Editors note: Murders A-Z is a collection of true crime stories that take an in-depth look at both little-known and famous murders throughout history.
Even though 1999 is less than 20 years ago, it was a completely different world when it comes to technology. Owning a cell phone was not a given, laptops were luxury items and most people “surfed the web” on clunky home computers, with large black “towers” attached to oversized monitors by a confusing web of wires and cables. Texting wasn't common practice, and social media as we know it didn’t exist.
Instead, people interacted with each other in online chat rooms. Some of these were adult in nature, places where you could go and flirt anonymously, share your fantasies and indulge in virtual romances. Sometimes they would lead to real-world encounters and affairs.
It was in one of these chat rooms that Sharee Miller met Jerry Cassaday, with whom she would later have an affair and eventually convince to murder her husband, Bruce.
Bruce and Sharee Miller lived in Flint, Michigan, the hardscrabble blue-collar town that was once a vital cog in the Midwest’s automobile manufacturing industry. While Bruce was an established and successful business owner, Sharee had grown up in a trailer park and been on her own since 16. They met in 1997 when she got a job as the bookkeeper for B&D Auto Salvage, Bruce’s company. He was 47, and she was a 26-year-old single mother of three with a history of abusive relationships.
Despite their 20-year age difference, things moved fast for the couple. They quickly went from dating to living together to getting married.
Bruce’s brother Chuck Miller told Oxygen's "Snapped": “She always said Bruce was the best thing that ever happened to her. She finally had a normal life and wasn’t being moved around and had someone who could afford to make her happy.”
Chuck’s wife Judy says Bruce was “blindsided” by the pretty young blonde, whom he thought was “the perfect wife.”
Friends, however, began to have their misgivings about Sharee. They thought she spent too much money way too fast, maxing out credit cards that she wouldn’t have were it not for her hardworking husband. Bruce didn’t seem to mind, though, and anyway, Sharee also worked. She was a salesperson for Mary Kaye cosmetics, which allowed her to sell directly to clients, at home or by traveling around the country. In order to keep track of her accounts, her husband even bought her a computer.
Sharee Miller discovered adult chat rooms by chance while using her home computer to research vacation destinations for a trip with one of her girlfriends. She soon began habitually logging on and sharing her deepest sexual fantasies with complete strangers under a variety of suggestive screen names, including Horny 7241, Love Me Slowly and IWANTTOBELAID. Detective Kevin Shanlian, who investigated the Bruce Miller murder case, told "Snapped" she had at least 25 different aliases.
Among the men Sharee Miller met online was Jerry Cassaday, who went by the screen name RENODUDES. Cassaday was a former police officer from Kansas City, Missouri, who was now working as a pit boss at Harrah's Casino in Reno, Nevada. According to court documents obtained by Dateline NBC, he had a history of substance abuse and suffered from depression.
In July 1999, Sharee and her friend went on a vacation trip to Reno, where she and Jerry met in person. His friend and co-worker Carol Slaughter told "Snapped," “Sharee came into Jerry's life when he was at a low point, his marriage was breaking up, he was in a new area where he didn't have friends.”
Cassaday fell hard for the housewife, telling Slaughter his new lover would “do absolutely anything in the bedroom.” Sharee soon began using her cosmetics business as a cover to travel to Reno for romantic liaisons with Cassaday throughout that summer and fall.
When not together in Reno, Sharee and Jerry would exchange sexually explicit instant messages and emails, including videos of Sharee masturbating. She then began telling him outlandish tales about her home life back in Michigan.
She said her husband was a member of the mafia who repeatedly beat and sexually abused her. She said she had been pregnant with Jerry’s child, even showing him a sonogram, but that she miscarried after a beating from her husband. In fact, Sharee had a tubal ligation procedure in 1995 and was no longer able to conceive. At some point, Sharee began to talk to Cassaday about killing her husband Bruce.
Back in Flint, Bruce Miller had no idea anything was wrong. Though he knew she liked to flirt with men online, he came to accept it, as well as the countless hours she spent on her computer and business trips away from home. He was moving forward with plans to adopt her children, and according to family and friends, the Millers appeared to have a happy and loving marriage.
On the night of November 8, 1999, Bruce Miller was late coming home from work, and Sharee was worried. She called his brother, Chuck, and asked him to drive out to B&D Auto Salvage to check in on him. When Chuck got there, he discovered his brother dead on the floor. He had been shot in the chest with a shotgun at close range. When Sharee learned of Bruce’s death, she began screaming and crying, according to witnesses.
