By Ed Runyan
Lots of things Bradley Milligan did and said were suspicious when Howland police and a family member arrived about 4 p.m. Dec. 18 at the house Milligan and his sister, Laura Michael, shared on Howland Springs Road in Howland, police said in a newly released affidavit.
Milligan, 48, told police and Michael’s daughter, Katina, he didn’t know where Michael was, that he hadn’t seen her since Dec. 15, when she left in her car.
Milligan is charged with aggravated murder in his sister’s death and aggravated robbery regarding Michael’s car and a credit card. He is in the Trumbull County jail in lieu of $1.5 million bond.
According to the affidavit, as Michael’s daughter and Sgt. Jeff Urso walked around the house, Michael’s daughter noticed that her mother’s purse and “cigarette tobacco” were still there.
“Her mother would not have left these items at the house,” Katina told Urso privately.
A short time later, at Urso’s request, Milligan opened a locked basement door.
“As soon as Bradley opened he door, he exclaimed, ‘Aw, s--t,’ and shut the door and walked upstairs,” the affidavit said. Urso then opened the door and observed a body wrapped in a light-colored blanket on the floor.
Urso went upstairs and observed Milligan “not to be distraught and had no emotion,” the affidavit said. Urso asked Milligan again about the last time he’d seen his sister, and Milligan said, “I’m shook up. I just saw my sister laying there dead on the floor.”
Because of the way the body was wrapped in a blanket, it would be impossible to tell who was inside, Urso noted.
Police later determined that the 51-year-old Michael’s face and neck had been beaten and cut. Her death was ruled a homicide, the result of trauma to those areas.
Michael’s daughter told Urso that Milligan had been seen driving her mother’s car, which was suspicious because “her mother did not allow him to drive her vehicle.”
As police talked to Tamara Peoples, a friend of Milligan and Michael’s, other inconsistencies arose.
Though Milligan said he hadn’t been at the house since Dec. 15, Peoples told police Milligan called her Dec. 17 and Dec. 18 from the Howland Springs Road house. She knew this because of caller ID, Peoples said.
Milligan later admitted to Detective Justin Soroka of the Howland police that he had been at the house Dec. 17 and stayed there overnight.
He also said later that he had started walking back to the Howland Springs Road house Dec. 18 after buying beer. Another daughter of Michael’s, Veronica, then picked him up and drove him to the house, Veronica told police.
Peoples told police she talked with Michael on Dec. 16, and Michael said Milligan was “on a roll,” meaning agitated.
Milligan told Peoples at about that time that he had built a “zip gun and was planning on killing himself,” the affidavit said. A zip gun is an improvised firearm.
Veronica told Howland police she had seen Michael’s 1996 tan Ford Contour at the Howland Springs residence around 1:30 p.m. Dec. 18, but nobody answered the door. The Contour was found late Dec. 18 at the Howland Super Kmart, police said.
Dr. Humphrey Germaniuk, Trumbull County coroner, ruled preliminarily that Michael died 24 to 36 hours before her body was found Dec. 18.
Police observed what appeared to be blood stains on one of the boots Milligan was wearing. There also appeared to be a stain on the bandage on Milligan’s left arm and a fresh cut on his left hand, police said.
Judge Andrew Logan of Trumbull County Common Pleas Court gave Howland police permission to collect DNA evidence from Milligan, his boots, the Contour and other items taken into evidence.
An affidavit is a document used to justify to a judge the reasons why police feel it is necessary to take a sample of a person’s DNA or test other items.
Common Pleas Judge Ronald Rice increased Milligan’s bond from the $250,000 set last week in Warren Municipal Court to $2.5 million. David Rouzzo of the Ohio Public Defender’s Office represented Milligan at Thursday’s arraignment hearing.
Katina called Howland police about 4 p.m. Dec. 18 asking them to check on her mother because she hadn’t talked to her for several days.
Milligan was convicted of domestic violence against his sister during the summer of 2012 after Michael told police Milligan had threatened to kill her and had injured her wrist by grabbing her arm as she called police.
The fight pertained to Milligan’s wanting his sister to buy him beer and her refusing, according to Howland police.