On March 7, 2014, a former Pennsylvania police officer, Joseph Miller, was busy with life’s everyday to-do list. He was finishing chores around the house alongside his wife, Joanna, when things took a turn for the tragic.
According to CBS News, Miller and his wife were in absolute nesting mode as they awaited the birth of their third child. Miller was painting a room while Joanna, who was six months pregnant at the time, was sorting out baby clothes.
When Miller finished painting he moved onto the next task: cleaning his gun. Though, according to CBS, Miller was off duty at the time, he had been a police officer for seven years — and he was likely no stranger to the maintenance of a firearm.
According to the Associated Press, Miller began to disassemble his gun in the family room in order to clean it when it fired. Montgomery News reported that Miller told investigators he had been looking at the gun when he fired it but did not see his wife was in its path. She was reportedly sitting on the floor vacuum sealing her kids’ clothing.Screenshot/CBS News
Tragically, she was directly in his gun’s line of fire. Moments later, Joanna was rushed to the hospital after being shot in the left temple.
Montgomery News reported Miller’s immediate call to 911, during which their two children, 4 and 2, could reportedly be heard, saying:
“I was about to clean my gun and I didn’t realize there was a round … I shot my wife. There was one round in there. I didn’t realize there was a round in there.
Joanna, I love you, and my wife is pregnant also … she’s due July 4. (Expletive) I can’t believe I (expletive) did this.”
She was quickly taken to a local hospital where she fell into cardiac arrest. According to Montgomery News, an emergency cesarian section was performed in an attempt to save her baby girl’s life, however, Joanna died just after the surgery at 3 p.m. Sadly, her daughter, at just 24 weeks gestation, died shortly after at 4:24 p.m.
A subsequent autopsy determined Joanna’s cause of death was a “perforating close range gunshot wound of the head.”
That’s when officials found holes in Miller’s story.
According to CBS, Miller initially told officials that when his gun discharged it was approximately 8 to 10 feet away from Joanna. Then, he reportedly changed his statement to around two feet.
But after intense scrutiny, prosecutors said that ballistics and forensics tests pointed to his gun being a mere 3 to 6 inches from Joanna’s head when she was shot.
Montgomery News reported detectives said Miller “fully understood Glock firearm safety procedures and the standards of care necessary to protect others from a substantial and unjustifiable risk of death,” while investigators determined Miller should have known his firearm was aimed directly at his wife’s head.
On Thursday, Miller, now 36-years-old, pleaded guilty to two counts of involuntary manslaughter, one for his wife and the other the daughter she was pregnant with.
Miller is now facing a maximum of 5 to 10 years behind bars — the date of his sentencing is still undetermined.
He and Joanna had been married since 2009, and lived together, along with their two children, with Joanna’s older two kids, an 11- and 8-year-old son.