Okolona family shares story of losing 2 generations to gun violence

More than a hundred families each year suddenly find themselves thrust violently into a life of grief following gun violence. The Miller family of Okolona has h
Published: Sep. 1, 2022 at 3:44 PM EDT|Updated: Sep. 1, 2022 at 5:55 PM EDT

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WAVE) - Louisville is in its third straight year of triple digit homicides. More than a hundred families each year suddenly find themselves thrust violently into a life of grief.

The Miller family of Okolona has had to endure the trauma twice.

A couple of times a month, Jerry Miller climbs on his Honda motorcycle and hits the road. More therapy than adventure, he has no particular destination in mind.

“You ride in the country, you see the horses and cows,” Miller said. “And you’re all by yourself. You don’t listen to nobody.”

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A couple of times a month, Jerry Miller climbs on his Honda motorcycle and hits the road. More...
A couple of times a month, Jerry Miller climbs on his Honda motorcycle and hits the road. More therapy than adventure, he has no particular destination in mind.(WAVE News)

But as he rides, Miller has learned he can never go far enough. And he wonders, how many miles will it take to escape his pain?

“You’re constantly thinking about it,” Miller said. “You go down some street and see something that reminds you.”

On May 31, 2020, Miller’s 19-year-old granddaughter, Karleigh, was shot and killed by her boyfriend.

On December 23, 2021, Miller’s son and Karleigh’s father, Mike, was shot and killed after getting into a fight at a restaurant on Preston Highway.

Two generations of the Miller family were lost to gun violence in less than 19 months.

“It’s just been hard on us losing two people,” Debbie Miller, Mike’s stepmother said. “You know, we didn’t even finish grieving Karleigh yet when this happened to Michael. So I worry about everybody, because this really affected them very hard.”

Jerry Miller finds the loss difficult to talk about. He counsels other grieving family members to “carry on.”

“Keep busy, go on, keep friends around you, keep people around you,” Miller said. “Don’t cut your friends out or your family out. You can’t just sit and think about it because it will kill you.”

Miller takes his own advice by taking long rides on his motorcycle, hoping to leave a portion of his grief in the rear-view mirror.

“It makes me feel good just to ride,” he said.

But Miller can’t escape the constant reminders of the night he lost his son. The restaurant where Mike Miller was killed is less than a minute away.

Family members see it whenever they leave the neighborhood.

“You know, it’s just right down the street from us,” Debbie Miller said. “And we relive that every time.”

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“It’s just been hard on us losing two people,” Debbie Miller, Mike’s stepmother said. “You...
“It’s just been hard on us losing two people,” Debbie Miller, Mike’s stepmother said. “You know, we didn’t even finish grieving Karleigh yet when this happened to Michael."(WAVE News)

In addition to losing loved ones, the Millers are also losing faith in the justice system.

Neither of the defendants have yet gone to trial.

“It’s dragging out,” Jerry Miller said. “To me, it’s cut and dry, but evidently it’s not.”

Demond Haynes, charged with murdering Karleigh Miller, told officers it was an accident.

Haynes is in jail awaiting trial in January.

Karson Reitz, charged with murdering Mike Miller and another man at the Rooster’s restaurant, said it was self-defense. No trial date has been set.

As the wheels of justice turn slowly, the Millers plan to soon be back in court, watching and hoping to find at least a portion of the closure that has so far eluded them.

When asked what he needs right now, Miller replied, “Just justice. Just some justice.”