By Terrence McCoy
By Scott Fishman
By Deirdra Funcheon
By Allie Conti
By New Times Staff
By Ryan Pfeffer
By Deirdra Funcheon
By Kyle Swenson
After buying some Olde English, Woodson and Leung returned to find that Tomlin had disappeared, Leung told detectives. He came back, grabbed a beer, and left, still carrying the gun.
By around 1:30 a.m. the next day, Tomlin had broken into Miller's bedroom — a tenth of a mile away on White Pine Drive — wearing a mask and wielding the gun. Leung heard at least five shots, he told detectives, and immediately thought of Tomlin.
"Sheldon said Shard would do stupid stuff when drinking but didn't think he would break into a house," a detective wrote in the sheriff's report.
Tomlin was shot twice, according to the sheriff's report. A bottle of Olde English lay on the floor near his body. Nineteen bullet holes riddled the hallway, master bedroom, and sliding doors leading to the back porch. Crime-scene investigators found four spent casings from a .40-caliber gun in the house. The Millers were unharmed.
Sheriff's deputies said Tomlin's death was justified. "Justifiable circumstances: Felon killed by private citizen," reads the sheriff's report. "Justifiable code: Felon attempted flight from a crime."
But that doesn't mean the investigation is over. Last April, then-Principal Jose Garcia at Watkins told a sheriff's detective that he'd heard people at the school saying that Heath and Mirelle Miller "may have been" sleeping with Tomlin. The detective called Mintus, who said he'd heard the same rumors. Mintus and the other detective discussed their two cases "at length," the detective wrote, searching for any connection between the alleged sexual abuse and Tomlin's death. But they were stumped.
The Sheriff's Office pulled the cell phone records of Tomlin and the Millers, looking for any calls in common. They found none. The Palm Beach County Medical Examiner's Office refused to release Tomlin's autopsy report to New Times, saying the homicide investigation is ongoing.
Answering the door at his Pahokee home one recent afternoon, Tomlin's father said the family had never learned more about why Tomlin died.
Nearly a year after Heath Miller's arrest, Watkins is still reeling from the loss of its popular band teacher. Former students say the band program has fallen apart. The school has a new, stricter principal, and the math teacher who was having an affair with Miller has been moved to another job in the district.
On a breezy afternoon at a park playground next door to the school, three friends gather at a picnic table to wait for their rides home. Behind them, kids are streaming out of the sprawling Watkins campus toward the main road, laughing, running, trying to swagger on their way to the bus stop.
Carly Walls, a 15-year-old girl with an open face and frizzy brown ponytail, explains that she transferred to another middle school to finish eighth grade because there was too much bullying at Watkins. Sitting beside her is a girl with purple eye shadow and black geek-chic glasses. She's in the ninth grade and graduated from Watkins last year. Her eyes stay mostly on her cell phone and its constant stream of texts, and she declines to give her name. But she doesn't hesitate to chime in on the subject of Miller.
"Everybody loved Mr. Miller," she says, explaining that she was on the drill team. Recalling the field trips they took and the parties Miller threw at school, she sounds like she's remembering a friend or an older brother. "We were all really close with him," she says.
"I never liked the guy," counters another Watkins graduate, George Morales, who says he briefly played in the band. "He's just too happy." But that's the only criticism he can muster.
"We respected him," Carly says of Miller.
"He understood us," George agrees.
Some of the former drill team member's friends were among Miller's alleged victims. Yet she remains oddly neutral about the criminal case. She says she doesn't believe that Miller committed the crimes or that he didn't. Nor does she blame the girls who accused him.
"It wasn't their fault, and they knew it wasn't their fault," Carly says.
This ambivalence — a mixture of admiration, disappointment, and sometimes disgust — seems a common affliction for parents and children still struggling to reconcile the man they knew with the man in the booking photo on the news. When he was first arrested, one Watkins parent told the Palm Beach Post that the alleged victims might be lying. "He was one of my daughter's favorite teachers," Catherine Sampson said.
Other parents are stunned that no one raised suspicions about him earlier.
"He's impacted these young girls' lives forever," says one parent of a former band student. "It just breaks your heart to think that he had this whole playground going on... and it's like nobody came forward any sooner."
The one thing everyone can agree on is that Miller's arrest has left a painful mark on the kids who once adored him. There aren't many adults they can count on for inspiration, and now one more sits in a jail cell.
"Mr. Miller helped a lot of kids," says the former drill team member. "And then he kinda let us all down."