Criminal Case in Evelyn Miller's Slaying Took Years to Develop

This undated photo released by family members shows Evelyn Miller, of rural Floyd, Iowa. Miller, 5, disappeared from her family's apartment on July 1, 2005. Her body was found five days later in the Cedar River about two miles from her home. (AP Photo/Family photo via Mason City Globe-Gazette)

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By Aaron Hepker

IOWA CITY, Iowa (AP) — The mother's boyfriend was immediately a suspect when a 5-year-old girl was found dead in an Iowa river in 2005, but it took investigators seven years to build a strong enough case to bring charges, authorities said Friday.

Casey Frederiksen was watching Evelyn Miller at the family's apartment in Floyd when she went missing and he quickly came under suspicion because of odd and troubling behavior. Within hours, he hid with a neighbor a computer hard drive containing a cache of disturbing child pornography involving young girls. He head-butted a wall and screamed at police as they searched the apartment. Volunteers descended from all over to look for the girl, but Frederiksen left with a friend on a trip 150 miles south to Des Moines.

After kayakers found the girl's body on the banks of the Cedar River days later, FBI dogs picked up his scent where the girl may have been dumped. Three months later, he tried to commit suicide by slicing his arm, telling emergency responders "if he could take it all back he would and he would be dead and Evelyn would be alive," according to court documents.

But without a murder weapon, DNA evidence or witnesses who saw the slaying, Frederiksen was not charged for more than seven years. On Thursday, officials announced a complaint of first-degree murder and sexual abuse. The development won praise from the girl's relatives and residents, some of whom had long suspected Frederiksen and wanted justice.

Prosecutors said Friday that no single development or piece of evidence led to the breakthrough. Instead, they said information pointing to Frederiksen mounted while he served federal prison terms on child pornography and methamphetamine charges, and they became confident they were ready to take the case to a jury.

"I'm really glad that it all came together, finally, to a point where charges could be filed. I'm happy to see that there's going to be justice for this little girl," said Marilyn Dettmer, who was Floyd County Attorney when Evelyn disappeared. She said she had been close to charging Frederiksen years ago, but found "not enough admissible evidence for a jury to find beyond a reasonable doubt."

Investigators said their case strengthened as Frederiksen changed his story about what happened that night and they interviewed inmates who described him making incriminating statements.

They say he told an inmate he touched the girl's dead body and carried her to the river and confided details in others that never had been released, such as that the girl had been stabbed in the neck and that she was found with her clothes on. He told an inmate he'd molested the girl for years and, after being indicted on meth charges, told another he could "get away with murder and still do life," according to court documents.

"It just gets to a point in an investigation where you say, 'alright, we need to make a decision here regarding charges'," said Assistant Attorney General Scott Brown. "The culmination of that was yesterday."

A judge signed an order Thursday to bring Frederiksen from a federal prison in Marion, Ill., back to Iowa to face the charges. Brown said the transfer could take a few weeks to complete. Frederiksen then would make his initial court appearance and have an attorney appointed to represent him. Frederiksen's mother, Sandy Kuykendall, declined comment.

Dettmer said federal prosecutors' decision to charge Frederiksen for possession of child pornography months after the death — and later conspiracy to manufacture meth — gave investigators time to methodically build their case. The convictions will keep Fredericksen behind bars until 2026, regardless of whether he's convicted in the slaying.

"It was a safety advantage to the community," she said. "Swift prosecution of both cases did provide that comfort zone to continue a very thorough investigation without feeling rushed."

Residents had long suspected one of four people had to be involved in Evelyn's death: Frederiksen; the girl's mother, Noel Miller; or Dan Slick and Randy Patrie, who stopped by the apartment to see Frederiksen at 2:00 a.m. and were among the last to see Evelyn alive. Slick was convicted of lying to FBI agents investigating the case, but investigators said Thursday they believe only Frederiksen was involved.

Floyd Mayor Trevis O'Connell recalled walking in extreme heat through cornfields with hundreds of volunteers who searched for Evelyn after she went missing. He said the case had been devastating for the town of 330 and praised investigators for their dogged pursuit of the killer.

"I'm glad the case didn't become cold and they kept working on it and working on it and came up with what we hope is the answer," he said. "It's good to come to a conclusion on something this tragic."
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