LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — Brenna Barnes believes she will one day know why Shondra Miller was killed. But, four days after Miller’s body was found, she cannot imagine a reason that makes sense.
Barnes, Miller’s girlfriend, spoke Wednesday for the first time about her death and the confession from Miller’s son, Kaelon Presley, 16, that he shot and killed her.
Barnes described having been in a state of grief and shock until Monday, when the letter of probable cause in Presley’s arrest revealed that he told detectives his mother had physically and mentally abused him, causing violent thoughts that led him to shoot her after an argument.
“That made me so angry,” Barnes said during an interview outside the home she shared with Miller and Presley. “And I say that because people that know us and know his mom knew that he was not getting abused.”
Barnes described Miller as someone with a big personality and a bigger heart. “Shondra was the life of the party,” she said. “I mean, her spirit, her personality, I mean, she was pretty much my everything. My biggest supporter, my biggest fan, she believed in me more than I believed in myself.
“And, I mean, that’s why this is just so tragic. She touched so many people in so many ways. You knew you could call her at any time–any day, any night—and she would answer. If you needed her, she was there. She would give you the shirt off her back. Even if she didn’t have it, she would give it to you, no matter what.”
Barnes said she met Miller in 2015 and they quickly became a family.
“In reality, I’ve lost two people in the same day. Even though the child did it, Kaelon, I lost him, too, because me and him had a connection. And I just can’t, that’s why I can’t see what it was, why he did this.”
Barnes said the three of them woke up at the same time on December 14. She left for work while Presley got ready to take the ACT. “I mean, (Miller) was still in good spirits, like she always is,” Barnes recalled, “and he was just the way he always is. I mean, that’s why I can’t understand, everything was normal. Nothing was unusual the night before, or anything.”
According to the police report of the shooting, Barnes called Miller a short time after she left for work, and he claimed that someone entered their home and killed his mother while he was outside chasing after their dog. After detectives reviewed surveillance video showing that Presley was the only other person inside the home, they questioned him, and he admitted his role.
Barnes said Presley was generally a good teenager, but that he had a history of being sneaky and manipulative. She recalled that he was involved in a large fight during the Salt Bowl security scare in 2018, but when Miller asked him, he denied it. She then received a video showing him throwing punches.
Despite moments that tested her trust in him, Barnes said she and Presley were close. She often took him to and from school, they enjoyed singing karaoke together, had open conversations, and enjoyed family vacations. So, she said she was stunned to learn recently that Presley posted videos on his social media pages about how much he hated his mother. She said she and Miller did not know because he blocked them from viewing his accounts.
“I want this to open up the eyes to the other parents,” she stated, “and the other, the other kids. I just tell them, like, please, parents, please, y’all, check y’all kids’ social media, check their phones. Check under their mattresses. Check in their rooms. Check wherever you can check, because I don’t want this to happen to another parent. It could be another kid out here that got this hatred towards they mom, like he do. And I don’t want this to happen to no one else.”
Barnes still considers the house on Brush Creek Avenue her home but knows she will have to move away. “I haven’t slept here since it happened,” she explained. “I just come here, and I get some clothes and I go. But, every time I step foot in there, I get chills now.”
Barnes said Presley’s allegation of child abuse won him a lot of sympathy on social media. She agreed to give an interview because she wanted a chance to defend Miller.
“I’m just still in disbelief,” she said, “and I have to try to keep myself busy throughout the day, because any little downtime I have, I think. I think. Especially at night, when I know that I’m not going to sleep next to her, when I’m not waking up to her, when I know, when I come here, and I know I’m not gonna go in here and see her or hear her voice. It’s just tragic. It’s just tragic.”
Barnes said another complicating factor of her grief is that she also lost the relationship she had with Presley. She said the is no conceivable justification for his actions on Saturday, but she hopes one day to talk to him and learn the truth.
“And I will one day, I will have to forgive him,” she added. “And I will have to do that for me because it’s gonna help me in my healing process. I know I’m gonna have to forgive him, and I do want to know why. That’s all I want to know: I just want to know why.”
Barnes will host a candlelight vigil for Miller Thursday night at 6:00 p.m. in the driveway of the family’s home.
Kaelon Presley pleaded not guilty to First Degree Murder and Tampering with Evidence. His next court appearance is scheduled for February 17, 2020.