Decades-old cold case heats up with new information - WVVA TV Bluefield Beckley WV News, Weather and Sports

Decades-old cold case heats up with new information


BECKLEY (WVVA) A new cold case committee is taking a closer look at several decades-old cold cases and, one in particular, is heating up quick. 

Recently, detectives from several different branches of law enforcement in Raleigh County brought together new and retired investigators to re-examine the Cynthia Miller case. The Park Junior High Teacher, 27, was killed on the eve of her wedding on August 27,1981.

New information has led law enforcement to a break in the case, but they need help from the public to crack it. 

"It was kind of a terrible case in particular. She was about to open a new chapter in her life and it was taken right out from underneath her,"  said the lead detective on the case, Beckley Police Sgt. Morgan Bragg. 

Cynthia had just bought a home at 103 Miller Street in Beckley.  She was set to be married to her fiance, Lester Police Officer Gary O'Neal, but the beautiful teacher, who had her whole life ahead of her, never lived to see the day.

"She was actually found by her husband-to-be, shot multiple times, seemingly for no reason," added Sgt. Bragg

Her fiance, Gary called 911 just after midnight after finding his bride- to- be dead on their living room floor.  He had been out the night before visiting his father.  Police immediately began searching for clues as to who murdered Cynthia.  There was no sign of forced entry and nothing in the home had been disturbed or taken.  An autopsy revealed there were no signs of a struggle or assault.  Examiners determined the shooting occurred around 9:30 p.m. on the eve of her wedding day.

With little information, police turned to family members, friends and neighbors. There was a body but no motive. Everybody police interviewed only had good things to say about the deeply religious teacher. 

"With a body and a cold case, one of the things that you don't have to prove is that the person didn't just leave and disappear. You have actual evidence that the person was a victim of a homicide and we know what led to the death," said Jeff Shumate, a Special Investigator for the Raleigh County Prosecuting Attorney's office. 

Lately, the mystery of what happened on that hot Summer night is starting to come into focus. In time, usually, witnesses die and memories fade. But now, time, which is usually an enemy of investigators, could by their ally.

"We're hoping maybe there was a relationship with the suspect who committed this crime and now that time has passed, can help us bring closure to the investigation," said Sgt Bragg. 

Thanks to some generous benefactors, CrimeStoppers has put up a billboard with Cynthia Miller's picture on South Fayette Street, not far from from the Miller Street home where her life was taken.

The hope is that someone will notice; someone will care to bring justice for her family.

Retired Detective Frank Pack still remembers the daily visits by Cynthia's father to the police department. Every day, he came looking for answers, but left empty-handed. 

"Police don't give up. The families don't give up. And I hope the suspects know that we don't give up. It's in the hands of the next generation of police officers and it will be solved," said Pack. 

The question is, can you help police solve it? CrimeStoppers is offering a $10,000 reward for anyone with information leading to an arrest or conviction.  Those with information can call CrimeStoppers at 255-STOP or visit their new website at Tips will remain anonymous.

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