Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Remembering Kristin Lodge-Miller

During 1993 and into 1994, I drove every morning down Estes Drive in Chapel Hill. My attention was often drawn to a pile of flowers I would see there, near Phillips Middle School. I say "pile" rather than "arrangement" because they appeared to have been tossed there by people walking by. Every once in a while it would look like someone had spruced it up a bit, making it more into an arrangement. But every day the display got bigger and bigger.

I knew what that was about because I was reading the Chapel Hill Newspaper. On July 15, 1993, a jogger was gunned down at that spot. Her name was Kristin Ann Lodge-Miller. She was 26 years old, and she worked as a speech therapist.
Her killer was an 18 year old student at Chapel Hill High School. Anthony Georg "Tony" Simpson was known as a very troubled young man. He was riding his bicycle and carrying a concealed .32 caliber handgun. At around 6:00 AM on a busy street, Simpson assaulted Lodge-Miller on the jogging trail, and got pepper-sprayed for it. Enraged, he pulled out his handgun and shot her 5 times. This he did in daylight in front of many witnesses. The 5th time he shot her was in the back of the head as she lay dying. He was arrested almost immediately afterward.

Since then, artificial flowers, sometimes in baskets, sometimes casually tossed by people walking by, and at least one styrofoam cross, appeared on or near that spot. It was interesting to watch it grow every day. As shocking as it was to know that such a crime of senseless violence could occur in such a peaceful town, it did my heart good to see that people cared enough to make a shrine for her.

Every day for the rest of that year, the pile of flowers kept on getting bigger. Then one day, when it was decided that the jury for Simpson's trial should be taken to see the scene of the crime, the whole display was removed. It was supposed that the jurors shouldn't see that, though I didn't really understand why. It was said that it might somehow "bias" the jury. I thought it made a pretty good statement.

I was hoping the flowers, baskets, crosses, and other memorabilia would be saved and put back after the jury completed their tour, but I was told it all got trashed. This made me sad, but I noticed another display had begun soon afterward. In time, it too became pretty large.

It was early the following year that the trial was concluded. Not a single person I knew was happy about it. The killer pleaded guilty. The charges were reduced to second degree murder. Why? Because the killer was provoked by his victim's attempt to defend herself. As you can best believe, it seemed the whole town was outraged.

I was pretty upset myself, and was compelled to add a basket of flowers to the new display. It seemed to me that it was the Orange County Rape Crisis Center who took issue with this more than anyone else. There is now a permanant marker on the spot, and on a nearby tree, courtesy of the OCRCC. They have an office across the street from there, next door to Amity Methodist Church.

It is now 14 years later, and there was a renewed interest in this case when it was announced that Tony Simpson would be eligible for parole. It looks like he didn't get it. A recent Google search on the name "Kristin Lodge-Miller" didn't show much in results. I was disappointed I couldn't even find the old newspaper stories I've read before. But I did find two articles by Dennis Rogers with the News and Observer, that I thought were quite relevant. One is dated Dec. 11, 2002, and the other May 10, 2003. I have sent an e-mail to Dennis Rogers asking for permission to post them here, and I am still awaiting his reply.

My friend Joy works as a volunteer at the Rape Crisis Center, and I support her efforts whole heartedly. Violence against women is not just a women's issue to me, but a citizen's issue. I get the feeling there is a lesson to be learned here that we haven't learned yet.
Does anyone else feel that way?


Bill Widman said...

Here's a link I was able to get to an N&O article.

Bill Widman said...

Here's another link to a realated article. This one's by Sylvia Colwell with the Nat'l Fellowship of Copy Editors.

Anonymous said...

Superb article by Sylvia Colwell. Couldn't link the other one though.

Bill Widman said...

I'm glad one of the links worked, and that it was that one.
Yes, Sylvia Colwell is a good writer, and she makes a good point.

Keith said...

Can someone help me find the original piece that a local paper did right after the verdict came out in the 1994 timeframe?

They did interviews with a couple of jurors, including one IBM employee who explained why they held out for 2nd degree murder.

Bill Widman said...

Hi Keith
Glad you could come visit.

I believe that was in the Chapel Hill News, but it could be the Durham Morning Herald.

I've been looking for that myself, so if you find it, please come back and share it with us.

Bill Widman said...

I wrote this post in September 2007. It is now March 2008. Here we have a new story by staff writer Ruth Sheehan with the News and Observer that is certainly worth checking out.

This story is unique in that it compares the cases of Kristin Lodge-Miller with Eve Carson. It is also the ONLY news story I've ever seen that includes a photo of her.

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.