The retired Springettsbury Township Police officer took his dog to a neighbor's house and then shot his wife in the head. He then took his own life. That Mr. Miller, 70, was suffering from Alzheimer's makes what happened even more tragic.
The episode illuminates several issues that our community needs to deal with.
First of all is the horror of domestic violence. Bonnie Miller feared for her life. Monday night, she called an out-of-town relative, saying she was afraid of her husband and asking for help.
We do not know what happened behind the closed doors of the couple's neat suburban ranch house. Mrs. Miller's daughter said she and her siblings had no indication that Mr. Miller posed a threat to his wife. There was no indication of a history of domestic violence in the Miller household.
Regardless of whether there was a history of domestic violence in this case, the tragic result was the most extreme form of domestic violence: murder. And this is an appropriate time to urge victims of domestic violence to get help. If you're in fear for your life, leave and seek assistance. There are agencies that will do whatever they can to protect you.
This case is complicated by the revelation that Mr. Miller had been diagnosed with
Alzheimer's. It's a terrible disease.
We don't know just how advanced Mr. Miller's disease was. Mrs. Miller's daughter said he had good days and bad days. Who knows whether this act of terminal violence was a product of dementia, an irrational act conjured up by a diseased brain?
Experts on Alzheimer's say that threats of violence may appear to be a symptom of the disease, but that doesn't mean that caretakers shouldn't take them seriously. "You should always take it at face value," said Candy Yingling, education coordinator with the Greater Pennsylvania Alzheimer's Association. "You should never discount anything."
She also said people with Alzheimer's should not have access to firearms. This is not an anti-gun stand or a threat to the Second Amendment rights of law-abiding citizens. It's common sense -- and should be enforced, not necessarily by law, but by friends and family members.
It's difficult to predict the behavior of people with Alzheimer's. Having access to a gun while in a confused mental state invites disaster.
We can glean some lessons, some wisdom, from this tragedy. That does not diminish the grief of the Miller family, nor does it provide solace in this time of their suffering.
We can only hope that these lessons, borne of horror, can save a life.
That is our prayer.
Victims of domestic abuse should call 911. For more information, call Access-York at 846-5400 or 637-2235, or visit access-york.org.