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A Massachusetts medical examiner has ruled the controversial death of 16-year-old Mikayla Miller a suicide a month after she was found dead in the woods near her home following a fight with classmates and a romantic partner.
The official cause of death was certified as asphyxia by hanging by the Massachusetts Office of the Chief Medical Examiner, according to local media. The Hopkinton Town Clerk’s Office said Tuesday evening it could only release hard copies of the certificate via mail or for pickup under state law.
Miller left her home between 9 and 10 p.m. on April 17, hours after the physical altercation with a mixed-race group of teens – and was discovered hanged from a tree the next morning.
Miller was Black and identified as LGBTQ, and her mother, Calvina Strothers, initially rejected an unofficial police assumption that Miller’s death had been a suicide. She said officers told her about that conclusion on April 18 and accused them of reaching it prematurely.
The family and activists called for increased transparency and a more thorough investigation from the Hopkinton Police.
The case attracted attention from prominent lawmakers, including “Squad” member Rep. Ayanna Pressley, D-Mass., who had called for a “full, transparent, independent investigation” into the death.
Her office declined to elaborate at the time and did not immediately respond to a Fox News request for comment Tuesday after the official cause of death was released.
Hopinkton is a majority-White community about 30 miles west of Boston, best known for being the starting point of the Boston Marathon.
In a lengthy May 6 news conference, Middlesex County District Attorney Marian Ryan laid out details surrounding some of the circumstances leading up to Miller’s death and the status of the investigation, but she stopped short of indicating a cause of death.
The teen had been found by a jogger on the morning of April 18, bound to a tree by the neck, according to Strothers.
The mother argued on social media that she believed her daughter had been lured into the woods by one of the other teens with whom she’d been in the earlier altercation.
But Ryan said investigators had checked the alibis of all five teens – two involved in the altercation, two who witnessed it and a fifth who remained in their car. None were in the woods that night, she said.
She also said it was “patently false” that her office and local police were dragging their feet on the investigation because of the victim’s race and sexual orientation, as critics had claimed.
During the May 6 news briefing, Ryan said she would release “every shred” of evidence once the investigation came to a close, so long as Miller’s family agreed to the move.
According to a timeline of events Ryan provided, Miller was in a common area of her apartment complex between 5:17 p.m. and 6:41 p.m. on Saturday, April 17. She was initially accompanied by two friends, who left before the encounter between Miller and a mixed-race group consisting of two males and two females, one of whom Ryan said she may have had romantic ties to. Another teen, a female, remained in the car the group arrived in.
One of the males and one of the females were each involved in the physical altercation with Miller, Ryan said, and the teen later told police she had been shoved and punched in the face. Officers found Miller with a bloody lip.
After the fight, the teens remained in the common area for roughly another 20 minutes, Ryan said, and Miller’s mom called police at around 7:20 p.m.
At around 9:30 p.m., Strothers went to bed, believing Miller was still in the home.
Records from Miller’s smartphone fitness app show she took about 1,316 steps between 9 and 10 p.m. that night, according to Ryan, and that distance roughly aligns with how far away a jogger found her body the next morning.
In a GoFundMe campaign, the mother wrote that she had no reason to believe her daughter was suicidal.
Strothers wrote she was heartbroken and confused when police knocked on her door on April 18 and allegedly told her that Miller had committed suicide in the woods.
“It is unacceptable that my daughter’s death was considered a suicide without an investigation,” she wrote.
Strothers described her daughter as an honors student who loved basketball and dreamed of studying journalism at Howard University or Spelman College.
In a statement, Ryan’s office said that the investigation would remain ongoing and that investigators expected to release a full report upon its conclusion.
If you or someone you know is having thoughts of suicide, please contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).
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