PHILADELPHIA (AP) — At first, Pennsylvania state trooper Joseph Miller said he was as far as 10 feet away cleaning his gun when it accidentally discharged, killing his pregnant wife.
Later, he told detectives he was 2 feet away.
On Friday, three years after the shooting, Miller was under arrest after prosecutors said new tests showed the gun was 3 to 6 inches from her head when it went off.
Miller, 36, was arraigned Friday on two counts of involuntary manslaughter in the deaths of JoAnna Miller and their newborn baby, prosecutors in suburban Philadelphia said.
JoAnna Miller was 24 weeks pregnant when she was shot in the head in the family room of their East Norriton home on March 7, 2014, as she organized children’s clothes. She died at a hospital after delivering a girl via an emergency C-section. The baby, named Gillian, died shortly thereafter.
In a call Joseph Miller placed to 911 after the shooting, he tells a dispatcher: “I, ah, was cleaning. I was about to clean my gun, and I didn’t realize there was a round … I shot my wife.” He can then be heard consoling children, saying, “Guys, guys, guys, it’s OK.”
The couple has four other children.
Miller told detectives he was disassembling his personal gun in the family room so he could clean it when it discharged and struck his 34-year-old wife, who was sitting on the floor sorting clothes for donation, according to a criminal complaint.
He initially told police he was about 8 to 10 feet away from his wife but later changed his estimate to about 2 feet away.
However, a coroner ruled JoAnna Miller’s cause of death was a “perforating close range gunshot wound of the head.” A two-year investigation involving ballistics and forensic tests showed the gun was 3 to 6 inches from JoAnna Miller’s head when it went off, according to a statement by the Montgomery County district attorney’s office.
Joseph Miller also told detectives he didn’t check to see whether the gun was unloaded before cleaning it.
In an interview transcript released Friday, investigators asked Miller: “Did you intentionally shoot your wife?”
“I did not,” he replied. “It was an accident. I love her to death.”
Prosecutors say Miller had extensive firearms safety training as part of his job as a state trooper and disregarded the essential standards and procedures for handling weapons the day he shot his wife, according to the criminal complaint.
In June 2014, the district attorney’s office concluded the shooting was negligent but accidental.
Authorities at the time said all evidence indicated the Millers were “a close-knit, loving family excited about the pending arrival of a new baby.”
However, the investigation remained open as evidence was examined.
A message seeking comment from Miller’s lawyer wasn’t returned. He is free on $100,000 bail and was ordered to surrender his passport and firearms.