Should a Serial Killer Be Set Free?

My Book Recommendation

I knew the stakes when I wrote KILLING WOMEN: The True Story of Serial Killer Don Miller’s Reign of Terror. I also know that absent a change in the law, serial killer Don Miller is going to be released from prison in 2031. How could that be? A convicted serial killer, now having been in prison for forty-plus years, released to an unsuspecting public?

attorneyIt’s important to understand that Michigan serial killer Don Miller is not in prison for murder. In fact, technically, he never was.

Don Miller’s Crimes

On January 1, 1977, Don Miller murdered his former fiancé, Martha Sue Young. The two had dated and became engaged, but Martha had her doubts about the criminal justice graduate from Michigan State University. She broke off the engagement shortly before New Year’s Eve, but the two agreed to remain friends. On December 31, 1976, Martha went to babysit at a friend’s home, and Don asked if he could come with her. After returning to Don’s parent’s home, the two watched a movie, and afterward, he left to take her home. She never arrived. East Lansing Police suspected Miller in the disappearance almost immediately, but other than a small blood spot in his car, they had nothing to prove he was responsible for her disappearance.

Eighteen months later, Marita Choquette, another East Lansing coed, came up missing from the MSU campus, and her body was found two weeks later in a wooded area. She’d been stabbed numerous times, and her body was hidden under concrete blocks.

On the same day that Marita Choquette’s body was found, a third MSU coed by the name of Wendy Bush was reported missing. Other than the fact that all three women were MSU coeds, police had nothing to tie any of the three disappearances together.

Six weeks after Wendy Bush’s disappearance, Kristine Stuart, a Lansing school teacher living in East Lansing, was reported missing by her husband. She’d been walking home near the MSU campus when she was last seen in the middle of the day.

Two days after Kristine Stuart’s disappearance, Martha Sue Young’s former fiancé broke into a home and raped a fourteen-year-old girl. As he was in the process of strangling her with her own belt, the belt snapped in two at the instant that her thirteen-year-old brother entered the home. Miller turned his attention to the boy, slitting his throat, then strangling him to the point of unconsciousness and finally stabbing him twice in the chest. As Miller was trying to murder the boy, his sister, still nude, escaped and ran into traffic to flag down help. That was Miller’s last day of freedom.

While Miller was awaiting trial for the rape and attempted murder of the teens, he was charged with second degree murder in only two of the disappearances. While police didn’t have the bodies, they felt they could still get convictions.

Martha Sue Young

Don Miller in 2020

After Miller’s conviction in the rapes, he was immediately sentenced to prison, and shortly after his arrival, his attorney brokered a plea deal with the prosecuting attorney. Miller would be allowed to plead guilty for two reduced charges of manslaughter, and the second-degree murder charges would be dropped if, as part of the agreement, Miller would lead authorities to the remaining three missing women.

Prosecutors knew that under Michigan sentencing guidelines at the time, with Miller already serving twenty to thirty years for the rape and attempted murder of the teens, even if he were convicted for second degree murder, his sentences would be served concurrently, and therefore, he wouldn’t get any additional time.

Miller took the deal and led police to the remaining three victims.

Extended Sentence

In the late ‘90s, with Miller close to being released, he was convicted for possessing a garrote, or strangulation device, in his prison dorm, and he received an additional twenty to forty years in prison.

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Technically, Don Miller has served his time for the manslaughter charges he pled to and the rape and attempted murder of the teens. He only remains in prison for possessing a weapon inside the prison. By 2031, he will have served his time and will be released.

While Miller will be in his mid-seventies when he’s freed, he’ll still be capable of murder, and he’s already shown his desire for teen girls. That’s concerning.

Parole Hearing

On April 12, 2021, Don Miller had a parole interview with the potential for release in the next month or two. The Michigan Parole Board received hundreds of letters opposing his early release, and we’re hopeful that the Parole Board will make the right decision. If he’s not released on parole, you can expect his release in 2031.

Should Don Miller be released from prison? A man who intentionally took the lives of four women, then raped a fourteen-year-old girl and attempted to murder her and her brother has no place in society, yet, I’ll mention again that absent a change in the law, he will be given his freedom.

In several states, there are laws that prevent the release of inmates who are deemed to still be a danger to society. Those processes involve court hearings, and then hospitalization and treatment until the inmate is deemed safe to return to society. Michigan attempted to pass such a law in the late ‘90s, but it was never passed.

Michigan Parole Board

The four murder victims.

In the epigraph to Killing Women, I quoted the Honorable Jeffrey Sauter. Mr. Sauter was part of a three-man prosecutorial team that convicted Miller for possessing a garrote in prison. At the time, Sauter was the prosecuting attorney for Eaton County, Michigan, which was where the two teens were attacked by Miller. Sauter, in addressing the jury before Miller’s sentencing, said, “His persona is a disguise…the same disguise that he used before, both to get closer to his victims, and to deny culpability. Miller’s crimes identify him as a human predator, and there is no reliable basis to conclude he has changed.” I believe that statement is still true.

Miller’s pending release has garnered much attention in recent months. The attention has come not only from the release of Killing Women, but also his parole interview and the possibility of being freed. Beyond that, production has wrapped on a documentary about Miller, and the hope is that it will be released on Netflix.

A second, even more encouraging development is that when one of the recent stories about Miller’s parole interview aired, a woman came forward after seeing Miller’s photos in the local media and she now alleges that Miller attacked her in 1978, but she was able to escape. If that allegation is true and law enforcement can prove it, it just might be the catalyst to keep a Michigan serial killer in prison for the rest of his life.

Get a copy of Rod Sadler’s book, KILLING WOMEN: The True Story of Serial Killer Don Miller’s Reign of Terror.

Watch the book trailer here.

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