‘I would have killed someone sooner if I knew I was going to get McDonald’s’: Girl told police after sister’s death
“Oooh, McDonalds. I would have killed someone sooner if I knew I was going to get McDonalds.”
That’s what 14-year-old Claire Miller said when police bought her breakfast, hours after she was accused of fatally stabbing her 19-year-old disabled sister, Helen on Feb. 22, 2021, according to John Martin, a Manheim Township police officer.
Martin testified Tuesday in Lancaster County Court that Claire was silent and did not appear distraught, sad or upset while he watched her in a juvenile detention cell.
She began talking about her interest in horror movies—including the classic John Carpenter film that tells the story of Michael Myers, a child who kills his older sister on Halloween night with a kitchen knife.
She said: “I Michael Myers’ed my sister,” according to Martin.
Claire, now 16, is accused of killing her sleeping older sister in her sister’s bed with a kitchen knife in their family home in Manheim Township. The teenager has been in court this week for a hearing that will determine if she will continue to face a homicide charge in adult court.
In Pennsylvania, all homicide charges automatically start in adult court, and the defendants are housed in adult prisons, no matter the age of the defendant. Defense attorneys must then petition the court to transfer the case to juvenile court, which focuses more on treatment and rehabilitation.
To see that through, Claire’s attorney, Robert Beyer, needs to prove it is in the public interest and that she is likely to be rehabilitated.
Beyer spent all day Monday and Tuesday morning introducing testimony from psychiatrists, Claire’s parents and a school official to support that point.
Susan Rushing and Aneela Khan, psychiatrists who evaluated Claire, said she suffered from auditory hallucinations that told her to cut her own throat the night she is accused of killing her sister, according to news reports.
Claire got a knife from the kitchen and tried to cut herself on the neck, a doctor testified. The teen then began stabbing at the evil hallucination, until the blood coming from her sister snapped her out of it, said Dr. Susan Rushing.
Police were called to the family’s ranch home at 1:08 a.m. and were greeted outside by Claire, wearing bloody pants and with blood on her hands, repeatedly saying “I stabbed my sister,” according to court records.
In Rushing’s assessment, Claire was in psychosis when she stabbed her sister. Rushing said psychosis is relevant because as a child, Claire’s brain is not yet fully developed.
Later Tuesday morning, prosecutors presented police officers and their own psychiatrists, who took a different view of Claire’s condition.
John O’Brien, a forensic psychiatrist called by the prosecution, said he was not able to find any consistencies with which he could diagnose Claire.
Different people involved in Claire’s care have provided conflicting accounts of her demeanor since the killing, according to O’Brien.
Rushing said Claire was severely symptomatic in April of 2021, but prison medical providers said she acted completely normal and there was nothing to suggest psychiatric illness.
“She described gasping for air, talking about her hallucinations and was upset and anxious and tearful,” O’Brien said. “There was a night and day difference between Rushing and personnel at the prison.”
Khan and Rushing both diagnosed Clare with major depressive disorder, anxiety and psychosis at the time of the killing and said these illnesses were brought on due to stress from gender dysphoria, bullying and the COVID-19 pandemic.
“As a clinician, you’re not really sure whether what you’re seeing is how [Claire] is, or how [Claire] presents herself,” O’Brien said. “The ability to define the diagnosis guides the treatment.”
Because of that, it is impossible to decide with certainty if Claire is responsive to treatment, according to O’Brien. Under Pa. law, once Claire is transferred to juvenile court, she cannot be returned to adult court.
O’Brien referenced school records from Manheim Township and Lancaster Country Day that showed she was a gifted student who won awards and was class president.
Claire’s symptoms are mild, according to O’Brien, and not atypical of normal teenagers. He said he could not suggest a specific diagnosis at all.
Several officers testified that immediately after Helen died, Claire cried every now and then but was not paranoid nor frantic, and seemed calm. She was responsive and cooperative to all requests police made through the early morning.
An audio recording showed Claire saying “No… No… No…” from within a police vehicle as the ambulance approached her family home.
Testimony from Tuesday revealed Adelphoi Treatment Center, a private organization, would evaluate Claire to consider taking her in if she were decertified as an adult in this case.
Claire’s parents testified Monday that they want Claire to eventually return home with them.
“We love both of them. I know Claire did not mean to do this. We lost Helen and we don’t want to lose Claire too. We don’t want her to be punished, not get help and be put away for a long period for something that was out of her control. We can’t lose her too.” Marie Miller, Claire’s mother, said in court Monday according to WGAL.
Miller was the first juvenile female to be housed at the Lancaster County Prison, according to Deputy Warden William Aberts, until she was moved to Muncy State Prison—the only state prison with proper accommodations for female juveniles—in March of 2021.
Miller is among the youngest defendants charged with criminal homicide in central Pa. in recent memory.
A 13-year-old boy was charged with homicide in Franklin County last year after being accused of fatally shooting his 9-year-old brother in the head after a disagreement over a game. Paperwork has been filed to move that case to juvenile court.
A 10-year-old boy was charged with murder in 2014 in Wayne County after police say he beat a 90-year-old woman at his grandfather’s house who had yelled at him. His case eventually was moved to juvenile court.
Claire’s hearing will resume Wednesday morning in the Lancaster County Courthouse, where the prosecution will finish presenting its witnesses.