Tuesday, November 14, 2000

Man charged in teen's slaying

By Tom O'Neill
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        MILFORD — Police late Monday arrested and charged a suspect with aggravated murder in the death of 15-year-old Chris Alford, who died after a fire erupted in his bedroom earlier in the day.

        Charged was Randy S. Mills, 29, of Milford, who was being held Monday night at the Clermont County Justice Center.

        Chris was alone at his home on Mohawk Trail Monday morning when a fire broke out in his locked bedroom.

        The fire apparently was a cover for the slaying.

        Chris, a freshman at Milford High School who recently accepted a job at Kroger and aspired to a career in business management, was pronounced dead at the scene.

        After an autopsy, his death was ruled a homicide. Milford police did not say how he was killed.

        Even as of Monday afternoon, however, something didn't add up.

        “He was all bloody, his face was bleeding, all open,” said his grandfather, Bill Barber, who pulled Chris from the smoke-filled home onto the front lawn about 5:20 a.m. He then called 911.

        He had returned home from dropping Chris' grandmother off at work when he saw smoke, he said.

        “The mattress was on fire,” Mr. Barber said. “When I saw (the fire), ... the first thing I thought about was Chris.”

        As he spoke in a cracked voice outside their home, his hand shook as he lit another cigarette.

        Numerous neighbors came up to offer assistance, or their home until the Barbers could find a permanent place to stay. Minutes later, as Mr. Barber sat with wife, Darlene, in a neighbor's kitchen, the Red Cross arrived.

        “He was a good kid,” Mr. Barber said as neighbors shook their heads in agreement. “Just a good kid.”

        The fire was contained to Chris' bedroom and caused relatively minor damage,

        Fire Chief John Cooper said. No damage estimate has been made.

        Mr. Barber, with whom Chris had lived for many years, said he kicked in Chris' door Monday but was unable to find the boy in the smoky bedroom.

        Moments later — his hands blindly searching — he felt Chris' arm, pulled him from the burning mattress and carried him out.

        When he got the boy's body to the front lawn, he saw it was covered with blood, he said.

        Chris has a brother, 8-year-old Brent.

        Chris earned a commendation from the Milford Fire Department for taking the right steps to survive a previous fire in August in another house — feeling the door before opening it, then quickly escaping out his bedroom window. No one was hurt.

        Also earning plaques were his neighbors, Missy and Melissa Miller, who woke Chris up by banging on the front door and yelling.

        Chris and Mr. Barber had visited the fire station on nearby U.S. 50 for years when Chris was a youngster. Since the August fire, Chris was in therapy to help deal with the trauma, his grandfather said.

        “He was a good young man,” Chief Cooper said.


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