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Family of murder victim speaks out; suspect in court

SALISBURY — Mya Miller overcame childhood turmoil and was excited about the next chapter of her life, her family said Thursday.

Her life was cut short Tuesday when she was shot and killed.

The accused shooter, Jeffrey Wayne Hooker, 32, is charged with murder, shooting into an occupied dwelling or vehicle, and possession of a firearm by a felon. He made his first court appearance Thursday and asked to represent himself.

The Salisbury Police Department said Miller was not an intended target and the shooting was random. She was shot while riding in a car with a friend, and she didn’t know Hooker, police said.

She was in a stationary vehicle at the intersection of North Long Street and 11th Street when she was shot. A friend called 911 while en route to the hospital. She died at Novant Health Rowan Medical Center.

Miller, 19, leaves behind a 10-month-old son, Nysavion, and a fiance, her family said.

A Post reporter spoke with Miller’s family nearly an hour after Hooker told District Court Judge Kevin Eddinger that he wanted the court to know he is not guilty. He refused to have a court-appointed attorney.

“She lived through a lot of heartache growing up,” said Miller’s aunt Rhonda Rankin. “If life is a message, then Mya’s message was to smile even when you want to cry; to love even when you feel unloved.”

Rankin said Miller spent some time in foster care as a child and that was a difficult time for the family, but her niece was “an overcomer.”

She said Miller was thrilled about moving back to Salisbury after living in Lexington and about getting a job at McDonald’s. Rankin recalled getting an excited phone call from her niece, who said she’d found a job within two days of moving home.

The happiest she’d seen her niece was when she had her son, Nysavion. She called her grandmother, Amanda Miller, before his delivery.

Rankin said she thought of her niece’s final moments and believes Miller never thought for a moment she’d be gone.

Amanda Miller and Rankin acknowledged that the Hooker family is hurting, but in a different way. The mother and daughter said they believe Hooker snapped and Mya Miller happened to be in his path.

Rankin said her niece had a forgiving demeanor. Rankin she knows Mya Miller would forgive Hooker. So, the family, in turn, is choosing to forgive.

“I would like to tell Jeff Hooker that I’m sure she forgives him. I’m sure she does,” Rankin said.

She said families such as the Hookers, her own and others should check on their loved ones. Whether someone has thoughts of suicide or is depressed, everyone should show concern for the people they care about, she said.

“People want to feel loved, and there’s not enough love in this world. And we’re wondering what’s wrong. That’s what’s wrong because God is the spirit of love and where God is not, the spirit of love is not and things like this happen,” Rankin said.

Regardless of what Mya may have endured, Amanda Miller said, she always smiled.

“She loved everybody,” Amanda Miller said.

Amanda Miller said she watched Mya grow into a woman of love and understanding.

“If you met her, she would wrap you in love regardless of age. She loved people,” Amanda Miller said.

“Her baby was her heart,” she said. “We are taking the love that my granddaughter shared with us, which is a precious thing, and we are going to go on with that in her memory”

Mya Miller’s mother, April Miller, said her daughter was funny, open-minded and outgoing

“You couldn’t be sad around her for a split second. Everybody loved her,” April Miller said, overcome with emotion.

April Miller said she believes her daughter would want her to forgive.

“I’ve got to forgive. Why hold on? She would want me to forgive,” she said.

Judge Eddinger told Hooker that, if convicted, he could receive a maximum of 17 years for the charges of shooting into a vehicle and a home.

Police said Hooker is also responsible for a shooting at Victory Street later the same evening.

He could receive a maximum of 19 years for being a felon in possession of a firearm and either life in prison or death for murder.

When asked what he wanted to do about an attorney, Hooker told the judge he could not afford one. Eddinger explained that the court would appoint one if he could not afford one.

Hooker insisted he would represent himself.

District Attorney Brandy Cook accepted that Hooker would represent himself and asked that he not contact Miller’s family and two others — Mike Kirksey and Shirley Williams.

His next court appearance in court will be June 5 for a probable cause hearing. Hooker remains in the Rowan County jail without bond.

Contact reporter Shavonne Walker at 704-797-4253.

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