KALISPELL – The attorney for a convicted double-murderer has raised concerns about whether law enforcement agencies adequately responded to a series of threats and domestic disputes that precipitated the shooting deaths of a Kalispell woman and her teenage daughter on Christmas Day 2010.
Senior Public Defender Noel Larrivee says his investigation of the circumstances surrounding the brutal murders reveals missed opportunities, lapses in judgment and poor communication between law enforcement agencies. He has called for an examination of the departments’ policies and procedures.
Kalispell Police Chief Roger Nasset said he has reviewed his department’s response and finds no shortcomings in how officers handled the case, which he described as professional and according to policy. They could never have known that the circumstances would end so tragically, he said, but even so they took every measure to ensure the victims’ safety.
Tyler Michael Miller, 35, was sentenced earlier this month to two consecutive life prison terms without parole for murdering his ex-girlfriend, Jaimi Hurlbert, 35, and her 15-year-old daughter, Alyssa Burkett. Miller shot the unsuspecting victims in a meth-fueled rage outside his mother’s Kalispell home on Christmas morning 2010.
Larrivee accepts that the burden of responsibility lies wholly with his client, who carefully planned the murders and admitted his guilt in a court of law and throughout the criminal investigation. But Larrivee also asserts that city and county law enforcement agencies fielded 10 separate 9-1-1 emergency calls about Miller in the 72 hours leading up to the shootings, some of which were never relayed between the two departments – even as a manhunt for Miller ensued.
“The number of missed opportunities that existed to derail this train boggles the mind,” Larrivee wrote
“Law enforcement did not commit the homicides. Tyler Miller did,” the document continues. “That said, there was a complete failure of the systems and mechanisms designed to protect persons from themselves and from harming others.”
The attorney contends that law enforcement let slip one chance after another to apprehend Miller, and on the day prior to the murders released the drug-addled criminal from custody when his behavior was, arguably, grounds for arrest.
Court records show that two sheriff’s deputies took Miller into custody on Christmas Eve morning after he visited the home of Hurlbert’s friend, Michele Koller-Koffler, and threatened both women because he believed they were using meth. Ironically, Miller’s suspicion that Hurlbert was using meth – and thereby exposing their infant daughter to the drug – was the source of his rage.
In that incident, Koller-Koffler called 9-1-1 to report the threats and two Flathead County sheriff’s deputies responded. They performed a felony stop on Miller, drawing their guns on the man, handcuffing him and placing him in the patrol car. The deputies then drove him home without issuing a citation.
One of the deputies who responded to the call reported that Miller was “extremely agitated and in a rage,” telling officers that “he was going to get Jaimi and Michele,” according to Larrivee’s report.
Over the next 12 hours, Miller posted threatening messages to both Hurlbert’s and Koller-Koffler’s Facebook pages, and law enforcement received a half-dozen additional calls about his threatening and dangerous behavior. One call came from Koller-Koffler, who requested that police visit Hurlbert’s home for a welfare check – they did, and no one answered.
Another call came from Hurlbert’s father, who complained that Miller had made threatening and obscene phone calls to his home. Still another call came from Miller’s mother, who asked a sheriff’s deputy to place Miller on an involuntary medical hold because of the threats to Hurlbert, as well as statements he made about harming himself.
Shortly before 4 p.m. on Christmas Eve, Hurlbert called law enforcement and reported that Miller was making threats, but police did not respond. Four hours later, Koller-Koffler called police and requested another welfare check on Hurlbert, but officers again did not respond.
“I have never in 36 years of lawyering seen the ball get dropped as badly as it was in this case,” Larrivee said.