Police reopen 1998 Miller homicide case

February 22, 2005|by PEPPER BALLARD

HAGERSTOWN - March 9 is a bittersweet date for Marcia Younker: It was the date she began dating her late husband, but it was also the date when the body of her youngest daughter, 19-year-old Clara Elizabeth Miller, was found.

It's been nearly seven years since Miller's badly decomposed body was found in a wooded area in the 900 block of South Burhans Boulevard on March 9, 1998. She had been stabbed to death.

Police have not charged anyone in her death.

"I can't say it becomes easier with time, but I guess in a way it does," Younker said.

Younker said her husband, Russell Younker Jr., passed away in November, and since then "everything's gone wrong" except for one thing: The Hagerstown Police Department has reopened the investigation into her daughter's death.


Lt. Michael King said the case was reopened because new technology and new detectives might help shed some light on old evidence. Detective Steven Hoover said police have already conducted some interviews, but still have to talk with more people.

Younker said she hopes her daughter's killer is finally brought to justice.

"I got a lot of messages I'd like to give to whoever did this," she said through tears. "I hope they don't sleep. I hope they never have peace of mind. I never got to see her and say goodbye to her. It's just not fair."

At the time of her death, Miller was being sought in connection with the August 1997 death of Darrius Allen Fetterhoff, of Greencastle, Pa., who was beaten and left for dead. He was found nearly a week later, lying on an embankment along Conococheague Creek. He died Aug. 28, 1997, at Washington County Hospital, according to published reports.

About three months later, Miller dropped out of sight. She was last seen Nov. 20, 1997, at Big Lots on Maryland Avenue.

Miller had been wanted by police on two counts of accessory after the fact, felony theft, auto theft and unauthorized use of a motor vehicle in connection with the Fetterhoff case.

According to published reports of Fetterhoff's death, Fetterhoff, 58, dropped his wife off at work and drove to Hagerstown on Aug. 20, 1997, met Miller and the two had sex.

Afterward, Miller went to East Franklin Street and picked up Thomas Clifford Wallace, who told police after his arrest that he sold Fetterhoff $40 worth of crack cocaine.

Miller, who was with Wallace and Fetterhoff in Fetterhoff's car, drove to the Broadfording Road area at Wallace's instruction. She told police that when Fetterhoff refused to pay Wallace more money for the drugs, Wallace pulled him from the car and hit him on the head with a rock.

Police said Miller told them that Fetterhoff fell over the railing and rolled about 90 feet down an embankment along Conococheague Creek off Broadfording Road. He was left for dead and wasn't found until nearly a week later.

In November 2000, a Washington County Circuit jury found Wallace guilty of first-degree murder and other charges in Fetterhoff's death. He was sentenced to life without parole in March 2001, according to published reports.

The Fetterhoff matter wasn't the first time Miller was in the news.

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

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, according to published reports.

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.

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.

Under 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.

A mother's memory

Younker said she knew something had happened to her daughter when her weekly phone calls stopped at around the time she dropped out of sight in November 1997.

Miller had led a troubled life, Younker said.

Born April 5, 1978, Miller was the youngest of three daughters from Younker's first marriage. Younker later had a son with Russell Younker Jr.

Miller went to Winter Street Elementary School and Western Heights Middle School.

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