Friday, February 8, 2008

Villages murder trial enters final stage

The prosecution and the defense find some common ground on the victim's only daughter.

Stephen Hudak

Sentinel Staff Writer

February 7, 2008


Prosecutors and defense lawyers agreed Wednesday that Diana Miller's death could be traced to her only child -- but they split sharply on who should pay for the killing regarded as the first-ever murder in The Villages.

Jurors are expected to begin deliberating this morning in the potential death-penalty cases of Jarrord Roberts, 21, and Renaldo McGirth, 19. They are charged with first-degree murder and other crimes in the 2006 slaying of Miller, 63.

In final arguments before a Marion County jury, defense lawyers accused Miller's 40-year-old daughter, Sheila -- who was not charged -- of helping plan the crimes that left her mother dead and her father wounded.

They pointed out that Sheila Miller was a conniving, drug-abusing felon who would have inherited $750,000 from her parents, retired corporate accountants from suburban Detroit, if both had died July 21, 2006.

Miller's father, James, 71, was shot in the head but survived the attack.

Sheila Miller has insisted that she is a victim and was kidnapped and forced to accompany the men in her parents' van after her mother was shot. She testified that she thought they would kill her parents if she resisted.

Three men involved initially entered the Millers' home on Wesley Street in The Villages on a ruse.

The youths convinced Diana Miller that they had come to visit her middle-aged daughter, who was confined to a wheelchair recovering from injuries that she had suffered in a drunken-driving accident.

Prosecutors acknowledged that Sheila Miller ought to shoulder some blame.

"In the scheme of life, if you have to assign cause or blame, you can trace it back to Sheila Miller's pot-smoking. That lifestyle led her to him," State Attorney Brad King said in closing remarks, pointing at McGirth, who had provided her with marijuana and other drugs. "And their relationship led him to that home in the Villages."

But she did not kill her mother, shoot her father or plan the crime, King said.

Sheila Miller "will do and say whatever she needs to do and say to get what she wants," said Roberts' lawyer, Henry Ferro. "With her cunning, she certainly could be the mastermind of an operation such as this."

"Sheila Miller is trying to save herself," said McGirth's lawyer, Candace Hawthorne.

Citing trial testimony, they pointed out that Sheila Miller did not try to alert anyone at Kmart, a gas station or a Gainesville mall in the hours after her mother was shot; that she directed the men to an ATM in The Villages that was not equipped with a surveillance camera; and that she had previously stolen her mother's ID to obtain credit.

They also noted that she remains estranged from her father, who obtained a protection order to bar her from contacting him.

Defense lawyers also assailed a third defendant, Theodore Houston, 18, who backed out of a plea-agreement that would have spared him life in prison for his testimony. He had identified McGirth as the shooter.

Houston testified but insisted he wants his own trial to prove his innocence.

Defense lawyers reminded jurors that Houston fetched the spent shell casings, drove a separate vehicle away from the crime scene and had even held the gun. They also pointed out that he admitted lying 23 times.

Shorn of dreadlocks and clad in dress shirts and ties, the two defendants looked like meek high-schoolers as they listened attentively to lawyers in Circuit Judge Brian Lambert's courtroom. Neither testified.

The two are charged with first-degree murder, attempted first-degree murder, armed robbery and armed kidnapping.

Stephen Hudak can be reached at or 352-742-5930.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Are you kidding me???? Sheila is so F'ing guilty of this atrocity and she knows it. I have known this family my entire life.
Let that crackhead rot in hell.
"known them for 30"