March 10, 1999
Shon Miller kills his mother-in-law, estranged wife, 2-year-old son, and a church deacon, and wounds a further four
Miller (22) had a history of abusing his wife Carla Miller (25), from slashing her tires to knocking one of her teeth out. After two years of abuse, Carla filed for divorce. It is suspected the divorce was the motive behind the murders.
On March 10, Miller visited his mother-in-law, Mildred Vessel (53) at her home. He approached her as she was parked in her driveway before firing five shots into her face. Miller then traveled to the New St. John Baptist Church where his wife and their son were attending services.
Once inside the church, Miller fired two shots into the air. Miller’s 2-year-old son, Shon Miller, Jr., happily called out to his father. Miller responded “Boy, don’t call me daddy now!” before shooting the toddler twice in the head. Miller then shot Carla several times. Also killed was Vanario Jackson (19), who had been sitting next to Carla and had been killed by a single gunshot wound to the head. Before fleeing, Miller shot at random parishioners, wounding an additional four.
Miller fled to a shed where he contemplated suicide. Police tracked him to the shed and attempted negotiations, though they ultimately failed. A sharpshooter shot the gun from Miller’s hands, shattering it into three pieces, though an arresting officer reportedly tripped over a large pile of debris in the darkened shed and accidentally discharged his weapon, striking Miller in the back, leaving him paralyzed from the waist down.
Miller originally pleaded not guilty but attempted to change his plea to not guilty by reason of insanity. The courts refused to accept the amended plea. Miller was found guilty of four counts of murder and sentenced to death, though the sentence was overturned by the Supreme Court who decided the lower court should have accepted the second plea. In 2008, Miller submitted a guilty plea in exchange for a life sentence, which cannot be appealed.
“Shon Miller Pleads Guilty To Four Counts Of First Degree Murder.” The Assumption Pioneer [Napoleonville, Louisiana]. June 12, 2008
Moses, Caroline. “Guilty plea entered in 1999 church killings.” WAFB. June 6, 2008. Updated: July 3, 2008. Accessed: March 10, 2019. http://www.wafb.com/story/8442441/guilty-plea-entered-in-1999-church-killings/
Supreme Court of Louisiana. STATE of Louisiana v. Shon D. MILLER, Sr. No. 2005-KA-1826. Decided: June 29, 2007. https://caselaw.findlaw.com/la-supreme-court/1185808.html
Firestone, David. “Bible class killings shatter unassuming Louisiana town.” The Courier-Journal [Louisville, Kentucky]. March 12, 1999