The state medical examiner ruled that Mikayla Miller, the 16-year-old whose body was found last month in Hopkinton, died by suicide, according to a death certificate obtained by the Globe.
A jogger discovered the teenager early on the morning of April 18 in the woods about a mile from Miller’s home, according to an affidavit filed by a Hopkinton police detective. She was hanging by a thin black belt attached to a tree. The death certificate says Miller died by hanging herself.
But it’s not clear that the new ruling will provide much closure. Miller’s death has laid bare profound distrust among some community members in authorities’ ability to adequately investigate the death of a young Black girl in a nearly all-white town. The hashtag #JusticeforMikaylaMiller has spread far beyond Massachusetts.
Police initially told Miller’s family she died by suicide, but her family questioned that assumption, saying that police and District Attorney Marian Ryan were silent and unhelpful even as the family begged for answers. In particular, Calvina Strothers, Miller’s mother, wanted police to investigate a physical altercation that Miller had been involved in the day before she died.
Miller had a falling out with her girlfriend, Strothers said, and on the Saturday before she died she was attacked by five teenagers related to that fallout.
Miller’s family and supporters felt that the district attorney was not sufficiently investigating the connection between the fight on Saturday and the teen’s death on Sunday. The district attorney and Hopkinton police did not share information with the public for about two weeks after Miller died, creating fertile ground for fear and speculation to take root. Accusations of a lynching, a racially motivated beating, and a police coverup sped across the community and social media. Ultimately Ryan said Miller was involved in a physical altercation with two of five teens who were present.
A spokeswoman for Ryan said on Tuesday the investigation into the events surrounding Miller’s death is “active and ongoing.”
“We will continue to explore every investigative angle necessary . . . and intend to issue a complete and thorough report at the conclusion of the investigation,” said Meghan Kelly, Ryan’s spokeswoman. Strothers did not immediately respond to a Globe request for comment.
Although Strothers reported the altercation to Hopkinton police at the time, the department refused to provide her with the incident report when she later asked for it. They also denied a Globe request for it.
“My concern is, did they really thoroughly look at the crime scene?” Strothers said in an interview earlier this month. “Or did they just dismiss it because she’s a Black girl on a tree in Hopkinton?”
Activists, elected officials, and residents across Massachusetts have seized on Miller’s death as an example of racial injustice and have called for an independent investigation into what happened.
Ryan said in early May that her office had confirmed through cellphone records, EZ-Pass records, witness statements, and video footage that none of the five young people who had been with Miller during the altercation were with her later in the night. The detective who examined Miller in the woods wrote that he did “not observe any trauma, external wounds, or bleeding.”
A rally and vigil for Miller in Hopkinton drew hundreds of people earlier this month, and another is planned for Friday outside of Ryan’s office in Lowell.
“If there was transparency from day one, there wouldn’t have been a need for this,” said Monica Cannon-Grant, founder of Violence in Boston, at the Hopkinton vigil.
Cannon-Grant said Violence in Boston would also pay for an independent autopsy.
John Hilliard can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.