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Relatives Mourn Mentally Ill Man Who Jumped From Manhattan Bridge

By Serena Solomon | March 19, 2013 7:02am

LOWER EAST SIDE —  Not long before 33-year-old Thomas Lee Miller ended his life Friday by jumping from the Manhattan Bridge, his sister Melissa Bergeron worried about his future.

"I said to my partner… 'I don't think my brother is going to live a long life,'" Bergeron said, of the last time she saw Miller in February.

"It seemed like something was missing. He would smile, but something was missing," she added.

Miller suffered from depression, bipolar disorder and obsessive-compulsive disorder, Bergeron said.

His body was found on a Cherry Street sidewalk below the Manhattan Bridge about 8 p.m. Friday.

The Office of the Chief Medical Examiner ruled the death a suicide and family members identified the body on Monday as Miller's.

Relatives described him as a generous man who doted on his young nephew and gave food to other patients who never had visitors during his regular hospital stays.

"It was a shock, but it wasn't a shock," said Bergeron, a 35-year-old Wisconsin resident who works in medical software. "I didn't think he would jump off a bridge."

Miller had been living in a nearby homeless shelter for men with mental illnesses, according to his sister. Before the jump, he had sent a letter to his mother in Dallas, Tex., which was delivered Monday to his distraught mom Becky Miller, who had already been notified of her son's death.

"He couldn't wait to see us in heaven and that he would be watching over us," Bergeron said of the letter's contents.

The letter was "kind" and "alluded to his desire to end his life," Bergeron said.

Suzie Sudduth, Miller's second cousin, said the death of his father, an artist and veteran, at 44 sped up Miller's spiral into mental illness.

"He was a happy-go-lucky guy, but he did have depression," she said.

Miller spent three years in prison on charges of stalking and violating a protective order, but he also completed two years of college and worked as a phlebotomist in Miami, relatives said.

"He went through the Navy basic training in Chicago," Sudduth said. "We flew there when he graduated in 1996."

Before Bergeron moved from Queens to Wisconsin last November, Miller moved in with her for a few weeks in an attempt to find work. But his obsessive-compulsive disorder worsened up as he became consumed with an ex-girlfriend, and his escalating behavior landed him in the hospital, Bergeron said.

"New York really has the best public support system that I have ever seen, so it was just better for him to stay there," she said.

Bergeron said Miller had a strong connection with her 8-year-old adopted son Harvey, and that the two spent time talking, watching cartoons and going to the park when her brother stayed at their home in Queens. 

"He saw Harvey as someone he could have an impact [on]," she said. "He was excellent with him."

The family plans to cremate Miller's remains and spread his ashes over his father's grave in Mississippi this summer, Bergeron added.