A Profile of Tim Miller and Texas EquuSearch
In 1984, Tim Miller's life was profoundly altered. His daughter, Laura, was missing. The last time anyone had seen the 16-year-old was at a local convenience store, talking on the phone. When Miller discusses what happened to Laura, he likes to start at the beginning, because she did not have an easy time in this world and her murder was just one of many things that had happened to her.
"Laura had a lot of struggles in her life," he says. "When she was six months old, she got very sick and we almost lost her. She was in a coma for a day and a half, but then she came out of that and her fever went down. She seemed all right, but years later she had a seizure, because the fever had left scar tissue in her brain. So for about seven years we struggled with her seizure problem. Then eventually she grew out of it and became an A and B student. She loved music and sang all the time. She was popular in school and had a lot of friends. It looked like she would be all right."
But she wasn't. When Laura was eleven, she came down with the flu, which gave her yet another high fever, with the return of the seizures. "Her whole life was kind of stripped away from her," Miller muses. The family felt disheartened by this set-back. But the worst was yet to come.
The Millers moved to a new house, and Tim and his wife worked different shifts. One day he went to work, while Laura's mother took Laura to the payphone at the local convenience store so she could talk with her boyfriend, Vernon. When her mother asked her to hurry up because she'd be late for work, Laura wanted to continue talking. "It's only half a mile," she said. "I'll walk."
That seemed all right. It was the middle of the day and Laura knew her way back. But she didn't come back. When her parents returned home from work, she wasn't there.
"We didn't think a lot about it," says Miller. "We just figured Laura got home early, and her and Vernon took a walk. But then Vernon showed up without her and we asked where Laura was. He said he had talked to her on the phone, but he hadn't heard from her since. That's when we started getting concerned. We looked all over that night, and then we drove all over the neighborhood."
The next morning they went to the police department to file a missing person's report, but the officers dismissed Laura as a probable runaway. Miller said that was out of character for her and also noted that she had a serious seizure disorder and needed her medication. The officers had a response: girls her age were smart and could find what they needed on the street. That made little sense to Miller, but he did not know how to get them to do something.
As he looked frantically for possible avenues, he learned about a girl whom the police had found six months earlier, murdered and dumped somewhere off Calder Drive. He returned to the police station, and the officer with whom he spoke assured him that the murdered girl, Heidi, had worked in a bar, implying that whatever she got she was asking for. To them, it had been an isolated incident.
"Well, then about three days later," Miller says, "I found out that Heidi had lived only four blocks away from us." So he went back to the police and asked if they could at least tell him where Heidi had been found so he could go there and search the area himself. They refused to provide information, saying it was private property.
After five days without hearing from Laura, Miller knew in his heart that she was dead. "I didn't have a clue what to do. I think I tried to drink myself to death. I couldn't work. I lost my job. Laura's mother and I didn't have the best relationship and it certainly got worse. Every time our phone would ring, or someone would drive by the house slowly or knock on our door, I got heart palpitations. I didn't know if they were bringing me good news, that they'd found Laura and were bringing her home, or if they were bringing bad news that she was dead."
But for more than a year and a half, no one brought any news.