Produced By Ian Paisley and Jenna Jackson
This story originally aired March 10, 2007. It was updated on Aug. 10, 2007.
In River Oaks, Texas, in 1982, the only thing more shocking than Retha Stratton's murder was the fact that Wesley Wayne Miller did it. "He's not the kind of person that if you see him walking down the street, you're gonna cross to the other side of the road for your safety," explains prosecutor Joey Robertson.
But as correspondent Susan Spencer reports, Robertson will try to convince a jury at a hearing that if he's simply freed, Miller will kill again. It's a fear that has driven Retha's sister Rona and her best friend Lisa Gabbert to fight for two decades to keep Miller locked up.
It all began when Rona and Lisa were just two small-town girls. In 1981, Lisa was a senior at Castleberry High; Wesley Wayne Miller was a pal and captain of the football team, voted best all around during his senior year.
As always in high school, the cheerleaders were at the center of everything; Lisa and her good friend, Retha Stratton were both on the squad.
Like Wesley Miller, Retha Stratton is all over the yearbook, beaming in the cheerleaders' official picture, a picture that over the next year would take on a grim significance.
On January 23, 1981, a girl seen just below Retha in that very yearbook photo, Susan Davis, was sexually assaulted.
"I'm standing there, and he walks in and with a stocking over his head, his face, no shirt on, jeans, with you know, his zipper open. And at that point I realized that something really bad was about to happen," Susan remembers.
She was 16 at the time and home alone. "My instincts took over and I just ran. And he caught me. And at that point, he began to threaten me," Susan recalls.
Her attacker, Susan says, told her to shut up and be quiet. "Don't scream or I'm going to hit you. It became physical, hitting me in the face, ripping my panties off…going at that point it was sexual. I prayed to God, you know, 'Watch over me.' And then at that point, he got up and walked away," Susan remembers of the ordeal.
Having failed to actually rape her, the attacker fled. At the time, Susan says she didn't know who had attacked her.
The man was probably someone she knew, police said, but with no physical evidence or suspects, the case stalled. For them, that was that, but not for Susan. "I had to go back into cheerleading. And I was paranoid all the time about, 'Is this person in the stands watching me?'" she wondered.
At Castleberry High, life went on. Lisa and Retha graduated that May, and then that November, a man raped another young woman in the nearby town of Saginaw. Again, the victim was alone, and like in the Davis case, the rapist wore a mask. He left a fingerprint but police couldn't identify it. In River Oaks, the case got little attention.
"It's just very much that teenage mentality that 'It doesn't affect my world. That can't happen to me,'" Lisa explains.
But on Dec. 7, 1981, it did, and the attack is as vivid when she visits the vacant house today, as it was back then. Lisa, who was just 18 years old at the time, was awakened when someone opened her bedroom door.
"And when I looked over I saw that someone was standing in the doorway with a mask and a red ski mask and panty hose over the mask," she remembers. "And he leapt on me. And we struggled. There was some choking. And then he tore back the covers. Opened my robe. And we struggled some more. And so he proceeded to rape me."
Lisa was sure her attacker knew her, because he didn't give a second thought to walking right past her ailing mother, who was an invalid.
"And you've always thought that was important, that the person who did this to you knew that your mother who was sitting here a few feet away couldn't move?" Spencer asks.
"Absolutely, because anyone else would have seen her as a witness," Lisa explains.
Still, she had no idea who the attacker was. Robert Lynn Hicks, then a rookie patrolman, interviewed Lisa that day. He distinctly remembers one telling detail. "She stated, 'If you'll find someone that looks similar to Wesley Miller, it would be, you know, a good place to start as far as looking for a suspect,'" Hicks recalls.