The Murder of Meela Miller

On December 15, 2022, the remains of Meela Miller, 8, were discovered at a residence in Mitchell, South Dakota. Meela’s body was in a coffin, found in a U-Haul trailer. Her adoptive mother, Mandie Miller, 33, and her boyfriend, Aleksandr Kurmoyarov, 28, have been arrested in connection with Meela’s Miller’s murder. This case remains an open and active investigation.

The Timeline of Events Regarding Meela Miller

On August 9, 2022, Child Protective Services in Spokane County, Washington received a tip. The landlord of the property at 13908 W. Redding Dr. #D Airway Heights, WA contacted CPS to notify them that their new tenants had moved into the residence in May 2022. The complainant stated they had not seen the young child from the new residents. CPS requested a welfare check to be initiated by local law enforcement. Cpl. Varain and Officer Ziegler contacted Mandie Miller at the residence. The officers witnessed Meela’s chest rising and falling while sleeping in her bed and stated that she appeared ok. They left without speaking to Meela.

On December 14, 2022, Detective Sergeant Flavel with the Airway Heights, WA Police Department, received a telephone call from Detective Andrew Becker of the Mitchell, South Dakota Police Department. A detective from South Dakota stated that a local funeral home had contacted them regarding two Washington State residents, Mandie Miller and Aleksandr Kurmoyarov. The funeral home had stated that the Washington couple was in Mitchell and had contacted them intending to have their deceased eight-year-old daughter buried on the Rosebud Indian Reservation without paperwork regarding the nature of the child’s death. The Airway Heights detectives immediately began their initial investigation of the couple. Later that same day, Mitchell detectives contacted Airway Heights detectives again to explain that through conversations with Miller and Kurmoyarov, Meela had died on or about September 10, 2022 while in Airway Heights. Detectives further stated that the couple had purchased a casket, rented a U’ Haul pull-behind enclosed trailer and had transported Meela’s remains from Washington State to South Dakota, using their 2012 Chevrolet Traverse.

Detectives realized that there would be two investigations occurring simultaneously, so a multi-state task force investigated the death of Meela Miller. It is composed of investigators from Mitchell, the SD Police Department, the Spokane, WA Tribal Police Department, the Airway Heights, WA Police Department, the Spokane County, WA Major Crimes Unit, and the Spokane County, WA Forensics team.

Airway Heights, Washington Search Warrant

Upon learning the information from Mitchell detectives, Sgt. Flavel received a search warrant on December 15, 2022, for the couple’s Airway Heights, WA residence and vehicle. Spokane Major Crimes Detectives Drapeau, Bohanek, Detective Sgt. Stockman, along with the Spokane County Forensics Technicians, processed the scene. The team discovered questionable items which included multiple different sizes of zip-ties, some of which had already been cut, and an exuberant amount of air fresheners throughout the house. In one bedroom, detectives also discovered an odor-absorber in a bedroom closet, a scented wax warmer, and a sea shell containing burnt sage. They also discovered an overabundance of cleaning supplies throughout the home.

Investigators also discovered a receipt from Blue Diamond Storage, 1211 S. Fairview Heights Road, Airway Heights, WA. They obtained a search warrant for the small storage unit. Detectives discovered the unit was mostly filled with young female clothes and toys. The same day, detectives received two voicemails from Spokane County CPS stating that there had been a man named Daniel Herrera listed as an emergency contact for Meela in 2021, but he had been removed. Detectives contacted Herrera, who was able to provide further details.

Daniel Herrera’s Account

Herrera told detectives he had dated Mandie Miller for several years, but they had parted ways. He said that Miller had contacted him on November 16, 2022, to inform him that “Meela passed away.” Miller stated that Meela had passed away on November 5, 2022, after complaining of chest pains. She further explained that she had taken Meela to Indian Health Services, but they had sent her home, saying that nothing was wrong with her. Miller told Herrera that Meela had passed away when they returned home. Miller described upon their return to the home that she had been giving Meela a bath when Meela began vomiting a pink substance. An ambulance was called, but by the time EMS services had arrived, Meela had already passed away. She further explained that her native American tribe flew Meela’s body to South Dakota for burial on tribal lands. Herrera told detectives he did not believe the story, but had no proof of accounts. Detectives confirmed EMS had never been called and that the details that Herrera had been told by Miller were entirely false.

Herrera informed detectives that during the time he lived with Miller, the only physical discipline Meela endured was an occasional spanking and “wall sitting.” He stated Miller was a “hot head” with a temper, but never imagined that Miller would abuse Meela, although she referenced Meela as evil. Herrera did not know of Kurmoyarov or his behavior towards Meela.

Mitchell, South Dakota Search Warrant

While detectives in Washington State were conducting their investigation, Mitchell, South Dakota detectives, learned the location of Miller, Kurmoyarov and Meela’s remains. Bittner’s Funeral Home, in conjunction with Sioux Funeral Home, arranged to have Miller and Kurmoyarov bring Meela’s body to the funeral home on the premise of beginning Meela’s burial preparation. Mitchell detectives were also waiting at Bittner’s Funeral Home for the couple’s arrival. When it became apparent that the couple would not show, a search warrant was obtained for a residence at 821 E 7th Street #1 in Mitchell, which belonged to Stephanie Bearrobe, Miller’s mother. Detectives executed the search warrant and discovered Meela’s remains in a casket, in a U-Haul trailer, which had been parked on the street, in front of the residence. Bedding and powdered laundry detergent, which were allegedly used to mask decomposition, were also located in the trailer. The couple was initially arrested on December 15, 2022 on charges of Failure to Report the Death of a Child to Law Enforcement.

Meela Miller’s Autopsy

Meela Miller’s autopsy was conducted by Dr. Kenneth Snell on December 15, 2022. Dr. Snell noted that the decomposition of Meela’s body appeared to be more aligned with a three-week time frame rather than a three-month timeframe, although he noted that if Meela’s remains were kept in a cooler environment, then that would cause a slower decomposition rate. Meela’s autopsy revealed an injury to one of her Tibia’s lesions on her right wrist and both ankles, which were consistent with being bound by zip-ties for extended periods of time. Several of her toes were broken. She was also extremely malnourished, weighing only 26 pounds. Dr. Snell determined Meela’s death to be a homicide.

Formal Charges of Mandie Miller and Aleksandr Kurmoyarov

Mandie Miller was extradited to Washington State on January 25, 2023. She is currently being housed in the Spokane County Jail – case number:  2211071232. Her charges are Unlawful Imprisonment, Criminal Mistreatment, and Murder – 2D (with other felony). Her bond is set at $1,000,000.

Aleksandr Kurmoyarov was extradited to Washington State on January 25, 2023. He is currently being housed in the Spokane County Jail – case number:  2211071332. His charges are Unlawful Imprisonment, Criminal Mistreatment, and Murder – 2D (with other felony). His bond is set at $1,000,000.

The Aftermath

The official eleven page document of Statement of Investigating Officer – Affidavit of Facts regarding the death of Meela Miller can be found here.

Meela Miller’s remains were cremated. There is no known information regarding her final resting place.

Mandie Miller and Aleksandr Kurmoyarov are awaiting trial.

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