Over three days, Patch is bringing you the story of Gina Miller, the girlfriend of slain Washington State Patrol Trooper Tony Radulescu. His death following a traffic stop Feb. 23 on Highway 16 near Port Orchard captivated the region, but it was much more personal to the DuPont woman.
Radulescu was the man she loved.
Patch recently sat down with Miller for an interview. Based on that, along with news reports and court documents, we're bringing her story of love, tragedy and determination.
Previously in the Series:
June 12: Gina Miller met Tony Radulescu during the Puyallup Fair. Three years later, they said goodbye for the last time over the phone.
June 17: During their time together, . She lost all of that when Joshua Blake, the man whom authorities say killed Radulescu, pulled the trigger.
Today: The people connected to Joshua Blake hours after he killed Radulescu are making their way through the courts, but Miller says the penalties are not enough. The pain of losing Radulescu is still raw, and she wants to make sure no other cops or their families have to experience what she has.
The little girl asked, “Tony, can I see your gun?”
“Sure, Savannah,” Trooper Tony Radulescu said. “Which one do you wanna look at?”
Radulescu and the girl walked upstairs, where he picked up the handgun, removed the clip, emptied the chamber and handed it to her. He wanted to demystify weapons for children. To show them that, in the wrong hands and used the wrong way, they will create more problems than they solve.
The girl, 6, was the daughter of Radulescu’s girlfriend, Gina Miller. The couple had been together about two years now.
Radulescu had made safety presentations to kids all across Kitsap County, but he took extra care in guiding Savannah.
Whenever Savannah would get into some trouble, both Miller and Radulescu would work to explain to her why.
Family, in the couple’s relationship, came first. Miller loved spending time with Radulescu’s son, Erick, who is stationed at Joint Base Lewis-McChord and lives in Lakewood. Radulescu, in turn, cherished his time with Savannah and Jacob, Miller’s older son.
The modern family mash-up came at the perfect time for the couple, both in their early 40s. Both had survived the dizzying instability of their 20s, and gained wonderful kids and lost prior relationships.
Now they were ready to settle down for the long haul.
They knew the risks of working in law enforcement. They felt like the odds were in their favor.
* * *
As it stands now, four have been convicted or pleaded guilty to crimes linked to Radulescu’s death, and three others await trial.
Another one is dead. Joshua Blake shot himself in the head Feb. 23 as a SWAT team closed in.
Daniel Lee Carter, who was at the Sidney Avenue home where Blake arrived following the shooting, struck a plea deal and agreed to testify against Andrew Bartlett, 30, and Jessi Leigh Foster, 32–both of whom allegedly assisted Blake after he shot Radulescu. Both were allegedly with Blake in the hours after his death and are awaiting trial. Carter, 37, won’t be sentenced until after he testifies against them.
Corinne Nelson, 26, was sentenced to 14 months in prison earlier this month. She drove Blake from Port Orchard to Belfair and back in the hours after he shot Radulescu.
Steven Michael Banks, 43, was at the trailer where Blake shot himself. He was sentenced in April to a year in jail.
And on Tuesday, Megan Mollet, the 19-year-old woman who was in the truck with Blake when he pulled the trigger, was sentenced to a year in jail for rendering criminal assistance in Kitsap County.
* * *
Miler sat in the front row of Radulescu's memorial, along with Erick, Radulescu’s parents, his siblings and family.
An American flag shrouded a casket some 20 feet away. Flanking it were Radulescu’s collections of classic model cars, swords and knives. Miller even got someone to park his beloved red ATV in the mix.
Radulesco’s son, Erick, spoke: “Even though I’ve lost one very close family member, it looks like I’ve found thousands more. And that’s still a good feeling.”
Gov. Christine Gregoire, who worked with Radulescu when he was on her security detail, told the crowd of thousands of law enforcement personnel, family and friends, and others who paid their respects, “I considered Tony one of my own.”
The Washington governor reminisced about "Trooper Tony’s" sense of humor, how on Day 1 of the Washington State Patrol Academy, he bucked the standard dark suit and tie that cadets typically wear for a white suit, white shoes and a bright tie.
“He had a wonderful gift. He could make people laugh. He even thought of a second career as a standup comedian. And he was that good.”
Then, at last, Miller took the stage. To a silent room, she asked: “Have you ever asked yourself, ‘Will I really ever find my soul mate? Is there really someone out there just for me?’
Tony, she said, was her soul mate. “I was his.”
“He was my rock, my love and my life. We were supposed to grow old together.“
She said she would miss his warm hugs and warm kisses. She would miss his late-night talks and texts, his handsome smile and his fun-loving spirit.
She finished with this:
“My heart will forever be yours, and I will see you again, my handsome. You’re my No. 1 man forever. I love you for eternity.”
* * *
It’s now been 114 days since Radulescu was shot and killed. Five months since the doorbell rang at 3:30 am. Miller hasn’t seen Radulescu in her dreams yet. She’s working on increasing his impact on state law.
Miller hopes someone with authority–a lawmaker, a judge, the governor–will hear her. She hopes they will push for harsher punishments for those who help criminals, particularly cop killers.
A year for rendering criminal assistance, like Mollet. Fourteen months for driving him around after he shot a cop, like Nelson did. These are standard sentences. None of the current penalties give any sort of justice to officers’ families, Miller said.
“They should be held to the same standard as the person who murdered Tony,” she tells a reporter over coffee.
“If you are involved in the commission of a crime and you know it occurred and you fail to notify authorities and you help that person, in my mind, you should be charged with a full crime as well.”
She can’t understand why those people helped Blake.
“I was not raised that way, so I can’t even imagine doing that. I know myself, if I knew somebody had committed a crime, especial the murder of somebody, I don’t care who it is. I don’t care if you’re related. I don’t care if you’re my kid. I turn you in.”
Her anger is directed at Blake, at the people who helped him.
She knows members of the shooter’s family are suffering too. She read an interview given by his brother, who described Blake as a good person who was haunted by drugs and personal demons.
“It’s sad for everybody. Unfortunately we all have to live with the decisions that we make. And with the way that our society is, it is unfortunate we are judged with the mistakes that our family makes. I try not to judge people because it’s not my place.”
She keeps a picture of Tony by her bedside. She also keeps pictures around the house, in her car and at her desk at work.
Miller wipes her eyes.
“It’s very difficult,” she says. “I cry every night because I can’t do that, because he’s not right there by my side. We’re not right there making dinner. Sharing our day. Going for walks at night.”
A change in law. Greater awareness of drug-fueled violence. Tribute after memorial after kind words from people she loves and those she barely knows. All of it helps. None of it helps enough.
“It’s so hard not having him there.“