— Gervase Miller walks toward a stage in a small Lingan hall Saturday night, carrying a worn sign attached to a length of wood.
Miller passes by a cloth banner, which, after 22 years, is beginning to fray. A nearby poster with names, dates and times is yellowing and curling at the ends.
He takes his place beside his wife, Maureen, near a table holding 10 well-thumbed binders of information.
“I missed a lot of what you told them, Maureen,” he said in front of a crowd of about 60 people.
“Did you tell them about when I went to pick up his clothes?
”The clothes he refers to are those of his 17-year-old son, Clayton Miller, whose body was found face down in a brook two days after police raided a teenage drinking party in a park 22 years ago.
The Millers have been on a quest to find out exactly what happened all those years ago.
Each can quote almost verbatim from old statements. They can name names, cite times and dates and incidents with clarity and precision, unobscured by the passage of time.
And they know what has been said about them over the years since their son’s body was found.
“People say we’re crazy to keep doing this and that; we’ve got to give it up,” said Maureen Miller.
There are two posters upside down on the floor of the stage. She tells audience members that they are free to turn the posters around, but she cautions that they are graphic autopsy photos.
One of the posters is an enlarged copy of a photograph taken just before the autopsy.
The face bears little resemblance to the teenager in the other photographs.
Clayton Miller’s lip is swollen, as are other areas of his face, and his right hand is bent up toward his throat. There is what some people believe to be an impression of a footprint on his stomach. Bits of black, pebble-sized material cling to the body.
In the photograph, the teenager’s other arm lies by his side, but the Millers say when their son’s body was pulled from a brook on May 6, 1990, that arm was twisted behind his back.
Perhaps it is the roughly made sign Gervase Miller leaned against the wall by the stage that is the most telling.
He has carried it through the streets of New Waterford every day for the last 18 years. There is a screw through the middle of the sign and pieces of duct tape holding it together.
Affixed to the top right-hand corner of the sign is an old licence plate painted white. That’s where Miller marks in bold, black numbers the passing of the years since his son’s death.
On Saturday, he changed the number to 22.
The Millers aren’t shy about saying what they believe happened to their son.
“Police murdered Clayton,” the sign alleges.
“We don’t think the cops went out that night and said, ‘Let’s kill Clayton Miller,’ and I think it could have happened to anyone of those kids at the park that night,” the mother said.
This sign is actually the second version. Within weeks of carrying the first through the community, Gervase Miller was picked up by police and the couple say police confiscated his sign.
He made another sign, and one for his wife, just for good measure. Will they stop?
“Not while there’s still breath in my body,” said Maureen Miller.
The couple believe many of the answers they seek are in files collected during the RCMP investigation into their son’s death. They requested the files almost two years ago from the federal Access to Information and Privacy Office but haven’t received them.
Last month, they requested provincial Justice Department files relating to their son’s death under a Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act request. On Friday, the department asked for a 30-day extension.
“What’s 30 more days? No problem, as long as we get it all,” said Maureen Miller.
chronicleherald.ca/novascotia/93503-clayton-s-cause-draws-supportComments(8)Add New Comment
by Selina | May 7, 2012 - 7:37am
They are to be commended
They won't give up seeking the truth about what happened to their son. They were up against the blue wall, a wall comprised of nepotism, favoritism, poor training and a sense of entitlement often typical of a small town police force.
Once again, the question arises, who polices the police? Back then, the answer was themselves.
The new Office of Serious Incident Response established has the mandate to provide a balanced examination of events in current investigations. If they are serious about their mandate they could make a big difference in ensuring another Miller-type case never occurs again. If not, then they are just another layer of whitewash.
As for the Miller case, I fear the family will never get the satisfaction and closure they so fervently desire and deserve.
by MrJS | May 7, 2012 - 7:52am
Don't give up!
David Milgaard and Donald Marshall did not. Marshall even had his own run in with corrupt Cape Breton cops out to get a conviction rather than the truth.
I would love to know what could possibly cause a 2 year delay in the release of information from the RCMP. Does it take that long to black out incriminating evidence? I mean really! If there was exonerating evidence in those files I bet they wouldn't have needed a 30 day extention!
Cops are really quick to release details that support them!
by TIC | May 7, 2012 - 8:07am
*This comment has been edited*
The Millers have done what any loving parents would do. Their life has been a living hell for 22 years. Their only child was killed, probably accidentally. Now they need to see justice done. Losing a child has to be the hardest thing to live through, but not to know the circumstances and knowing that someone got away with his murder, has to be so much worse. More than one person knows what happened that night, and not coming forward makes them just as guilty as the one who actually caused the death. Good luck to the Millers and RIP Clayton.
by hav2b | May 7, 2012 - 8:48am
Not with the Canadian justice system.
The light of day will probably never fall on the truth sought by these grieving parents. If the police are involved in this death, the sanctity of brotherhood seems to have outweighed the value of reputation to the entire force.
If you know something, tell someone.
by Beatrice Rose R... | May 7, 2012 - 9:05am
My Glace Bay born mother,
My Glace Bay born mother, Elizabeth "Betty" Philomena Roberts (nee Cogswell), was disappeared in Toronto on March 31, 1969 (four days before my tenth birthday) and I grew up in Glace Bay, on Cape Breton Island, with nobody wanting to hear me crying for my missing mother. My heart breaks for the Millers and for their unspeakable loss. I wish that I could have been at their rally to offer them my support and I hope they will finally receive the answers that they so justly seek.
Miss Beatrice Rose Roberts
(information regarding Betty Cogswell's disappearance will be welcomed at firstname.lastname@example.org )
by Tank | May 7, 2012 - 9:13am
This story is woefully lacking in some facts. That this would blame the police for their son's death is very disconcerting, so more details please so police haters don't run amok with their lynch squad like ignorant remarks. It's too easy to drop clues like we read in this thin story to jump to conclusions.
by hav2b | May 7, 2012 - 11:59am
Tank, I think you missed the point.
It seems the facts and details, you and the Millers want, are being withheld either by or for the police. For 22 years the Millers have been asking for those facts and haven't yet been given them.
If the police want to avoid being hated, all they need to do is give all the facts, that have been gathered, and solve the crime, if in truth one was committed.
by shawnino | May 7, 2012 - 9:26am
90% of police give the rest a bad name.
A murder in Lingan.
Tasering at the Vancouver Airport that results in death, and a major league cover-up.
Natives being driven out of town to freeze to death in Saskatoon.
And those are just the serious cases we know about.
Look how the system treats less serious cases, like the drunk-driving cop given a paid vacation and slap on the wrist in Metro before being welcomed back to desk duty last week.
Police are above the law. Don't get caught alone with them.
Bonnie Jean Devoe and Greg MacKinnon, Cape Bretoners living in British Columbia, take part in the Justice For Clayton Miller event in New Waterford on Sunday. His parents suspect police involvement in the 17-year-old’s 1990 death. (MARY ELLEN MacINTYRE / Cape Breton Bureau)