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FBI help sought in case of South Carolina pastor’s estranged wife Mica Miller whose death has been ruled a suicide

Officials asked for federal help investigating the apparent suicide of a South Carolina pastor’s wife amid allegations of abuse, including a police report she filed the month before her death that said she feared for her life after her tires were deflated.

Mica Miller, 30, was found dead on April 27 at Lumber River State Park in North Carolina, about 70 miles north of where she lived in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. The North Carolina Medical Examiner’s office later determined she died by suicide, the Robeson County Sheriff’s Office said last week.

In a release of findings, the sheriff’s office confirmed that Mica Miller’s estranged husband, John Paul Miller, 44, was not in North Carolina at the time of her death. He and “a woman he is reportedly dating” were both out of state, the news release said.

Pastor's wife (courtesy of Sierra Francis via law firm Regina B. Ward)Pastor's wife (courtesy of Sierra Francis via law firm Regina B. Ward)

Pastor’s wife (courtesy of Sierra Francis via law firm Regina B. Ward)

The Sun News, a local newspaper, reported Tuesday that the Robeson County Sheriff’s Office has requested federal assistance in investigating her death. That request was revealed after a rally last week where protesters called for justice in Mica Miller’s death and raised allegations that her estranged husband, John Paul Miller, had been abusive.

A lawyer for John Paul Miller has denied the abuse allegations, calling them “unfounded rumors” that have caused “tremendous distress and harm” to the pastor.

NBC News was unable to reach the sheriff’s office for more information about the request. A spokesperson for the FBI in Columbia, South Carolina, confirmed that the field office has communicated with the sheriff’s office, but noted that FBI policy prohibits confirmation or denial of a potential investigation.

A spokesperson for the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of South Carolina provided NBC News with a similar statement.

An attorney for Mica Miller’s family, Regina Ward, said she did not know why local officials had contacted federal authorities. But she questioned aspects of the local investigation — including the finding that Mica Miller died by suicide — and said the family would be “very cooperative” with a possible federal investigation.

Local community calls for ‘justice for Mica’

Mica Miller’s death has become a flashpoint in her community. Last week, a “Justice for Mica” rally was held outside Solid Rock Baptist Church in Myrtle Beach, where her husband worked.

The Facebook page dedicated to the event says she was “open about her journey of leaving her abusive husband and starting over.”

Solid Rock Baptist Church (Google Maps)Solid Rock Baptist Church (Google Maps)

Solid Rock Baptist Church (Google Maps)

“She wanted to raise awareness about the dangers of abuse and how it is never acceptable,” the page says. “It is heartbreaking to think that she may have suffered for a long time before making such a drastic decision.”

Mica and John Paul Miller married in 2017, Ward said, and she filed for legal separation last October. The case was dismissed in February after they agreed to try to reconcile, Ward said. Mica Miller filed for divorce again on April 15, according to a memorandum supporting a special administrator in her estate filed in probate court.

Ward represented Mica Miller when she filed for divorce last month. John Paul Miller received divorce papers on April 25, according to an affidavit from Mica Miller’s sister included in the filing.

Two days later, Mica Miller was found dead of what investigators believe was a self-inflicted gunshot wound. The sheriff’s office said they received a 911 call from a woman who said she “intended to kill herself and wanted her family to be able to find her body.”

Ward said she reviewed the sheriff’s death investigation and was concerned about how local authorities had handled the investigation.

Witnesses who confirmed John Paul Miller’s whereabouts were not identified in an investigative report, she said, and no autopsy, toxicology analysis or gunshot residue testing was performed on her body.

The sheriff’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment Wednesday. NBC News has filed a request with the North Carolina Medical Examiner’s office for Mica Miller’s records.

“I am concerned that the crime scene was investigated for the purpose of seeking evidence to support a finding of suicide, rather than an on-scene investigation,” Ward said.

Ward described Mica Miller as a diligent chronicler of her life — someone who wrote “diary after diary after diary,” she said — but it appears she left no note explaining her actions.

And during the 911 call, which Ward said he listened to, Mica Miller had a “flat affect” that conflicted with the voice she heard in her office and on the phone.

“It seemed to me she was under the influence of something,” Ward said.

Ward said she last spoke to her client on April 25, two days before her death, and did not mention traveling to North Carolina. She seemed “very committed” to the divorce, Ward said, and to creating a life “where she would be free of John Paul.”

