Meredith Dekalb Miller is featured on the Pursuit Podcast as she talks about her extraordinary time working on two high profile cases.
You can listen to the full podcast here:
Meredith’s part starts at 13:30 and goes until 30:31 as this podcast describes the entire case.
You can read Meredith’s speaking parts transcribed below
Main Speaker [00:00:01] Who was it written for? Why? Maybe it was meant to make no sense. Maybe to send investigators looking in one direction and not another. Yet, it was also left within a few feet of Faith’s body in a bloody, mindless, horrible scene.
Main Speaker [00:00:17] The note. It’s time to talk to a document expert now – a questioned documents analyst. Question to document experts often probe wills, deeds, medical records, tax and insurance records, time sheets, contracts, election petitions, checks, signed letters (typed or handwritten), and anonymous notes – a note like the one left by Faith Hedgepeth’s body after she was murdered.
Meredith DeKalb Miller [00:00:49] The question document profession is actually one of the oldest forensic sciences, to be honest, so it has a great, deep history, probably over 100 years old.
Main Speaker [00:01:03] I went to Meredith DeKalb Miller, now a consultant, but a professional who was trained, certified by, and worked for the FBI. These days, one of the things she does is travel globally, retained to work projects and a program in the Department of Justice called ICITAP (International Criminal Investigation Training Assistance Program).
Meredith DeKalb Miller [00:01:26] They hire either government forensic people or people like myself that have worked for the government at one time but now, we’re in private practice and so, they kind of use it as an outreach program to help train other forensic entities with different governments across the world. I love going abroad and seeing what other laboratories are doing and surprisingly, you might think like some of these laboratories are so far behind us but some of them are quite advanced.
Main Speaker [00:02:07] After emailing Miller with a bit of background and asking her to examine the note in Faith’s case, I caught up with her on the phone while she was on assignment in a faraway land. But before we get to Miller’s analysis of the note in Faith’s case, I think it’s helpful to tell you about one of the biggest cases Meredith Miller worked on while with the FBI and the specific painstaking job she did along with others to help bring a mass murderer to justice.
Pre-recorded Audio [00:02:41] What you’re hearing is one of those never-ending loops of music that plays at the gas pump where I’ve just finished filling up. I’m going to walk away a little bit now, get away from that music.
Pre-recorded Audio [00:03:00] Pumping gas is normal and mundane activity as you can think of, really. But there was a time, a short period of time, in what’s called the DMV, the District of Columbia, the Maryland suburbs in Northern Virginia, stretching 90 miles south to Richmond, when stopping for gas was a risk – a life and death risk. Innocently standing or strolling to and from your car in broad daylight, you might get shot by a sniper. In fact, back in the fall of 2002, some gas stations shrouded the general area of the pumps with dark plastic sheeting so a shooter couldn’t see exactly where people were so he couldn’t target them. That’s how bad it got. Outside gas stations, outside a Home Depot, a Michael’s craft store, a Ponderosa Steakhouse, Americana, and in all those places and more where the D.C. sniper did what he did. He and a young accomplice took these everyday trips for hundreds of thousands of people and randomly made them terrifying.
Main Speaker [00:04:16] The D.C. sniper case – a case, a trial – where Meredith Miller’s work was crucial.
News Reporter 1 [00:04:23] It was a terrifying situation for thousands of people – gunmen in the neighborhood killing individuals in a methodical way. It happened again and again and again.
News Reporter 2 [00:04:33] (inaudible) finally came to pass. An arrest came to an end in a rest stop in Western Maryland federal state and local authorities arrested D.C. snipers, John Allen Muhammad and Lee Boyd Malvo.
Police [00:04:43] The whole time that we had them in custody is not one word spoken and no emotion displayed, I mean, just a blank stare.
Meredith DeKalb Miller [00:04:51] Not only was the people at the FBI we worked the evidence from the case but just also I was a private person living in D.C. and Virginia and traveling to all these places all the time and having somebody just randomly picking people out of parking lots and shooting them, it was like a real fear for everybody. So they would have police checkpoints coming. I remember that too – getting trapped in some of those after there had been a shooting like on the interstate.
