Columbus police have made an arrest in the 1999 shooting death of a 24-year-old woman.
Michael Miller, 40, is charged with murder in connection with the death of Shawnita N. Campbell, whose body was found along a dirt road by Warehouse Avenue on April 12, 1999. Arrested early Wednesday at the Franklin County Sheriff’s Department in Ohio, Miller was brought to Columbus that day. He appeared in Columbus Recorder’s Court Thursday and pleaded not guilty.
“I’m just glad that they’re getting him off the street,” said Barbara Walton, Campbell’s mother. “I don’t want anyone to have to lose a child like I’ve lost mine.”
Sgt. Randy Long testified that the shooting happened outside of 814 Coolidge Ave. The area was known for drugs, and Long said Campbell was prostituting herself to get money for cocaine.
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Tuiquana Dowdell, who’s in law enforcement custody, testified that she was sitting on the porch of 814 Coolidge Ave. when she saw Miller that night.
“I didn’t actually see him pull the trigger, but I heard the shot,” Dowdell said.
Miller and Campbell were near a car when the shooting happened, Long said.
“They got in the car and heard a shot,” Long said. “They saw Shawnita slumped over and Michael Miller was in the back. ... He was the bully of the neighborhood. He would go out there and terrorize the women. He would assault them, take their drugs. They were scared of him.”
A Warehouse Transmission employee found Campbell’s body when he arrived at work around 7:45 a.m. She was found with a gunshot wound to her head and lying on her side next to a tree, just off a road that extends about 50 yards past the business.
It’s about a mile from where police say Miller shot Campbell to where her body was found near 606 Warehouse Ave.
Witnesses were scared to talk about Miller, though Long and Sgt. Harvey Hatcher found one in Dallas and spoke with her last year.“She told us what happened,” Long said. “She identified Michael Miller.”
The sergeants returned to Columbus and spoke with two more witnesses. One said she was afraid to talk about the shooting because Miller allegedly made threats. One person told police that Miller approached them before the shooting and told them that if they saw Campbell to let her know he had something for her, Long said.
“They knew she was in trouble,” he added.
The gun used in the fatal shooting, a .25-caliber pistol, was never recovered, Long said.
Police then issued warrants for Miller’s arrest, and he was taken into custody by Columbus police at 7:15 a.m. Wednesday in Ohio.
Long said that Miller told him that he was in jail at the time of the shooting. That proved false. Miller then said he was an informant for the sheriff’s office, and the people who pegged him as a suspect were those who he’d set up years ago.
Long said that was also false.
Walton read a story in the Ledger-Enquirer last year about Columbus police’s efforts in cracking cold cases. That led her to pick up the phone and call Hatcher in June 2010.
“He told me ‘we’re going to work on it as hard as we can,’” she said. “And sure enough, he called the other day. I almost didn’t recognize his voice.”
On Feb. 16, the day U.S. Marshals took Miller into custody, Hatcher called and told her they’d caught the man believed to be her daughter’s killer.
“I almost fell off my feet,” she said. “I had almost given up.”
Walton said that Brianna Campbell, Shawnita Campbell’s 21-year-old daughter, looks just like Shawnita. Brianna Campbell appeared in Recorder’s Court Thursday, but declined to speak afterward.
“In a way, she was quiet — a loving person,” Walton said of Shawnita Campbell. “If you really got to know her, she was sweet as she could be. She had her troubles out here, adjusting, but she didn’t really bother anybody.”
Walton is originally from Philadelphia, though she married a Columbus area man and moved to the area in 1986. Jay Campbell, Shawnita Campbell’s brother, lived in Philadelphia in 1999.
“She was the most loving person you could meet,” he said.
Judge Michael Cielinski ordered Miller held without bond on a murder charge and bound his case over to Muscogee County Superior Court.