Goshen News, Goshen, IN

April 28, 2014

Trial begins in tattoo shop murder case

By SCOTT WEISSER
THE GOSHEN NEWS

GOSHEN — Mark Miller was a father, tattoo artist and business owner. Then he was a victim.

Elkhart County prosecutors say Todd Stewart, 36, Bristol, shot and killed Miller in September 2012. Stewart’s trial began Monday in Elkhart Circuit Court with jury selection and an opening statement from the prosecution.

Miller, 44, owned the Dunlap tattoo shop across U.S. 33 from the Goodwill store. Deputy Prosecutor Don Pitzer said Stewart was a co-worker at the shop, and the two men had a tumultuous relationship.

Prosecutors allege that Stewart killed Miller at the tattoo business Sept. 7, 2012. Pitzer said Miller was shot in the back of the head with a .22-caliber bullet. The victim was stuffed head-first into a barrel, and the barrel later dumped into the St. Joseph River.

The barrel, and Miller’s body, were discovered near the C.R. 17 Six Span Bridge by people doing work in the river Sept. 20, 2012.

Pitzer listed several people scheduled to testify at the trial, including Miller’s sister Dawn Miller. Pitzer said Dawn Miller spoke to Mark on the phone the night he was killed, and had expected to see him shortly. She was later unable to contact her brother, which she found odd. Dawn reported him missing to police Sept. 10.

After Miller disappeared, according to Pitzer, Stewart unveiled a contract. The document indicated the shop was to be turned over to Stewart in the event Miller ever disappeared or went missing.

Jurors are set to hear testimony from Miller’s attorney, who’s expected to testify that Miller wouldn’t have signed over his business without contacting him first.

Pitzer also told jurors they would hear from a tattoo artist who was at the shop with Miller and Stewart the night Miller was killed. That artist reportedly heard a popping noise, and then saw Stewart walk inside the shop with a handgun.

Pitzer said Stewart told the other staffer to help him, and also threatened him. The tattoo artist — “scared to death,” according to Pitzer — saw that Miller was in the barrel, his legs sticking out.

Defense attorneys declined to make an opening statement in court Monday.

The trial is expected to continue through Thursday.