The family of a Carroll County man who was slain in 2003 is offering a $20,000 reward for information that will lead to the arrest and conviction of his killer.
Family members found Richard Atkins Jr., 30, dead in his apartment on the 100 block of East Main St. in Westminster the afternoon of Dec. 29, 2003. From the start, police said they were investigating his death as a homicide. The Maryland State Police are still investigating and believe Atkins was targeted.
Investigators say whoever was responsible for Atkins’ death went to his apartment on Dec. 27 to ask for money. They said the person beat Atkins to death with a blunt object when he declined, stealing cash and DVDs from his apartment.
Anyone with information should contact David Sexton of the Maryland State Police Cold Case Unit at 410-996-7812.
Godfrey Miller III was charged in January 2004 with Atkins’ murder. However, he was released after spending nine months in jail due to the discovery of new evidence.
At the time, Westminster police reports described a conversation among female inmates at the Carroll County Detention Center, where one allegedly admitted to being involved in the killing of Atkins. Officers learned that an inmate allegedly said she and her boyfriend had asked Atkins for money to buy drugs. When he declined, her boyfriend hit Atkins twice in the head, she allegedly said.
Miller’s defense attorneys accused investigating police officers in September 2004 of withholding this evidence that could have cleared him. Police also testified that month they did not find any physical evidence linking Miller to the homicide.
Jerry Barnes, the state’s attorney at the time, dropped charges against Miller in October 2004. Miller was freed Oct. 4, traumatized by the experience, according to Carroll County Times reporting from Oct. 21, 2004.
“I’m mad and upset,” Miller, who was 20 at the time, told the Times. “They let me be in there for nine months when I shouldn’t have been in there in the first place.”
Police initially questioned Miller on Dec. 29, 2003, because of reports that he was a suspect in a burglary of Atkins’ apartment two weeks earlier. Miller, who was reported at the time to have mental disabilities, told the Times he confessed to the killing at the time because he believed it was the only way the police would send him home.
James Elliot, Miller’s attorney, said police interrogated him for nine hours before he confessed. At September 2004 court proceedings, Westminster officers denied telling Miller he could go free if he confessed.
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After Miller’s release, Maryland State Police officers continued to look into the homicide, which remains unsolved after 18 years.