019; September 7, 2020

  • Mr. Couch is a resident of Oxford and an avid hunter. He said he did not know Frederick Miller.
  • Mr. Couch was out of town on business October 26 - November 1, 2020.

Huddleston, Donald — purchase dates: October 12, 2019; September 19, 2020

  • Mr. Huddleston's involvement in the case is well-documented elsewhere.

Peterson, Penelope — purchase date: December 15, 2019

  • Ms. Peterson was Frederick Miller's student in 2012. She said she got along fine with him and hasn't seen him since she graduated from high school.
  • She purchased the arrows, along with a drone, as a Christmas present for her fiance.
  • She said her fiance and two of his friends took the drone and the archery equipment out into the woods in early January, where the men apparently tried to use the drone to film each other shooting the arrows. They lost the drone and all the arrows in a single day. Her fiance told her there was alcohol involved.
  • She said her fiance was from Horseheads, NY, that they had met online, and that he had moved to Oxford in October of 2016, and she was positive that he did not know Frederick Miller. She offered to have her fiance contact investigators.

Sanders, Daniel — purchase date: October 27, 2020

  • Mr. Sanders knew Frederick Miller from church. He said he had no issues with Mr. Miller and couldn't understand why anyone would do anything so horrific.
  • Mr. Sanders' arrows were still in the manufacturer's packaging in the trunk of his car.

Sidlow, Steven — purchase dates: November 30, 2019; January 13, 2020

  • Mr. Sidlow said he did not know Frederick Miller.
  • Mr. Sidlow works as a banquet server and was working an event on the night of October 29, 2020.

Investigative action:

None needed.

November 7, 2020

Reward offered

COP's reward offer is potentially advantageous to the investigation as it may incentivize previously reluctant witnesses to come forward.

Anticipated issues include the possible need for personnel reallocation to handle the potential call volume, which could delay progress on other investigations.

Investigative action:

Submit request to Chief of Detectives James Harris for temporary reassignment of personnel to the Miller case to help answer and triage calls, as necessary.

Alibi checks

Jimmy Bragg

Despite investigators' efforts, Jimmy's whereabouts at the time of the murder have not been definitively confirmed.

His initial lies about and subsequent admission that he was the student cheater Frederick Miller had identified just prior to his death, combined with his unverifiable alibi, suggests that the reliability of Jimmy's alibi remains questionable.

His extreme reaction to the news of Mr. Miller's death as described by witnesses may be cause for some concern.

For those reasons and because Jimmy had motive, is a skilled archer, and owns a letter jacket, he should be considered a person of interest.

Lizzie Miller

At 7:10 p.m., Officers Richards and Vittel stopped by the skate park while on patrol to see if they could locate any other witnesses to corroborate Lizzie's alibi. No one interviewed offered any additional information.

The reliability of Lizzie's alibi remains questionable.

Caroline Miller

At 5:50 p.m., while in Caroline Miller's neighborhood, Deputy Willits made another attempt to find a witness to corroborate Caroline's alibi. No one interviewed offered any additional information.

The reliability of Caroline's alibi remains questionable.

Investigative action:

Continue efforts to uncover witnesses or other information that will confirm or refute the above alibis.

Contact the Crime Lab to check the status of the ongoing fingerprint and DNA analyses.

BOLO

At 5:00 p.m., Deputy Willits reported seeing a white pickup truck parked on Avent Street near Sisk Avenue. Registration tags appeared to be current. He ran the plates, which came back registered to John Rawlins of Knoxville, TN. Deputy Willits performed a wants and warrants search on Mr. Rawlins and found none.

Deputy Willits approached the nearest residential property: 393 Avent Street. The residents, Jim and Jeanie Rawlins, confirmed that the white pickup truck belonged to their nephew, John Rawlins.

Mrs. Rawlins said John recently graduated from East Tennessee State University and was job hunting around the South. She said John had stayed with them a few times in the past three months while interviewing in the Oxford area.

Deputy Willits then visited Caroline Miller's neighbor, David Porter, who had originally reported the white pickup truck. Deputy Willits told Mr. Porter that the truck's owner had been identified and that the owner occasionally visits his aunt and uncle in the neighborhood.

Investigative action:

BOLO canceled. No further action needed.

November 8, 2020

Tipline

Since the reward offer went public, 37 calls have been received by the YCSD tipline. Of those, seven calls were unrelated to the Miller case, 23 calls were discounted as impossible, six calls were considered possible but unlikely, and one call, from Faith and Glory Community Church employee Hubert Jacobs, was flagged for immediate follow-up.

