Prosecutors say accused killer made crosses, surrounded victim’s body with them

CHARLOTTE — Channel 9 has learned new details about a woman’s gruesome death in east Charlotte over the weekend.

Police took Miguel Gonzalez-Rasalas, 36, into custody Sunday shortly after they found the body of Laura Miller, 35, inside an apartment complex along Southwood Oaks Lane. Rasalas was charged with first-degree murder, destroying remains and concealing a death, and auto theft.

Police said the victim and suspect knew each other.

In court Tuesday, prosecutors spoke in detail about how Miller was found -- however, some of that information is too graphic to share. Prosecutors said a table with all four of its legs broken off was in the room where she was found. Three crosses made out the table legs surrounded Miller’s body, prosecutors said, and her body, which had been mutilated, also had multiple burns. Salt was also sprinkled around her.

Neighbors told Channel 9′s Hunter Sáenz that Miller and Rasalas had a tumultuous past. They said the two lived in the same building but in different apartments and they often heard them arguing and fighting.

Neighbors said they saw blood dripping from outside Rasalas’ apartment to the doorstep below, knew something bad had happened, and called the police. They said they heard screaming coming from Rasalas’ apartment the night Miller was killed.

Blood still stained the front doorstep of Rasalas’ apartment a day after Miller was found inside.

One neighbor lived right across from Miller. He said last Thursday, he saw Rasalas banging on Miller’s door with a bat.

“He was asking Laura to open the door or else he was going to kill her,” the neighbor said.

Police told Channel 9′s Hunter Sáenz the weapon used to kill Miller wasn’t a gun, but investigators didn’t say what the object was.

Police did say the case is not considered a domestic violence situation.

Arrest warrants Channel 9 obtained Wednesday say Rasalas stole Miller’s car at some point after the crime.

‘She was a sweet little girl’

Miller’s family is trying to come to terms with her brutal death as they remember the sweet woman they say she was. They said her smile would light up a room.

“She was a sweet little girl -- the sweetest,” her uncle said.

He spoke with Sáenz by phone Tuesday about his niece.

“Very caring of animals -- loved animals very much,” he said.

He spoke with Sáenz on the same day Channel 9 learned the disturbing details in court.

Wingate University criminology and sociology professor Mitchell Mackinem said it’s uncommon to hear allegations about that type of crime.

“These kinds of apparently demonic types of murders are incredibly rare,” he said.

He spoke in particular of one of the charges Rasalas faces -- destroying remains and concealing a death. It’s a charge so rare that, according to court records, in the past 10 years, only 10 people in North Carolina have been charged with it.

UNC Charlotte criminology professor Charisse Coston couldn’t believe the details of the case.

“I was horrified. While it is rare, it does happen,” Coston said.

Coston said despite the demonic and religious imagery, there usually isn’t a connection.

“Sometimes they get it through music,” Charisse said. “Sometimes they get it through movies, you know? But as far as that type of murder itself, usually not connected to any real satanism or the occult.”

“It’s horrible. It was very, very horrible,” Miller’s uncle said.

He looked at Rasalas’ mug shot and noted what appear to be scratches on his face. He said he can’t imagine the horror his niece was going through.

“She must have been fighting for her life, and then she must’ve been scratching his eyes and everything,” Miller’s uncle said.

Before Miller’s family gets justice, they want answers.

“We want to know why this happened -- why did he have to do this? What was the purpose of it? What kind of anger is that?” he asked.

Right now, Miller’s family is planning her funeral. Her uncle said they don’t have her body back yet.

Rasalas remains in custody without bond. His next court date, which is a bond hearing, was set for April 19.

(WATCH PREVIOUS BELOW: CMPD: Woman found dead in east Charlotte apartment; suspect in custody)

Hunter Sáenz

Hunter Sáenz, wsoctv.com

Hunter is a reporter for Channel 9.

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