May 11, 2009

Prosecutors seek to keep Heath Miller in jail on sex charges until trial

Heath Miller

By Christina Denardo, Palm Beach Post

May 11, 2009

WEST PALM BEACH - Just months ago, the world knew Heath Miller as a popular band teacher who shot a home invader.

Now even that shooting is getting a second look, investigators said Monday, for any connections to a widening circle of girls and women who say Miller pressured them to have sex and then keep quiet about it.

Meanwhile, school records show that his principal turned him down for tenure at H.L. Watkins Middle last year, and prosecutors were moving to keep him in jail without bond because they say he represents a danger to the community.

"This is a case that has grown legs, to say the least," said Palm Beach County school police Detective Vinny Mintus, the lead investigator on the case.

Days after the Palm Beach County School District Police filed more than a dozen charges against Miller alleging he had sex with one student, raped another and fondled four others, several other alleged victims have come forward to say he fondled or had sex with them, authorities said.

Miller, who earlier this year fatally shot an intruder in his Wellington home, has been in the Palm Beach County Jail since his initial arrest in April after being accused of sexual assault with a student.

After Miller was arrested, the Palm Beach County Sheriff's Office got tips that the home-invasion shooting was related to the sex assault allegations. Investigators have not connected the 22-year-old man Miller shot and killed, Robert Rashard Tomlin, to any of Miller's alleged victims.

"If there is any information that comes forth, and it's viable information, we will follow up," said Sheriff's Detective Sgt. David Conklin.

School board police have yet to share names of the alleged victims with sheriff's homicide investigators. Even if Tomlin were found to be related to one of the girls, it wouldn't legally justify him in donning a mask, drawing a handgun and breaking into Miller's house in the middle of the night, Conklin said.

Miller, the school's band director, was charged with sexual battery after pulling one girl out of a reading class against her will and raping her in a band room, according to an arrest report. He was having sex with another student, as well as two teachers, according to his arrest affidavit. This week, prosecutors plan to file a motion to keep Miller, 35, in jail while he awaits trial. A hearing on the motion is expected on Friday.

Miller did not speak at a brief court appearance Monday morning. His attorney, Mark Wilenski, declined to comment, as did his wife. In an interview with detectives, Miller admitted to kissing a student but denied any other inappropriate contact with students.

Miller, who started working for the district in 2000, had never been disciplined or accused of misconduct.

In a review dated May 1, 2008, administrators wrote that Miller continued to improve the music program at the school and had "a very positive relationship with his students."

However, Watkins Principal Ann Wark had concerns about his ability to follow policy, procedures or ethics last year and recommended that he work at the school for one more year before being eligible for tenure. It is a rare move used only a handful of times each year. Wark could not be reached for comment today.

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