Charges upgraded in murder of Marysville woman

Investigators have identified Snohomish County residents Joshua Gilliam, in the lower left corner, and Ryan L. Miller, in the center, as the people in this store surveillance photo. - Courtesy Photo
Investigators have identified Snohomish County residents Joshua Gilliam, in the lower left corner, and Ryan L. Miller, in the center, as the people in this store surveillance photo.
— image credit: Courtesy Photo

MARYSVILLE — The two Snohomish County men who were captured in Missouri June 9, and charged with second-degree murder June 10, for beating a 73-year-old Marysville woman to death in her home, have been returned to Washington, and had the charges against them upgraded to first-degree murder. The two were booked into the Snohomish County Jail June 16, with bail set at $1 million each.

Joshua Gilliam, 25, and Ryan L. Miller, 22, have been accused of brutally beating Shirley Sweeton with a hammer June 5, and then stealing her debit and credit cards, the contents of her safe and her 1998 Buick. According to Snohomish County Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Janice Ellis, the two allegedly used Sweeton's debit and credit cards to buy cigarettes and clothes at the Lynnwood Wal-Mart, and food at the McDonald's in Monroe, on the morning of June 6. They continued to use Sweeton's cards as they drove through Montana, North Dakota and Minnesota in her Buick.

A Missouri State Patrol Trooper arrested the two in Eagleville, Mo., just south of the Iowa border, on the evening of June 9, after pulling over the Buick, which had been reported stolen. According to Ellis, Miller allegedly confessed that he and Gilliam had killed Sweeton with a hammer, while the two of them were on heroin. The two men allegedly dumped the hammer while driving east on U.S. 2, according to court records.

According to Marysville Police Cmdr. Robb Lamoureux, three Marysville Police officers retrieved the two suspects, courtesy of a plane ride they received from the Department of Homeland Security. Marysville Police had previously considered the possibility of driving to Missouri to retrieve the suspects, since commercial flights have the right to refuse seats to such potentially dangerous suspects.

Ellis wrote in court papers that Miller and Gilliam had lived together in the Everett men's shelter, and that Gilliam had also lived with Sweeton while dating her 24-year-old granddaughter. Ellis added that Gilliam had used Sweeton's credit cards and taken her car without her permission in the past, as well. In September of last year, Sweeton asked for a protection order against Gilliam on her granddaughter's behalf, alleging that Gilliam coerced her granddaughter to steal and give him money to buy drugs, according to court documents. Because of the granddaughter's mental health issues, a judge determined that she was incapable of caring for herself, and appointed Sweeton as her guardian.

Sweeton wrote in her petition that she was afraid of Gilliam, a two-time felon who was charged in 2000 with child molestation for a sexual assault on a young relative, and has been on community custody after convictions for heroin possession and failing to register as a sex offender. He has an escape warrant pending. Miller also has a criminal record, including 13 misdemeanor convictions — six as an adult and seven as a juvenile — among them theft and assault. According to Ellis, both men and Sweeton's granddaughter were patients at Compass Health and have been treated for mental health problems.

Sweeton's granddaughter and Gilliam had broken up in recent months, and Sweeton's granddaughter has been living in a group home since she moved out of Sweeton's house. Police don't believe that Sweeton's granddaughter was involved in the slaying.

Sweeton was found lying face up in her bed, with her face covered in blood, and blood on the walls and ceiling of her bedroom, on the morning of June 8, by her sister, who was worried about not hearing from Sweeton over the weekend. Police found Sweeton's purse open, and her debit and credit cards missing, along with her prescription medicine. According to Ellis, a surveillance video showed Gilliam driving Sweeton's Buick with Miller in the passenger seat, and Miller allegedly called his mother from the road, on the evening of June 9, to tell her that he was with a friend from the Everett men's shelter.

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