Investigation Discovery’s ‘See No Evil: The Man in the Cowboy Hat’ depicts how 52-year-old Debra Novacluse was murdered inside a Kamloops, Canada, motel room in late August 2016. While the police arrested the perpetrator fleeing across the state line a few days later, their varying explanation of what happened hindered the investigation. If you’re interested in finding out more about the case, including the killer’s identity, here’s what we know.
How Did Debra Novacluse Die?
Debra Novacluse was found dead in a first-floor room at the Super 8 Motel on Hugh Allan Drive in Aberdeen in Kamloops, Canada, on August 27, 2016. According to the housekeeper, Nun Maya Gurung, who found the body, there was a “Do Not Disturb” sign on the room’s door when she went to clean the room. Following protocol, she notified a front-desk worker, and the two entered the suite together. She testified, “The room was quite clean. Even the bed was quite clean. I noticed one bed is a little elevated.”
She added, “I talked to this counter guy that this bed seems to be used.” The two motel employees lifted the mattress and found Debra’s body hidden beneath it. Gurung stated, “I didn’t see anything but my other fellow — he saw something. He commented, ‘There is somebody, a dead body here. Let’s get out, let’s get out. That’s what he said. ‘Somebody seems to be dead.'” Forensic pathologist Lisa Steele, who performed Debra’s autopsy, described several injuries on the 52-year-old, two of which could have been fatal on their own.
Lisa stated Debra’s face, head, neck, and chest were bruised and swollen, and she had injuries to her genitals consistent with an object being forced inside her. Court documents noted the wounds to her neck and throat were perhaps the most severe. According to the forensic pathologist, the autopsy report mentioned a fractured ring of cartilage near Debra’s voice box — something Lisa claimed she had never previously seen in a career of examining dead bodies. She testified that her cause of death could have been asphyxiation or blunt-force trauma.
Who Killed Debra Novacluse?
The investigators questioned witnesses and soon learned Debra was with a 69-year-old friend named David Albert Miller. According to one of the prosecution’s chief witnesses, Jessica Roth, he was throwing around money at the nearby casino in the hours before the slaying while inviting strangers to party in his Super 8 Motel suite. Claiming she met David at Cascades Casino on August 26, Jessica stated, “He wore a cowboy hat and was throwing money around. I picked up $100 that he threw.”
Court documents stated she streamed a 14-minute Facebook Live video outside the casino with David, and the concerned video was later played in his trial. The footage showed a gregarious David speaking with several people and boasting about his substantial wealth. A clipping played on the show featured him bragging, “Three-hundred-dollar Raybans. Polarized.” Jessica could also be seen in the video claiming, “This is the guy who gave me $100. He just threw it on the ground because he’s a baller.”
The video showed David asking her to join him at the Super 8 and gloating, “Free drinks at the Super 8, Room 112. It’s a smoking room and a double-bedded room. I already pre-approved it with the manager. He’s coming over for a drink. And there’s free taxis and valet on me.” Though Jessica initially protested, she eventually accompanied David to his room with one of her male accomplices. She described seeing “a whole bunch of alcohol on the dresser” and Debbie on the bed, who looked like “she had been crying.”
Jessica added, “He got her up, and she got her game face on. We clicked right away. I was there for five hours or so, but in that period, you’d think I’d known her my whole life.” She claimed Debbie, otherwise polite, became “emotional at times,” as she seemed agitated and missed her husband. Jessica also alleged that “there was some sort of abuse between her and David.” However, Debbie declined to leave with her despite Jessica’s offering. She said, “In the five hours I was there, there was aggression between them.”
She added, “There was foul language, laughing, and crying. I didn’t want to leave her.” According to Jessica, David and Debra were the only two people inside the room when she left at 4:00 am. The prosecution alleged he took off with her truck after killing Debbie and drove to Alberta, abandoned the vehicle in Airdrie, and caught a flight from Calgary to Ontario. Court records also stated he discarded her belongings while navigating from Kamloops to Calgary, near Sicamous, and in Revelstoke. An officer found her purse in a ditch near Sicamous.
Kamloops Mounties arrested David in Ontario on September 1, four days after Debbie’s body was found. During his police interview, David confessed to having caused Debbie’s death, though his explanations kept varying. He initially denied having ever been with her in Kamloops before admitting he killed her, wrapped the body in a sleeping bag, and hid it beneath the motel room’s mattress. He initially claimed he accidentally suffocated her to death before claiming he was in self-defense after she attacked him and later claimed she died after “rough sex.”
Where is David Albert Miller Now?
During his interrogation, David admitted, “I realized I choked her too much.” He added that “she started bleeding” and noted he “cleaned up” as much as possible before fleeing the crime scene. Under questioning, he revealed the volatile end of his marriage in the weeks leading to his arrest. He described an argument with his wife on a camping trip in early August 2016 and how he left her at a campground near Hope when she threatened to call the police. He walked to the highway and hitchhiked to Kamloops.
David told the officers he spent two or three nights in his Kamloops motel room and became frustrated trying to cash out his workers’ compensation payments into a reduced lump sum. He planned to buy a $150,000 big rig from a Kamloops dealer and start a trucking company, but it fell through. When the investigators asked how he ended up in Ontario, he claimed he was unsure, blaming it on excessive drinking and smoking weed. The authorities believed he and Debbie traveled to Kamloops together.
The prosecution charged David with first-degree murder since they argued Debbie’s death was part of a sexual assault. Meanwhile, his defense lawyer claimed he was too drunk to form intent. However, the court was not convinced beyond a reasonable doubt regarding the sexual assault angle and found him guilty of the lesser included charge of second-degree murder in July 2020. He was handed a life sentence without the possibility of parole before serving at least 15 years.