Murder-suicide leaves three dead

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Autopsies of three bodies found near the baseball fields at Southwest School in Washburn on Friday night support initial law enforcement theories that the two men and one woman died as a result of a double murder-suicide.

Carl D. Miller, 42, of Washburn, died from a single gunshot wound to the right temple. Miller's ex-wife, Rhonda R. Miller, 39, of Washburn suffered six gunshot wounds, and her boyfriend, Donald F. Horton, Jr., 45, of Bentonville, Ark., was the victim of three gunshot wounds.

According to reports issued by Barry County Coroner Skip White, who was present when the autopsies were performed at Southwest Missouri Forensics on Monday in Springfield, it was a shot to the back of the head that most likely killed both Rhonda Miller and Horton.

"We're now safe in saying it was a murder-suicide," said White.

A nine-millimeter semi-automatic pistol was found under the body of Carl Miller, and according to Barry County Sheriff Mick Epperly, no other weapons were found at the scene.

The bodies were first discovered by Missouri State Highway Patrol Trooper Les Wilson, who saw two motorcycles and a mail truck parked in the ballfield parking lot at around 10 p.m. on July 18 and decided to investigate. The vehicles were empty and when Wilson looked around the area, he saw three bodies in the grassy area between two ballfields.

"At first he thought it was some kids hiding from him," said Epperly. "And then he realized it was three deceased people."

Investigators with the Barry County Sheriff's Department and members of the Highway Patrol's Division of Drug and Crime Control were called to the scene and the investigation into the three deaths began.

Epperly said neighborhoods near the ballfields, which are located just below Southwest Middle School, were canvassed Friday night, and several witnesses said they saw three people sitting at the picnic tables near the ballfields at various times from 7 to 9 p.m. that night, but no one said the three people were arguing or fighting.

"One person did report they heard something that sounded like fireworks or shots," said Epperly.

The reason for the meeting at the ballfields is not known. Investigators do know that Carl Miller and Rhonda Miller had been divorced since December of 2007, and the couple have two children together. Rhonda Miller and Horton were involved in a relationship and allegedly living together.

"We've learned Carl was very distraught about the divorce and was really upset," said Epperly. "We feel he may have just snapped."

According to White, the shooting most likely occurred after dark between 9 and 9:30 p.m. He pronounced the three dead at 10:40 p.m.

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  • We miss Rhonda. My 6 year old says she will make a beautiful angel in heaven.

    -- Posted by lena123 on Thu, Jul 24, 2008, at 6:53 PM
  • I keep thinking about our last conversation,and I just wish i could have convinced you otherwise. I am going to remember you always and miss you very much.

    -- Posted by renee on Sat, Jul 26, 2008, at 5:23 PM
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