Friends struggling with why religious Irmo man would kill his family, himself

nophillips@thestate.comJanuary 16, 2014 

A photo shows a smiling family wearing their Sunday best while standing on the front porch of a recently bought home.

The happiness in that Facebook picture – and dozens of others posted on the social media site – is how friends and acquaintances knew the Miller family.

And people who talked Thursday about that family said they don’t understand what would have led the father, 38-year-old Sheddrick Byron Miller, to shoot and kill his wife and two children before turning a gun on himself.

“I’m sick to my stomach,” said Tammy Doctor, who owns a beauty salon next to a barber shop that Miller owned. “He never showed one sign. I can’t see it.”

Richland County Coroner Gary Watts released a short report Thursday identifying Miller, his wife, 28-year-old Kia Von Miller, and their children, Kyler, 3, and Syrai, 1. Each family member died from a gunshot to the head, Watts said.

It appeared that Sheddrick Miller shot his children and wife before turning the gun on himself, the coroner said. However, the exact time and the circumstances surrounding the shootings remain under investigation, he said.

Two cars were parked Thursday evening outside the family’s white, two-story home in the Riverwalk subdivision off Broad River Road. Two teddy bears and a splash of white flowers had been placed in the front yard.

Richland County sheriff’s investigators said they were called to the home around 10:30 a.m., Wednesday by Sheddrick Miller’s mother. She had gone to the house after she did not hear from her son for several days, according to earlier sheriff’s department reports.

Investigators found the children in their own bedrooms and the adults were found together in another room. A handgun was near the father, the sheriff’s reports stated.

The family appeared to have spent much of their time in the Broad River Road area as their home, business and church were off the major thoroughfare that runs from north Columbia to Irmo.

They attended the Kingdom Hall of Jehovah’s Witness, where they were known by pretty much everyone in the congregation, said Gary Malcome, a minister. A neighbor said the couple hosted Bible studies at their home.

Church members were struggling to accept the news, and Malcome said they hoped to release a statement soon.

“As you can imagine the situation is just terrible, and we don’t know what to say at this time,” Malcome said as he put his hand on his forehead. “What do you say in a case like this?”

Malcome said he was just trying to take care of his congregation.

Sheddrick Miller owned Kyler’s Barber Shop, a storefront tucked into a pocket of small businesses on Seminole Road, off Broad River Road. The shop was named after his son. Miller also had created a line of fragrances that he had named “Syrai” after his daughter and sold them in the shop.

Miller had owned the barber shop for several years, Doctor said. They visited each other’s shops often to talk or to make change if one of them needed smaller bills, she said.

The shop had a barber’s chair shaped like a race car for children, and the Millers’ son would sit in it when he came to work with his father, she said. Doctor also described Miller as a “genius with the clippers,” saying he could cut any design into a person’s close-cropped hair.

Kia Miller was a stay-at-home mom, Doctor said. The couple each had ties to New York, she said.

“He was a religious man,” she said. “He loved his kids. Beautiful wife.”

Jehovah’s Witnesses do not celebrate Christmas, but the Miller family had gone to Walt Disney World in Orlando over the holidays, Doctor said. Sheddrick Miller was expected to re-open his shop on Monday but did not, she said.

“His clients started coming over here,” Doctor said. “They had been calling and calling and calling.”

As far as Doctor could tell, the Millers were a happy, loving family. There were no outward signs of problems, she said. She said she has no idea why Sheddrick Miller would have shot his family and himself.

Richland County Sheriff Leon Lott declined to offer further details about what might have caused Sheddrick Miller to do what he did.

“It’s a tragic situation,” he said.

In 2013, domestic violence led to an increase in homicides in the county, Lott said. He lamented that 2014 has started with four homicides caused by domestic violence.

“What bothers us is how do we prevent this from happening,” he said.

Reporter Cassie Cope contributed.

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