Accused U of I professor took his own life

University of Iowa Arthur Miller’s body was identified on Wednesday, a week after he was reported missing and three days after his corpse was found in an Iowa City Park. Miller was under investigation for allegedly offering female students higher grades in exchange for sexual favors.

Miller placed a phone call to the Cedar Rapids Gazette shortly before he disappeared. In that call,

Miller said he believed the allegations and the investigation were part of a vendetta against him by Linda Maxson, dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.

Miller said he and Maxson had a running feud over the closure of an institute Miller founded. The Iowa Social Science Institute closed in 2002 upon recommendation by a committee with UI and external members, UI spokesman Steve Parrott said.

Miller said in the call that after the allegations were made, “not a single university administrator, not even the chairman of my department, came to me and asked me if I were OK,” if he had problems or was sick.

Miller also said that during his meetings with UI officials about the investigation, he thought these were sexual harassment charges that would be handled with an internal hearing or negotiation. He said he was surprised to be arrested.

“It’s been very depressing to me now that this has all gone public,” Miller said, adding that even if the charges are proved unfounded, he felt his reputation was ruined.

I feel very sorry for Miller’s wife and two young children (one four-year-old and one four-month-old). No matter what the outcome of the investigation, those children would have been better off knowing their father as they grew up.

The autopsy determined that Miller died of a self-inflicted wound from a rifle. The Des Moines Register reported that Miller had tried to buy a pistol or revolver in June, but Johnson County Sheriff Lonny Pulkrabek denied the permit application:

When a routine background check yielded a letter from the university informing him of multiple investigations tied to the political science professor, Pulkrabek got involved personally and called the university’s legal counsel.

“He gave me some additional (non-public) information that was enough for me to deny the permit,” Pulkrabek wrote in an e-mail circulated this week to other sheriffs. […]

Iowa law gives sheriffs the authority to decide who receives gun permits and to impose restrictions on those who want to carry concealed weapons.

But at least 35 states – including Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri and Nebraska – now mandate that concealed weapons permits be approved, provided applicants meet a set of criteria laid out in state law.

Groups such as the Iowa State Rifle and Pistol Association and IowaCarry.Org supported legislation last year that would have made Iowa’s permit process more uniform and taken the discretion away from sheriffs. The legislation died under heated opposition from many in law enforcement, including the Iowa State Sheriffs and Deputies Association and the Iowa attorney general’s office.

Miller was able to buy a rifle after being denied a handgun permit because his name was not on a federal list that gun dealers are required to check before selling rifles.

As it turned out, Miller was planning to kill himself, but the sheriff had reasonable grounds to worry that he might be a danger to others. I hope legislators will not agree to relax Iowa’s law regarding permits for concealed weapons.

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