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Survivalist Accused of Killing Wife, Daughters Found Dead

A survivalist accused of killing his wife and two young daughters after hiding an arsenal of weapons in an underground bunker has been found dead on a river bank in Northern California more than a year after the slayings.

Shane Franklin Miller, 45, a sometime marijuana grower with a criminal record, was the sole suspect in the May 7, 2013, shooting deaths of his 34-year-old wife Sandra and their daughters, aged eight and four, in the Shasta County village of Shingletown. He was identified via dental records, but authorities have not yet said how he died or when his death is believed to have occurred.

Miller was on the U.S. Marshals’ Most Wanted list after disappearing into the foggy wilds of Humboldt County, famed for rugged mountains and hidden marijuana farms. The Marshals offered a $25,000 reward for his capture, and the tips that poured in placed him everywhere from Mexico to India. When his body was found Friday, however, it was not far from where his truck was abandoned just after the homicides.

A day after the killings, Miller’s truck was found in a remote area near the tiny town of Petrolia, California, less than five miles from the Pacific. A week later, hikers found Miller’s dog wandering along the Lost Coast Trail, which winds through the redwoods and Douglas firs high above the ocean.

Image: Sandra Miller holds her dog on Glass Beach near Fort Bragg, Calif. in April 2013, a month before she was killed.
Sandra Miller holds her dog on Glass Beach near Fort Bragg, Calif. in April 2013, a month before she was killed. Courtesy Deborah Benge

Humboldt County and the rest of California’s “Lost Coast,” where the green mountains of the King Range plunge down to the sea, is the most undeveloped section of the state’s shoreline. Its dense forests have few roads, towns or people and are little known to outsiders. But Miller knew the area. He grew up in Humboldt County, and was a sometime participant in one of the area’s major industries — growing marijuana. He was convicted of felony cultivation in 1996. He also racked up arrests for a hit and run, DUI, money laundering, marijuana cultivation, and illegal possession of a machine gun, before spending nearly four years in federal prison on a gun charge. He was released in 2007.

People who knew Miller told local media that he had survival skills. The Marshals described him as an “avid outdoorsman,” and the affidavit described him as “a survivalist, who frequently uses cash for purchases.”

In June, authorities found a homemade underground fortress on property that Miller owned. An elaborate, prefabricated bunker was buried on one of the properties, with vent pipes hidden by wood and other debris, according to the Shasta County Sheriff’s Office. Inside, investigators say, was an arsenal of rifles, shotguns and handguns — but no sign of Shane Miller.

Late Friday night, someone anonymously reported possible human remains on the banks of the Mattole River in Petrolia. Once authorities had confirmed the remains were human, the Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office contacted the Shasta County Sheriff’s Office, “as the body’s location was within an area where Shane Miller had previously fled from law enforcement.”

On Saturday, according to a press release from the Shasta County Sheriff’s Office, law enforcement officers from both counties and the Department of Justice collected the remains and other evidence from the scene. The remains were positively identified on Sunday through dental records as Shane Miller’s.

The Shasta County Sheriff’s Office didn’t say how long the body had been at the site or how Miller died, but announced plans for a press conference about the find. According to the press release, “The press conference date, time and location will be determined at a later date due to Shasta County Sheriff’s Office personnel currently being assigned to several large fires within Shasta County.”