By Mark Vasto
Three days after their reported disappearance, a Trimble, Missouri man has been charged with the murder of two sisters as they slept inside a rural Edgerton home.
Clifford D. Miller, 31, was charged early Monday morning in Platte County with two counts of first degree murder in the beating and suffocating deaths of 22-year-old former Platte County South student Ashley Key and her 19-year-old sister, Britney Haarup. Key was the mother of a 4-year-old girl and Haarup was the mother of two infants aged 5 months and 15 months. She was engaged to be married.
The charges wrap-up an intense investigation by area law enforcement over the weekend.
According to court documents, Miller admitted to Platte County detectives that he went to the Perry Street, Edgerton house owned by Haarup's fiance Matthew Myers sometime around 6 a.m. after an all night methamphetamine binge with the intention of raping Haarup. Miller said he was an acquaintance of hers but did not have a physical relationship with her.
(Editor's note: Miller is not related to the Miller family of Parkville. What follows after the break is a graphic description of the crime and investigation, as reported by the Platte County Sheriff's department.)
Miller told police he punched her, bludgeoned her with an object he found on a nearby table and then suffocated her in order to silence her. Then Miller went to Haarup's room after obtaining what detectives described as something resembling a club or walking stick. He entered the room and found Haarup asleep on her side, facing away from the door. Miller then struck Haarup in the head. Haarup sat up and screamed and after hitting her again, he suffocated her to death.
Miller then discovered that Haarup had been sleeping with one of her two infants, age five months and 18 months. He placed the child in a crib inside a second bedroom.
Miller then returned to Haarup's room where he tried to have sexual intercourse with Haarup's corpse but was unable to perform.
Miller then passed the time by smoking more methamphetamine in the house, where he said he stayed for about an hour after the murders.
He then told detectives he wrapped the bodies of the women in sheets and attempted to clean the blood off of the floor with a towel. He also stole two shotguns and two rifles from the residence before. He then stole a large white 2002 Dodge Ram 2500 series pickup truck owned by Myers' father, loaded the bodies in the back and drove them to the Miller Construction farm at 200th Street and County Line Road on the Clay County border with Clinton, Missouri, and placed the bodies in a dump site along a tree line.
He returned home and changed clothes and later tried to sell the rifles and shotguns, leaving one rifle with unnamed "associate" in an apartment complex near Prairie View Road and Barry Road. He then arranged for a friend to pick him up at the 200 and County Line location, where he abandoned the truck, and asked him for a ride to his girlfriend's house in Parkville, where he stayed the night.
Matt Myers returned from work at around 4 p.m. on Friday, July 13. Upon entering his home, he noticed a bloody comforter blanket on the floor, traces of blood and the two unharmed children. He noticed that his guns were missing and that Key and Haarup's shoes, purses and cellphones were still in the house. He called 9-1-1. Police began investigating and issued a TIPS request and news releases to area media immediately. Members of the KC Crime Lab treated the area as a crime scene, discovering the ripped sheets, bags and trail of blood leading from the bedroom to the back door of the house.
The stolen truck was found abandoned by a Platte County Deputy at around 11 a.m. Saturday morning and could detect no visible signs of foul play. A search of the adjacent field and surrounding area yielded no results and the investigation continued throughout the day.
Acting on a tip, police began interviewing witnesses at the Trimble area apartment complex who placed Miller in the truck the day previous. Witnesses near the World Liquor store at Prairie View and Barry Road told investigators that Miller was spotted trying to sell guns in the area. Police soon learned of his girlfriend's residence and issued search warrants for her residence in Parkville and Miller's apartment in Trimble.
With the assistance from Parkville police, Platte County Sheriffs served the warrant at a Bell Road apartment where Miller was taken into custody and described as a "person of interest" by investigators. Miller then admitted to the crimes and took investigators to the bodies. Miller was arrested and taken to Platte County jail and the bodies were taken to Jackson County for identification. Tattoos, jewelry and body piercings described by the family matched the victims' body.
Early Monday morning, Miller was charged with two counts of first degree murder and held on $500,000 bond. The charges were announced at an 11 a.m. press conference, where Platte County Prosecutor Eric Zahnd said Miller faced life sentences with no chance for parole and that he was considering going for the death penalty. Zahnd also confirmed that due to Missouri state law, Miller would not be able to use an insanity defense due to his methamphetamine use.
Joint Statement from Sheriff and Prosecutor:
Joint Statement from Sheriff and Prosecutor:
Platte County Sheriff Richard Anderson said, “This was an intense investigation to identify Miller as the suspect and develop the case against him. It included extensive searches for the women and other evidence in three different counties. Sadly, based on evidence we collected, we determined the women were dead before the search began.”
“In addition to the fine men and women of the Platte County Sheriff’s Department, I thank all of the other agencies that have assisted us in this far-reaching case,” Anderson added.
The case is being investigated by the Platte County Sheriff’s Department, which has been assisted by the Clinton County Sheriff’s Department, the Clay County Sheriff’s Department, Clay County Park Rangers, the Missouri Department of Conservation, the Kansas City, Missouri Police Department, the Missouri State Highway Patrol, the Jackson County Medical Examiner’s Office, the Clinton County Coroner’s Office, the Parkville Police Department, and the Edgerton Police Department. The prosecution team includes Zahnd, First Assistant Prosecuting Attorney Mark Gibson, and Assistant Prosecuting Attorney Kevin Humiston.
The charges against Miller are merely accusations, and Miller is presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty.