LANCASTER COUNTY, Pa. (WHTM) — A Manheim Township teen plead guilty but mentally ill to a charge of third-degree murder for the stabbing death of her sister on Feb. 22, 2021.
According to the Lancaster County District Attorney’s Office, 16-year-old Claire Miller will serve 12.5 to 40 years in prison, following a hearing before Lancaster County Judge Jeffery Wright.
“The events that bring us here today are incoherently tragic,” Judge Wright said. “Mr. and Mrs. Miller sit here on the difficult challenge of supporting both the victim and the defendant.”
According to the Lancaster District Attorney’s Office, Miller plead guilty but mentally ill, which required Miller to waive her right to trial. At the hearing, ADA Muller requested that an expert doctor’s report detailing Miller’s mental illness be incorporated into the record. Judge Wright admitted that report.
While being questioned during the guilty plea process, Miller stated that she has been treated for depression and an unidentified psychotic disorder, and she was on medication, says the Lancaster District Attorney’s Office.
The DA’s Office also stated that Miller didn’t give any further statements when she was given the chance to and she was determined to be mentally ill, but not mentally disabled by Judge Wright. Wright accepted the plea and imposed the sentence.
“While all homicides are tragic, this case was particularly sad because the victim was her own sister and unable to defend herself,” District Attorney Heather Adams said. “The pain this must have caused the family is unthinkable.
“The Commonwealth does not dispute that Miller suffered from a mental health event at the time of this offense, but it legally did not excuse the conduct. The sentence imposed today holds her accountable for the crime committed, but balances the nature of this offense, her young age, her mental condition at the time and the protection of society. The onus now rests with the Department of Corrections to appropriately treat her mental illness and only grant parole when it is clear that she is no longer a threat to the public.”
Back on Feb. 22 of 2021, the Manheim Township Police Department was dispatched shortly after 1:00 a.m. to Miller’s residence, when she called police and reported that she killed her sister, police say.
According to police, Miller was standing outside and was waving the police down as they arrived on the scene. She directed them to a bedroom where they found her 19-year-old sister with a stab wound to her neck.
Police say that officers and EMTs performed lifesaving measures that were unsuccessful, and Miller’s sister was pronounced dead at 4:13 a.m. by the Lancaster County Coroner’s Office.
Outside, officers observed blood on the snow and on Miller’s pants. According to police, Miller repeatedly stated “I stabbed my sister.”
The charges against Miller were filed in the Court of Common Pleas because homicide is a “direct file” offense, says the Lancaster DA’s office.
According to the Lancaster DA’s office, the defense filed a petition to have Miller decertified so the prosecution would occur in juvenile court. The defense counsel argued and presented testimony during the decertification, hearing that Miller had a psychotic break that led to the killing.
In July of 2022, Miller’s petition to move the case to juvenile court was denied by Judge David Workman and she was ordered to be tried as an adult before she plead guilty but mentally ill.