What happened to Catie Miller? Police investigation details her death
Warning: The details in this story are graphic and may be upsetting to some
A Halifax man and his girlfriend have pleaded guilty to second-degree murder in the killing of Dartmouth's Catie Miller, who was beaten and stabbed to death in July 2014.
Jason Johnson and Kelly MacDonald were arrested in November 2014. On Thursday, they were handed life sentences.
Here is what happened to Miller, based on the agreed statement of facts presented in Nova Scotia Supreme Court:
On July 21, 2014, Miller was reported missing by her mother, who had last spoken to her daughter on July 15, 2014.
Video surveillance showed Miller getting into a 2000 Pontiac Grand Prix driven by Johnson outside the Superstore at the Bedford Place Mall on July 15, 2014, shortly after 3 p.m. Afterwards, Miller's cellphone, bank accounts and social media accounts were not used again.
During the course of the investigation into Miller's disappearance, police learned she and Johnson had been in a relationship that ended in April 2014.
Police started a wiretap on Johnson on Aug. 29, 2014.
On Sept. 24, 2014, police saw Johnson putting on gloves and getting into the trunk of the 2000 Pontiac Grand Prix, which was parked in his driveway in Lawrencetown. Johnson took off the spare tire and carpet liner and started spraying the inside of the trunk with a rust sealer. Police immediately seized the vehicle to prevent the destruction of evidence.
There was a significant amount of blood in the trunk area and the DNA matched Miller and Johnson.
In the two months between the car seizure and when Johnson was arrested, police kept a wiretap on him. Johnson talked about his desire to be a notorious killer and tried to convince an associate to help him plan the kidnapping and murders of multiple women. He said he had done it before and that he will not get away with it and would like to kill again before he gets arrested.
Johnson became excited during those conversations and gave details of how he wanted to commit further murders. He also talked about killing Miller.
On Nov. 22, 2014, out of mounting concerns by police that Johnson would follow through on his fantasies to kill again, he was arrested. During an interview, Johnson confessed to police that he killed Miller and described dismembering her. He said he burned his clothing, shoes and other evidence.
Two days later, undercover officers spoke to MacDonald, Johnson's girlfriend, and they learned the following:
- MacDonald said Johnson called her in a panic on July 15, 2014, and he picked her up in Enfield that night. MacDonald got into Johnson's car with their infant.
- At that time Miller was in the trunk, still alive, and believed to be unconscious. Johnson told MacDonald that he had beaten Miller.
- The couple drove to Lawrencetown so they could drop their child off with MacDonald's mother. Miller became conscious and started screaming and kicking in the trunk. She yelled, "You don't have to do this."
- MacDonald feared Miller would kick out a tail light and she told Johnson they had to "finish her off."
- Johnson moved to the back seat and sat next to his infant to prevent Miller from kicking the back seat down.
- After dropping off the infant, they started driving toward Sheet Harbour and told an associate there to have tarps, garbage bags, a shovel and an axe ready for when they arrived.
- On the way to Sheet Harbour, they pulled over, Johnson got out of the car, opened the trunk and killed Miller.
- They got to Sheet Harbour and dismembered Miller's remains to make it difficult to identify her.
In November 2014, MacDonald took the undercover officers to where she and Johnson had hidden some of Miller's remains. They were wrapped in a tarp and tied to a tree and MacDonald said they did that so animals wouldn't drag them away.
The last of Miller's remains were found about a month ago, on Sept. 20, after Johnson led police to the area.
With files from Blair Rhodes