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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Couple accused of driving 8-year-old’s body to South Dakota charged with murder

Aleksander Kurmoyarov, 28, and his girlfriend, Mandie Miller, 33  (Courtesy of Airway Heights Police Department)

A couple accused of transporting the body of an 8-year-old girl from Airway Heights to South Dakota has been charged with murder.

Aleksander Kurmoyarov, 28, and his girlfriend, Mandie Miller, 33, were arrested by police in Mitchell, South Dakota, on Wednesday, initially charged with failure to notify law enforcement of the death of a child.

The Spokane County Prosecutor’s Office is now seeking charges against Kurmoyarov and Miller for unlawful imprisonment, first-degree criminal mistreatment and second-degree murder.

The couple will continue to be held in South Dakota pending extradition to Washington State, according to a news release from the Airway Heights Police Department.

Meelah Miller, who was Mandie Miller’s niece and adopted daughter, had reportedly been dead for at least a month and a half. Her body was found in a U-Haul trailer parked at a residence in Mitchell.

According to search warrants, Kurmoyarov told detectives that he and Miller tied Meelah up for several hours a day, and that Miller would hit her toes with a hammer when she misbehaved.

The couple was attempting to bring the body to be buried on the Rosebud Indian Reservation. Miller, who is Rosebud Sioux, adopted Meelah from her sister.

Mitchell police were notified of the suspicious circumstance by the Davis County Coroner, who was contacted by a funeral home on the Rosebud Indian Reservation.

Officers made contact with the couple at the residence of Miller’s mother in Mitchell, where they found the body in the U-Haul.

Detective Andrew Becker with the Mitchell Police Department said the body looked small and malnourished for her age.

In an interview with Mitchell police detectives, Miller stated that Meelah died on Sept. 10 in their home in Airway Heights when she choked on a milkshake. She said they did not call an ambulance because it takes a half-hour for the ambulance to get to their residence. Kurmoyarov performed CPR for an hour but was unable to revive her, she said.

They laid her body in her bed until they were able to obtain a casket and rent a U-Haul to transport her to South Dakota, she said.

Detectives initially attempted to interview Kurmoyarov, but he only talked about how he and Miller spoke with people from the tribe and were given misinformation about how to bring the body to South Dakota, documents said.

In a later interview with Lt. Dean Knippling, Kurmoyarov stated that Meelah was sick and her death was “tragic.” He never said anything about her choking.

Kurmoyarov said that she was acting out and was “a handful.” He said at nighttime they would put her in a bath robe and secure her like she was in a straitjacket. He admitted to tying her up for four to six hours a day, and zip -tied her to a car seat the day she died. He said he slapped her twice on the day she died, the documents said.

Becker said that in the autopsy, Forensic Pathologist Dr. Kenneth Snell found the manner of death to be homicide, but listed the cause as unknown due to the decomposed state of the body. Snell also found lesions around the wrist and ankles consistent with being tied up.

According to a Child Protective Services report, Meelah had not been in school since January.

The family moved from Cheney to Airway Heights in May.

James Hanlon's reporting for The Spokesman-Review is funded in part by Report for America and by members of the Spokane community. This story can be republished by other organizations for free under a Creative Commons license. For more information on this, please contact our newspaper’s managing editor.