• Daytra Miller and Robert West

No suspects in Christmas Mother, Child homicide

At 6:30 PM, Sunday, December 23, 2018, residents of a neighborhood two miles west of Independence heard gunshots and began phoning 911.

Tangipahoa Parish Sheriff’s deputies responded, discovering the lifeless bodies of 42-year-old Daytra Miller and her 13-year-old son, Robert West, II, inside their home at the corner of Labruzza Lane and Fontana Road.

This week, family members boarded the wood-frame house’s windows and doors with plywood, too heartbroken to return to the home.

Miller’s aunt, Gloria McGee, said her niece had lived in the area at least 15 years, many of them with her children in the home on Labruzza. She described Miller as “Hard working, very respectful, full of life, and very loving.”

She said Robert was an honors student. “Just an angel, a joy to be around. So loving, respectful,” McGee said. “A life cut short.”

Robert West told reporters last week that on the morning of Christmas Eve, he watched his son being carried from his home in a body bag.

He said his son’s mother was his best friend and that she had been packing to bring his son to stay with him a few days.

“My son was being raised by all of us. He’s the youngest of six, including four girls.” He said his son’s siblings were looking forward to spending Christmas with their brother.

 “We were just trying to preach to them how important it is for them to stay together,” he said, sobbing. “Even if Daytra and I weren’t getting along, or something happened to one of us. As long as they stayed together, they’d be okay.”

Tangi Academy Principal Jackie Wilson released this statement regarding the younger Robert West:

“He was a kind, gentle, helpful, and caring young man who always put others before himself. In one of his latest assignments in Mrs. Garner’s ELA class, he wrote about wanting to be a professional fisherman. He loved fishing because his grandfather taught him how to fish. Robert would always stop in my office to ‘check out’ my fish tank. He even gave me a few tips on the proper ways to care for fish since mine kept dying at the beginning of the school year. I finally got it right, and the two that remain have been going strong since early September, thanks to some of his advice.”

Kristian Polk-Usey, one of Robert West’s teachers, said he was a mentor for younger children, a football and basketball player, and that he gave the best hugs.

“He was everything you’d want your son to be,” Polk-Usey said.

“People really loved my son,” the elder West said. “I love him. He was a good kid.”

The grieving father said he is praying that someone who knows what happened will speak up soon.

“If anyone has any information about my son or about anything that has happened to him. Even if you even remotely know someone involved or know something about this situation, please contact any authorities.”

Last week, TPSO’s Chief Information Officer, Dawn Panepinto, said investigators believe the victims may have known the person who committed the “heinous crime” since there had been no sign of forced entry.

“At this point for investigative purposes, we’re accepting any information anyone has about shots being fired in the area,” she said, adding that investigators have been working on the case around-the-clock since the murders. She said the agency has received multiple tips from the public, but it will take time to verify the information provided.

West said investigators told him that they are still waiting on the Louisiana State Police Crime Lab to analyze the final pieces of evidence before they release information on a possible person of interest in the shooting.

McGee insisted last week that these crimes were not a product of domestic violence. “We don’t know who did this, but on behalf of the Miller and West family, we need your prayers and support, and we need the community’s help to solve this crime. Any tips, any information you have, please call the Tangipahoa Parish Sheriff’s Office, the local office, the Independence police department.”

To assist with funeral expenses, the family has set up a Go Fund Me account in the name of her deceased nephew, but McGee said the family’s primary focus this week is on helping police locate those responsible.

Sheriff Daniel Edwards said, “We are hopeful that someone with relevant information will step up and help put those responsible for this horrific crime behind bars. One thing we do know is that there are people out there who have information about these murders. We want that information or anything that will lead us in the direction of the shooters.”

His office is offering a $5,000 reward for information in the case. Anyone able to help collect the reward anonymously through Crime Stoppers of Tangipahoa by calling 800-554-5245.

“Crime Stoppers has proven to be a useful tool in these types of investigations,” the sheriff said, “and we are hopeful that someone with relevant information will step up and help put those responsible for this horrific crime behind bars.”

 “Bayou Justice” is a weekly true crime column featuring exciting or notable crime-related stories often focusing on cold case files in South Louisiana; stories based on interviews with key players, among them: police investigators, lawyers, victims, and their families. If you have information regarding a case, contact Crime Stoppers, the Baton Rouge Police Department, or email bayoujustice@hammondstar.com.

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