Sept. 23, 2010 -- The police chief whose 23-year-old daughter, Valerie Hamilton, was found dead says that he's not sure he wants to know what happened to her the night she died.
"I don't know that I will ever know," Concord Police Department Chief Merl Hamilton told ABC News. "I don't know if it matters. My little girl is gone. She was a bright, intelligent person.
"I am smart enough as a father to know that when you're 23 years old, I don't know everything that she is doing," he told ABC News' "Nightline" in an exclusive interview.
Hamilton said that he doesn't believe his daughter would be dead if she hadn't met Michael Neal Harvey.
"I think if he wasn't with my daughter that night she would be alive," said Hamilton. "She somehow was with this person, and somehow bad things happened."
Harvey, 34, was arrested earlier this week for Hamilton's murder. He denied the charges, telling reporters outside of a New York courtroom Tuesday, "this is not a murder, there's no murder at all. She overdosed in her sleep."
Investigators believe that Hamilton, a swim teacher and burgeoning triathlete, left a downtown Charlotte, N.C., bar willingly with Harvey. Preliminary autopsy results said Hamilton's body was found stuffed in a storage container but exhibited no signs of physical trauma. Drug use, although what type is unclear, also was evident, according to a police report.
Asked whether he believes Harvey killed his daughter, Hamilton replied, "I think that he contributed to her death."The suggestion that drugs may have played a role in Valerie Hamilton's death have angered many who knew her and remember her as a dedicated runner and an aspiring special ed teacher.
"There's significantly more to that story, more to that tab [that] there was drug use involved with [her death]," said Hamilton.
"I don't want to defend anything," said Hamilton. "I know who my daughter was and her friends knew who she was. My wife knows who she was. My daughter knows who she was. And more particularly, my God knows who she was. And I'm not going to defend her. There is nothing to defend."
Hamilton said that he went through his daughter's apartment Wednesday and found her Bible with all her "little scribble marks in it."
"I found nothing in the house or the apartment that has upset me," he said.
Hamilton knew something wasn't right when his daughter, who he has been known to speak with several times a day on the phone, didn't return his call.
"I knew when her dog wasn't tended to and she didn't call me," said Hamilton. "The police side of me knew and the father [side] was hoping."
His daughter's suspected killer, Harvey, has a storied criminal history. Hamilton believes the justice system's failure contributed to his family's tragedy.
A registered sex offender, Harvey was arrested multiple times for crimes that included breaking and entering, heroin possession and possession of a firearm by a convicted felon, authorities have said.
"I think he should have been behind bars," said Hamilton. "Most people deserve a second chance, but you shouldn't get a fifth, sixth chance. The system needs to change that."
Friends of Valerie Hamilton Say They Never Saw Her Do Drugs
Friends of Valerie Hamilton are furious that her suspected killer claims she died of a drug overdose, arguing that the police chief's daughter did not use drugs and must have been tricked or coerced into taking the lethal dose.
"Do I think she did drugs on her own? No," said Kathryn Foster, a friend who had worked with Valerie Hamilton at a Charlotte swim school. "She could have left with him. ... Valerie isn't one to judge people.
"I don't think there is any chance [that Valerie was using drugs]," said Foster. "We spent enough time with her, exercising with her, that we would have know if that was going on.
"That's just the way the three of us were," said Foster of herself, Hamilton and their other close friend Robin Varner. "We told each other everything."
Varner thinks that even if Harvey didn't physical kill Hamilton, watching her as she died and evidently doing nothing is just as bad.
"I think that is [murder]," she said. "Not only did he watch her die, he covered her up.
"I think he should pay," she added. "I think he should pay severely."