Gazette newspaper carrier finds teen girl in the cold, saves her life

Miller says he's not a hero -- 'just doing what anyone would have done'

Early Saturday morning, running a few minutes late, Gazette newspaper carrier Ralph Miller turned into a southeast Cedar Rapids neighborhood as part of his normal delivery route.

It was about 4:30 a.m. – near the end of Miller’s route.

He stopped in front of a house he has been delivering to since he started the work in 2007, but on this morning he noticed something unusual – something unnerving. He saw a person, without a coat, lying in a pseudo-ditch near a tree.

Miller said he couldn’t immediately tell if he was looking at a man or a woman, alive or dead. So he stepped out of his truck to take a closer look.

It was an adolescent girl.

“I shook her, and she kind of moved but never really responded,” said Miller, 50. “So I called 911.”

About that time, Sue Pence – who lives in the adjacent house – said her husband opened the garage door to leave for work. He saw Miller’s truck and asked what was going on, Pence said. Miller pointed out the girl, and Pence said her husband covered up the girl with his coat while they waited for paramedics.

“He tried to speak with her and got no response,” Pence said, “but when he put his hand on her back, he felt her breathing. So he didn’t move her.”

Emergency personnel arrived and took over. The 17-year-old girl’s mother told The Gazette that her daughter was near death when Miller found her.

“We are so thankful for the timing and for that person going above and beyond what a lot of people would do in the freezing cold and snow,” she said. “I can’t tell you how thankful I am.”

The girl’s mother, who didn’t want to be identified for this story to protect her daughter, didn’t disclose details about how her daughter ended up where she was found. She said the girl is recovering well.

Doctors said had it been another half-hour, she would have died.

“In today’s day and age, people are so distracted and don’t want to get involved, so this person is a hero,” the mother said. “He stepped out into something unknown and was courageous.”

Miller said he’s not a hero and was just in the right place at the right time.“I was just doing what anyone would have done,” he said. “I was just fortunate enough to come across her at a point where I could see her.”