by CHRIS ROGERS
Yesterday, prosecutors charged Steven Edward Miller, 32, of Winona, with second-degree murder and arson for the death of 55-year-old Winona man David Seaman. The complaint does not identify the victim of the alleged murder by name, but Seaman was reported to have died in a house fire at the same location and time — the only fire-related death in Winona in years. The criminal charges reveal the victim was killed before the fire, according to a medical examiner’s report, and that state fire marshal investigators determined the fire was an arson. In interviews with investigators, Miller gave many different versions of the story and claims to not remember much from that night, but he allegedly admitted attacking the victim and causing the fire.
Miller is in custody and appeared in court this morning. The criminal complaint references two accomplices who have apparently not yet been charged.
“Not long before 4 a.m. on March 25, 2019, a Winona Police officer located a duplex on fire on Eighth Street in the city of Winona,” the criminal complaint explains. “Flames and smoke were coming out of a window on the east unit of the duplex. Officers attempted to enter the residence, but found the backdoor was locked. An officer kicked open the door and yelled for anyone to come out. The smoke was too heavy for the officers to enter.”
That night, the Winona Fire Department extinguished the blaze within 40 minutes and located Seaman’s body.
According to the criminal complaint, an autopsy found the victim did not suffer smoke inhalation, and that the cause of death was “homicidal violence including blunt-force trauma.”
Minnesota State Fire Marshal investigators found two separate origin points of the fire, a homemade “torch” inside the residence, and a can of camp stove fuel outside, according to the complaint.
Winona Police Department investigators used store records and surveillance video to conclude that Miller had purchased a gas can earlier that night.
After denying any knowledge of the fire in an interview in April, Miller told police in May that he wanted to report a crime, according to the complaint. Investigators summarized that interview, writing, “A couple people defendant knew got defendant really high. Defendant ‘was high out of [his] … mind and some stuff happened.’ Defendant was high on meth and mushrooms. Defendant was at victim’s and lit the fire.”
Miller allegedly gave investigators multiple versions of the story and did not remember many details well, according to the complaint. However, some summaries of the interviews described in the court filing paint a picture of the victim helping Miller, letting him stay at the victim’s residence for a week leading up to the fire, and reportedly giving Miller a gift card so he could buy goods — but not spend money on drugs. Investigators claimed Miller told them that, “[The] victim cared about defendant and did not like defendant getting high. Defendant said there was yelling and defendant ‘hit him with a hammer.’ Defendant stated, ‘I’m pretty sure I did, I don’t know for sure.’”
The prosecutors claim Miller said, “He was a good person, I don’t, I don’t know why, like I say there’s no, there’s no, you know, like you said, it was a rage-induced drug coma, like, but I don’t understand it myself, why.’”
Miller faces two charges of second-degree murder — one for intentional, but not premeditated murder and one for unintentional murder while committing another felony. Both are punishable by up to 40 years in prison. He also faces a charge of one of the most serious forms of arson — intentionally burning a dwelling. That charge is punishable by up to 20 years in prison.
Keep reading the Winona Post for more on this story.