Hall of Shame: Home insurance arsonist shoots witnesses, kids

By James Quiggle
December 22, 2011

Dogged by debt, William Craig Miller torched his fancy home for an illicit insurance bailout. But growing desperate as his fraud trial neared, the Scottsdale, Ariz. man coldly executed five people to prevent witnesses from testifying. It was one of the deadliest insurance crimes in U.S. history.

Miller seemed a successful community man and entrepreneur, living in an affluent neighborhood. But he was financially crumbling behind the high-flying veneer, So he hoped a $440,000 insurance payday for incinerating his house would help ease his money woes.

But investigators found gas cans inside the charred ruins. Gasoline pour patterns also were scattered throughout the house, except in his son’s bedroom. Miller was arrested.

williamcraigmillerThe noose tightened as his trial drew nigh. Miller had hired an employee named Steven Duffy to help burn down the place. But Duffy turned remorseful soon afterward. He and his live-in girlfriend Tammy Lovell agreed to testify against Miller.

Their testimony could send him up the river. They had to go.

Armed with a handgun, Miller crept into Lovell’s house at night. He shot Lovell three times in the back of her head, execution style. Duffy took four bullets, including two in his face.

Three kids also were at home. Miller couldn’t leave any shooting witnesses, so he blasted Tammy’s 10-year-old son point-blank in his forehead. And 15-year-old Cassandra went down with a bullet to her chest. Duffy’s brother, 18-year-old Shane, also was executed.

Miller quickly fell apart when police questioned him about his alibis. First he said he was out drinking with a buddy until 2 a.m. Then he said was only trying to recover his plasma TV and other possessions that were stored at the murder house. But Duffy started shooting when he walked in, Miller lied, saying he instinctively shot back at Duffy.

None of his explained the dead kids, or execution-style shootings at close range.

Miller received 14 years in prison for the insurance arson in March 2011.

Then came his murder trial. Miller hardly bothered to attend, and his own attorney admitted his client was a stone-cold murderer. But Miller suffered from bipolar disorder, which lessened his moral culpability, his attorney argued in a last-ditch effort save Miller from a death sentence.

The jury handed him death anyway in September. “It doesn’t take away the sorrow but it closes a chapter,” Tammy’s sister Luhanna Chesley said afterward.

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