New murder charge filed against convicted killer Joe Miller

Joseph Miller at the time of his arrest in August 1992 (WHTM file)

HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) – A convicted killer serving life in prison has been charged in a cold case murder investigation that began with the discovery of a woman’s skeletal remains in 1997.

Joseph D. Miller, 51, was charged Wednesday with first-degree murder in the killing of Kelly Ann Ward, Dauphin County District Attorney Ed Marsico and Swatara Township Police Chief Jason Umberger announced.

Kelly Ann Ward (Family photo)
Kelly Ann Ward (Family photo)

Ward, of Harrisburg, was reported missing in 1986. Her remains were found in February 1997 in a wooded area along Chambers Hill Road in Swatara Township, close to where investigators in August 1992 had uncovered the remains of three of Miller’s victims; Selina Franklin, Stephanie McDuffey, and Jeanette Thomas.

Investigators were unable to identify the remains until 2014, when DNA testing at the FBI Laboratory in Quantico, Virginia concluded bone samples matched a sample provided by Ward’s family.

“She used to take me to the movies. She used to make sure I knew how to ride a bike,” said Faun Ward, Ward’s cousin. “She was just a great woman. I miss her very much.”

For Ward’s family there is closure after 30 years of waiting.

“It’s very sad. Liberating. Anticipated and needed,” said Faun Ward. “We’ve been dealing with this for a very long time. We’ve missed her. We love her and we’ve been waiting. This is it.”

Miller, formerly of Steelton, denied killing Ward during a prison interview in January, but he made several incriminating statements, according to the criminal complaint. Police wrote that when they showed Miller a photograph of a pipe found close to Ward’s body and asked if they could get any DNA evidence from it, Miller replied: “I don’t think so. It’s been too long. Besides, the pipe I used was smaller.”

Joseph Miller at the time of his arrest in August 1992 (WHTM file)
Joseph Miller at the time of his arrest in August 1992 (WHTM file)

Investigators pointed out to Miller that his previous victims were African-American and prostitutes who frequented bars in the same area. The three were killed by blows to the head or strangulation between 1986 and 1992, their bodies were dumped in the same area, and their makeshift graves were marked with some type of trash so they could be revisited.

Ward was reported to be involved in prostitution and tires had been set up near her remains, police said.

According to the complaint, Miller responded with: “I know this doesn’t look good. It’s just a coincidence.” Police said he then started laughing and said: “I know I said that before, but it’s true. I didn’t do this one.”

Miller also told police that he kept a necklace from one of his victims, hung it from his rearview mirror, and then laughed when he was stopped by police because the evidence was in plain view.

In the complaint, police said they told Miller that he didn’t take Ward’s watch because it was a Timex and he responded, “I didn’t know she had a watch.”

Joseph Miller in a booking photo from April 13, 2016.
Joseph Miller in a booking photo from April 13, 2016.

Miller also was asked about seven African statuettes found above a door at his home and he admitted that each one represented a victim, the complaint states. Police pointed out that he confessed to killing four women and brutally assaulting two others, so Ward would be his seventh victim. Miller again denied that he had anything to do with Ward’s death.

According to the complaint, he said: “There are other serial killers out there.” You just haven’t caught ’em yet. I didn’t do this one.”

Miller was sentenced to death in March 1993 for murdering Franklin and McDuffy. In 2002, Dauphin County Judge Jeannine Turgeon vacated the death sentences because Miller is mentally disabled, a ruling upheld by the state Supreme Court.

Miller confessed to killing Thomas but was not charged in her death.

He is also serving life in prison for the 1990 murder of Kathi Novena Shenck, also known as Pheonix Bell. Authorities said Miller ran over her several times with his car and buried her body in a dump in Perry County.

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