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Miller murder investigation now focuses on 'other persons' | Crime

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Miller murder investigation now focuses on 'other persons'
Crime, News
Miller murder investigation now focuses on 'other persons'

Now that a jury has convicted 29-year-old Jessica Kennedy of helping rob and kill Monroe County Election Commissioner Jim Miller, the victim's family wonders what is next in the ongoing investigation of those Kennedy supposedly helped.

Miller was found in the trunk of his burning car shot and killed in July 2010.  Monday night a jury convicted Kennedy on four counts of facilitating second-degree murder, robbery, arson, and abuse of a corpse in the slaying.  Investigators and Kennedy have always asserted there were more people involved in Miller's death.

The jury convicted Kennedy of helping others kill Miller, but nobody
else has been arrested or charged in the two years since the murder.  Nonetheless, Jim Miller's younger brother Larry Miller said he is satisfied with the progress of the investigation.

"There is some comfort in knowing she [Kennedy] won't be out here doing
anything for a few years and there's comfort in knowing the others won't
be out here at some point," said Larry Miller.  "We have some experience with this process and dealt with this in 1977 with another brother who was murdered."

More Miller Murders

Larry Miller grew up in Sweetwater as one of his parents 12 children.  There were a total of six boys and six girls born into the Miller family, but Larry's life experience was as one of 10 siblings.

"I have two sisters who died before I was born," said Larry Miller.  "We were raised in this rural community and worked on the dairy farm.  Jim was the last of the first six and I was the first of the second six.  I beat my twin brother by about 45 minutes."

When Jim Miller was killed in July 2010, it marked the second time one of Larry's brothers was murdered.

"An older brother Dennis was killed in
Knoxville.  He was actually with Jim at the time and they got into it with somebody.  They stabbed Dennis to death outside.  They stabbed Jim, too, but he obviously survived.  As soon as it happens you want to know who and why," said Miller.  "In the end you have to have faith the system works. That's what our
father told us in '77.  I feel like that's what's happened here [with Kennedy]."

Patience for proof of 'Other Persons'

A gravel path off Sands Road near Sweetwater is where Jim Miller's car was found burning with his dead body in the trunk.  More than two years later, black stains still remain on the driveway's rocks along with melted chunks of rubber from the burning vehicle. After two years investigators are still following a long road to catch the others responsible for Jim Miller's murder.

"We already have a date picked in two weeks we're going to get our investigation team back together and from there we'll see where we are with the other persons we believe to be involved," said Jim Stutts, prosecutor in the Kennedy trial.  "We'll begin to develop the proof on them and build a case the same way we did with Miss Kennedy."

Stutts declined to name anyone currently believed to be involved in the murder.  However, several names repeatedly came up during Kennedy's trial.

Evidence that was sent to the Tennessee Bureau of Investigations crime lab early in the investigation included documentation that named Brandon Steele as the suspect in the crime.  Steele is a former boyfriend of Kennedy.

Over the course of the trial, the jury watched several recorded interviews with Kennedy where she mentioned Steele and Wallace 'Boonie' Stokes as other people involved in the crime.  In one video Kennedy laments that she is being held responsible for Miller's death while Stokes and Steele remain free.

"Brandon and Boonie are still going to walk. Watch. They're going to walk on this," said Kennedy.

Boonie Stokes has a history of being convicted of murder after prolonged investigations.  He was found guilty of second degree murder for the 1997 killing of a Meigs County woman named Katherine Jean Frye.  In that case it took TBI several years to finally prove Stokes was responsible for Frye's murder.

Neither Steele nor Stokes have been arrested or charged in the Miller investigation. Both testified during Kennedy's trial that they were in no way involved in Miller's death.

Larry Miller said he is willing to wait for solid evidence that provides the full truth about whoever killed his brother.

"You can't bring a person to trial unless you bring the proof to convict them. If it doesn't hold up, it is worthless," said Miller.  "There are always some unsolved crimes, but I honestly believe the folks doing this investigation want to catch the people responsible and will do it if they can."

Jessica Kennedy's appointed lawyer, John Eldridge, said Monday night that his client would consider helping with future investigations if asked.  Stutts said he has not made that request.

Kennedy's sentencing hearing is currently set for October 3, 2012.  The facilitation of first-degree murder conviction carries a penalty of 15 to 25 years.

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