Originally created 05/24/00

Slaying suspect charged



ST. MARYS, Ga. - A suspect in the slashing and beating death of a 14-year-old St. Marys girl was denied bond Tuesday after he was formally charged with murder.

During an emotionally charged bond hearing, the victim's mother, Sherry Parrish, had to be restrained by family members as James Christopher Miley was led from a courtroom.

"I hope you fry!" Mrs. Parrish yelled at the 18-year-old Camden County High School junior. Mr. Miley denies any involvement in the slaying.

Police found the body of Ashley Nicole Neeves on Sunday morning, about the same time Mrs. Parrish was filing a missing person's report with authorities, said Sgt. T.J. Sievers, a detective with the St. Marys Police Department.

Nicole, a St. Marys Middle School eighth-grader, had not been seen by family members since about 1 p.m. Saturday, Sgt. Sievers said. Authorities think she was killed at about 6 p.m. Saturday.

Officers found the body after responding to a complaint about vultures in a wooded area near the Shadowlawn subdivision off Georgia Highway 40, Sgt. Sievers said.

"Neighbors thought the vultures were attacking their dog, and they wanted to know why," Sgt. Sievers said.

The victim's face and neck were so mutilated that a family member could not positively identify her for police, Sgt. Sievers said. Dental records were used to confirm the identity.

A sharp jagged object, possibly a broken bottle, was used during the attack, Sgt. Sievers said. The victim's skull was crushed with a blunt object, he said.

Police arrested Mr. Miley on Sunday after neighbors near the wooded area where the body was found identified him as the man they saw nearby at about the time the killing took place, Sgt. Sievers said.

Police found scratches and other evidence on Mr. Miley's body that show he was involved in a struggle that could link him to the crime, Sgt. Sievers said.

"She put up a hell of a fight up," Sgt. Sievers said.

A friend of the suspect came forward to say Mr. Miley told him he was involved in the crime, Sgt. Sievers said.

Police would not identify the friend.

Mr. Miley, however, has maintained his innocence.

"He has not admitted to anything," Sgt. Sievers said.

Mike Wilson, a Shadowlawn resident whose home is less than 200 yards from the crime scene, said he found a pair of leopard-print shorts on a palmetto bush and an empty six-pack of Zima in the woods yesterday after investigators left.

Mr. Wilson said he called police immediately after finding the shorts and empty alcohol containers.

"We didn't touch a thing," Mr. Wilson said.

The shorts were identified as the victim's, Sgt. Sievers said.

School administrators assigned a crisis intervention team to the schools attended by the suspect and victim to help classmates cope with the crime, said Edwin Davis, assistant superintendent of Camden County schools.

Teams of counselors were assigned to discuss the death and arrest with pupils and give individual attention to anyone asking for help, Mr. Davis said.

About 100 of the 1,100 St. Marys Middle School pupils left classes early yesterday, but "things went relatively well," Mr. Davis said.

Bonnie Williams, Nicole's aunt, said family members were bewildered about what could have driven anyone to kill her niece.

"We don't know what led up to this," she said.

Ms. Williams said Mr. Miley and her niece were acquaintances but nothing more.

"He had a crush on her; he kept calling," Ms. Williams said.

But Nicole was not interested in dating Mr. Miley, Ms. Williams said.

Ms. Williams said the family is trying to cope with the tragedy.

"This is so hard," she said. "I almost feel guilty hugging my daughter in front of Sherry."