Death of Harford girl still baffles police 2 year later

November 27, 1994|By Mike Farabaugh | Mike Farabaugh,Sun Staff Writer

Two years have passed since the suspicious death of a popular Harford County high school girl, but sheriff's investigators say they are no closer to solving the mystery than they were a year ago.

Friday marked the second anniversary of the death of Nita Milak, 16, a John Carroll School junior who was found unconscious on a remote stretch of Wilkinson Road in Level.

She was found face down in a pool of blood on the road Nov. 25, 1992. She died of severe head injuries a few hours later at the Maryland Shock Trauma Center in Baltimore.

Investigators initially called her death a fatal accident involving a motor vehicle, but within days they reclassified it as "suspicious" after undisclosed evidence prompted traffic investigators to turn the case over to criminal investigators.

The investigators conducted dozens of interviews with relatives, friends and residents of the area where the young woman was found, but in the ensuing months they were unable to generate information that would resolve the case.

Potential leads eventually dried up, and the investigation grew cold with time.

"We have not received any new information to follow up on for about a year," Cpl. Paul L. Cole, of the sheriff's criminal investigation division, said last week. "We still do not have enough evidence to say whether her death was an accident or possibly a homicide."

By all accounts, Nita Milak was an ebullient girl with a radiant smile who was active in the John Carroll School's Outreach Ministry and ran on the cross country team.

After her death, her classmates decorated her desk and locker with flowers and photos as they struggled to understand and cope with their loss.

In the days and months that followed, they donated money to pay off the balance on her junior class ring so that it could be presented to her family, and they held a memorial service for her at the school.

A Nita Milak Memorial Scholarship Fund was established with contributions from staff members at Harford Memorial Hospital, where her father, Dr. Surendra K. Milak, was chief of emergency services, and from the Harford Medical Association, school alumni and friends of the 11th-grader.

When the girl was found on Wilkinson Road, her 1990 Jeep Wagoneer was about 60 feet away, backed up against a tree. The keys were in the ignition, but the engine was not running, Corporal Cole said.

A state medical examiner's autopsy and forensic tests of the victim's vehicle showed that she had been run over by the Wagoneer.

Corporal Cole said a team specializing in accident reconstruction used the girl's vehicle to conduct tests at the scene in January 1993.

Sgt. Steven Bodway of the sheriff's department led the team. It included Cpl. John Blades of the Maryland State Police and Cpl. Rick Peschek of the Bel Air Police Department, Corporal Cole said.

"The reconstruction team concluded that the Jeep Wagoneer was moving in reverse gear at a speed of 15 mph when it struck the girl," Corporal Cole said.

"The team also concluded there was no evidence of any steering or braking," he said.

Corporal Cole said it is possible that someone may have turned off the key to the ignition after the victim had been struck. But the reconstruction team concluded that the ignition was in the "off" position at the time of impact.

"We double-checked with all the police and medical personnel who were on the scene, and no one remembered shutting off the Jeep's engine," Corporal Cole said.

The victim's family has not spoken about the girl's death.

They had an independent investigation conducted, the corporal said.

"We've never received any information regarding the family's own investigation," said Jay E. Robinson, deputy state's attorney. "I can only assume nothing new was discovered, because the family did indicate initially that they would share any new findings with us."

Sheriff's investigators did not have much to go on.

Dr. John Smialek, the state's chief medical examiner, said the girl had not been raped and was not pregnant. He also said no drugs or alcohol were found in her blood.

Harford investigators followed up on reports that the victim had been seen earlier that day with a teen-age boy from the neighborhood, but Corporal Cole said it still is uncertain whether the boy was at the scene when the girl was run over by her own vehicle.

The "unknowns" include why she was out of the vehicle when she was run down and whether another person was in the vehicle at the time it struck her, Corporal Cole said.

Anyone with information may call Corporal Cole at (410) 836-5436.

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