Earl James Robbins is a 64-year-old man who is accused in the slaying of Cynthia Miller, a 27-year-old teacher from Raleigh County, West Virginia, who was killed on the eve of her wedding day on August 26, 1981, according to Beckley police.
For nearly 40 years, Beckley police were unable to charge a suspect with the crime until the case was reopened in 2017, and West Virginia State Police joined them in their quest to find the killer, according to news station WVNS.
Beckley Police reported via Facebook on October 13 that Robbins was indicted on first-degree murder charges related to Miller’s death. Robbins is a former Beckley resident now in a California prison for a separate rape case.
Here’s what you need to know:
Miller Was Shot & Killed Right Before Her Wedding Day, Police Say
The prosecuting attorney’s office confirms an indictment for murder has just been returned in the case of Cynthia Miller, a Beckley school teacher who was brutally murdered on the eve of her wedding in 1981. https://t.co/Q1NTjepkVW
— WVVA News (@WVVA) October 13, 2020
According to news station WCHS, Miller was preparing for her wedding ceremony, which was planned the next day, when she was killed; Miller was engaged to marry Gary O’Neal, a Lester Police Department Officer.
O’Neal, unfortunately, discovered her body — riddled with four gunshots to the head and shoulder — when he returned home after visiting his father in Princeton, according to Metro News.
A motive is not known, and police have not revealed what connection, if any, Robbins had to Miller. Raleigh County Prosecutor Kristen Keller noted during a press conference that, like most grand jury proceedings, the one which led to Robbins being indicted was closed to the public and presented evidence that she couldn’t disclose.
Beckley Police Department Detective Sergeant Morgan Bragg said that after a 2017 cold case squad was assembled, Miller’s case was one of the first they looked into. “She was an altruistic person. To be honest, in my investigation I’ve not heard a cross word or a bad thing about Cynthia Miller,” Bragg said about the case during a press conference. “She was such a good, clean, honest innocent victim that we really wanted to get justice for.”
Police Say the Investigation into Miller’s Death Turned up Evidence of Another Crime
Metro News also reported that Robbins had already been convicted of violent acts. He was convicted in 2005 of assault with a deadly weapon after he went after his brother with a claw hammer and he was also convicted of sexual assault in an unrelated case that led to a lifetime prison sentence.
Keller said that during the course of their investigation into Miller’s murder, police came across evidence that implicated Robbins in a 1980 case involving the abduction, kidnapping and sexual assault of a child.
The investigation is like following a spider web. One witness leads to another witness. These gentlemen have been investigating all over the country and talked to scores of witnesses, who would then give the name of another witness. In that way, contact was made with the victim, who was minor in October of 1980. Further investigation of that abduction, kidnapping and sexual assault ensued.
Robbins has been indicted on charges related to that case, according to WVNS.
Robbins’ Indictment Came as a Relief to Beckley PD
Bragg said that Robbins was originally looked at when police were investigating the murder of Miller, WCHS reported. “Mr. Robbins was known at that time, he was a person in the original file that we spoke to, but I can’t get into any more detail than that,” Bragg said.
Keller told Metro News, “I always call them ‘simmering’ cases. They’re never really cold. Those original detectives are still around and I’ve worked with them for many years. They never forgot the murder of Cynthia Miller and it haunted them.”
Bragg said the case “took a lot of teamwork and a lot of effort,” Inside Edition reported. “There is not much more excitement for a police officer than to solve a case like this,” Bragg added.
During a press conference, Keller said that she will fill out paperwork to extradite Robbins from California to West Virginia.
Robbins’ Past Cases Involved the Alleged Rape of a Real Estate Agent & Claw Hammer Attack Against His Brother-in-Law
In 2004, court documents say, Robbins and his brother-in-law got into an argument. “Defendant hit his brother-in-law in the back with a hammer. Defendant then chased his brother-in-law and two of his friends. Defendant yelled to his brother-in-law to come back because he was going to kill them and chased after them wielding the hammer,” the documents allege.
In 2005, say the court documents, “defendant took a woman who was acting as his real estate agent and personal assistant to a remote area near Beaumont and raped her in the backseat of his truck.” He was found incompetent in the rape case. “Defendant was committed to Patton State Hospital on both cases, as sentencing was still pending in the hammer case,” say the court records, which added that he also had previous violent felony cases. He was later deemed competent and sentenced on both cases, receiving life with the possibility of parole for the sexual assault.
In the rape case, the court documents say:
In 2005, Jane Doe was a real estate agent. Defendant hired her to help him find investment property to buy. They looked at properties several days a week for about a month before the incident occurred. At some point during that time, defendant indicated he wanted to hire her as his personal assistant to help him with the properties.
On May 9, 2005, defendant met Doe at the Tyler mall in Riverside. He took her to several places, first purportedly to ‘get a check’ to pay her for her work and then to find a place to cash the check. As night approached and it became dark, Doe became frightened and asked defendant to take her back to her car. He refused. Instead, defendant drove Doe to a deserted area in the hills off the 60 freeway in Beaumont, where he proceeded to digitally penetrate her and then rape her.