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Hundreds rally for Hopkinton teen found dead

Angela Rowlings
Hundreds rally for Hopkinton teen found dead
Former Boston City Councilor Tito Jackson, left, Angela Clark, and Monica Cannon-Grant comfort Calvina Strothers, second from left, as she speaks during a vigil for her daughter. PHOTO: ANGELA ROWLINGS

Hundreds gathered on Hopkinton Town Common on Thursday, May 6, to call for justice for Mikayla Miller, the 16-year-old Black girl who was found dead in the woods near her home the morning of April 18 after an alleged physical altercation with a group of teenagers the prior evening.

Hand drums punctuated calls of Mikayla’s name as her extended family, wearing T-shirts and face masks bearing her photograph, wiped away tears, lit candles and held up fists in her honor. Many in the crowd, which included state Rep. Russell Holmes, state Senate President Karen Spilka, Framingham Mayor Yvonne Spicer, and Sean Ellis, who was wrongfully convicted in the murder of a Boston police officer, waved signs bearing Miller’s name and paintings of her smiling face.

Miller’s mother, Calvina Strothers, who said they were “two peas in a pod,” recalled trips to New Hampshire and Maine and an impromptu mother-daughter dance party at a convenience store parking lot after Strothers got a new car. She said her child had played basketball since she was 6 years old and was also a writer who dreamed of going to a historically Black college or university to become a journalist.

“She was my bright and shining star in this crazy world. She was a good listener and had a kind heart,” Strothers said. “She was a mediator and always brought both sides together.”

Strothers said she was unable to find a police report or an entry in the police log almost a week after her daughter’s death, and that a state police trooper cautioned her not to go to the media or Miller’s LGBTQ identity would be revealed.

Former Boston City Councilor Tito Jackson, who helped organize the vigil with activist Monica Cannon-Grant, said Miller was “found alone, up against a tree, with a belt around her neck.”

“They said she had left and committed suicide, without actual facts, without information from the medical examiner, and without enough time to do their job right,” Jackson said.

“The reason this town is deemed one of the safest in America, in my opinion, is not because crimes do not occur,” Strothers said, “but because crime is only selectively reported in this community.”

Strothers started a GoFundMe to help pay for an independent investigation into Miller’s death.

“I’ve had to not only be the grieving mother, but also put pressure on the DA, Marian Ryan, who I did not hear from until 12 days after Mikayla’s death,” Strothers said.

Middlesex District Attorney Marian Ryan released a timeline on May 4 that confirmed a group of teens was with Miller the evening before she was found, and that an investigation was ongoing regarding allegations of a physical assault on Miller. In the statement, the DA’s Office said cellphone data and witness accounts placed the five teens away from the scene of Miller’s death during the hours following the alleged confrontation. A ruling on the cause and manner of death is still pending from the Medical Examiner’s Office.

“Let me make one thing clear: Nothing can bring back Mikayla or console her grieving family. But what we can do — indeed what we owe her — is an accurate and fulsome accounting of what led to her death. You have my word as your District Attorney and as a mother, that I will deliver that answer. But the public must give us time to find the answers,” said District Attorney Ryan.

“What I want is for criminal justice system to work,” said Strothers. “I want Hopkinton police and the Millbury State Police … and the DA and all the powers that be to work as hard to get justice for Mikayla as they would do for their own child.”