Of the six possible but unlikely calls, three were quickly ruled out because the respective suspicious person implicated was incarcerated on October 29, 2020. Of the remaining three, one suspicious person was deceased, and the other two had alibis that checked out.

Investigative action:

Interview Hubert Jacobs.

Witness interview

Hubert Jacobs — During the interview, Mr. Jacobs seemed a bit excited. His vocabulary was simplistic. He appeared to be giving an honest account of what he remembered, although based on his final comment, his enthusiasm for coming forward to help solve the case is likely motivated by the reward offered.

Investigative action:

Re-interview Donna Palmer to get her insight both on Mr. Jacobs and on his claims.

Witness interviews

Deputy P.J. Watson spoke to each parent Marc Huddleston mentioned in his November 8, 2020, interview. Parents were asked if they attended archery practice on October 26, and if so, whether they noticed Marc's letter jacket lying in the spectator area.

Sherri and Michael Oster, parents of Sheila Oster

Michael said he was not at practice on October 26.

Sherri said she was at practice, and she did see Marc take off his letter jacket and toss it in the spectator area as practice was getting started.

Sherri said Marc didn't care about his belongings because things came easy for him, and his parents were rich. She said Marc always left a trail of junk, and he expected others to pick up after him. Sherri said that if he didn't act so spoiled all the time, she might've picked it up and folded it nicely for him.

When asked about her whereabouts on the evening of October 29, 2020, Sherri said she was at a meeting of her nutrition and weight management support group.

Cathy and Quinn Piper, parents of Kevin Piper

The Pipers said they were at practice on October 26, but they were almost an hour late getting there. Neither Cathy nor Quinn noticed a letter jacket lying in the spectator area.

Gina Rice, mother of Scott Rice

Mrs. Rice said she was at practice but didn't see a letter jacket in the spectator area.

William Schreiber, father of Scott Schreiber

Mr. Schreiber said he was not at practice on October 26. He arrived just as practice was ending to pick up Scott, so he didn't go in the spectator area.

Investigative action:

Follow up on Sherri Oster's whereabouts on the evening of October 29.

Witness interview

Donna Palmer's answers sufficiently and satisfactorily addressed Hubert Jacobs's concerns about a strange man sneaking around the church campus. The man and his presence at the crime scene on the afternoon of October 29, 2020, have no apparent relevance to the investigation.

Investigative action:

None needed.

November 9, 2020

Tipline

An additional 32 calls have been received. Of those, three calls were unrelated to the Miller case, 20 calls were discounted as impossible, three calls were the same person following up to make sure we got the information he left the day before, five calls were considered possible but unlikely, and one call, from Greg Reis, was flagged for immediate follow-up.

Of the five possible but unlikely calls, two were quickly ruled out because the respective suspicious person implicated was deceased. Of the remaining three, one suspicious person has been in a rehab hospital since October 28, 2020, and the other two had alibis that checked out.

Investigative action:

Interview Greg Reis.

Search

While searching the Bragg residence, investigators observed a number of handwritten messages on brightly colored sticky notes placed on the walls and the door in Jimmy's room. On each note, the "o" in "Mom" is a heart. Examples include:

  • "Fear has two meanings: Forget everything and run, OR, FACE EVERYTHING AND RISE! You've got this, and I've got you! Love, Mom"
  • "Focus. Breathe. Nock, draw, loose. It really is that easy. Love you, Mom"
  • "Tests are indications. Let's prove that you are 100% AWESOME! Mom"
  • "You cannot fail – I am behind you all the way. Love, Mom"
  • "Reach your goals! Failure is not an option! Mom"

Investigators also observed some 50 or so framed photographs covering the walls and furniture of the home. The photos were a mixture of professional family portraits and snapshots spanning from Jimmy's infancy to the present day.

In the hallway leading to the bedrooms, there was an 8x10 framed photograph of Stephanie and Paul at their wedding. 4x6 framed snapshots of Jimmy as a baby surrounded the photo.

Investigative action:

None needed until the Crime Lab has processed the evidence collected.

Witness interview

When Greg Reis came forward with information, he seemed intensely earnest while speaking with Detective Armstrong. Mr. Reis is known to law enforcement as a reward seeker whose information can be bogus. In the past 18 months, Mr. Reis has come forward with 26 tips, and only two of them have proven to be partially useful.

However, the timing, specificity, and gravity of the information he brought forward may prove valuable to the investigation.

Investigative action:

Interview employees and customers of Square Pizza to identify and locate the teenagers Mr. Reis reported seeing there.

Report filed 11/9/2020, 6:30 p.m. by Det. T. Armstrong, 615, and Det. S. Murphy, 633


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