An Airway Heights couple accused of killing an 8-year-old girl and driving her body to South Dakota in a U-Haul trailer was extradited to Spokane County this week and made their first appearance Thursday in Spokane County Superior Court.
Aleksandr Kurmoyarov, 29, and Mandie Miller, 33, are charged with second-degree murder, first-degree criminal mistreatment and unlawful imprisonment. Court Commissioner John Stine kept the couple's bond at $1 million during Thursday's hearing.
They were arrested last month in South Dakota and initially charged with failure to notify law enforcement of the death of a child, according to a Facebook post from the Mitchell Police Department in South Dakota.
Miller, who is Rosebud Sioux, and Kurmoyarov transported Meelah Miller's body in a casket to South Dakota and intended to bury it on the Rosebud Sioux Indian Reservation, according to court documents. Meelah is Miller's niece and adopted daughter.
On Dec. 14, a funeral home on the Rosebud Indian Reservation contacted the Davison County Coroner, which then notified Mitchell police , documents say. A member of the funeral home said Miller and Kurmoyarov were "really hesitant" about contacting anyone other than the funeral home.
Kurmoyarov agreed to deliver the girl's body to the funeral home, but they never showed up, court records say.
Officers contacted the couple at the residence of Miller's mother in Mitchell. Miller told police the girl's body was in the back of the U-Haul trailer.
Miller told police Meelah died Sept. 10 at their Airway Heights home after choking on a strawberry milkshake. She said they did not call 911 because it takes 30 minutes for the ambulance to get to their residence at 13908 W. Redding Dr.
Miller said Kurmoyarov performed CPR on Meelah for an hour but was unable to revive her. They then laid Meelah in her bed, where she stayed until they were able to get a casket and rent a U-Haul to transport her to South Dakota, she told police.
The U-Haul was rented Dec. 1 and they arrived in South Dakota Dec. 10. Documents say Miller's statement did not make sense, and she appeared to be deceptive about the cause of the girl's death.
Kurmoyarov told police Meelah was sick and it was "tragic." He never stated anything about Meelah choking, like Miller stated, according to documents. Kurmoyarov said Meelah was acting out and was a "handful."
He told police he zip-tied her to a car seat for four to six hours and slapped her twice in the face the day she died. He said Miller hit Meelah's toes with a hammer when she misbehaved. He said they would tie Meelah up in the residence for four to six hours a day.
A man, who said he was previously in a dating relationship with Miller and considered himself to be Meelah's father, told police Miller called him Nov. 16 and told him, "Meela passed away" Nov. 5. Meelah's name was also spelled "Meela" in court documents.
The ex-boyfriend said he asked Miller what the couple did to Meelah, and Miller denied doing anything to her. Miller told him her tribe paid to have the body flown back to her reservation in South Dakota.
Miller told him Meelah was having chest pain and she took her into Indian Health Service, the ex-boyfriend recalled in documents. Miller told him doctors said nothing was wrong with her and sent her home.
Miller told the ex-boyfriend once she returned home with Meelah from the doctor's office, Meelah started vomiting and passed out. She said she and Kurmoyarov called 911, but it took the ambulance an hour to get there and she was dead by that time.
The ex-boyfriend told police he assumed the ambulance took the body and he had no idea Miller kept the body.
He said Miller can be a "hot head" with a temper, but never thought she would abuse Meelah. He said he recalled Miller referring to Meelah as "evil."
The man said he got a ride to Airway Heights to be with Miller when he learned Meelah died, documents say. He said it took Miller 10 minutes to answer the door when he arrived at her home.
When she did answer the knock at the door, she immediately stepped outside and shut the front door, the ex-boyfriend told police. She did not invite him inside and suggested they drive around.
A doctor who performed the autopsy on Meelah noted lesions on her wrist and both ankles consistent with being tied up. She was clearly malnourished and weighed 26 pounds, the doctor told police. The doctor said, "barring any unexpected findings," the cause and manner of death will be homicide.
During a search of the couple's Airway Heights residence, detectives collected multiple bags of zip ties. A detective also noticed an air freshener plugged into almost every outlet of the home, an abundant amount of candles and scented wax warmers, and an excessive amount of household cleaning supplies. The fragrance products are consistent with someone trying to mask the odor of a decomposing body, authorities said in court documents.
In August, Child Protective Services requested officers respond to the couple's home to check on Meelah after the landlord of the home reported the child had not been seen since the family moved into the residence in May. Miller told responding officers Meelah was asleep, which an officer corroborated after looking into the bedroom, court records say.
In October, a victim's advocate went to the residence, documents say. Kurmoyarov allegedly chased the advocate away and smashed the advocate's car window. The advocate did not make contact with Meelah that day.
Miller and Kurmoyarov remained in Spokane County Jail Friday night and are set for arraignments Feb. 7.