Thursday, January 24, 2008

Villages murder trial set to begin

Mourners are seen outside a memorial service for shooting victim Diana Miller of The Villages. Miller's accused killers go on trial beginning Tuesday.

Jury selection starts Tuesday


OCALA - Jury selection starts Tuesday in the trial of Renaldo Devon McGirth, 19, and Jarrord Marqui Roberts, 21, two Marion County men charged with murder, attempted murder, robbery and kidnapping. McGirth also is charged with felony fleeing and eluding.

Both are accused of the July 2006 murder of Diana Miller and the shooting of her husband, James, after a home robbery that ended in a high-speed chase and the release of the couple's kidnapped daughter, Sheila.

If found guilty, McGirth and Roberts could face the death penalty.

A third defendant, Theodore Houston, 18, pleaded guilty in December to lesser charges in exchange for his testimony against McGirth and Roberts.

According to police reports, the trio came to the Millers' home in The Villages on July 21, 2006, on the pretense of bringing Sheila, the Millers' only child, a gift. She had been injured in a recent car accident.

Sheila, 40, reportedly had given the men directions to the home at 9269 S.E. 179th Wesley St., and welcomed them when they arrived.

Believing the men were his daughter's friends, James, 69, went in to take a shower. After his shower, he was getting dressed when a man knocked on the bathroom door, grabbed him and took him at gunpoint into a bedroom. That is when he saw his wife lying on the floor covered in blood from a gunshot to the chest.

According to James' deposition, Diana, 63, told him not to say anything, that she was all right and that she could handle it.

He was forced to lie on the floor, his wife near his feet. Both then were shot in the head. Diana was killed. James waited until the men left and then climbed out the window and went to a neighbor's house.

State Attorney Brad King says Roberts taped Sheila's mouth, face and hands. The men are accused of kidnapping Sheila and stealing the Miller's 2000 Ford Windstar, using it to drive to the Oaks Mall in Gainesville. They reportedly wheeled Sheila around the mall in her wheelchair, stopping at several shops and ATM machines.

A short time later, a deputy spotted the Windstar just north of McIntosh on U.S. 441, and gave chase.

The van raced at speeds of up to 100 mph before the deputies hit the car, flipping it into a convenience store parking lot in the 9800 block of Northwest Gainesville Road.

One of the men was caught right away. The other two took off on foot into the woods but they, too, were apprehended quickly. Sheila had been left behind.

James Miller, who has recovered from his wounds, has said his daughter has a history of drug and alcohol abuse. He said he thinks she was involved in the robbery because she wanted the Millers' $750,000 in assets and life insurance.

In sworn statements, Sheila has said that McGirth was the shooter and that she was a victim. Her father said he does not know who did the shooting.

McGirth and Roberts are both charged with first-degree murder, attempted murder, armed robbery, armed kidnapping and resisting arrest. Jurors will have to decide whether they were responsible for the crimes.

They may get some help from Theodore Houston, the third defendant, now a state's witness. Houston, who was a minor at the time of the murder, could have received a life sentence. He opted, instead, to plead guilty to the lesser charge of second-degree murder in addition to the attempted murder, robbery and kidnapping charges. He now faces 25 to 40 years in state prison.

Susan Latham Carr may be reached at 352-867-4156 or

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