Sunday, April 6, 2008

Accomplice sentenced to life for role in Villages killing

Jarrord Roberts, 21, is sentenced for his role in the death of Diana Miller in The Villages.

Stephen Hudak

Sentinel Staff Writer

April 4, 2008


An accomplice to the first-ever murder in The Villages will serve life in prison.

Though Jarrord Roberts, 21, was convicted of manslaughter and not first-degree murder in the shooting death of Diana Miller, 63, he was eligible for a life sentence under state law because jurors also found him guilty of robbery with a firearm.

In court this week, Assistant State Attorney Anthony Tatti read a letter from Miller's widowed husband, James, asking Circuit Judge Brian Lambert to impose the life term.

"When we moved to Florida, we did not do so with the intent to just come here and die. We both had life to live," Miller wrote.

Miller called his wife of 42 years "my constant companion."

"I still believe the death penalty is appropriate for what he did," Miller, 70, wrote of Roberts. "Someone who takes someone else's life the way he and his cohorts did deserves just that."

Defense lawyer Henry Ferro argued for leniency Wednesday, insisting that Roberts played a lesser role in the July 21, 2006, robbery and murder at the retired Michigan couple's home in The Villages of Springdale.

Ferro also apologized to Miller on Roberts' behalf, describing him as "profoundly sorry."

Lambert imposed the life term and appointed the Public Defender's Office to handle Roberts' appeals.

"Given the facts and circumstances, life was an appropriate sentence," Tatti said Thursday.

Renaldo McGirth, 19, identified as the triggerman in the crime, could receive a death sentence when he is due in court May 5. Jurors voted 11-1 to recommend death.

Another accomplice, Theodore Houston, 19, is awaiting trial on first-degree murder and three other felony charges after reneging on a plea agreement that would have capped his sentence at 40 years in prison.

McGirth knew the Millers' daughter, Sheila, 40, from illegal-drug deals, according to trial testimony, and went to the couple's home on a ruse to visit her.

She had been seriously injured in a drunken-driving accident weeks earlier and was living with her parents temporarily while recuperating from the injuries that put her in a wheelchair.

Sheila Miller said she was forced to accompany the three men to an ATM in The Villages, a Kmart in Belleview and the Oaks Mall in Gainesville after her mother was shot.

But jurors acquitted McGirth and Roberts of kidnapping charges.

Diana Miller died of gunshot wounds to her head and abdomen. James Miller was shot in the head but survived. He remains estranged from his daughter, the couple's only child.

Lawyers for McGirth and Roberts argued that Sheila Miller was involved in the crime -- an accusation she denies. The lawyers pointed out that she would have collected $750,000 from her parents' estate and insurance policies if both had died.

Prosecutors said Sheila Miller did not attend the hearing.

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

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