Pensacola, FL – A former Oklahoma police detective has been convicted of second-degree murder in the brutal beating death of his longtime friend and police chief.
Mannford Police Chief Lucky Miller, 44, and Detective Michael Patrick Nealey, 50, were attending a law enforcement death scene investigation conference at the Hilton hotel on Pensacola Beach when the deadly altercation occurred on the night of Nov. 10, 2019, WEAR reported.
Prosecutors said the state medical examiner determined Chief Miller was beaten and either suffocated or strangled to death, WEAR reported.
The chief had been internally decapitated during the attack, which would constitute the same level of force that would be created in a car crash, according to prosecutors.
Chief Miller and Nealey had been drinking alcohol together prior to the assault, with both having blood-alcohol content levels of at least four times more than the legal driving limit at the time of the chief’s death, investigators said.
Nealey’s attorney, Gene Mitchell, told the jury his client had “made his way over to Mr. Nealey’s sleeping area, and somehow, in this drunken state, the two men rolled off Mr. Nealey’s bed,” the Pensacola News Journal reported.
Mitchell suggested that Nealey fell on top of Chief Miller, and that Nealey’s weight could have caused the chief’s death.
The investigation into Chief Miller’s death began at approximately 9:30 p.m. on Nov. 10, 2019, when the Escambia County Sheriff’s Office (ECSO) received a report of a disturbance at the hotel, WEAR reported at the time.
A hotel employee later told investigators that he went to the men’s shared room after the hotel received complaints about loud noises and yelling coming from the room.
One witness said the men were yelling and laughing for hours, causing such a disruption that the complainant requested a room change, WEAR reported.
Another witness said they heard a “roaring” noise, before someone repeatedly started to yell “stop it, Mike,” according to a police report.
The yelling gradually diminished, then stopped altogether, the witness said.
The hotel employee said he could hear a “grunting” noise coming from the room when he went to investigate the complaints, WEAR reported.
When he entered the room, he spotted Chief Miller lying on the floor. Det. Nealey was sitting on top of him, the employee said.
The hotel worker yanked the detective off of Chief Miller, at which point Det. Nealey’s face slammed into the floor, causing injuries to his lip and nose, according to police.
When ECSO deputies arrived at the scene, Chief Miller was unresponsive and did not have a pulse, WEAR reported.
They found Det. Nealey “mumbling” incoherently nearby, according to the police report.
His hand was red and swollen, but he had no other significant injuries.
Chief Miller suffered extensive injuries to his face from being beaten, police said.
One of his eyes was swelled completely, according to investigators.
ECSO spokesperson Sergeant Melony Peterson said that both men had been consuming alcohol prior to the altercation, The Washington Post reported.
There were no weapons found inside the room, Sgt. Peterson said.
Chief Miller, a married father-of-three, had served as the chief of the eight-member MPD since 2007, the agency said in a Facebook post shortly after his murder.
Mannford Mayor Tyler Buttram said that Chief Miller and Det. Nealey were more than coworkers – they were best friends, The Washington Post reported.
“They were the best of friends, both on the force and off,” Buttram said. “Their families knew each other very well.”
“Where you saw one you saw the other,” he explained, according to Heavy.com. “That’s why it’s hard for everyone, because it just doesn’t make sense.”
The motive for the deadly attack was never determined, WEAR reported.
“Only two people were in that room. One of them is dead and one of them is on trial,” prosecutor Trey Myers told the jury during his closing arguments. “It’s impossible to get inside the mind of a man who was here for a law enforcement conference who has had half a gallon of vodka to drink and understand his thoughts.”
“Alcohol may explain what happened, but it does not excuse legally in the state of Florida the taking of Lucky Miller’s life,” Myers added, according to WEAR.
The jury deliberated for approximately two hours before returning a guilty verdict on Wednesday.
Nealey’s sentencing has been scheduled for April 29.
He faces a maximum sentence of life in prison if convicted, according to the Pensacola News Journal.