Local News

Arsenic Probe Takes Police to Another Home; Man Found Dead

Posted January 21, 2001 6:00 a.m. EST

— A man who became part of the investigation into the December death of Eric Miller, an UNC researcher, was found dead Monday.

Derril Willard, 37, was found dead in his garage with a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head. Police had searched his home on 5316 Calverton Drive Sunday in Raleigh. Willard and Miller's widow, Ann, worked together at GlaxoSmithKline.

Police searched Willard's home Sunday and seized two computers, miscellaneous documents and bills from their home. Documents supporting the search warrant indicate that Willard, Eric Miller and two other friends were bowling together the night Miller first became sick.

The documents state that while bowling, Willard bought a pitcher of beer and offered some to his companions. Willard "poured the beer and maintained the pitcher," the papers say.

After drinking some, Miller immediately commented that it tasted bad. Within an hour, he felt sick, but continued to bowl.

His wife took him for medical care later that evening, and UNC Hospitals subsequently discovered unusual levels of arsenic in his system.

Miller later died from arsenic poisoning Dec. 2. They are still waiting test results from the FBI and at least one other lab for final confirmation.

Susan Baker, a neighbor of the Willards, said Derril was "a nice guy."

"It's really a bizarre thing," Baker continued. "You hear about this in the movies, not in this neighborhood. This is a movie thing, not a neighborhood thing."