Suspicious Minds is investigating the murder of Erica Miller from West York Pennslyvania, who was murdered by her mom’s ex-boyfriend, James Begley.
On January 17, 1995, 19-year-old Erica Miller vanished from her home in West York sometime during the night. Her mother, Brenda, said she’d gone to bed, leaving her daughter sleeping on the couch.
Brenda later recalled hearing Erica speaking to someone in the middle of the night, but she only caught a fragment of the conversation and assumed she was speaking on the phone.
A search ensued for Erica, but her disappearance remained a mystery for several months until there was finally a breakthrough.
On March 2, farmer Tom March notified investigators that he had discovered a shallow grave on his property. Further excavation of the grave revealed the body of a nude and gagged Erica.
Two shotgun shells were found with the body, and an autopsy ruled that Erica had been shot twice at close range in the back of the head.
Police told James Begley was the murderer
March told the police that he believed his friend James Begley was responsible for the corpse buried on his property. The police arrested Begley and immediately discovered a roll of duct tape in his car that matched the tape used to gag Erica.
The investigators then learned that Begley had been in contact with the victim. Erica’s brother Charlie and her friend Sharon Buckingham told the police that Erica claimed she’d been offered a secret government job by Begley to guard a female witness from the witness relocation program in a safe house.
If this sounds odd, then be warned that this wasn’t the only strange thing about the case, as Tom March later told a bizarre tale about his friend’s actions.
March testified that Begley had asked him if he could bury a box with documents relating to his “private arms security business,” on his property. He also bizarrely asked if he could use the property to “conduct a prisoner exchange.”
March reportedly agreed to all of Begley’s requests, and the police believe the killer used this as cover to dispose of Erica’s remains on the farm.
The evidence against Begley mounted as March also revealed that he’d lent his friend a shotgun two days before Erica disappeared. Several days later, it was returned to him, minus the five shotgun shells that had also been lent to Begley.
March grew suspicious of Begley when his friend directly referenced the missing Erica. March had seen posters of the missing girl around town and began to suspect his friend might have something to do with it.
When March and his wife, Cheryl Smith, investigated the area where Begley had buried his “box of documents,” they discovered the shallow grave and alerted the police.
In August 1996, James Begley was found guilty of capital murder and was sentenced to be executed. After an appeal in 2001, his sentence was commuted to life imprisonment.
More from Suspicious Minds
Follow the links to read about more murders profiled on Suspicious Minds.
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Suspicious Minds airs at 10/9c on Investigation Discovery.More: Suspicious Minds