Nearly two months after the death of Mikayla Miller, Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley and a dozen state and local elected officials from Massachusetts asked for an independent investigation now that trust with the community has been broken.
Mikayla, a 16-year-old from Hopkinton, was found dead in a wooded area on April 18. The day before, she'd been hit in a fight with a group of teenagers including her ex-girlfriend, according to Middlesex District Attorney Marian Ryan, who has been investigating.
Mikayla's death was ruled a suicide by the medical examiner, but the officials -- all lawmakers besides Suffolk County Sheriff Steven Tompkins -- said in a letter to Ryan that questions remain about what led to her death, including whether it was a hate crime if investigators find she was driven to take her life because she'd been bullied because she was Black or queer.
"An independent investigation will help not only to answer those questions, but will also help to restore the trust that has been broken by the lack of transparency in the investigation currently carried out by your office and Hopkinton Police," the letter said.
It added that the death of any young person is a tragedy that requires a thorough investigation.
"By commissioning an independent investigation into Mikayla’s death, we can prevent the further erosion of trust and help Mikayla’s loved ones find the healing that every family deserves after a loss," the officials said.
Along with Pressley and Tompkins, the officials who signed the letter were Boston city Councilors Ricardo Arroyo, Andrea Campbell, Lydia Edwards, Annissa Essaibi-George, Julia Mejia and Michelle Wu, as well as State Sen. Sonia Chang-Diaz and State Reps. Nika Elugardo, Brandy Fluker Oakley, Russell Holmes and Liz Miranda.
Ryan and her office have repeatedly insisted the investigation into Miller's death would be transparent and thorough, and that they have been in touch with representatives for the family.
On Wednesday, her office said they said they facilitated a call between the officials and an attorney for Mikayla's mother, Calvina Strothers, who they have previously given a detailed description of the investigation.
"This investigation remains active and, encompasses all of the events leading up to Mikayla’s death, including any allegations of bullying. We are still awaiting additional reports from outside agencies before completing and releasing our final report," Ryan's office said in a statement.
Sign up for our Breaking newsletter to get the most urgent news stories in your inbox.
Strothers and activists have pushed for a faster, more transparent and independent investigation -- calls that have previously been backed to different degrees by some elected officials around the Massachusetts. Gov. Charlie Baker has said he would support an independent investigation, though he also said he has a great deal of respect for Ryan.
Strothers also rejected the medical examiner's recent determination that Mikayla died by suicide, calling it instead a homicide. Prominent civil rights attorney Ben Crump, who is on the legal team representing her, has said an independent autopsy conducted by the family may be released.
SUICIDE PREVENTION HELP: Here is information on suicide prevention from the National Institute of Mental Health. If you are in crisis, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255 or reach out to the Crisis Text Line by texting ‘Home’ to 741741.