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Manhunt intensifies in Northern California triple killing

May 10, 2013|By Hector Becerra
  • Shane Franklin Miller is a suspect in the deaths of his wife and 4-year-old and 8-year-old daughters in Northern California.
Shane Franklin Miller is a suspect in the deaths of his wife and 4-year-old… (Associated Press )

Heavily armored law enforcement agents pushed their search Friday through forestlands near the tiny Northern California town of Petrolia in their pursuit of a 45-year-old man suspected of gunning down his wife and his two young daughters.

Shasta County Lt. Dave Kent said the pursuit of Shane Franklin Miller was especially dangerous because it was suspected he might be heavily armed and because he knows the area well.

“We’re going into a vulnerable situation where we’re trying to search for him in a dense forest he knows very well and that we know adequately,” Kent said.

Miller is the only suspect in the Tuesday night triple killing of Sandy Miller, 34, and his daughters Shelby, 8, and Shasta, 5. Deputies responded to the family’s home near Shingletown, about 200 miles away from Petrolia, after getting a call from one of the victims while the shooting was taking place.

[Updated 2:33 p.m. May 10: Shasta County sheriff's officials had initially reported that the youngest child was 4, but Friday confirmed that she was 5.]

They were all shot more than once, Kent said. A cache of weapons was found later, but not the ones used in the killing. Miller’s truck was found near Petrolia late Wednesday.

Investigators were scouring it for evidence, and were also continuing to collect evidence at the home on the block of 28400 Alpine Way, where the shooting took place.

“There were some ammunition boxes found. There was a lot of weapons that were in his name and his wife’s name that have not been accounted for,” Kent said. “We’re not releasing the types of weapons we did find, but there’s other weapons outstanding, including the type of weapons involved in the crime. He’s armed and extremely dangerous with the types of weapons unaccounted for.”  

Kent said investigators believe Miller--who is described as 5-feet-10 and 200 pounds with red hair and blue eyes--may have kept weapons in various locations.

“We can’t confirm the types of weapons cached in other places,” he said.

Dennis Handy, a 69-year-old sculptor and Petrolia resident, said the town of about 300 residents has been overrun by a wave of law enforcement troops, with checkpoints limiting access to and from the area.

Military and other helicopters with heat-sensing technology have buzzed overhead and the U.S. Marshal and numerous other law enforcement officers with flak jackets are on the ground.

Residents are being told to keep doors locked and are being instructed to leave notes on the doors of their home if they leave.

“They say if we go out for any reason to put a note on the door with our name on it and where we are,” Handy said.

He said the town has a general store with a post office, a volunteer fire department and not much else spread over one block. It’s about 60 miles south of Eureka, along a large wilderness area that boasts one of the longest stretches of pristine, undeveloped coastline.

Handy said he first noticed something was amiss Wednesday afternoon while returning home through town. He noticed sheriff’s deputies with black flak jackets.

Humboldt County is known for the illegal marijuana trade, and Handy said that as he saw law enforcement vehicles pass him by, he thought they were about to bust someone for growing what he jokingly referred to as “non-domestic tobacco.”

But when Handy called the general store about 6:30 p.m., he was told there was a manhunt for a murderer. By Thursday morning, a steady parade of heavy law enforcement equipment was streaming into the town, he said.

Though wary of speaking about Miller, whom he does not know, Handy said it is common knowledge that he has a connection to the town, and that his reputation was rather fearsome.

He said more than a few residents, including a 75-year-old woman he spoke to at the general store, expressed concern.

On Friday, he said a military helicopter was sitting on a field near an old cemetery and sandwiches were being made at the general store for the searchers.

The scene was like something out of the first Rambo movie, “First Blood.” Handy said Petrolia is so named because petroleum was found underneath the town in the late 1800, though no oil boom ensued.

“It’s a paradise here,” Handy said. “We’d like to get our town back.”

Though investigators have not pinned down a motive, Miller has been in trouble with the law before. The Redding Record Searchlight in Shasta County reported that in 2002, he was charged in San Francisco with growing and selling marijuana, being a felon in possession of a firearm, possessing a machine gun and money laundering.

The newspaper reported Miller pleaded guilty to being a felon in possession of a firearm and was sentenced to 46 months in federal prison, according to court records.

Kent said Miller was discharged from federal parole within the last year, and that investigators are poring over his criminal history for clues.

Kent said investigators had received tips that Miller had a cabin in the forested Petrolia area, but that has not been confirmed. In any event, it wouldn’t be easy to find, he said, let alone very safely.

“There’s many cabins in the area we’re searching,” Kent said, who added that no motive has been discovered in the killing of Miller’s wife and two small children.

“Our main focus is trying to capture this murder suspect,” he said. “We’re hoping that when we do capture the subject, we can get more information.”


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