FBI aid requested in case of Mica Miller, South Carolina pastor’s estranged wife whose death was ruled suicide

Officials asked for federal assistance in the investigation into the apparent suicide of a South Carolina pastor’s wife amid allegations of abuse, including a police report she filed the month before she died saying she feared for her life after her tires were deflated.

Mica Miller, 30, was found dead April 27 at Lumber River State Park in North Carolina, roughly 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 Miller’s estranged husband, John Paul Miller, 44, was not in North Carolina when she died. He and “a female that he is allegedly romantically involved with” were out of the state, the release said.

Mica Miller.Courtesy Sierra Francis via Law Firm of Regina B. Ward

The Sun News newspaper of Myrtle Beach reported Tuesday that the Robeson County Sheriff’s Office has requested federal assistance in the investigation. The request was revealed after a rally last week where demonstrators called for justice in Mica Miller’s death and raised allegations that John Paul Miller was abusive.

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

The sheriff’s office could not be reached for more information about the request. A spokesperson for the FBI in Columbia, South Carolina, confirmed the field office has communicated with the sheriff’s office but noted that FBI policy prohibits confirming or denying potential investigations.

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

A lawyer for Mica Miller’s family, Regina Ward, said she was unaware why local officials had reached out to 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 potential federal probe.

Local community calls for ‘Justice for Mica’

Mica Miller’s death has become a flashpoint in her community. A “Justice for Mica” rally was held last week 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 anew.”

Solid Rock Baptist Church
Solid Rock Baptist Church in Myrtle Beach, S.C.Google Maps

“She wanted to spread 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 were married in 2017, Ward said, and she filed for legal separation in October. The case was dismissed in February after they agreed to try to reconcile, Ward said. Mica Miller again filed for separation on April 15, according to a memorandum in support of a special administrator in her estate that was filed in probate court. 

Ward represented Mica Miller when she filed for separation last month. John Paul Miller was served with the separation 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 determined was a self-inflicted gunshot wound. The sheriff’s office said it had received a 911 call from a woman who said she was “going 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 with how local authorities had handled the probe.

An investigative report did not identify witnesses who corroborated John Paul Miller’s whereabouts, she said, and no autopsy, toxicology analysis or gunshot residue tests were 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’m concerned the scene was investigated for the purposes of looking for evidence to support a finding of suicide, as opposed to investigating the scene,” Ward said.

Ward described Mica Miller as a diligent chronicler of her life — someone who “wrote journal after journal after journal,” she said — yet she does not appear to have left a note explaining her actions.

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

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

Ward said that she last spoke to her client on April 25, two days before she died, and that she did not mention traveling to North Carolina. She appeared “very engaged” in the separation, Ward said, and in creating a life “where she would be free from John Paul.”

‘If I end up with a bullet in my head … it was JP’

Following Mica Miller’s death, Sierra Francis, her sister, filed the request to be appointed as special administrator, alleging that her sibling expressed to her that John Paul Miller was abusive.

She also alleged in an affidavit that her sister had been compiling evidence for her separation proceedings and that those documents and emails disappeared after Mica Miller was hospitalized at a mental health facility in February.

pastor's wife
Sierra Francis, left, and her sister, Mica Miller.Courtesy Sierra Francis via Law Firm of Regina B. Ward

“Mica stated to me on many occasions ‘if I end up with a bullet in my head, it was not by me, it was JP,’” Francis’ affidavit said.

Nathaniel Francis, her brother, also submitted an affidavit that is included in the probate filing. He said that 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 forwarded him an email purportedly from John Paul Miller to her in which he apologized to her about the deflated tires and the damage to her vehicle. The email was not included in the probate filing and has not been seen by NBC News.

“Mr. Miller’s email to my sister continued to state that he was angry when Mica confided 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 them back rather than forgive’ and ‘instead of me forgiving you…. I just attack and try to cause pain.’”

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

The report from later in the day said that Mica Miller was on her way to a car dealership after having spoken with the first officer and that the “suspect in this incident” showed up at the gas station where she stopped on the way. According to the report, “she told him to go away she does not want to talk and then when she pulled her phone out to record he sped off.”

“The victim advised me she was afraid for her life,” the report said. “She also advised she blocks his numbers and still gets calls and texts from him on other numbers.”

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

The officer wrote in the report that while they were standing with Mica Miller in front of the magistrate’s office, a car slowed down in front of them. After Mica Miller identified the driver as the “suspect,” the car sped up and drove off, the report said.

The suspect was not named in either report, and the outcomes of the incidents were unclear. The Horry County Police Department did not immediately respond to a request for more information Wednesday.

Pastor’s attorney denies allegations by wife

WBTW-TV of Florence, South Carolina, published a news release dated Thursday from Russell 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 a request for comment.

“This created a buzz, causing local and national media outlets to begin proliferating these falsehoods, on a mammoth proportion,” Long wrote in the release. “Our client refutes any report that suggests 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 that Mica Miller alleged she had been groomed in a police report.

NBC News has asked Myrtle Beach police for copies of reports linked to Mica Miller.

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

Long’s statement went on to say the “Mica suffered from mental illness” and characterized her previous reports as “nonsensical.” Ward said neither she nor Mica Miller’s family were aware of her having been diagnosed with a mental illness. 

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

MyHorryNews, a local news outlet, reported that John Paul Miller’s congregation at Solid Rock Baptist Church was sent an email on May 5 announcing he had been released “from all ministerial functions for a time of healing, counsel, and guidance, pursuant to our governing instrument.”

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

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

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