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Airway Heights couple who transported dead daughter to South Dakota appear in Spokane County court

A newly released statement of facts reveals the lengths the couple went to hide their daughter's death.

AIRWAY HEIGHTS, Wash. — Warning: This story contains references to child abuse that may be disturbing to some readers.

The Airway Heights couple who was arrested in South Dakota after transporting their dead daughter's body out of state in a U-haul appeared in Spokane County Court on Thursday.

A newly released statement of facts reveals the lengths the couple went to hide their daughter's death, including lying to investigators and the girl's father about how she died and using numerous odor eliminators in her bedroom.

28-year-old Aleksander Kurmoyarov and 33-year-old Mandie Miller were arrested in South Dakota on Dec. 16 and charged with one count of failure to notify law enforcement of the death of a child.  KREM 2 later learned the couple had a no-bond arrest warrant in Spokane County for homicide by abuse, in relation to the death of Miller's adopted daughter, Meela.

As of Thursday, both are charged with second-degree murder, first-degree criminal mistreatment and unlawful imprisonment. 

Court documents released after the couple's arrest in South Dakota detailed the couple's history of abusing their young daughter. According to those documents, Kurmoyarov and Miller consistently abused their daughter leading up to her death and never had contact with police or CPS.

Upon their initial arrest, Kurmoyarov reportedly told investigators in Mitchell, S.D. that Meela was tied up for four to six hours on the day of her death. He also told investigators Miller would smash Meela's toes with a hammer when she was "acting up."

In newly released documents, investigators detailed a welfare check done on the couple on Aug. 9, 2022. During that welfare check, responding officers spoke with Miller, who said Meela was asleep. She told officers she "works night shift so they live a night shift schedule."

One of the responding officers looked into Meela's bedroom and saw her chest moving up and down. This led the officer to believe she was sleeping and did not concern either officer, according to documents.

After learning about the couple's arrest in South Dakota, investigators in Airway Heights requested and received a search warrant for the couple's house on Dec. 15. During the search, investigators found "certain items of possible evidentiary value," including multiple different sizes of zip ties, cut zip ties and "an abundant amount" of air fresheners throughout the house.

While searching Meela's bedroom, investigators found a wax warmer, electrical outlet fragrance warmers and an odor absorber. They also found sage in a shell on the floor, which investigators believe the couple burned as part of a Native American ritual "associated with cleansing and can therefore help you feel like you've aided the deceased in their passing."

Investigators also found paperwork for a storage unit in Airway Heights, which they then searched. They said the small unit was full of "little girl toys" and large empty garbage bags.

While investigators worked to search the couple's house and storage unit, Child Protective Services (CPS) called an Airway Heights detective. The CPS official told the detective that a man was removed as Meela's emergency contact in their files in 2021.

The man, who identified himself as a previous partner of Miller, told detectives he considered himself to be Meela's father. He said Miller called him on Nov. 16, 2022, and said "Meela passed away." After learning about Meela's death, the man said his immediate question was "What did you guys do to her?"

Miller reportedly took offense to the question and denied harming Meela, according to her ex. He then asked Miller what she planned to do with Meela's body, to which Miller said she planned to have it flown back to her Reservation in South Dakota.

When asked how Meela died, Miller reportedly told her ex that Meela was complaining of chest pain on the day of her death. Miller said they went to the doctor but were sent home, "but she ended up dying." When asked when Meela died, Mandie said she died on Nov. 5, nearly two months after she actually died.

Miller's ex told investigators that during their relationship, he never witnessed Miller abuse Meela, but said she can be a "hot head." He also admitted that Miller referred to her daughter as "evil."

Meela's autopsy corroborated Kurmoyarov's statement that she was tied up for multiple hours on the day of her death, as she had marks on her wrists and ankles consistent with being tied up. Her body was also in such a state of decomposition, it appeared she had been dead for several weeks rather than several months. However, the doctor who performed Meela's autopsy said this could be possible if her body was kept somewhere with conditions that would slow the decomposition process.

The autopsy also revealed Meela was extremely malnourished and underweight, weighing only 26 pounds as an eight-year-old at the time of her death.

Based on the autopsy, Meela's cause and manner of death were determined to be homicide, according to documents.

Miller and Kurmoyarov were ultimately arrested in December for failure to report a death. However, those charges have since been changed to second-degree murder, first-degree criminal mistreatment and unlawful imprisonment. 

The couple appeared in Spokane County Superior Court on Thursday afternoon. During that hearing, a judge set both their bonds at $1 million and gave them the same release conditions: no contact with minors under the age of 18, no contact with the co-defendant, no leaving Spokane County and no possession of dangerous weapons.

The two are set to appear in court for their arraignments on Feb. 7, 2023.

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