Father of 13-year-old killed in double murder recalls son's zeal for life
INDEPENDENCE – A 13-year-old and his mother were killed in a double murder before Christmas as they were rounding out a weekend of spending time together.
Robert West, Jr., was nearly ready to head home to his dad Sunday night after spending some time with his mother, Daytra Miller.
“She texted me at 6:00 and said ‘I’m bringing him to you’,” Robert West Sr. recalled.
They never made it.
“She was just putting stuff in the car,” he said.
West Sr. recounted the horrifying evening in an exclusive conversation with WBRZ Christmas night.
It’s as his son’s mother was putting items in the car that he believes someone fatally shot Miller, 42, and Robert Jr., 13 at Miller’s home in Independence. He hasn’t been able to go to the detective’s offices for an update on the investigation, he said, but expects to go Wednesday.
West said he also hasn’t been able to read a Facebook post one of a woman who works at his son’s school, but has been told that it highlighted the way he and his son said “I love you.”
Kristian Polk Usey, wrote:
I first fell in love with Robert on my first day at Tangi Academy. I was working morning carline. His father dropped him off and SCREAMED, “I LOVE YOU, SON” in a true football coach before the big game tone. Robert kind of waved and grinned but Daddy wasn’t moving. He yelled again, “I SAID I LOVE YOU, SON!” Robert turned around, flexed his muscles and yelled back in the same Macho tone, “I LOVE YOU, DAD.” They would go back and forth about 3 times each morning with this. It was the highlight of my mornings.
West said it was a highlight of his mornings too.
West, the football coach and disciplinarian at Greenville Park Leadership Academy, said he always wanted his son to see that showing love and being tough were not mutually exclusive.
When his son was at home, they had a morning ritual.
“I kissed him and I hugged him and we did a handshake,” he said.
On mornings he was at his mom’s, they’d talk on the phone together and share a prayer before getting their days started.
West said his son was usually called by his middle name, Allen, or “Papi,” a nickname he gave himself as a little boy because he was a big fan of baseball player David Ortiz, who is called “Big Papi.”
But he also recognized that his son was growing up.
Earlier this month, Allen went to his first school dance. West said his son asked him to go, to be his “wingman.” West was touched, but recommended that Allen go with a friend who could handle wingman duty. They had a great time and even coordinated their outfits.
“He wore red and his best friend wore black and red,” West recalled.
Miller and West had once worked together at the Southeast Area Health Education Center, assisting people in getting health insurance.
Miller had left that job and was managing some rental properties she and West own, he said.
And although West and Miller were no longer a couple, they remained close.
“I lost my best friend and I lost my son,” he said.
They were together for more than 15 years, he said, and he loves her four daughters as though they were his own.
“They never called anybody else daddy,” he said.
West said Miller’s daughters have been with him almost constantly since the shooting.
“They’re scared. I’ve got them with me,” he said.
West knows that putting the killer behind bars can only do so much to help the family heal, but he also knows that Miller would have gone to the ends of the earth to find and punish his killer if the situation were reversed.
He urged people to think carefully and watch and listen for information that could help investigators, and to report it, even if they are only able to do it anonymously.
“This happens all the time and they get away with this,” he said.
People can get the information to detectives without identifying themselves by calling Crime Stoppers at 800-554-5245. Tips can also be submitted online. The Tangipahoa Parish Sheriff's Office is now a offering $2,500 reward in addition to the $2,500 reward offered by Crime Stoppers for information in the double slaying.
“I want justice for Daytra and I want justice for Allen,” he said. “My daughters need it.”
Close friends started a GoFundMe account for funeral expenses, as well as living expenses for the surviving family. If you'd like to donate, click here.