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Shooting death shakes up McCandless complex

| Friday, March 6, 2009

Investigators are trying to determine if the McCandless woman whose body was found inside her apartment Thursday morning took her own life or was killed by someone else.

Kathryn Miller, 51, lived in the Hickory Hills apartment complex with her 60-year-old boyfriend, county homicide detectives said. They said the boyfriend, whose name was not released, was in the apartment at the time.

Miller's body was found on the living room floor with a single gunshot wound to the chest, said county police Assistant Superintendent James Morton. A handgun was found in the apartment, but Morton would not say where.

Miller's boyfriend called 911 at 11:50 a.m. He said he got out of the shower and found Miller on the floor between the living room and kitchen in their second-floor apartment in the Pavilion Court area of the complex off Pine Creek Road, Morton said.

Paramedics responded to a call about a "woman in distress," Morton said. Miller was pronounced dead at the scene.

Detectives continued last night to question the boyfriend.

Miller was last seen alive Wednesday night, and neighbors did not report seeing or hearing anything unusual since then, Morton said. There were no signs of forced entry at the apartment, and Morton declined to say whether there were signs of a struggle.

He wouldn't say whether police had responded to any disturbances or problems at the apartment, where he said Miller and her boyfriend have lived with their two cats since October.

However, several neighbors remember police being called to the couple's apartment a few months ago for a domestic disturbance.

Dr. Khalid Jaber, a forensic pathologist from the Allegheny County Medical Examiner's Office, was brought to the scene to examine the body.

An autopsy is scheduled today, Morton said. Gunshot residue tests will be conducted to determine whether Miller had fired a gun.

One neighbor, Gary Bienemann, said the couple told him they moved from Arizona so they could help care for an ailing parent.

"I always saw the man walking his cats on a leash," Bienemann said.

Miller's death left several neighbors shaken and scared.

"It's kind of disturbing to come home and see the cops," said Suzy Buckshaw, who has lived in the apartment building for five years. She said it's "kind of unnerving" not knowing what happened.

"The unknown is a concern," agreed Sara Pfaff, a nursing student who has lived in the apartment building for nearly four years. She said Miller and her boyfriend generally kept to themselves.

Bucksaw and Pfaff expressed their concerns about staying in the building to county and McCandless police, who reassured them and told them to call 911 if they noticed or heard anything suspicious.

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