‘If I got a bullet in the head… it was JP’

After Mica Miller’s death, her sister Sierra Francis filed to be appointed special administrator, claiming her sibling told her John Paul Miller had been abusive.

She also claimed in an affidavit that her sister had collected evidence for her divorce proceedings and that those documents and emails disappeared after Mica Miller was admitted to a mental health facility in February.

Pastor's wife (courtesy of Sierra Francis via law firm Regina B. Ward)Pastor's wife (courtesy of Sierra Francis via law firm Regina B. Ward)

Pastor’s wife (courtesy of Sierra Francis via law firm Regina B. Ward)

“Mica has said to me on many occasions, ‘If I get a bullet in the head, it wasn’t my fault, it was JP,’” Sierra Francis’ statement said.

Nathaniel Francis, her brother, also filed an affidavit that is included in the probate application. He said he was aware of several police reports Mica Miller filed after her tires were deflated, and that tracking devices were found on her car.

He added that his sister sent him an email, purportedly from John Paul Miller, apologizing to her for the flat tires and damage to her vehicle. The email was not included in the complaint and has not been seen by NBC News.

“Mr. Miller’s email to my sister still stated that he was angry when Mica confided in him or ‘put her family before him,’ and that made him want to hurt her,” the affidavit said . “In his words: ‘When someone hurts me, I try to hurt him or her instead of forgiving’ and ‘Instead of forgiving you… I just attack and try to cause pain. ‘”

NBC News obtained two redacted police reports from Horry County dated March 11 when Mica Miller called authorities about separate incidents that allegedly occurred hours apart. One of the reports stated that a responding officer removed a “tire deflation device that can be purchased online.”

The report later in the day stated that Mica Miller was on her way to a car dealership after speaking with the first officer, and that the “suspect in this incident” showed up at the gas station where she stopped along the way. According to the report, “she told him to go away, she doesn’t want to talk, and when she pulled out her phone to answer it, he ran away.”

“The victim told me she feared for her life,” the report said. “She also advised that she block his numbers and still receive calls and texts from him on other numbers.”

She later texted the officer that a mechanic had found a GPS tracking device in her car and that she was going to the magistrate’s office to apply for a restraining order, the report said.

The officer wrote in the report that while they were standing outside the magistrates’ office with Mica Miller, a car in front of them slowed down. After Mica Miller identified the driver as the “suspect,” the car accelerated and drove away.

Both reports did not name the suspect and the outcomes of the incidents were unclear. Horry County police did not immediately respond to a request for more information on Wednesday.

Pastor’s lawyer denies his wife’s allegations

Local news station WBTW published a press release on May 9 from Russel Long, an attorney representing John Paul Miller, denying the allegations against his client and describing them as “unfounded rumors” circulating on social media and various media outlets.

Long did not respond to requests for comment from NBC News.

“This created a buzz, causing local and national media to spread these falsehoods in gigantic proportions,” Long wrote in the press release. “Our client refutes every report that he ever abused his wife.”

He denied allegations that his client “groomed” Mica Miller from the age of 10, made in news articles that reported Mica claiming she was groomed in a police report.

NBC News has contacted the Myrtle Beach Police Department to obtain copies of reports related to Mica Miller.

Ward said her client may have meant 2010, not age 10. An obituary published for Mica Miller said the two had been “friends since 2009,” when she was about 15 and John Paul Miller was about 30.

Long’s statement went on to say that the “Mica was suffering from mental illness” and characterized her previous reports as “nonsensical.” Ward said neither she nor Mica Miller’s family knew she had been diagnosed with a mental illness.

“These baseless claims and false reporting have caused tremendous suffering and harm to Pastor Miller and his family and must stop immediately,” Long’s statement said.

MyHorryNews, a local news outlet, reported that John Paul Miller’s congregation at Solid Rock Baptist Church received an email on May 5 announcing that the pastor had been removed “from all ministerial positions for a time of healing, counsel and guidance, in accordance with our government regulations.” instrument.”

The church did not respond to an email seeking comment, and its website is no longer active. WayBackMachine’s Internet Archive contains multiple saved versions of his biography on the church’s website, dating back to 2016 and as recently as two weeks ago.

According to the preserved pages, John Paul Miller “gave his life to Jesus Christ” when he was in his 20s and began getting involved in the church. Before that, he thought the church was “for fake people who were different behind closed doors.”

If you or someone you know is in crisis, call or text 988 to reach the Suicide and Crisis Lifeline or chat live at 988lifeline.org. You can also visit SpeakingOfSuicide.com/resources for additional support.