Last week during a supression hearing in Izard County, Judge Tim Weaver ruled the confession of Rebekah Gould’s accused killer William (Billy) Miller, an oil tycoon who was living in the Phillipines prior to his arrest, will be used in the trial. A perspective trial date for the murder case is Oct. 31. Gould was killed in 2004, Miller was arrested earlier this year.
By: Angelia Roberts, Special to the SRC
Three days of testimony, videos and arguments on whether the murder confession of William (Billy) Miller could be admitted into evidence ended with the Circuit Judge Tim Weaver ruling the confession would stand last week. Miller is charged with the 2004 murder of Rebekah Gould whose body was later found on Highway 9 near Melbourne. Miller is represented by attorneys L. Gray Dellinger, Joe Denton and Jeremy Lowrey. The prosecution team consists of Prosecutor Eric Hance, Deputy Prosecutor Brad Sipe and Deputy Prosecutor Daniel Haney.
At the time Rebekah Gould was reported missing. She was spending the weekend at the McCullough residence on Hwy 58 near Guion. A welfare check was requested by her mother when she didn’t call or return home. A deputy with the Izard County Sheriff’s Office arrived to find her car and purse at the residence. Inside the single-wide mobile home they found indications that Rebekah might have met foul play.
Three miles down the road, 28-year-old William Miller was quickly loading a U-Haul to help move his mother, Linda, and younger brother Jeremy back to Texas. As they drove by the McCullough residence the next morning, Miller said his mother made the comment her nephew Casey must have had a party with the number of vehicles in the driveway. As the Miller family headed to Texas, the search for Rebekah was getting underway.
It would be years of chasing down leads and hundreds of interviews before authorities focused on William Miller. What happened to Rebekah Gould would be a secret Miller kept for 16years.7
The Missing Link
Det. Mike McNeill with the Arkansas State Police testified he became the lead investigator in the Rebekah Gould murder case in January 2020.He said his first priority was starting from the very beginning and looking at everyone who was in or around the residence during that time period. McNeill started with the McCullough family and came to the same conclusion as previous investigators, saying they did not check off all the boxes and they were eliminated as possible suspects. Number Six on the list was William (Billy) Miller.
Miller had been casually mentioned as being there on Sunday afternoon and having a conversation outside with his cousin Casey. Before eliminating him, McNeill wanted to know: Who is Billy Miller? A quick background search revealed no prior criminal history, but with some additional research he learned Miller had been a suspect in an aggravated sexual assault case and a second report involved forcibly entering his ex-wife’s home and causing “violent harm.” All three Millers had been briefly questioned by Texas authorities at the request of Arkansas investigators early in the investigation, but it was brief and there were no red flags. McNeill found Miller on social media, noted he lived in the Philippines and followed websites and information about the murder.
He then alerted customs and border patrol so he would know when Miller reentered the country.
In October of 2020, Miller arrived back in the states to visit his mother and brother in Portland, Oregon.
McNeill said he waited 11 days and called Linda Miller to tell her he was doing a follow-up on the old case and asked to meet with all three of them.
He then called the Oregon State Police to assist with the investigation and to have a polygraph expert available should Miller agree to take one. McNeill testified he met with Detective Damian Acosta the night before his meeting with the Miller family to bring him up to speed on the case.
The following day, McNeill and Miller talked about his McCullough family connection.
At some point in the conversation McNeill changed course and talked about DNA at the scene.
Miller said he had not entered the residence but was concerned some of his DNA could be inside, because his mother had given a lot of her furniture to the McCullough’s.
McNeill produced a photo of a washcloth that was found under the bed and said he had tracked down the vehicle Miller had at that time, which had Rebekah’s DNA next to the gas petal.
“If you didn’t kill her, you know who did,” he told him.
Miller replied, “I did not kill her.”
McNeill asked Miller if he would submit to a polygraph and he agreed.
A great deal of time was spent explaining the test was voluntary.
While reading Miller his Miranda Rights, it was later challenged by defense attorneys that Acosta failed to read one of the rights and they challenged the validity of the test and interview.
After completing the test, McNeill then talked with Miller again about the day of Rebekah’s death.
Miller claimed he had gone hunting early Monday morning and parked in the field behind the trailer. He first said he saw people, he believed to be neighbors, on the back porch cleaning something up.
McNeill challenged that story and Miller said he did walk over to the trailer and Rebekah answered the door.
Miller told her he was Casey’s cousin and needed to use the phone.
According to Miller, Rebekah left him in the living room and said she was going back to bed.
During the suppression hearing, Miller had been intently watching the video footage from the October 2020 interview, but during the confession he sat with his head bowed.
Defense Attorney Jeremy Lowrey asked McNeill if he considered Miller a suspect and McNeill replied he considered Miller, “A significant person of interest.”
The investigator said every one of the McCullough family he interviewed prior to Miller was eliminated.
“I had no physical evidence tying Mr. Miller to the crime scene. I did not anticipate Mr. Miller confessing to killing Rebekah.”
At one point, Miller asked to speak with his brother who kept asking “What’s going on?” over and over again.
“I did something bad. I’m sorry for what I did to you and mom. I lied to you. It’s hard to comprehend Jeremy. I’m a good liar. I made a mistake and I have to pay for it.”
“Does mom know?” his brother asked.
Miller did not answer.
