ELKHART – More questions than answers came the day after a father of five was found dead in a barrel floating in the St. Joseph River near the Six Span Bridge in Elkhart.
Who put him there?
How did he die?
After conducting an autospy, Elkhart County Coroner John White Friday afternoon ruled 44-year-old Mark Miller's death a homicide.
Captain James Bradberry of the Elkhart County Sheriff's Department says Miller's identity "was presumptively acquired by looking at tattoos on his body."
However, Bradberry says further tests will be done to confirm his identity through the use of fingerprints and dental records.
Miller’s family reported Miller missing nearly two weeks ago, saying they last heard from him Sept. 7. Right away, Miller’s family said they knew something wasn’t right.
They had a similar feeling Thursday when they found out workers had discovered a body inside a 55 gallon steel drum near the Six Span Bridge around 4 p.m.
“All of us felt the same thing,” said Miller’s brother, Charles Parker.
“I just had a gut feeling it was him,” added their mother, Sheila Miller.
Mark Miller’s friends and family members headed to the scene at CR 17 and SR 120, hoping it was him but deep down, fearing the worst.
“You have no idea,” Sheila said Friday, choking back tears.
The family said police identified him a short time later by tattoos on his body.
Sheila and Charles said three obvious clues tipped them off that something wasn’t right with Mark before they filed the police report Sept. 9.
First, calls to his cell phone went straight to voicemail.
“My daughter called me and said that he hadn't been seen and nobody knew where he was. And nobody had heard from him,” Sheila added.
Also, jewelry he never left home without was left behind. And finally, they said Miller would never walk away from his tattoo shop on U.S. 33 in Dunlap.
His family is questioning whether investigators did enough after the missing person’s report was filed. Shortly after they received the report, police told local news media they did not suspect foul play in Miller's disappearance.
“To us, we knew something was wrong because of those reasons. Police just saw it as a missing persons report,” Charles said. “They weren't listening to what family was telling them, what friends were telling them.”
Police were also tight-lipped about the death investigation Friday afternoon.
“In the past, he had done things wrong,” Sheila added. “But the last several years he was changing his life around.”
His family said giving back to the community through charity events at his tattoo shop was part of turning his life around after several convictions in Elkhart County for harassment, domestic violence, battery, interference with emergency communication, burglary and criminal mischief.
“He didn’t deserve to be hurt,” Sheila said.
All they want now is justice.
“I want the person and people who did this to my son to be paid back for what they have done to him,” she said.
When asked if the family would ever have closure, Charles responded, “When I know that they’re rotting in hell, yeah.”