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Police say no suspects in Goshen professor's murder

October 14, 2011|By Kelli Stopczynski (kstopczynski@wsbt.com)

GOSHEN, Ind. – Police have released new information about a crime that has crippled a local community with fear. The headline from Friday’s update – there are no suspects in Sunday’s home invasion and murder in Goshen, but they are interviewing several people in connection with the case.

Police Chief Wade Branson told reporters during a Friday news conference that his officers have put hundreds of man hours and every possible resource into the investigation.

When asked if people living in the community should be concerned that a killer is on the loose, Chief Branson responded, “Until he’s arrested, I would say yes.”

It’s not what people living in the close-knit community wanted to hear.

“I was hoping to come here hearing that they’ve caught the guy and feel a little safer,” said Jan Clark, who lives near the crime scene and attended Friday’s news conference.

Mayor Allan Kauffman told reporters the motive of the break-in is still unknown.

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Linda Miller helped a sketch artist draw a composite of the man who entered her home around 1 a.m. Sunday, first attacking her and then her husband. Police found Goshen College biology professor James Miller dead by his mailbox.

Chief Branson said Linda Miller has looked at a photo line-up, but she did not positively identify an 18-year-old man arrested earlier this week in connection with several burglaries in Elkhart and St. Joseph counties.

“That is an individual we interviewed, but the more press you give him as a suspect, then everyone’s going to think he’s the person that did it.  We have interviewed him,” Branson said.

He went on to add that man is not a suspect.

Mayor Kauffman attempted to calm people who spent the past six days living on edge.

“Remember, this is still the same Goshen that it was before this incident happened. Our hearts are heavier now. But we want people to be safe, not afraid,” he said.

“Everyone is anxious for closure in the investigation of this horrific crime,” Branson told reporters. 

But closure is something people who live in Goshen still don’t have.

“I’m very leary, I’m scared yet,” said Clark.

“I’ve not ever been scared in this town and I’m really scared now,” added Diana Hite, who also lives near the crime scene.

When asked whether the Millers knew the man who attacked them, Branson said he could not comment.

The police chief was also asked about this investigation in connection with the 2010 murder of a Niles couple. John and Carolyn Tarwacki were killed inside their Niles home and after nearly 700 tips and more than 300 interviews, they’ve yet to make an arrest in the case.

Branson told reporters he’s been in contact with investigators in Niles this week, but the connection between the two murder investigations is unclear. 

Full statement from Goshen Police

In addition to the news conference, police released the following statement:

"In the early morning hours of Sunday October 9th, Officers of the Goshen Police Department were dispatched to 1736 Wildwood Court in reference to an initial call of a robbery in progress.  The initial 9-1-1 call had been received by the Elkhart City Dispatch Center and was relayed to the Elkhart County Communication Center which is the agency who dispatches emergency personnel in Goshen.

"The two home owners, Mr. James S Miller and Mrs. Linda Miller were both home at the time of the incident.  Mrs. Miller stated that she was first to be attacked by the intruder with an unknown object.  During this time, her husband became involved in the attack.  Mrs. Miller was able to move away from the intruder and call 9-1-1 for assistance.

"Our midnight shift was dispatched at 1:06am and the first officers arrived on scene by 1:08am.  The suspect had fled the scene prior to police arrival.   Officers made entry into the home where Mrs. Miller was located.  While some officers were continuing to survey the home and search for the suspect, officers with Mrs. Miller called for Goshen paramedic to aide and treat her.  Mrs. Miller was transported to the IU Health Goshen Hospital and later transferred to South Bend Memorial Hospital for additional treatment.

"At some point during the attack on Mr. Miller, or immediately following, Mr. Miller exited his home.  Mr. Miller was discovered outside the residence, lying on the ground in the street near the residence’s mailbox.  James S Miller, 58 years of age, suffered fatal injuries as a result of the attack and was pronounced dead at the scene.

"As aide was being given to Mrs. Miller additional officers were called in immediately to assist in the search for the suspect, secure and maintain the scene, continue the investigation of the incident, and cover for regular patrol on the street. 

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