Main Speaker [00:05:26] One of the many documents Meredith Miller and others examined for John Allen Muhammad’s trial was a message from the killers. Outside that Ponderosa Steakhouse, a letter was found tacked on a tree wrapped in plastic. It said “For you, Mr. Police, call me God. Do not release to the press.” The letter demanded 10 million dollars. It also said “Accept our demands which are non-negotiable. Your children are not safe anywhere at any time.”
Meredith DeKalb Miller [00:06:01] And they had basically been living out of their car so everything from trash to receipts to just garbage you would have if you were living in your car all came to the lab and one of the documents that came in was like the drivers manual you get when you buy a car that’s usually in your glove box that you never tend to look at. So that came in and I was going through every single page of this manual, looking at it with light sources and I remember seeing indentation on one of the pages of the manual. And as I worked with the photographic unit, we were able to bring up those images and those indentation. And they were seeing indentations the same words that were used in one of the letters that the police had received because I could see the exact same image in some of parts of the words that were used in the letters. So the “Call me God” – I remember the “Call me God” was part of the letter that they had written and that part of the text was on that car manual indented into the pages. We were able to kind of recover those images that had been on the manual. I mean, you couldn’t see them just with the naked eye. They were something we saw with alternate lighting sources. But we were able to recover those and then that was the evidence that I presented at court like a year later or something.
Main Speaker [00:07:34] And after Miller presented that evidence in court under direct examination, she readied herself for the defense. The man questioning her in court was the accused John Muhammad, the suspected adult mastermind behind that run of death and domestic terror. He acted as his own attorney.
Meredith DeKalb Miller [00:07:56] So he actually was the one questioning me, like in the third person, about what I had recovered, And that was kind of strange because I had never had that before. There’s some type of personality where these people are – they think, I guess, they’re really clever and they know everything and nobody else can help them except themselves and so, and I think they kind of enjoy the spotlight a little bit. He’s actually the person questioning me about the case. And oh yeah, it was bizarre. I just remember one moment where he was asking me about the evidence and I don’t know if I was reading or I was showing or demonstrating but I remember that “Call me God” phrase was one of the things that had been developed from the manual and so I had stated there was the phrase – that “Call me God” phrase – and I remember he just went crazy when I said that and he approached the judge and he said “listen”. He had this huge fit about me coming up and testifying about this and I remembered the judge had to call everyone, all the attorneys up to the bench and go through what exactly was going to be happening with me as a witness. It’s almost like I had caught him a little bit by surprise. You may not have been exactly knowing what I was going to say because obviously he didn’t. He hadn’t had any access to me and I was prevented as part of the prosecution’s case and so he must have, I think he was shocked. Everybody remembers those words about the “Call me God” phrase that he had put on the note. And so once I said that, it was like pandemonium broke out. And I just remember everybody rushing up to the bench and he was like so mad.
Main Speaker [00:09:56] Miller said what she had to say, demonstrated her expertise in questioned documents, in investigations, in testimony under unusual pressure, being challenged from a few feet away by a man who would soon be convicted of murder and eventually executed.
Main Speaker [00:10:20] Now, back to Faith’s case. The note in Faith’s case. The utterance reading on a fast food bag. Line one: I’m not stupid. Line two: Bitch. Line 3: Jealous. All caps. Here’s Meredith Miller again.
Meredith DeKalb Miller [00:10:39] The first thing I tried to look at was basically if the writing appeared, like I said, the first thing I would look at is if the writing appears natural or if it possibly, could be distorted or disguised. And I think with this note, you definitely have some type of distortion going on. I do think there is some element of disguise. I don’t think the person’s writing in their natural writing particularly. No, I’m not certain that they are with all the letter formation. It doesn’t look exactly natural to me. But generally if somebody is writing in a capital type, capital all caps, basically, this type of anonymous note or letter, I mean, this is not their natural writing style. Generally.
