Investigators probing the death of 16-year-old Mikayla Miller were unable to retrieve key video evidence in the case because cameras in her Massachusetts apartment building weren't recording the night she died, according to the district attorney.
In a note to investigators, a worker from the company that operates the surveillance system in Mikayla's building in Hopkinton wrote that it didn't save any footage for a period of about 17 days, beginning April 2 until the system was rebooted around 9:15 a.m. on April 19 -- one day after the teenager's body was discovered nearby.
Video evidence could have answered crucial questions in Mikayla's case, and revealed what transpired during a physical altercation between Mikayla and five other teenagers during the last day she was seen alive.
Speculation has swirled, and lawmakers have joined Mikayla's mother in calling for a transparent and thorough investigation into the death of Mikayla, who was Black and a member of the LGBTQIA community.
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Court records show police obtained a warrant last month to gather surveillance video from her apartment building, but did not collect any evidence.
A spokesperson for District Attorney Marian Ryan confirmed that police were unable to retrieve any recordings from Mikayla's building, and cited the technological malfunction.
While that evidence could have been helpful, Todd McGhee, a former Massachusetts State Police trooper, said other evidence can still help piece together what happened.
"The cameras are certainly a piece of the puzzle," he said. "That being said, it's not the only piece."
Mikayla was found dead about 7:45 a.m. on Sunday, April 18. The district attorney's office said at the time that the death was not considered suspicious but the case remained "open and active."
The district attorney released some new details Tuesday, saying that on Saturday night, April 17, between 9 and 10 p.m., Mikayla left her home and traveled an estimated 1,316 steps, according to an app on her phone -- though Mikayla's mother questioned the reliability of the step information at a vigil and rally in Hopkinton Thursday.
The teenager was found dead by a jogger in a wooded area off a walking path Sunday morning, according to the DA.
Court records reviewed by NBC10 Boston shed additional light on the circumstances.
In an affidavit filed in court, a Hopkinton police detective wrote he was called around 7:30 a.m. on April 18 regarding a deceased female, and joined two Hopkinton police sergeants and another officer to investigate.
"As I approached the scene I could see an African American female suspended from a tree branch," the detective wrote.
"I did a cursory examination of the body upon my arrival," he continued. "I did not observe any trauma, external wounds or bleeding coming from the decedent. The scene appeared to be undisturbed, the leaf litter on the ground appeared to be matted and heavily traveled. It should be noted that the decedent was located on a heavily traveled town path."
The detective noted that a thin black leather belt was affixed to a small branch and secured around Mikayla's neck.
Mikayla was "dressed appropriately for the conditions," and there were no signs of dirt or debris on her clothing or shoes that would indicate she struggled, according to the detective's affidavit.
Mikayla was wearing a baseball cap, and police located her backpack in the area, according to the affidavit. Inside were personal property, including a Macbook computer and cellphone, according to the affidavit.
The search warrant also described a reported fight inside a game room at the apartment complex the night before Mikayla was found dead.
Documents say it started between Mikayla and her ex-girlfriend, but other teens joined in, and one boy allegedly hit Mikayla in the face. Police later found glass planters that had shattered in the parking lot during the confrontation, according to the affidavit.
The detective wrote that police had probable cause to believe assault and battery, disorderly conduct and malicious destruction of property had occurred during the events at the apartment complex, according to the paperwork.
McGhee, the former Massachusetts State Police trooper, said a pending medical examiner's report will provide important information in the case, since physical injuries aren't always evident to the first detectives who arrive at the scene.
"That's not going to glean any information about potential trauma to other parts of her body so that's why we need to have a medical examiner's report that will do a full examination," he said.