In 1986, the sudden disappearance of a young woman from Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, left her family with no answers when she was not found. However, more than two decades later, their persistence paid off when the remains found in 1997 were confirmed to be hers. Investigation Discovery’s ‘Shattered: Requiem for Murder’ brings to the viewers the story of Kelly Ward and how it took many years and a confession from a serial killer to finally understand what happened to her. So, if you’re wondering the same, we’ve got you covered.
How Did Kelly Ward Die?
A free-spirited Harrisburg native, Kelly Ann Ward was born in April 1960 and graduated from Harrisburg High School in 1978. Kelly faced a lot of hardships growing up. When she was just 11 years old, she lost her mother Carol Ann “Cookie” Ward to lupus. Kelly also never had a great relationship with her father, Charles Gibson. Loved ones described Kelly as a strong-willed and selfless woman who went out of her way to help people she cared about. But on February 11, 1986, the 26-year-old was reported missing from her home by family.
A rigorous search for her turned up nothing. In February 1997, a work crew found partial skeletal remains in a landfill in Swatara Township, Pennsylvania. At the time, it was treated as a homicide, and the investigators believed that the bones belonged to a woman between 18 and 30 years old. They remained unidentified for many years. Kelly’s cousin, Faun, had her case reopened in 2007, leading to a fresh investigation. The 1997 remains were confirmed to be of a black female in 2010. About four years later, they were identified as that of Kelly’s. The authorities weren’t able to ascertain a cause of death because only a partial skeleton was found.
Who Killed Kelly Ward?
Investigators realized that given the location where the remains were found and the time period when Kelly Ward went missing, she could very well have been the victim of convicted serial killer Joseph “Joey” Miller. At the time, he was in prison serving multiple life sentences for raping and killing women in the late 1980s and the early 1990s. Joseph was active around the time Kelly disappeared, and he operated in the area where Kelly’s remains were found. The authorities believed that Kelly died shortly after she disappeared in 1986.
Joseph reportedly targeted black women who were suspected or known to be involved in prostitution. In 1992, Joseph was caught raping and beating a woman after he kidnapped her. He was arrested and then led the police to the remains of 18-year-old Selina Franklin and 23-year-old Stephanie McDuffey in a landfill. He confessed to murdering and sexually assaulting them. Later, he also confessed to killing Jeanette Thomas and Kathy Novena Shenck, both murdered in 1990. There were two other women who Joseph attacked but survived. One of them was stabbed in the head about 25 times with a screwdriver after being raped.
Joseph was sentenced to death in 1993 for Selina and Stephanie’s murders. However, in 2008, the state Supreme Court vacated his death sentence, ruling that he was mentally incompetent. In 1997, Kelly’s remains were found a little over 200 feet from where the bodies of Joseph’s other victims were found. Furthermore, Kelly fit his target victim profile since she was black and was rumored to be involved in prostitution. Joseph would lure his victims to a desolate location before attacking and killing them.
Joseph also told police that he visited his victim’s bodies and marked their locations with trash. In 1992, he admitted to killing a woman with a pipe and said that he marked the location of her body with tires. The police located a pipe and some tires at the site where Kelly was found. However, when Joseph was interviewed in January 2016, he denied killing Kelly. Joseph said, “There are other serial killers out there. You just haven’t caught them yet. I didn’t do this one.”
Where is Joseph “Joey” Miller Now?
But in April 2016, Joseph changed his mind and confessed to Kelly’s murder and another murder he committed in 1990. He said he chose to confess because he wanted “to get it out here, get this thing over with and give the victim’s family peace of mind. And clear it up.” Joseph said that he met Kelly at a bar, and they had sex but later got into an argument regarding money. He admitted to losing his temper and beat her to death before getting rid of the body.
Joseph added that he came forward with the confession of Kelly’s murder as he allegedly found the murders of Kelly and Jeannette Thomas to be related. After pleading guilty to the two murders in June 2016, a judge handed down two life terms to be served consecutively with the three life sentences he was already serving (for the murders of Selina Franklin, Stephanie McDuffey, and Kathy Novena Shenck).
Joseph Miller apologized for his actions. He said, “It’s things that happened in my life that caused me to do the things that I did. I’m truly sorry for what I did to your daughters. I didn’t mean to do what I did.” As per prison records, he remains incarcerated at the State Correctional Institution at Camp Hill, Pennsylvania.
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