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The family of a Black Massachusetts teen are demanding answers after her body was discovered by a jogger outside a small Massachusetts city last month.
Mikayla Miller, 16, was found dead in a wooded area in Hopkinton April 18. Her manner of death hasn’t been released.
Roughly three weeks later, the young woman’s family and a growing chorus of activists have accused investigators of neglecting the case due to Miller’s race and sexual orientation.
"What I want is for the criminal justice system to work," Calvina Strothers, Mikayla Miller’s mother, told NBC News.
The concerned mom blasted local authorities for not doing enough to get to the bottom of her daughter’s death. She also told the Boston Globe that authorities dismissed her daughter’s death as suicide.
"[They should] work as hard to get justice for Mikayla as they would do for their own child."
Online activists, using the hashtag #JusticeForMikayla, have also speculated Miller may have been the victim of foul play, suggesting a physical confrontation between the 16-year-old and other teenagers hours before her body was found could be linked to her death.
Local officials, however, brushed aside any accusations of bias on their part in investigating Miller’s death.
"Let me also speak to the calls and questions that we have appropriately received from concerned citizens regarding the notion that this office has in some way neglected Mikayla's case or, worse, so much worse, is engaged in some sort of cover-up because Mikayla was Black or because she was a member of the LGBTQIA community," Middlesex District Attorney Marian Ryan told reporters on Tuesday. "That is painfully false."
Ryan, who declined to comment whether Miller’s death was being investigated as a suicide, or if foul play was suspected, described the teen’s death as an "unspeakable tragedy." She had previously described Miller’s death as not suspicious, according to the Metrowest Daily News.
"Our investigators have been fully committed to determining exactly how Mikayla's precious and promising life ended," Ryan added, WBUR-FM reported. "Make no mistake, there is no truth to the allegation that we have reached a final conclusion."
The young teen’s sudden death, however, has sparked increasing alarm and outrage across Massachusetts.
“My heart breaks for Mikayla Miller’s family,” Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey said in a statement posted to Twitter. “Young, LGBTQ girls of color deserve all our love, support, and protection. Nothing will bring her back, but I hope a thorough investigation into the circumstances of her death can bring some peace to her family and community.”
Other elected officials, including Rep. Ayanna Pressley and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, have also called for an independent review of the case.
"Mikayla Miller deserved to grow old,” Pressley, who serves the state’s 7th congressional district, said. “She had so many basketball games, road trips and HBCU homecomings ahead of her."
Miller aspired to be a journalist and wanted to attend a historically Black college, NBC News reported. She loved traveling, the ocean, and camping, according to family. A vigil was held for her on Thursday.
“You know the old saying, ‘Two peas in a pod’ — that was us,” Strothers told the vigil’s crowd, according to the Boston Globe. “We had a bond that was indescribable.”
Flowers were also visible at a makeshift memorial in the woods not far from where the 16-year-old’s body was found this month.
“As a mom nothing would have brought me more joy than to watch my daughter graduate from high school,” Strothers added. “I’m never going to see her get her license and drive the new car that is still sitting in my driveway, graduate from college, fall in and out of love, get married, [and] have kids.”
Hopkinton is located about 35 miles southwest of Boston. It’s a predominantly white community, according to census data.
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