West Virginia Record

Saturday, February 22, 2020

Apparent murder-suicide leads to wrongful death lawsuit

By Chris Dickerson | Jan 25, 2006

CHARLESTON -- A September murder-suicide in Dunbar has resulted in a wrongful death lawsuit.

The suit, filed Jan. 9 in Kanawha Circuit Court, was filed by Belinda D. Sharp, administratrix of the estate of Dorothea Sue Miller against Kelley A. Daniels, executrix of the estate of James Franklin Miller.

In the suit, Sharp alleges Dorothea Sue Miller "suffered an intentional, negligent and/or reckless caused gunshot wound to the head and chest which was inflicted by her husband, James Franklin Miller, at their residence of 523 20th Street, Dunbar" on Sept. 9, 2005.

"After murdering his wife, he committed suicide with a gunshot wound to his head," the suit states. "As a direct and proximate result of the intentional negligence and/or reckless conduct of James Franklin Miller, Dorothea Sue Miller suffered death."

Dunbar Police Chief Earl Whittington said the bodies of the couple were found in the garage of their home, both dead from gunshot wounds. He said they appeared to have been dead for more than 24 hours when their bodies were discovered on Sept. 10. At the time of their deaths, James Franklin Miller was 58 years old, and Dorothea Sue Miller was 47.

He said neighbors had heard gunshots from near the Millers' residence on the night of Sept. 9, but he said police officers patrolling the neighborhood did not see anything unusual.

However, Whittington said police were familiar with the Millers. He said there had been some calls to the home before, and that some of them had been domestic in nature.

Last week, Whittington said the deaths had not been ruled a murder-suicide and that his department still was waiting for evidence in the case to be processed by the State Police crime lab.

Because of Dorothea Miller's death, the suit says the family "has suffered the following damages which include, but are not limited to, sorrow, mental anguish, solace, society, companionship, comfort, guidance, kindly offices and advice of the decedent; compensation for reasonably expected loss of income of the decedent; services, protection, care and assistance provided by the decedent; and reasonable funeral expenses."

The suit, filed by attorney Bernard E. Layne III, says the distributees of Dorothea Sue Miller's estate are entitled to recover from the defendant all of the elements of damages set forth according to West Virginia Code.

The plaintiff seeks damages for past pain and suffering; damages for future pain and suffering; damages for decedent's funeral expenses and related costs; pre- and post-judgment interest; punitive damages which may be supported by the evidence; attorney fees and cost of action as well as other relief. Sharp requests a jury trial.

The case has been assigned to Circuit Judge Duke Bloom.

Kanawha Circuit Court case number: 06-C-26

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