Mikayla Miller loved to write. She had dreams of becoming a journalist and planned to spend the summer touring colleges with her mom. The 16-year-old Hopkinton teenager loved basketball, dancing to trap music, going camping in Maine and the ocean. Before they went off to bed every night, she brought her mom a cup of chamomile tea: hot, no sugar.
At a rally on the Hopkinton Town Common on Thursday, Miller’s mother, Calvina Strothers, told a crowd of more than 1,000 people that she had lost her best friend — and that local authorities had failed to bring justice or clarity to the case.
“I want … all of the powers that be to work as hard to get justice for Mikayla as they would do for their own child,” Strothers said. “As a mom, nothing would have brought me more joy than to watch my daughter graduate from high school. I'm never going to see her get her license and drive the new car that is still sitting in my driveway, graduate from college, fall in and out of love, get married, have kids.”
Miller was found dead last month, hanging from a tree along a trail near her home in Hopkinton. Just hours prior, Strothers had called the police to report that five white and Latino teenagers had attacked her daughter, who is Black, on the night of April 17. The next morning, Strothers said she called them again to ask for the police logs of both the attack and the discovery of her daughter’s body — but the police did not provide either.
"I don't want to have to be a vigilante in this," Strothers told reporters Thursday. "I don't want to have to spend all day on the phone getting and passing along evidence in order for justice to be served. What I want is for the criminal justice system to work."
In an interview Tuesday with GBH News, Middlesex District Attorney Marian Ryan said a physical altercation had occurred that night, but not enough evidence was available to press charges against the perpetrators. Ryan said her office reviewed witness statements, video footage, cellphone records and EZ-Pass records to confirm that none of the teenagers who were with Miller were still with her at the time of her death. The investigation is ongoing, Ryan said.
“There have been no conclusions reached in this case,” Ryan said in an interview with GBH Tuesday. “The allegations that are out there and that we have heard calls from about the fact that our office is either ignoring — or truly even worse, covering up — what happened here because Mikayla was Black or because she was a member of the LGBTQIA community, I want to be clear, that is patently false.”
Ryan said roughly two and a half hours after the altercation, Miller’s phone recorded 1,300 steps, which Ryan said is roughly the distance from her home to the site where her body was found.
WATCH: Interview With District Attorney Marian Ryan On Mikayla Miller Case
Strothers said that the district attorney fabricated the phone records because Miller didn’t have data on her phone and her iPhone would not have been able to track her steps without cellular data.
“Instead of actually getting proof, they Googled the number of steps from my home to the location where she was found and used that as their proof on national television,” Strothers said. “What we know is that Mikayla's phone was not activated and therefore [it would be] nearly impossible to track her exact steps between 9 and 10 p.m., which was confirmed by me from Apple.”
Strothers said the district attorney’s office and local police departments have not been transparent with her and have not responded to her requests to return Miller’s belongings. She is also asking for a forensic analysis of the belt that was found around her daughter’s neck. The medical examiner is conducting an autopsy to determine cause of death, but activist Monica Canon-Grant is also funding an independent autopsy through her nonprofit Violence in Boston.
More than two weeks since Miller’s death, the case has garnered attention from activists, community advocates, current and former elected officials and civil rights organizations around the state, including several chapters of the ACLU and the NAACP.
"Mikayla Miller deserved to grow old," Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley wrote in a tweetTuesday. "She had so many basketball games, road trips and HBCU homecomings ahead of her. She deserved childhood— uninterrupted. There needs to be a full, transparent, independent investigation into her death."
The unusual case of a young Black child found hanging from a tree after a violent interaction in a small, predominately white town has illustrated systemic issues of racism and mistrust in the police.
“Imagine if she had been white, and five Black kids beat her up, and she was found dead hours later,” former Boston city councilor Tito Jackson told the crowd Thursday. “We wouldn’t be here, two and a half weeks later. We wouldn't have to fight the DA and the state police for justice. Those kids would actually be brought to justice.”
At Thursday's rally, protesters spilled out of the sides of the town’s common square, chanting Miller’s name, holding a candlelight vigil and bearing signs that read “Justice for Mikayla.”
Strothers and other organizers at Thursday's rally asked the crowd to call Ryan and demand that local authorities step down from the investigation and hand the case over to the FBI.
“We want an independent investigation," Canon-Grant told the crowd Thursday. "We want it independent of Hopkinton Police Department and the state police. We want the feds to get involved to tell us what happened.”
Ryan told GBH she is continuing to investigate, but Strothers and other family members say they can’t trust that local authorities will be transparent in this case.
“We are here today to find out what happened to Mikayla,” Strothers told reporters, “and also moving forward to make sure that this does not happen to any other young Black girl again, or a young Black man.”
Clarification: This story was updated to include the fact that the Middlesex District Attorney's Office is continuing its investigation into the physical altercation that occured before Mikayla Miller's death even though officials have said there isn't enough evidence to press charges yet.