Main Speaker [00:11:36] That’s something you see right away when you see it, right?
Meredith DeKalb Miller [00:11:40] Right. This is not going to be their normal kind of natural writing. No.
Main Speaker [00:11:46] So Miller suspects someone is trying to distort their writing but one of the people there at the murder scene left his DNA in several places away to identify him. But the note right by Faith’s body is likely distorted. Why? The same person whose biological material is on and around Faith’s body and on a murder weapon is suddenly trying to hide their identity by disguising their handwriting?
Meredith DeKalb Miller [00:12:13] Just looking at the note, the other thing that kind of stood out to me is that all of the spelling is right. Spelling the word jealous is not really an easy word to spell necessarily so it made me think it was possibly somebody that was somewhat educated that could spell that word.
Main Speaker [00:12:33] Can you discern or find any indicators of right hand left hand and/or gender?
Meredith DeKalb Miller [00:12:46] No. Handedness is – you can’t determine that from the writing. Especially a note that looks somewhat distorted or possibly disguised, there’s no way to determine if his left hand or right hand. Trying to determine the sex of the writer or the occupational status or those types of things, generally, you can not discern from handwriting alone. People like to make guesses based on the writing if it’s a male or a female but generally, there’s no way to actually determine that, if it’s male or female or age or any of those types of things.
Main Speaker [00:13:27] The words again over three lines – I’m not stupid, bitch, jealous.
Meredith DeKalb Miller [00:13:33] And I was kind of caught up with the language itself. It seemed to me it would be like somebody in like the age group of the victim, somewhat similar age group, because I feel like that’s how young adults would speak to each other. It seems very yeah, very colloquial I guess is the word. It seems very much like it’s how the person would speak. And I also feel like it’s kind of referring to something specific so it’s almost like it must have been some kind of incident that occurred that a handful of people would know about. And I feel like in that close circle of her friends, somebody would know what this incident was. There was some type of incident or conversation or something that happened. And this person is kind of retorting back to that. It’s like there’s a lot of you want to say, like a lot of hate there – vengeance or something. I mean, it’s just, yeah, I’m kind of surprised you had the composure to kind of sit and even write something like somebody kind of like putting the final exclamation point on the crime like big done this heinous crime and then there’s the awful this, bang, here, take this too.
Main Speaker [00:15:01] I’ve long wondered and so does Meredith Miller whether the assailant and the writer of the note are the same person.
Main Speaker [00:15:09] Well, this former detective said the very same thing. He said the attack is fairly uncontrolled and the note is controlled.
Meredith DeKalb Miller [00:15:18] Yeah. It almost makes me think like maybe two people were there like somebody did the killing part and like somebody else maybe wrote the note. I mean, because it doesn’t kind of go together – the brutality of the crime and like this kind of note.
Main Speaker [00:15:38] And speaking beyond what her training would allow but based on her experience with documents and in life, Meredith Miller says there’s something else about the note in its own way identifying.
Meredith DeKalb Miller [00:15:51] Yes, it’s just a thought, like how I feel like a girl would talk to another girl.
Main Speaker [00:15:56] Right. So to be clear, this is not part of your question documents study –
Meredith DeKalb Miller [00:16:00] No. It’s a part of my FBI training. It’s just the language used reminds me of something a girl would say to another girl.
Main Speaker [00:16:09] What a girl would say to another girl. Let’s hear again from Susan Constantine, a statement analyst you heard a lot from in Episode 6 of Pursuit.
Susan Constantine [00:16:20] But it sounds more like it’s a female writing it to another female because the word “jealous” was in there. Jealous is not a word that you would typically hear from a guy to a woman. It would be from a woman to a woman.
Main Speaker [00:16:39] Men are of course jealous all the time – jealous enough to kill. It happens again and again. It may have happened in Faith’s case but using the word “jealous”, admitting it’s even crossed their mind almost never happens. Now again, Chris Morgan, who has also thought a lot about that mystery note, he says he believes that note is a ruse.
Chris Morgan [00:17:04] It’s staging. That’s what it’s called.