Scotland man gets life for murder of infant sonChris Miller, 39, was given the mandatory sentence of life in prison for second-degree murder for the March 2011 death of his 4-month-old son, Jacob. He was sentenced Friday morning by Judge Glen Eng at the Bon Homme County Courthouse in Tyndall.
By: Chris Mueller, The Daily Republic
TYNDALL — A Scotland man has been sentenced to life in prison for the murder of his infant son.
Chris Miller, 39, was given the mandatory sentence of life in prison for second-degree murder for the March 2011 death of his 4-month-old son, Jacob. He was sentenced Friday morning by Judge Glen Eng at the Bon Homme County Courthouse in Tyndall.
Miller also was sentenced to 50 years in prison for aggravated assault and another 10 years in prison for violating his probation from a 2009 conviction for manufacturing methamphetamine. Those terms were ordered to run consecutive to Miller’s life sentence.
The punishment for aggravated assault was enhanced because Miller also admitted Friday to being a habitual offender, based on two prior felony convictions.
Miller was also ordered to pay more than $22,000 in restitution.
Prior to being sentenced, Miller still claimed he was innocent of causing his son’s death.
“I never hurt my son,” Miller said, addressing Eng.
In contrast to his trial weeks earlier, at his sentencing, Miller was unshaven and dressed in a dark blue jail uniform with shackles around his wrists and ankles.
Miller grew emotional as he spoke, often gesturing with his hands despite his restraints, and occasionally wiping away tears.
His criminal past made him a target after his son’s death, he argued.
“Just because a guy is an a****** doesn’t make him a killer,” he said.
On Jan. 30, a Turner County jury found Miller guilty of second-degree murder and aggravated assault. The trial was held at the Turner County Courthouse in Parker since it was moved out of Bon Homme County by Judge Eng last October.
Deputy Attorney General Bob Mayer and Bon Homme County State’s Attorney Lisa Rothschadl prosecuted the case. Miller was defended by attorneys Tim Whalen, of Lake Andes, Scott Podhradsky, of Wagner, and Ken Cotton, of Wagner.
Rothschadl said Friday that she was appalled Miller still hasn’t taken responsibility for his crime.
“Hopefully, someday he will come to terms with this and be able to accept responsibility for what happened,” she said.
Podhradsky, Miller’s only attorney present at the sentencing, said he believes Miller when he “adamantly denies” his crimes.
“He is not this monster,” Podhradsky said.
Podhradsky was disappointed, he said, that the defense was not able to convince the jury of Miller’s innocence.
“A lot of people just did not understand the facts,” he said. “They obviously found guilt with Chris, and that’s troubling.”
Judge Eng spoke directly to Miller prior to pronouncing the sentence.
“I listened to the evidence. Do I think you wanted your baby dead? No,” Eng said. “… But actions sometimes overwhelm wants. Actions overwhelm what we would do on normal days.”
According to court documents, the series of events that led to Miller’s arrest began when he made a 911 call shortly before midnight on March 3, 2011, and reported he found his wife passed out and lying on top of Jacob, and that Jacob was not breathing.
At the hospital, the couple spoke with state Division of Criminal Investigation Agent Todd Rodig, court documents say. Stacy Miller was “incoherent and smelled of alcohol” and was found to have a blood alcohol content of 0.216, more than twice the legal limit for driving in South Dakota.
Chris Miller, who also allegedly smelled of alcohol, became “very agitated and threatened to slap his wife and to kill (Bon Homme County Sheriff Jason Bechtold), (Rodig) and hospital staff.”
Jacob was transported to Avera McKennan Hospital in Sioux Falls and diagnosed with broken ribs, severe skull fractures and bleeding in the brain, court documents say.
Jacob’s attending doctor described the injuries to Rodig as “the type of injuries that could occur from being in a high-speed car accident, and could not be obtained from someone lying on top of Jacob on a bed.”
Stacy Miller later told investigators she drank too much to remember the night in question, but that Chris Miller often got frustrated with Jacob’s crying and was rough with him, court documents say.
Jacob died on March 8, 2011, after several days in the hospital. An autopsy found Jacob had signs of past abuse, including prior rib fractures and head injuries.