When Miller met with his mother it appeared he whispered something to her. Linda Miller did not ask any questions or respond, but simply patted him on the back while he hugged her.
The interview process then continued with Acosta.
“I played everybody for a fool. I never told anybody til now. They have no idea who I am. They don’t know anything,” Miller said.
Miller kept saying he had the physical evidence they needed in Arkansas. “Let’s go to Arkansas. That’s what will put the nail in the coffin lid.”
Acosta made him go through the events again and asked what Rebekah was wearing when she answered the door.
Miller restated the story saying he had jumped over the fence, knocked on the door and Rebekah answered wearing a T-shirt and shorts.
“I didn’t rape her. I just went in there and it was like Bam! Bam! Bam!”
“She’s sleeping. She didn’t see it coming. I just remember hitting her twice.”
Miller said he knew he had to kill her and strangled her with a tie he found at the residence.
“I flipped the mattress because it had blood on it and wiped up everything the best I could. I put the bedding in the laundry.”
Miller said items that wouldn’t fit in the laundry he put in a suitcase.
“This happened quick. I drove right through town, past the police station and five miles down the road. I was just freaking out. If you find the suitcase, you will find DNA,” Miller said.
“For 16 years I’ve been lying to everyone around me, dragging Casey and the McCullough (family) through the mud.”
Hiding a Secret
Over the next few hours, Miller talked a lot about his life and how he had to block out what happened in order to survive.
“I’m so good at lying, you believed me,” he told Acosta. “I played everybody a fool. It’s a shock to them. I was their rock. I was the strong one but hiding a secret.”
Acosta asked what he might say to Rebekah’s family.
“I can’t bring her back. There was a time I wanted to confess, but too chicken shit.”
Miller said he followed social media sites in order to stay informed about the case and while they were accusing his cousin Casey. “I played my cousin for a fool.”
“George Jared (who is administrator of a social media site) is a joke. They were all over his (Casey’s) ass like white on rice. I played everybody as a fool. I’ve caused so much damage to so many people.”
Once again, they went over the events of what happened on the morning Rebekah died and why he decided to kill her and what door he used when leaving.
He said he pushed against the back door that had a hasp lock and it gave way letting him exit that way with Rebekah and he “chunked her over the fence, drove right past the police station in broad daylight and came back to Melbourne and washed out the back of his truck at the car wash.”
He then threw what was left of the busted piano leg in the trash.
Miller said he had no explanation other than he is full of anger and has urges that come and go even when he doesn’t know someone.
“Usually when these things happen, it happens real fast.”
Knowing he had to appear normal, Miller said he went home, took his brother to school and later went to Ash Flat to rent the U-Haul.
He said his mother informed him she wanted to go to Branson on Tuesday.
Miller said that Wednesday morning when they left was the last time he was in Arkansas.
Near the end of the interview process, Miller consented to a search of his phone and said they might find one or two photos of Rebekah’s headstone.
Both sides gave closing arguments with the defense citing various case law claiming Miller was not properly Mirandized.
“The evidence is not admissible,” Lowrey said.
He also presented a custodial argument claiming Miller was in custody and not allowed to leave citing how McNeill accompanied him to meet with his mother.
“When Miller handed her his wallet and cell phone, Miller believed he was in custody. No reasonable person would believe they were free to leave,” he said.
Lowrey also claimed Miller’s will was broken throughout the process.
Deputy Prosecutor Daniel Haney said he wanted to address the elephant in the room and said the fact one item was not read was undisputed.
He gave case law saying that could be cured and was when Miller was asked, “Did you get a chance to read this? Do you want to read it?”
“The defendant was reading the form and we get a ‘yes.’”
He also explained that line of “If you cannot afford an attorney, one will be granted,” was intended for those who had no means of support and Miller claimed to make $25,000 a month with his overseas job, had land in the Philippines and had just purchased acreage in Oregon, so having a court-appointed attorney was not an option.
He also addressed the custodial issues saying when Miller asked to meet with his mom that was granted and Miller is above average intelligence.
“Twenty-six times Miller says he played people as a fool. That’s actually pride, not a will that’s been broken.”
Haney said when Miller had been asked how he had been treated throughout the interview process, he said, “With respect.”
Haney compared the interview to a chess game with Miller being given the opportunity to make the first move.
“He wanted to play the game. The game he wanted to win.”
Haney said Miller was caught in the Fool’s Mate move.
“He called himself a King several times, but this King has been captured.”
In his ruling, Weaver said he believed the Miranda issue was cured.
“Miller has a high school education, some college and 23 years of gainful employment. He’s teaching people to produce petroleum. There’s no question he can read and write.”
Weaver said Miller held the signed form in his hand acknowledging he understood.
“I don’t know that you can give Miranda too early. He gave a statement after the examination. He’s in custody and under arrest for the murder of Rebekah Gould. I do not find there is a false promise of lying. No one knew what was going to happen when he walked in there.”
“Detective McNeill leading Miller to believe DNA was on the washcloth and in the truck, that’s fair game, that’s the law. I do not believe Mr. Miller’s will was broken.”
Weaver said he found the officers to be more than accommodating to Miller by offering him food and drinks many times.
“He was concerned about his family. There was no threat to the family. No coercion elements. It was some good legal work.”
Weaver said Miller was “Chatty Cathy” throughout the entire process and talked about things that might have been better left unsaid.
With that ruling, a tentative jury trial was set for Oct. 31.