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Loves Park man remembers neighbor and friend killed in Thursday house fire

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A day after a man is found dead inside a loves park home, we’re learning more about the victim, and some of the struggles he faced.

Investigators have identified him as 66 year old Steven Miller.  According to Winnebago County Coroner Bill Hintz, Miller died from breathing smoke.  Crews were called to the River Lane home around 9:30 a.m. Thursday morning.  Investigators have not said how the fire was started.  Miller was living in the home without water, electricity, or heat.  The Air Force veteran was also diagnosed with mental illness.

Miller may be gone, but his friend and neighbor will never forget him.  That neighbor tells Eyewitness News, even though Miller may have been different than most people, that’s what is so memorable about him.

“I wanted people to know that he was more than just somebody who passed away in a fire.” said Steve Miller’s neighbor Ryan Jones.  “Steve was a good person.  He was a good neighbor.”

Ryan Jones is emotional after learning his friend and neighbor of six years, Air Force veteran Steve Miller, died in Thursday morning’s house fire on River Lane.

“He was a fun person to have as a neighbor because he was always joking and telling jokes and stuff.  Or, putting decorations in his front yard.” said Jones.  “His front yard was the equivalent to someone’s Facebook wall.”

Investigators said the home was abandoned.  That prompted Jones to post a picture on Facebook of him and Miller.

“I posted that post just so he would see that it wasn’t just some random guy inside of an abandoned house.  That was Steve Miller.  That was Steve Miller’s home.” said Jones.

Jones knew Miller struggled with personal demons.

“Alcoholism was clearly a factor.” said Jones.  “But, I was under the assumption there was also other complicated issues there as well.”

Jones says his friend often turned down help when others offered.  According to Veterans Assistance Commission of Boone County Superintendent Robert Ryder, that’s common with vets.

“A lot of veterans who are struggling with issues like PTSD, like mental illness, like alcoholism, or drug abuse, some of them prefer to live on their own.” said Ryder.  “Some of them turn down the help that is out there.”

Although Jones says many of his neighbors didn’t understand Miller and perhaps didn’t even like him, Jones believes this should serve as a wake up call for everyone.

“We should be nicer to people.  I quickly found there’s so many more similarities between Steve and I than there was differences.” said Jones.  “I really enjoyed him as a neighbor and i’ll miss him.”

According to Jones, while Miller served in the Air Force, he was stationed in Alabama and worked on radio and communications.

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