The last thing Thomas Allan Miller did before his house exploded early Friday morning was light a fire in his living room.
Miller had already warned the Murphysboro, Illinois, officers gathered at his front door that his home was filled with gas and that he was armed. Police could smell the gas, and they backed away from the door because of the threat of the firearm, according to a press release.
Less than a minute later, an explosion rocked the Oak Street home, blowing out the east windows. A second explosion occurred within the house soon after.
Firefighters eventually found Miller, 54, lying unconscious in a hallway. He was rushed to St. Joseph's Memorial Hospital, where he was pronounced dead.
Officers were originally called to Miller's home at 1 a.m. Friday after receiving a 911 call from Brandi Holderfield, 28, who told police that Miller had called her and asked for some kind of assistance.
But soon after she entered Miller's home he attacked her with a rubber mallet, striking her multiple times in the face and head, according to police. After a lengthy struggle, she managed to escape.
Officers were dispatched to Miller's home. But just as they arrived Miller made a 911 call, stating he was filling his house with gas and that if officers tried to enter he would blow it up. Minutes later he set fire to his living room.
Here's the report by WSIL-TV (Channel 3):
Miller's death, though, has confused friends and family who knew him as the generous and charitable man who had moved to Murphysboro in 2006 to care for his mother. His sister, Linda Gilson, told The Southern Illinoisan that her brother does not have a history of violence. A friend, Molly Alter, said: "I think to just publish a one-sided story of this young woman being injured paints him as a monster, and he is not. He is not a bad human being. He is not a violent human being."
On the other hand, Holderfield's face tells its own story of who Miller was.
In an interview with The Southern Illinoisan, Holderfield said that she'd known Miller for five years, having first met him as a customer at a gas station where she was employed. She described him as "a friend" who helped her and other single mothers in town by taking them out to eat.
The damage from Miller's hammer has left Holderfield with ten staples in her head, seven stitches on her broken nose and fractures around her eyes. She claims to not know why Miller attacked her.
From The Southern:
"It was out of the blue. He'd get moody sometimes but nothing like this. When I asked him why he said I screwed him over so many times that he didn't know why I was asking. But he was fine earlier in the day. He was like normal," she said. "I think he had it planned. I think he knew what he was going to do and wanted to take somebody with him."
The investigation is ongoing.