UPDATE: Don Miller has been denied parole. Read more here.
This story includes descriptions of graphic violence, and may be disturbing for some people.
Don Miller might be the Lansing area’s most notorious serial killer. Between 1977 and 1978, he took the lives of four young women. A new book by a retired Eaton County Sheriff’s sergeant explores the Miller case.
We know of four women who died at the hands of Don Miller, starting with his former fiancée, Martha Sue Young. She was 19. His other victims, Marita Choquette, Wendy Bush and Kristine Stuart, ranged in age from 21 to 30.
Choquette worked at WKAR-TV. Bob Page was station manager at the time. "Everybody was not only surprised, but shocked that one of our own staff members could possibly have been a victim of such a heinous crime, but there was nothing much we could do other than grieve, collectively and individually.”
In the summer of 1978, Miller was caught by police shortly after raping and attempting to kill a 14-year-old girl, and trying to murder her brother.
In Killing Women, author Rod Sadler takes a deep dive into the Miller case. Sadler, a retired Eaton County Sheriff’s Department sergeant, goes into the exhaustive detail you might expect from a cop. He has pored over police station interviews and court transcripts, and he’s done extensive interviews with prosecutors and family members of victims.
Sadler has struck up a friendship with Miller’s father, Gene, who reportedly thinks his son has been rehabilitated in prison. Gene Miller convinced his son to write letters to Sadler about the case. Sadler says he took the first brief letter he got from Miller with a grain of salt. “I thought well, it’s promising, but I’ll wait and see if it actually happens," Sadler explains. "And then, believe it or not, a couple weeks later, I did get a second letter from him, a very detailed letter, two pages, hand-written, about what went on when he killed Martha Sue Young and the three other women.”
Untreated, I could (like a blocked steam pipe) only stockpile so much anger, frustration, and over two to three years accumulation via repression. I exploded like a steam pipe on Martha Young, and wrongfully took her life, while at the same time crying out ‘the pain must stop. My God, I wish I could undo all this. Letter from Don Miller to author Rod Sadler
Miller confesses to taking three more lives in this correspondence, though he fails to mention the rape and two other attempted murders. These letters are included in Killing Women.
Through the Michigan Department of Corrections, Miller declined to be interviewed for this story.
In a 1979 plea bargain agreement that resolved the Young and Stuart murders and led authorities to the bodies of Choquette and Bush, Miller pleaded guilty to reduced charges of manslaughter and using a weapon in the commission of a rape. The sentences ran concurrently until 2007. He remains in prison for a 1998 conviction related to the discovery of a weapon in his prison cell, a garrote that could be used to strangle someone.
Miller is 65 years old now, and eligible for a parole hearing next year. If he serves his full term with no more convictions, he’ll be released in 2031 at the age of 76. The prospect of Don Miller ever being a free man is disturbing to author Rod Sadler. "In 2031," Sadler states, "Don Miller will have served his time, and Don Miller will be released from the Corrections Department, and Don Miller will live among us again.”
Sadler says Martha Sue Young’s sister Kay asked him why he was writing about the case. He says the possibility of Miller’s release, more than fifty years after his crimes, was his motivation. He concludes that “people have forgotten who Don Miller is, and people have forgotten what Don Miller did, and Don Miller’s going to get out of prison some day, and people need to know that.”