Nova Scotia

Clayton Miller medical review may provide answers, says nurse

A retired nurse in Cape Breton, whose examination of Clayton Miller's autopsy results has prompted a review by the province of Nova Scotia, says she has confidence in the upcoming investigation into the teenager's death nearly 25 years ago.

Miller died in 1990 following a police raid on a teenage drinking party in the woods

Clayton Miller, a 17-year-old from New Waterford, died in May 1990 following a police raid on a teenage drinking party in the woods. (Submitted by the Miller family)

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A retired nurse in Cape Breton, whose examination of Clayton Miller's autopsy results has prompted a review by the province of Nova Scotia, says she has confidence in the upcoming investigation into the teenager's death nearly 25 years ago.

Miller, a 17-year-old from New Waterford, died in May 1990 following a police raid on a teenage drinking party in the woods on a Friday night. His body was not discovered until Sunday afternoon. Two autopsies concluded his death was accidental, but his family believes Miller was murdered.

Kate Dwyer's 30-page report has raised many questions about the two autopsies, performed three years apart. She said she found a number of discrepancies and omissions in the reports that raise some troubling questions.

For instance, Dwyer said Miller's elbows were dislocated, indicating signs of a possible struggle when he was alive, or that he was moved in a violent manner when he was dead.

Miller's body also had teeth missing — even though his parents said he had perfect teeth. In an unusual twist, his brain is missing — it was not with the rest of his remains following the first autopsy. 

Dwyer said there are other inconsistencies in the autopsy reports, including the fact that Miller's body did not have a single bug bite despite being outside for nearly two days.

She said she analyzed autopsy pictures and could see a large gash on the teenager's head — an observation not reflected in the autopsy reports.

A fresh look by the medical examiner should provide some answers, said Dwyer. 

"There's no photographs where he was found dead, there's no diagrammatic of his lacerations, what the pathologist did. There's a lot of breaches of procedure," she said.

"With modern technology and photography, mass spectrometry, microscopes, electron microscopes, the expertise of the coroner's office presently — I have every confidence that they will find out. You can't ever be absolutely certain, but I think there's enough there that, yes, the chief medical examiner's office will determine what caused Clayton's death."

Crime scene not preserved 

Gervase and Maureen Miller are convinced there's more to their son's death than what police have told them. 

After Clayton Miller disappeared that Friday in May, his parents went looking for him. They say a family friend was the first to tell them their son's body had been found two days later on Sunday morning, not the police — who were aware their son was missing.

When the Millers arrived at the crime scene, they saw their son lying face down in a stream.

Miller said he ran to his son's body and attempted to lift it out of the stream. He said at first, police said he shouldn't, but then one of the officers helped him.

Clayton Miller's father, Gervase Miller, has walked the route on Plummer Avenue in New Waterford nearly every day for the past 24 years. (Hal Higgins/CBC)

"I took one arm and shoulder and the police that had investigated grabbed his other arm and shoulder and we just picked him up and dragged him out of the water," said Miller.

"They shouldn't have been helping me do that, they should have stopped me from doing that."

There were also no photographs taken of the scene.

"I have great concern that the police were involved," said Ray Wagner, the lawyer for the Millers.

"From looking at where Clayton was seen, where he was going, the evidence that he was seen in the police station — whether that's true or not — the fact of all the forensic evidence, the fact that he had two dislocated elbows, more in keeping with where his hands would have been held behind his back and pulled with great strength and force."

Wagner said people out there know what happened to Clayton.

"There are a lot of people carrying dark secrets, in my mind," he said.

Miller family wants answers 

Dwyer was among the hundreds of Miller family supporters who walked with the family on Sunday along Plummer Avenue in New Waterford.

Gervase Miller has walked the route​ nearly every day for the past 24 years, carrying a sign demanding justice for his son.

"Until we get justice for Clayton, I'm trying to keep it alive and have people ask questions," he said. "I hope in the near future I can put it down."

He said it's all been worthwhile, given the way the community has come out to walk with him.

"It's not just Maureen and Gervy anymore, now it's Maureen and Gervy and their lawyer, and the people, the public. It means the world," said Miller.

Miller said he won't rest until there's justice for his son. 

"We hope they find what we've been looking at all along. We hope they find what's right," he said.

Maureen Miller said her family just wants the truth.

"We know Clayton was murdered. We want the people responsible, the ones who laid a hand on Clayton, we want them where they should be. We want them behind bars," she said.

Gervase Miller said the province's review will not only reopen the case but put the police investigation under the microscope.