"I thought she was safe": Victim's mother reacts to prison overdose

A Niles native died while serving time at a Michigan prison last July. Only now has it become public knowledge that 25-year-old Kayla Miller overdosed on heroin.

“I didn’t want to believe it, I thought she was safe in there,” said Miller’s Michiana mother Mary, who requested that her last name not be used.

Mary’s disbelief that something like this could happen will likely result in legal action.

25 year old Kayla Miller died in July 2015 while in custody at the Huron Valley Correctional Facility near Ypsilanti.

She served some 11 months there before her death and would have been eligible for release in October of 2015.

“I was hoping that she was going to come home and start a new life with her children and I was hoping that she would continue to recover from her addiction,” said Mary.

But the mother of three young boys, ages 4 through 9, who went to prison for drug treatment ended up the victim of a fatal drug overdose.

“Obviously it’s very difficult to understand with the protocols that should be used in any secure facility how heroin could come in and then be passed to an inmate and of course, how a syringe and a needle could be in the hands of an inmate,” said Mary’s attorney Sean Drew.

A critical incident report on Miller’s death concludes that Kayla Miller got the heroin from a visitor at the jail on the very day she died. After her death, a syringe and needle were found under her mattress.

The report suggests that the exchange was visible on video. “Both parties can be heard discussing in code a delivery of drugs for a visit 7/16/2015,” and that investigators could “observe the introduction of heroin and subsequent exchange of heroin from visitor.”

By the time guards discovered what was going on; Miller was “lying on the cell floor, blue in color, and unresponsive.”

“Heroin is just as dangerous as a knife, or a gun entering the jail, or prison setting and particularly when there are known recovering addicts within the facility,” said Attorney Drew.

The Critical Incident Report indicates that there were two other inmates in the same cell as Miller and that one of them was also under the influence of heroin.

It’s still unclear whether the jail medical staff had access to or administered the heroin overdose medication naloxone.

There are also unanswered questions about the speed with which prison staff responded to the cries for help that came from fellow inmates.

“If inmate citizens are in a confined location because of a drug addiction and yet they’re receiving drugs in that institution we’re spending close to $40,000 a year in Michigan on inmate housing and that $40,000 is not well spent given this example,” said Sean Drew.

Michigan State Police are still investigating the incident and relatives have not yet seen the autopsy results.

“I am going to continue until we have answers and some type of justice,” said Mary, “at least her children deserve that.”

Mary also contends that Kayla Miller was involved with the September 2015 suspensions of four Berrien County Jail guards. The Berrien County case had to do with allegations of off duty inappropriate relationships between guards and one time inmates and felons.

Sheriff Paul Bailey said there were no allegations of wrong doing inside the Berrien County Jail itself.

The sheriff further said that two of the guards in question resigned, one was terminated, and one was disciplined and has since returned to work.