HUNTSVILLE, Ala. — The circumstances surrounding the death of Huntsville FBI photographer Kathleen Miller remain at the center of a five agency investigation.
It began with a 911 call around 5:30 p.m., in Graham County, North Carolina, on Oct. 7. The caller told the operator he was flagged down by a distressed man around mile-marker 1 on the Cherohala Skyway.
“Literally, you’re out in the middle of nowhere. No cell service,” Graham County Star newspaper editor Kevin Hensley says of the area.
The driver had to travel nearly 10 miles to get cell service to alert first-responders. He didn’t know the exact location but reported the man who flagged them down said his wife fell in a creek and he couldn’t get her out. The caller told authorities the husband got back in his vehicle and tore down Big Santeetlah Road.
Paramedics rushed to find the couple in a remote area of the Nantahala National Forest. First-responders treated it as an accident.
“I was, of course, shocked because that doesn’t really happen much around here,” said Hensley. The editor of the small county’s newspaper says he rarely covers stories like this one.
It wasn’t until the medical examiner met with the husband, Greg Miller, at the funeral home that investigators were called about the death of his wife, Kathleen.
“We were given some statements that made the death start to look suspicious,” explained Graham County Sheriff’s Office Captain Jerry Crisp.
Deputies went back out to the campsite.
The campsite the Miller’s were at is nestled between the Blue Ridge range. The spot is so remote it doesn’t show up on any map. The veteran investigator told WHNT News 19 the only people who really know about it are locals and those who have visited before. The campsite is nestled up to a shallow creek.
“You could walk at that time all the way across the creek without even getting in the water. The water was that much lower,” Crisp said.
Preliminary autopsy reports indicate Kathleen drowned in less than 22 inches of water.
“She had no injuries, no medical conditions that would have caused her to just fall over and drown,” Crisp said.
Greg Miller was the only person on the trip with Kathleen. He said the couple only visited the campsite to take some pictures. Greg Miller also told investigators he wasn’t with his wife that Monday evening when she apparently drowned.
“He said he needed to go to the bathroom and walked down the road approximately 250 yards to some U.S. Forest Service portajohns,” said Crisp. “When he came back, he said he found Mrs. Miller lying face down in a small pool of water in the creek.”
Greg Miller told investigators after he found Kathleen, he got into his vehicle and drove up a winding gravel road to find someone to help. After flagging a driver down to call 911, he returned to the creek.
The area where Kathleen died is virtually hidden. It is difficult for drivers on the road overlooking the campground to see much of anything.
AN INVESTIGATION BEGINS
“Mr. Miller said they were supposed to leave the next day, going to California and Nevada,” said the Sheriff Office’s Crisp.
But investigators learned that Kathleen was supposed to return to work in Huntsville the next day.
The veteran deputy also said Greg wasn’t forthcoming about where his wife worked.
“Hap chance a phone call to the FBI, pursuing another story that he had told us, led us to discover that she was an actual employee of the FBI,” explained Crisp.
Remember the photos Kathleen was apparently at the site to take? Deputies never found a camera in the area where she died.
Those details changed how investigators viewed Greg Miller.
“He is a person of interest in the death of his wife,” Crisp said.
WHNT News 19 dug into Greg’s background. Court records show that in 1999, he pleaded guilty to a grand larceny charge in Ontario County, New York. The judge also issued a protection order in the case after prosecutors told the court Greg intimidated a female witness.
WHNT News 19 called a phone number believed to be Greg’s multiple times. The man who answered claimed it wasn’t him.
The eulogy read November 15 at a private celebration of Huntsville FBI photographer Kathleen Miller’s life highlighted her love of water and swimming.
“Everybody we’ve talked with said Mrs. Miller was a very honest, caring and nice person,” Crisp said. “She would give people the shirt off her back. Everybody we spoke with about Kathleen Miller did not have a bad thing to say about her.”
A Huntsville FBI special agent and an Alabama-based U.S. Forest agent are assisting the Graham County Sheriff’s Office in its investigation. The North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation and Graham County District Attorney’s Office are also involved.
Investigators tell WHNT News 19 it could take up to five months to complete official autopsy and toxicology reports.
“Kathleen Miller needs the truth to come out,” Crisp said. “Whatever the reason was … whatever was behind it … it’s time to tell the truth.”