David R. Miller, a past president of the United Chambers of Commerce of the San Fernando Valley and a longtime civic activist, has been charged with murdering his wife in Florida, police said Wednesday.
Miller, 41, shot his 33-year-old wife, Jayne, to death Sunday after a bitter quarrel--witnessed by several passersby--in a parking lot in the Orlando suburb of Sanford, according to Sanford police.
Miller, who moved to Florida from Granada Hills after his marriage seven months ago, is being held without bail on suspicion of first-degree murder.
News of the arrest stunned Valley political and civic leaders, who recalled Miller as an energetic, backslapping mover and shaker in local business circles.
"He was a smart guy, a guy who knew how to organize a group and to get things done," said Mel Wilson, a Northridge real estate broker who also recalled that Miller "knew how to drop names, to let people know he was connected."
Wilson said that there was "no bitterness between us" after he lost to Miller by one vote in 1987 in a two-person contest for the presidency of the United Chambers of Commerce, an umbrella organization for 20 Valley chambers.
Richard Alarcon, Valley deputy for Los Angeles Mayor Tom Bradley, said he crossed paths many times with Miller in business-oriented groups and at conferences, and recalled that Miller "generally left a good impression with people."
"He seemed like the kind of spark plug that every organization needs," Alarcon said. "He knew how to make the system work."
While devoting much of his time to the non-paying activities of business groups, Miller supported himself as a consultant and lobbyist for businesses.
His business cards, which were widely distributed to people throughout the Valley, list his occupation simply as "advocate."
Lt. Mike Rotundo in Sanford said that the Wilsons had squabbled for several months before the shooting.
Each had secured restraining orders against the other, according to the Orlando Sentinel. In her Sept. 6 petition for a restraining order, Jayne Miller said: "In the last month he has repeatedly threatening (sic) to kill me, but has been verbally and mentally abusing me since our marriage on Feb. 16, 1991." Rotundo said that on Sunday, the estranged couple met at a U-Store-It storage facility, possibly by accident.
Witnesses said the two had a brief argument, and that David Miller hit his wife in the face, according to the police report.
After Jayne Miller got back into her car and rolled up the windows, David Miller pulled out a 9-millimeter pistol and fired six times through the driver's side window, then walked to the passenger side and fired once more, Rotundo said.
Police said Jayne Miller was shot five times in the chest and head.
Rotundo said the pistol was taken from Miller by one of two taxicab drivers who had accompanied Miller to the storage facility as part of an apparent plan to remove his belongings.
Miller offered no resistance to police, Rotundo said.
Ironically, on Aug. 28 Miller had left the pistol with police for safekeeping, saying his wife did not want it in the house.
He returned two days later to retrieve the weapon and police gave it back because "we had no reason to hold it," Rotundo said.
Miller's father, Russell Miller of Sardis, Ohio, said in a telephone interview that he was shocked at the arrest of his son, who he said had been married twice before his recent marriage.