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Slain woman identified

March 19, 1998|By LISA GRAYBEAL

Slain woman identified

A badly decomposed body found March 9 in the 900 block of South Burhans Boulevard has been positively identified as that of Clara Elizabeth Miller, 19, according to Hagerstown City Police.

Miller, who was being sought in connection with the death of a Greencastle, Pa., man last August, had been missing since November.

The state Medical Examiner's Office in Baltimore identified the body from dental records, police said.

An autopsy revealed last week that the woman died of stab wounds. The death has been ruled a homicide.

Clara Miller had been in the news off and on since the summer of 1996, most recently in connection with the death last summer of Darrius Allen Fetterhoff.

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In June 1996, Miller accused a former Hagerstown City Police officer of holding her against her will at his home, where she said she had gone to have bondage photos taken.

'Down the wrong path'




"She was led down the wrong path," said Russell L. Younker, Miller's stepfather who helped raise her since she was 8 months old.

Younker and his wife, Marcia, who is Miller's mother, learned Wednesday afternoon that a body found by a Conrail employee in a wooded area last week was Clara's.

Younker said the family suspected it was Clara from the description of the body - primarily the gaps in her teeth - and because she hadn't been in touch with them since late October or early November of 1997, Younker said.

Miller normally phoned her stepfather about once a week and Younker said he would give her a little money and occasionally take her out for a meal.

"Then nothing. She just stopped calling. The police were telling us they thought she had gone to Florida or Texas...Here she was laying here the whole time," Younker said.

The family described Miller as "the nicest little girl in the world" until she got mixed up with the wrong crowd. They said she started taking drugs about the time she was a student at Western Heights Middle School.

She did not graduate from North Hagerstown High School but took classes toward a general educational diploma, Younker said.

In the last four or five years, Miller had been in and out of a drug rehabilitation center in Norfolk, Va., but her addiction to drugs such as heroine and crack cocaine was strong and she couldn't kick her habit, Younker said.

She had been arrested on drug and disorderly conduct charges in the past, he said.

Making headlines




On June 25, 1996, Miller called Washington County Sheriff's deputies from a home off Robinwood Drive. Deputies found her wearing only a T-shirt and handcuffs, according to court records.

Miller, then 18, told deputies she and Larry Jacob Rowe had entered into a contract calling for her to pose in bondage positions at his 11837 Partridge Trail home, according to court documents. She was to receive $200 for the photos, she said.

When she thought the photo session was over, she was kept in handcuffs and told to perform oral sex, according to allegations in charging documents filed at the time. At one point, a gun was produced, she had alleged.

When Rowe fell asleep, Miller fled the house and went to a neighbors home to call the authorities, court documents said.

On Aug. 6, a Washington County Circuit judge, saying he wanted to assure Miller's testimony in the Rowe case, sent her to jail, where she remained for 16 days. Prosecutors had feared that her drug addiction and lifestyle might prevent her from showing up for his trial.

At an Aug. 15 hearing, Miller served notice that her memory of the incident was fading and was likely to grow dimmer the longer she remained behind bars.

That same day, Rowe was released on bond.

After 16 days in the detention center, Miller was sent to the Thomas B. Finan Center in Cumberland, Md., where she was to go through a drug-treatment program.

Rowe, who had been an officer with the Hagerstown Police Department from 1975 to 1987, entered Alford pleas on Dec. 12, 1997, to one count each of fourth-degree sex offense and common law assault.

In an Alford plea, a defendant acknowledges that the prosecution has enough evidence to gain a conviction, but doesn't admit guilt.

In exchange for those pleas, charges of false imprisonment, battery, second-degree sexual offense, third-degree sexual offense and committing an unnatural and perverted sexual practice were dismissed.

Rowe was sentenced to a three-year suspended prison sentence for assault and time served for the fourth-degree sex offense. He was placed on probation for four years and ordered to continue psychiatric counseling and medication.

Facing charges




In August, 1997, Miller again came to the attention of authorities, this time after Darrius Allen Fetterhoff, 58, of Grant Street, Greencastle, Pa., was found at the bottom of a 90-foot embankment along the Conococheague Creek.

The badly beaten Fetterhoff died of multiple head trauma and complications on Aug. 28, five days after he was found.

Miller was believed to have been with Thomas Clifford Wallace, who had been accused in Fetterhoff's beating.

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