Deirdre Miller never stepped foot in Florida until a mother’s intuition brought her here.
Her daughter’s boyfriend reported the 27-year-old missing about 10 days ago after she went to Walmart in his SUV, and never returned home.
Something’s wrong. Miller felt it. It wasn’t like Samantha to abandon her cats. And it wasn’t like her to stop communication with her little sister.
Plus, the Boynton Beach resident didn’t have her medicine for bipolar disorder and depression. And Samantha had battled Valium and heroin abuse — what led her to come down here from New Jersey about four years ago.
Boynton Police opened a missing person case. Delray Beach Police jumped in too. Miller shared her family’s story on social media and in community groups, attracting support and love of residents she never met.
Samantha became known as the missing Boynton girl, or the missing Delray girl.
They were going to find her. They had to. Eleven days later, on Tuesday, Palm Beach County Sheriff’s investigators did.
But it was too late.
“They found her,” Deirdre Miller told The Palm Beach Post. She took a breath through her cries. “They found her dead.”
Investigators discovered Samantha in a white SUV — appearing to be her boyfriend’s 2006 Mercury Mountaineer — parked in a shaded spot of an aisle at the end of the Village Square at Golf parking lot just west of Boynton Beach at the corner of Woolbright Road and Military Trail. Detectives believe she was there for a couple of days, Sheriff spokeswoman Teri Barbera said. They don’t suspect foul play, but the medical examiner will make the final determination.
Miller told The Post she didn’t know if her daughter overdosed on drugs. Detectives told her they didn’t find paraphernalia in the car, she said.
Samantha Miller’s license and a distinct tattoo on her arm helped detectives quickly identify her. The tattoo is of Samantha’s grandmother’s name, Ruth Mae, who died of cancer in 2009. Her grandmother was her role model.
“My mom loved her so much,” Deirdre Miller said.
The search for Samantha started Friday, Nov. 18. Her boyfriend, Richie Lewis, previously told The Post he reported Samantha missing to Boynton police that night. Samantha’s mom and father, James Miller, and 16-year-old sister, Madison drove 20 hours from New Jersey to Boynton, and arrived that Tuesday.
The family spent Thanksgiving searching for Samantha.
During the next few days they walked the streets, drove through neighborhoods and went to known drug areas as unconfirmed sightings rolled in.
But the family had to go back to New Jersey that weekend — Madison had to be back for school.
On Monday, Deirdre Miller returned to Palm Beach County alone.
More unconfirmed sightings appeared on social media, including a report that Samantha may have been seen around Linton Boulevard in Delray, and Deirdre planned to track down a video to confirm.
On Tuesday, Deirdre and detectives were at a gas station where Samantha might have been seen when Deirdre got a message that investigators found a woman dead in a Publix parking lot. Members of the Facebook groups circulated the story, picked up by media outlets, and many commented they hoped it wasn’t Samantha.
Soon after she saw that news, detectives called Deirdre to the police station. There, they told Deirdre it was Samantha.
“I kept telling them from day one this is not her; something is wrong,” Deirdre told The Post, with all the hope she repeatedly displayed gone from her voice. “I told them over and over and over, something is wrong.”
Late that afternoon, she signed on to Facebook and wrote to her supporters.
“Samantha will no longer battle her demons and will lay to rest with her family in New Jersey. I pray she felt no pain and my mother was there to guide her to heaven,” Miller wrote. “And I pray that each of you hold your children tight and tell them every single day how much you love them.”
Staff writer Olivia Hitchcock contributed to this story