GOSHEN — Mark Miller's family, his lawyer and and some of the officials involved in his death investigation testified during the second day of the jury trial for Todd Stewart on Tuesday, April 29, in Elkhart Circuit Court.
Stewart, 36, is charged with murder and faces up to 65 years in prison if convicted. He is accused of killing Miller, 44, whose body was found stuffed in a barrel floating down the St. Joseph River on Sept. 20, 2012.
Dawn Miller, Mark's sister, was the first to testify. She told the jury that although she and her brother had stopped talking to each other in 2008, by 2012 they were very close. She said the last time she spoke with him was Friday evening, when they set up a time to meet to have breakfast and prepare for a court procedure.
When Mark failed to show up for breakfast the next morning, Dawn didn't think much of it. She thought Mark probably had a client at the tattoo shop or that he had forgotten to meet up.
After not hearing from Mark the next day, Dawn started asking around for him. Dawn was the first witness to testify during Todd Stewart's jury trial, which started Monday.
Dawn said she started calling friends and family to help her look for Mark. A couple days after Mark went missing, the group of friends and family gathered at Mark's tattoo shop, located along U.S. 33 in Elkhart, and started looking for him down the road and down the railroad tracks that run parallel to U.S. 33.
That day Mark's wife, Gwen, showed up to help, but she stayed at the shop's parking lot and drank instead, Dawn told the jury.
A few days later, before Mark's body was found, Dawn talked with Stewart, who took her to his bedroom and there lit a candle and told her to pray for Mark. Dawn told the jury Stewart gave her a document.
The page-long document looked like a contract that said that in the event of Mark's disappearance or death, the business ownership would be transferred to Stewart.
The jury also heard from Mark's attorney, Ben Pfaff, who said he provided legal aid to Mark when he wanted to open the tattoo shop. Pfaff said Dawn sent him a copy of the document Stewart gave her, and he told her he had never seen the document before.
The document was not notarized, and did not seem like the type of document a professional counselor would prepare, Pfaff told the jury.
The third witness to testify was Detective Jeremy Stout, who was the lead investigator from the moment Mark was reported missing. Stout told the jury he went to the tattoo shop Sept. 11, 2012, four days after Mark went missing.
Mark's family had called him because they thought they had seen a bloodstain in the shop. Stout told the jury that when he got to the shop, there were many people outside it. He described the scene as chaotic, although no one was fighting.
Stout was led through the shop by Stewart, who showed police a copy of the contract. He also told police he had a handgun and a shotgun. At the time, Stout told the jury, police did not have reason to be suspicious of Stewart's firearms.
Stout said Stewart was cooperative with police. But later that day, when Stewart showed up at the sheriff's department to give an official statement, parts of his account were not adding up. Stewart also kept talking of Mark in past tense, which Stout thought was odd because Mark's body hadn't been found at that time.
In the afternoon, the jury heard from one of the men who first saw the barrel and opened it.
Craig Holaway worked at the time at Ron's Pier Services, removing logs from the river.
On Sept. 20, 2012, he and two of his uncles were finishing up on removing logs when they approached the barrel.
Holaway said the barrel was heavy, and from outside he could see clothes and shoes.
Holaway and his two uncles decided to call police, but agreed that before doing so, they would open the barrel. That's when they confirmed there was a body inside.
Forensic specialist Randy Mockler was called to the scene the day the barrel was discovered. He helped move the barrel onto the shore and remove its contents.
The jury was presented with photos of the the evidence that was collected the evening of Sept. 20. The screen where the images were projected was turned away from the audience.
The body was taken to the Elkhart General Hospital, where forensic pathologist Joseph Prahlow performed the autopsy. Prahlow found a gunshot wound on the back of Mark's head. He also found two shotgun wounds on Mark's right thigh and his right calf.
Detectives continued collecting evidence. They served a warrant at Stewart's house and found several firearms. They went back to the tattoo shop and found shell cases out behind the building.
Some of the evidence collected was brought to the courtroom. The barrel was rolled in, and the guns that were found at Stewart's house were brought in in separate boxes.
The trial will resume at 8:30 a.m. Wednesday morning.