Bruce was known to carry large amounts of cash on him, and police initially thought his death might have been a robbery gone wrong. According to court documents, Miller was also being investigated for tampering with Vehicle Identification Numbers at B&D, along with one of his employees, who at one point was a suspect in his murder. Neither angle produced any leads, however, and the case soon went cold.
In the meantime, in the words of her sister-in-law Judy Miller, “Sharee's behavior didn't gel with most people's notion of a grieving spouse.”
Detective Shanlian told "Snapped" that according to witnesses, “Two days after the death, the murder of her husband that she loved, supposedly, she's dancing in a bar in Otisville, Michigan, committing sex acts on the floor.”
A month after Bruce Miller’s murder, Sharee moved her new boyfriend into the house she had previously shared with her husband. That new boyfriend wasn’t Jerry Cassaday, but a local delivery man named Jeff Foster. Still, Sharee was never a suspect in Miller’s death since her alibi was “rock solid,” according to Shanlian.
At the time of Bruce Miller's murder, Jerry Cassaday was back in the Midwest. He had moved home to the Kansas City area that fall in an attempt to get sober after being arrested twice in Reno and losing custody of his son. Within days of Bruce Miller’s murder, Sharee Miller reportedly broke off her relationship with Cassaday. Three months later, on February 11, 2000, he killed himself inside his Odessa, Missouri apartment with a .22 rifle.
Following Cassaday’s death, his brother Mike found a briefcase that contained a suicide note in which Jerry confessed to killing Bruce Miller.
“I drove there and killed him. Sharee was involved and helped set it up,” he wrote.
In death, he would seek revenge against the woman who broke his heart.
“I have all the proof and am sending it to the police. She will get what’s coming,” his letter said. To back up his claims, he included printed transcripts of his instant messages with Sharee. In-between sexually graphic passages, Sharee gave Jerry directions to find B&D Auto Salvage, told him where to park and not be noticed and other vital information that — according to investigator Detective Ives Potrafka — was a blueprint for the entire murder.
Lawyers for the Cassaday family soon contacted the Genessee County Sheriff's Department, forwarding their information.
On February 22, 2000, the police were waiting for Sharee Miller as she stepped off an airplane with her boyfriend Jeff Foster. Ironically, they were returning from a leisure trip to Reno. She was charged with second-degree murder and conspiracy to commit murder. Despite a briefcase full of evidence, she maintained her innocence to her dead husband’s family.
“She called my ma and told her that they were going to get this mess all straightened out,” Chuck Miller told "Snapped." It took a jury two days to convict her and sentence her to life in prison.
With tales of tawdry adult chat rooms, masturbation videos and incriminating emails, the case of Sharee Miller was one of the first to combine sex, murder and the internet. It inspired the 2006 Lifetime made-for-TV movie "Fatal Desire," starring Anne Heche and Eric Roberts. The case was profiled on shows such as "Dateline NBC," Oxygen’s "Snapped," A&E's "American Justice" and Investigation Discovery's "Deadly Women."
In August 2008, Sharee Miller’s conviction was overturned after a federal court judge determined Cassaday’s suicide letter should have been inadmissible as evidence. A new trial date was set, and on July 29, 2009, she was released on bond. After several years of back and forth in Michigan's appellate courts, Miller’s conviction was reinstated in August 2012, and she was returned to custody in 2012.
She is currently being held at the Huron Valley Women's Complex in Ypsilanti, Michigan. She is now 46 years old.
[Photo: Michigan Department of Corrections]
After proclaiming her innocence for 17 years and tying up the courts with her appeals, Sharee Miller finally came clean in April 2016. In a four-page typed letter sent to both Genesee Circuit Judge Judith A. Fullerton and Genesee County Prosecutor David Leyton, Miller confessed her guilt and admitted to using sex and lies to manipulate Jerry Cassaday into killing Bruce Miller, whom she called “a great man,” and "the only man who loved me for me.”
“I destroyed a lot of lives. It is time to end the lies and tell the truth," Sharee Miller wrote in her letter, which was first reported about by the Flint Journal newspaper.
She explained she was “living two lives” and was afraid of getting caught.
"Instead of my family or Bruce's family finding out what I really was, I thought I could cover it up by having Bruce murdered. I cannot deny this anymore," she said.
She said she knew when Cassaday was on his way to kill her husband, and despite having “sixteen and a half hours to stop it,” did nothing to stop it.
After being told of her confession, Detective Shanlian told the Flint Journal, "I'm glad she came forward. I almost feel bad she waited so long to tell the truth."
[Photo: Genesee County Sheriff's Depatment]