Many stories have been shared about the old Cecil County Jail that stood on North Street in Elkton. One of the saddest and most interesting is the story of the murder of Cecil County Sheriff J. Myron Miller.
Miller was elected to his office in November 1911. He and his family lived in the jail, separated from the inmates. When Miller took office, a man named Antonio Ducca lived in the jail but not as an inmate. Ducca went by the name Tony Duke. Duke was allowed to live in the jail during Sheriff Hager’s term. Hager had received a complaint about Duke from several women who lived at Bacon Hill. When deputies arrived, they found Duke lying, half naked, by a fire along the road. He was brought back to the jail, where it was determined that he should be taken to the insane asylum at Cherry Hill. Not long after this incident, Duke appeared at the jail asking for shelter. He remained there, doing odd jobs around the jail and running errands for the sheriff. Citizens of Elkton noted that he frequently attended the “moving pictures” at the Opera House.
On Saturday, March 30, Sheriff Miller asked Duke to help spread a new load of sawdust around the stable. Duke replied that he wasn’t going to help without being paid. According to the April 5, 1912 edition of the Midland Journal, the sheriff approached Duke. It was then that Duke pulled out of his hip pocket a five chambered, safety hammer, .32 caliber revolver not 5 inches in length.
Sheriff Miller ordered Duke to give him the gun and Duke’s reply was “Me shoot.” The two struggled and Duke shot, hitting Miller a few inches below the heart.
Immediately, witnesses John Dunbar, Justus Dunbar, and Ben Garrett, who had been working in the stable, grabbed Duke. Justus Dunbar struck Duke on the head with a pair of tongs and Garrett kicked him. He was taken into custody and placed in a cell. Unfortunately, Miller’s wife had witnessed the shooting. He stumbled into the jail and there he died.
News spread quickly throughout the town and county. Crowds gathered at the jail and on the street. When it was learned that Miller had died, many in the crowd became angry and talked of taking vengeance on Duke.
To avoid violence, State’s Attorney Albert Constable had a southbound train take Duke to a Baltimore jail for safe-keeping. It was reported in the April 6 Cecil Whig that it took 3 guards to get Dukes into a cell because he clung to the bars of the cell door, kicking and screaming.
Dr. John H. Jamar performed an autopsy on Sheriff Miller, as was required. Miller’s body was returned to the sheriff’s residence in the jail. A visitation was held on Monday in the parlor of the residence at the jail and the Whig reported that many Elktonians attended. Funeral services were held at the Miller’s residence on Tuesday morning, and were conducted by Rev. E.P. Roberts of Elkton M.E. Church and Rev. John McElmoyle of the Presbyterian Church. A choir sang “Rock of Ages”, “Abide With Me”, and “Jesus Lover of My Soul”.
Miller’s body was then taken to the Elkton train station and placed on the 12:13 train to Perryville where it was then taken to the home of Miller’s brother-in-law, E. Wilmer Jackson at Aiken. Other friends gathered there and joined the cortege to Hopewell Cemetery. Interment services were conducted by Rev. E. Sunfield, pastor of Perryville M.E. Church.
Tony Duke’s trial began in September of 1912. He pleaded not guilty. Witnesses to the murder testified, giving the court detailed accounts of the murder. Dr. Joshua W. Hering of the State Lunacy Board testified that Duke’s left brain was paralyzed and that he had been of unsound mind for quite some time. Finally, the court rendered a verdict of not guilty by reason of insanity, and sentenced him to Spring Grove Asylum.