Arrest made in 1999 Columbus cold case - WTVM.com-Columbus, GA News Weather & Sports

Arrest made in 1999 Columbus cold case

Victim: Shawnita Campbell Victim: Shawnita Campbell
Michael York Miller (Source: Columbus Police Department) Michael York Miller (Source: Columbus Police Department)

By Lindsey Connell - bio | email

Reporter Roslyn Giles contributed to this report.

COLUMBUS, GA (WTVM) -  Columbus Police have made an arrest in the 1999 murder of a local woman.

Shawnita Campbell was 24 years old when she was shot and killed. Her body was found on April 12, 1999 at 7:45 AM in a small field near Warehouse Drive- that's a small dirt road off Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard in southeast Columbus. She had been shot once in the head and her body had been dumped in the field. Campbell is from Fort Mitchell, AL but had been living in Columbus.

Early on, police say Michael York Miller was considered a suspect in the case but there was not enough evidence to charge him. Detectives say Miller and Campbell "were known to each other" but were not boyfriend and girlfriend.

In June of 2010, the Columbus Police Department's Cold Case Squad was contacted by Campbell's mother, Barbara Walton, who requested that the case be reopened.

"I let them know that if you all have given up, I haven't. I haven't given up and I hope you all are with me to find out what happened- whether it be good or bad or what, I think our family needs to know what happened," Walton told WTVM in an interview at her Fort Mitchell home Thursday.

The investigators worked to relocate all of the people that were previously interviewed in the case and had been identified as witnesses or suspects. They traveled as far as Dallas, TX tracking them all down.

Cold case detective Sergeant Harvey Hatcher says he and members of the cold case unit were able to get witnesses who were reluctant at the time of the killing to finally come forward. According to the officers, the witnesses identified Miller as Campbell's killer.

They say the two were in the area of Coolidge Avenue and 8th Street and were in a car arguing. The reason for the argument is unknown. Suddenly, they say they heard a gun shot and Campbell slumped over in the car.

Hatcher says police tracked Michael Miller to Akron, Ohio and working with investigators there, found him in Columbus, Ohio. He was arrested by the United States Marshals on February 16, 2011 and signed a waiver of extradition.

He was brought back to Columbus, GA on Wednesday.

Miller is charged with murder. Police will not say if he has made any statements to them. They do not believe he was hiding in Ohio. They say he stayed in Columbus for a few years after the murder but they do not know why he moved to Akron.

Miller pleaded not guilty to the murder charge at a preliminary hearing Thursday morning.

Police testified that the murder weapon in the case, although not recovered, was a .25 caliber pistol.

A witness told the court she was sitting on the porch of a house on Coolidge Avenue back in 1999 when she heard a gunshot. The shot came from inside a car parked on Coolidge.

She says she did not see the suspect, Michael Miller, pull the trigger but says Shawnita Campbell and Miller were both in the back seat of the car. Several others were also near the car.

A witness police found in Dallas, TX did identify Miller as the shooter. That witness pointed out other witnesses who say Miller threatened them after the shooting.

As for a motive, police believe Campbell stole drugs from someone and Miller wanted to settle the score.

In testimony, a cold case detective described Campbell as a known drug addict who turned to prostitution to support her habit. Campbell hung out in the drug infested area of Coolidge. They also say Miller was the bully who everyone was afraid of which is why no one would come forward initially.

According to police, Miller would take the women's money and drugs. He even reportedly threw bleach in a woman's face.

The investigator also told the judge that another unidentified witness told police Miller said, "If you see Shawnita, tell her I got something for her." Considering his reputation, the witness told police they knew Campbell was in trouble.

Michael Miller is being held without bond in the Muscogee County Jail. A judge found probable cause in the case and it's headed to Muscogee County Superior Court.

Old emotional wounds are being reopened for Campbell's family as they gear up for a court case but they say, for Shawnita, it's worth it.

"I think he should spend the rest of his days in jail. I just want to know why. What could have been so drastic that you had to take someone's life? I mean, couldn't you just walk away," her mother said of Miller.

"It's coming to where we're going to find out the whole story and we'll be able to go forward and maybe live a little better. I'm hoping that she'll rest easy knowing that we know what happened to her."

Copyright 2011 WTVM. All rights reserved.

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