On Maryland's Death Row: Jody Miles

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By Robert Klemko
Maryland Newsline
Friday, May 1, 2009

Jody Miles 39, convicted in March 1998 of killing a man at a roadside in Mardela Springs, Md., has been on Maryland’s death row for 11 years.

According to court records, Miles met and killed Edward Joseph Atkinson on April 2, 1997, with a single gunshot to the back of the head at point blank range.

Miles, of Ridgely, Md., was later arrested for the murder based on evidence recorded by a neighbor who was listening to his personal police scanner and unintentionally heard a cell phone conversation between Miles and his wife, court records state.

After his arrest April 22, 1997, Miles told investigators that he was hired by a loan shark to collect a package from Atkinson. The two met at a roadside in Wicomico County. Miles later told police that the victim did not produce the package.

According to court documents, Miles said that he became afraid for his life when the victim would not face him, then reached into the inside of his jacket. Miles pressed the gun to the back of Atkinson’s head and killed him with one shot, according to his own confession. Miles dragged the body into a nearby woods, fled the scene, then returned a day later with the intention of burying the body, court documents state.

By then, Wicomico County police had discovered Atkinson’s abandoned vehicle on the side of the road, according to court records.

Court documents indicate that on April 2, 1997, Atkinson was picking up a tuxedo rental at a mall in Salisbury, Md., when he received a page. He left the mall immediately and was last seen alive driving his Toyota Camry down Old Bradley Road in Mardela Springs. Fifteen minutes afterwards, a witness heard a single gunshot.

Dorothy Atkinson, the victim’s mother, notified police when Atkinson did not show up for dinner at home and for a play he was slated to direct. A search ensued, and police found Atkinson’s Toyota near Old Bradley Rd at 9 p.m. on April 3, 1997.

The next morning, Atkinson’s brother, Robert Atkinson, and a friend returned to the scene. Led by a trail of footprints, they discovered Edward Atkinson’s body in the woods. Atkinson’s pockets had been emptied, and police matched cowboy boot footprints found near the car with the footprints made in the woods.

When Robert Atkinson contacted his brother’s credit card companies, he learned that the cards were used at an ATM in Cambridge, Md., a gas station in Harrington, Del., two department stores and a Shuckers Pier 13 Restaurant in Dover, Del. During the next two weeks, police circulated a composite sketch drawn from the recollection of two Tru Blu gas station attendants.

On April 15, 1997, Caroline County resident James Towers was in his home listening to police and fire department communications on a scanner. The scanner picked up a cell phone conversation between Jody Miles, and his wife, Jona Miles, court records show. Towers overheard the two talking about avoiding the Tru Blu gas station, which had been mentioned in the local news. Towers decided to record the conversation, in which the husband and wife discussed destroying evidence of the murder.

Towers notified the police, and a deputy in the Caroline County Sheriff’s Department identified the voice of Jona Miles. Later a Delaware State Police detective who knew the couple identified the voices of Jody and Jona Miles. Caroline County Police arrested Jona Miles April 22, 1997. She told them she had thrown her husband’s murder weapon into the Choptank River and disposed of his boots and blood-stained clothes in a dumpster in Centreville, Md.

Police recovered the gun and arrested Jody Miles 20 days after the death of Edward Atkinson.  He was charged with first-degree felony murder, robbery with a deadly weapon, robbery and use of a handgun in the commission of a crime of violence.

Miles confessed to the murder, then pled not guilty in Queen Anne’s County Circuit Court, claiming that all evidence obtained after what his lawyer argued was an illegal wiretap, including his admission, should be stricken from the record. In 1998, the Queen Anne’s court threw out everything but the confession, and on March 19, sentenced him to death.

Miles’ murder conviction appeal was denied in September 1998 when the court decided there were no errors made in the trial. His motion for a new sentence was denied in 2000. Miles has been denied nearly a dozen post-conviction petitions and appeals since.

Jody Miles is one of five men on Maryland’s death row.

Copyright 2009 University of Maryland Philip Merrill College of Journalism

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