MCBEE, S.C. -- Frankie Melton says his sister-in-law Hope was happy--a newlywed looking forward to starting a family.
The 30-year-old had just stopped for gas. She was caught smiling on the convenience store s surveillance camera and was on her way to pick up her grandmother so the two could take advantage of after-Christmas sales. That s when Hope briefly crossed paths with 23-year-old Nickolas Miller.
She had a big smile when she came into the store. She was a sweet precious girl, said Frankie Melton, Hope s brother-in-law. In the video, he was cool, nonchalant and there s a point in the video when he looks out at the gas pumps. It s at that time he decides this is the next one he s going to attempt to rape and kill.
Melton says investigators have told them Miller stalked another woman earlier in the day but gave up when she drove into a more populated area.
Obviously he intended to rape and kill that day. That was his intention. He was following someone, another girl that we know...He clearly had that intent from the beginning, Melton added.
Investigators say Miller confessed to following Melton from the store, forcing her off a rural country road and kidnapping her.
What makes it most difficult is the brutality and suffering she went through before she died. He began beating her from the first moment when he ran her off the road. So she went through an incomprehensible ordeal over several hours, he added.
Investigators have said Miller may have raped Melton more than once before brutally beating her to death with a baseball bat.
Helen Miller is Nickolas grandmother. She says she adopted him and raised him as her son and that he was set up, drunk and under pressure when he confessed to police.
There s a lot of lies being told. They re not true. He was a very decent child, Miller said.
Melton s family says Miller deserves the death penalty.
That would be too good for him, but we certainly hope justice will be done and he'll receive death. That's what he deserves, Hope s brother-in-law added.
But Frankie Melton says his family is trying to focus on Hope and the life she led. They say she attended church every week and donated to the congregation with every paycheck.
Her husband was so distraught, he is now under a doctor s care. He was desperate to get his wife s wedding rings back, but was overcome with grief when the coroner returned them, her blood still on them.
It was gut wrenching. He was inconsolable, crying and upset difficulty breathing, especially after hearing the gruesome details, Melton added.