Woman, child might have seen slaying Salisbury police seek witnesses in girl's killing.

September 11, 1991|By Alisa Samuels and Richard Irwin | Alisa Samuels and Richard Irwin,Evening Sun Staff Joe Nawrozki contributed to this story.

Salisbury police are searching for a woman and a child who may have been in the restroom or near it when a 17-year-old Salisbury State University student was slain Monday at the Salisbury Mall.

Lt. Russell K. Marriner said police hope that the woman will learn she may have been a witness to a killing and will call the police department at (301) 548-3165 or Crime Solvers at (301) 548-1776.

The mall is offering a $5,000 reward and Crime Solvers is offering a $1,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the assailant.

Shortly after 6 p.m. Monday, Heather Miller, a freshman biology major at Salisbury State, was stabbed in the restroom of the 60-store mall, about five miles from the university.

Miller had gone to the mall with friends and went into the restroom alone. She was attacked by a man armed with a large knife and stabbed in the back and chest, police said.

After the stabbing, Miller staggered outside the restroom, screamed for help and fell onto the concourse, police said.

Miller was taken to Peninsula General Hospital in Salisbury, where she died.

Marriner said robbery appeared to be the motive and that the man apparently was inside the restroom when Miller entered.

"We think he felt that it would be easy to rob a woman in the restroomand was waiting for the first woman to enter," Marriner said.

He said from the knife wounds it appeared Miller may have been stabbed to keep her from fleeing the restroom and reporting that a man was robbing her.

Marriner said the city police department's academy class today would continue to search for Miller's property taken during the attack. He declined to identify it.

L He said a knife used in the slaying also has not been found.

Marriner said investigators have not come up with anything that would lead to an arrest.

Marriner said investigators think the suspect may be a drifter who migrated from Ocean City after the summer season and was hanging around town for work.

Marriner said that when the season ends at Ocean City, people -- mostly men -- arrive in Salisbury by hitchhiking or bus and look for jobs because it's the first large town on the way to Baltimore or Washington.

He said no one in the police department recognized the composite of the man or knew of anyone who stopped women in their travels and asked them unusual questions.

A man who may be Miller's killer was seen in the mall asking women if they were married.

The man was described as age 25 to 30, black, 5 feet 10 inches and about 160 pounds. He was wearing a long-sleeved black shirt and dark pants, had bloodshot eyes and his speech was slurred, police said.

A mall spokeswoman declined answering questions about mall security, saying police had advised the mall not to make any comments.

Miller recently had left her home in Glenshaw, Pa., to come to Maryland to begin her college studies at the 5,700-student university, said a school spokesman. She began classes a week ago.

In Pennsylvania, her parents, Richard and Karen Miller, have been in seclusion.

"They just feel it's a private matter," said a woman who answered the telephone at their home and said the parents did not want to talk to the press.

Gains Hawkins, a Salisbury State spokesman, said Miller's death was the first slaying of a student in the 12 years he had worked at the college.

University President Thomas E. Bellavance called the killing savage.

"We as a nation have made these phenomenal advances in computers, in space, in war machinery, but we've regressed to savagery," Bellavance said.

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