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Two women plead guilty in separate murder cases

Natalie Louise Miller (left) and Penny Short Hartle pleaded guilty to murder charges in separate cases. Natalie Louise Miller (left) and Penny Short Hartle pleaded guilty to murder charges in separate cases.

A 33-year-old Hendersonville woman was sentenced to at least 30 years in prison after pleading guilty to charges arising from the shooting death of her boyfriend and a 51-year-old mother pleaded guilty to the stabbing death of her 5-year-old daughter in a recent term of Henderson County Superior Court.

Superior Court Judge Peter Knight accepted the plea arrangements and sentenced the 33-year-old woman, District Attorney R. Andrew Murray announced. The mother of the deceased child is awaiting sentencing.

In the first case, Natalie Louise Miller pleaded guilty to charges of second-degree murder and concealment of a death. She agreed to a sentence of 25 to 31 years on the second-degree murder charge followed by a consecutive minimum sentence of five to seven years on the concealment of death charge for a total sentence of 30 to 38 years.

According to court records and the sentencing hearing, during the early morning hours of Dec. 8, 2019, Hendersonville police received a call from a friend of the defendant reporting that Miller had contacted him and told him that she had shot and killed her boyfriend, Samuel Kalain Frazier.
Hendersonville police officers and detectives responding to the 911 call found Miller outside the Hendersonville residence she shared with Frazier. When officers asked what was going on and who was in the house, Miller responded that “the body” was in the house and “the gun was on the table.” Officers found Frazier dead of two gunshot wounds from a .45-caliber firearm that was on the table.
In the ensuing investigation Miller initially waived her right to an attorney and confessed that she had shot and killed her boyfriend one day before she called 911. After shooting Frazier, Miller told police, she took cash from  his wallet and went out to buy dinner and some liquor before returning to the house and waiting for her boyfriend to wake up.
Detectives located receipts to support Miller’s assertion about buying dinner and liquor. Miller told detectives that she believed Frazier was faking his death and that he would get up at some point during the night. Miller went on to say that she self-medicates with Benadryl and in fact asked detectives for a large quantity of Benadryl on several occasions.
Sheriff’s detectives located an unspent hollow point bullet in the residence with written notations down the side of the bullet. Written on the bullet was “Love N.M.” Not surprisingly, the investigation determined that Miller had a history of mental illness. The investigation also revealed she had no prior criminal convictions before the murder.


Mother pleads guilty in stabbing death

In the other case, Penny Short Hartle pleaded guilty to second-degree murder in a plea agreement in which she made an open-ended plea, which means there was no set sentence. Under state sentencing guidelines, she faces a prison sentence of up to 17 years.
According to court records and a sentencing hearing, on April 21, 2021, deputies and detectives from the Henderson Sheriff’s Department responded to a 911 call at 8:43 a.m. reporting a stabbing incident involving a child that occurred at a residence on Fiesta Lane. Upon arrival deputies were met by Wayne Cagle in an emotionally distressed state. Cagle informed officers that he had found his daughter, Caroline Rose, in her bedroom with a stab wound to her chest. Cagle reported attempting to give the child CPR. He also stammered, “How could she do this?” When deputies asked who “she” was, he responded, “her mom.” A knife from the kitchen was located and determined to be the murder weapon.
A responding deputy had encountered Penny Hartle, the live-in-girlfriend of Cagle and the mother of the child, shortly before the dispatch call reporting the stabbing. A neighbor down the street called 911 at 7:42 a.m. with a report of a breaking and entering in which an unknown woman had been found in a bed at the caller’s residence. When deputies arrived, the unknown female had already departed the residence and had gotten into an unlocked truck that was across the street. Officers made contact with Hartle in the truck and found her to be experiencing what they believed was a medical emergency. Unable to respond with anything more than her first name, she was shaking, mumbling and appeared to be in diabetic shock. Responding officers immediately contacted EMS and Hartle was transported to the hospital.

When Cagle was informed of Hartle’s breaking and entering incident and her medical condition, he volunteered that he had not seen Hartle the entire night and that they had not slept in the same bedroom in years. Cagle informed the deputies that Hartle was disabled, suffered from mental issues and had been acting strangely lately and that he did not believe she was taking her medicine. He said the only thing she used was marijuana. After gathering pertinent information, the deputies departed. Several minutes after departing, the deputies were dispatched back to the Cagle residence with the report of the child found stabbed in her bedroom.
Upon learning of the death of the child, a deputy was immediately dispatched to the hospital. Upon arrival, he found Hartle being wheeled into a treatment room. The deputy placed Hartle in handcuffs without protest or resistance. As soon as the medical team released Hartle from the hospital, she was transported to the jail for the murder of Caroline Rose. During Hartle’s hospital stay, the medical team documented a laceration to the palm portion of her hand.
At the jail, Hartle displayed signs of significant mental illness. Once counsel was assigned, and at the request of the defense attorney, Judge Knight found that she was incapable to proceed and ordered that Hartle be evaluated and treated for her mental condition at Broughton Psychiatric Hospital in Morganton. At Broughton, Hartle was evaluated and initially determined to be incapable of meaningfully assisting in her defense or of standing trial. After months of treatment at the mental hospital, Hartle’s condition substantially improved. Although she was found to have significant psychological impairments, she was also found — with proper care and continued treatment — to be competent to stand trial and participate in her own defense. Ultimately, Hartle pleaded guilty to a reduced charge of second-degree murder. During a sentencing hearing before Judge Knight, several family members testified that Hartle loved and adored her daughter, Caroline Rose, and that she would have never harmed her had she been in her right mind.
Assistant District Attorneys Doug Mundy and Beth Dierauf handled the prosecution and sentencing of the case. Murray thanked the Hendersonville Police Department and Henderson County Sheriff’s Office for their professional and thorough murder investigations.
“Partnering together we are working hard every day to make Henderson County a safer place to live, work, play, and raise a family,” Murray said in a news release.