Teen Army recruit’s cause of death ruled inconclusive -- Gazette.Net


This story was updated at 3:40 p.m. July 9.

It is not clear whether a Rockville teen killed herself or whether she died at the hand of U.S. Army recruiter Staff Sgt. Adam Anthony Arndt, according to a report released July 3 by Montgomery County Police.

Police found Arndt, 31, and Michelle Miller, 17, dead in Arndt’s home on Pinnacle Drive in Germantown on April 8, and had been investigating the incident as a murder-suicide in conjunction with the Army’s criminal investigation unit.

Police released the report July 3 from the Maryland Office of the Chief Medical Examiner, which ruled the cause of death for Arndt as suicide but left the cause of death for Miller as undetermined.

“It was not a clear-cut case,” Montgomery County Police spokesman Capt. Jim Daly told The Gazette.

“We were relying on the ME [medical examiner] autopsy report and their finding. We were hoping what they were able to give us would allow us to come to a conclusion and they were not able to do that. They cannot say conclusively he killed her or she killed herself,” he said.

Police found a .45-caliber handgun at the scene, which was not issued by the military and was Arndt’s personal weapon, said Capt. Marcus Jones, director of the Montgomery County Police Department’s Major Crimes Division.

Investigators made the call to describe the incident as a murder-suicide very early in the investigation, and those types of classifications can often change once forensic evidence comes back later, Jones said.

He said they looked at information such as the single gun, the way the bodies were positioned when they were found, ballistic evidence, and entry and exit wounds, but weren’t able to make a definitive decision on Miller’s cause of death.

A blood splatter analyst brought in to look at the case also was unable to reach a conclusion, he said.

Miller’s relatives say she was planning to enter the U.S. Army Reserves after graduation, and had been training with Arndt, who helped recruit her.

Arndt contacted Miller the evening of April 7, indicating that he was suicidal, and Miller went to his home to try to help, according to her aunt.

Jones said investigators believe Miller arrived at Arndt’s home sometime around 9:30 p.m. on April 7. Police have video of the pair arriving shortly after midnight at an Exxon gas station at Md. 118 and Crystal Rock Drive, where Arndt bought cigarettes.

Judging from the video, they seemed like a normal couple, smiling, laughing and hugging, and Miller didn’t seem to be there against her will, he said.

Police believe they returned to Arndt’s home around 1 a.m. and died sometime between then and around 8 a.m., when officers found Arndt and Miller dead in the home, each from a single gunshot wound, Jones said.

There was no sign of a struggle in the apartment, and no neighbors reported hearing any sign of an argument, he said.

Daly said he received the medical examiner’s report Friday and notified both the Miller and Arndt families of its findings.

Daly said the examination involved the collection of evidence and the examination and interpretation of that evidence.

“The ruling of undetermined is indicative of the amount of investigation and interpretation of the evidence,” Daly said. “We have investigated every aspect of this case we have. We have nothing left.”

The Miller family filed a claim April 29 with the Office of the Judge Advocate General of the U.S. Army, the first step in a planned lawsuit seeking $10 million in damages from the Army, said attorney Karl Protil, who is representing Miller’s family.

Protil said Tuesday he had not yet seen the medical examiner and police reports, but said he did their findings would have little impact on their claim.

“It’s not about the specifics of what happened relating to her death,” he said, explaining that the family’s claim is about how Arndt was supervised.

Regardless of the outcome of the medical examiner’s report, he said he did not believe Miller would kill herself.

Miller was “very forward thinking,” he said.

“Nothing she said would lead us or anyone to believe she would harm herself,” Protil said.

Staff writer St. John Barned-Smith contributed to this story