Miller found guilty of first-degree murder

by Kim Robins - Posted on Nov 07, 2018 - 02:37 PM

Photo: Kenneth Ray Miller

Kenneth Ray Miller

A 40-year-old Hayes resident was found guilty last week of two counts of first-degree murder in connection with the December 2017 shooting deaths of two Hayes women in their Bellehaven Drive home.

Kenneth Ray Miller was convicted of fatally shooting Helga Marie Frost, 29, and Eleni Gabrielle Wright-Bonnette, 24, during an attempted robbery of the two women on Dec. 11. He was also found guilty of two counts of robbery and two counts of using a firearm in committing a felony.

Gloucester Circuit Court Judge Jeffrey W. Shaw made the findings last Thursday after hearing about a day and a half of testimony. He set Miller’s sentencing for March 11. 

According to evidence presented last week, Miller’s actions at the Bellehaven residence were caught on three different video surveillance cameras that were installed there. One was outside and two were inside the home.

A Gloucester Sheriff’s Office investigator testified he was able to combine video from all three cameras to create a single, silent black and white video showing what happened that night in time sequence.

In the video, the victims allow the defendant inside the home where he exchanges something with one of them. Miller exits, but soon after re-enters the residence and exchanges words with the women before pulling a gun on them.

Holding the gun on them, Miller directs the two down a hall and into a bedroom. Three or four muzzle flashes are seen and Wright-Bonnette falls to the floor near the doorway.

The defendant can be viewed exiting with a safe. He leaves the residence with it but soon returns and then is seen leaving with a backpack before the vehicle he arrived in departs the scene.

Frost’s young daughter was also at the home and was not physically injured. She phoned her grandmother after going into the bedroom where the two women lay. Her grandmother told her to call 911 as the grandmother also did. 

Deputies responded to the Bellehaven Drive home just after 10 p.m. in response to the 911 calls. They found Frost was deceased. Arriving medics had Wright-Bonnette airlifted to a hospital but she died of her injuries soon after. 

Information gained by Gloucester investigators led to Miller’s arrest the day after the murders. The GSO received tips that Amanda Epps of Hayes was with Miller the night of the murders. She was arrested on Dec. 15.

The GSO received additional information that another suspect, Charley Riley of Topping, supplied the 357 magnum used in the double homicides and was in the vehicle with Epps and Miller the night of the murders. Riley was arrested on Dec. 18.

Riley, 27, who was later released on bond, and Epps, 23, who has remained in custody, are scheduled to face charges related to the murders on Tuesday in Gloucester Circuit Court. Both testified in Miller’s trial. 

Epps said she drove Miller to the Bellehaven Drive residence the night of the murders. She testified that she heard gunshots after Miller entered the residence a second time, and that Miller later said he had to shoot Frost because she was going to call the cops.

Riley also said he heard shots after Miller’s second trip inside the Bellehaven residence, and that Miller said he should have taken the women’s phones. He admitted giving Miller the gun and bullets. Both Epps and Riley said they would never have accompanied Miller that night if they thought a shooting would occur.

After Shaw announced his guilty verdicts, Miller’s attorney, Stephen Palmer, said his client’s absence from the courtroom eliminated his right to confront the witnesses against him. Shaw said that was Miller’s decision.

Miller had pleaded not guilty to the charges he was found guilty of during his arraignment on Oct. 30. When the proceedings began the next day, Miller interrupted repeatedly, saying he wanted Palmer fired and desired another attorney. His disruptions led to his being taken from the courtroom.

After a recess, Shaw ruled he had not heard sufficient grounds to appoint new counsel. Miller was returned and repeated his objections to Palmer. He also rejected an opportunity to view the proceedings by camera from another room, said he did not want to be around Palmer anymore and was again escorted out.

Shaw gave Miller additional opportunities to return to the courtroom throughout the trial, which the defendant also rejected. After the commonwealth rested its case, Palmer requested Miller be returned to see if he wanted to tell his side of the story. 

Palmer had earlier said that his client had adamantly refused plea deals and that Miller was absolutely sure he was not guilty of first degree murder.

Miller rejoined the courtroom but answered “no” after Shaw told him he had the right to testify in his own behalf and asked him if he wanted to testify. Shaw ruled that Miller had waived his right to testify on his own behalf and Miller again exited the courtroom. 

Palmer called one witness before resting his case. After brief final arguments, Shaw announced his findings, set a sentencing date and nolle prossed two additional charges against Miller. The defendant was again returned to the courtroom and was told the findings but had nothing to say.

Gloucester Commonwealth’s Attorney Holly Smith and her deputy CA, Megan Zwisohn, prosecuted the case.