OGDEN, Utah (AP) – A jury has begun deliberating whether a Utah man is guilty of child abuse homicide in the death of a teenage baby sitter who prosecutors allege died after the man gave her a lethal dose of drugs.
Prosecutors said in closing arguments Friday that 38-year-old Eric Millerberg recklessly injected 16-year-old Alexis Rasmussen with several doses of heroin and methamphetamine during a night of drugs and sex that also included Millerberg’s wife, Dea Millerberg.
Defense attorneys argued in their closing arguments that the case against Eric Millerberg is based on lies by Dea Millerberg, who is blaming her husband to protect herself.
Eric Millerberg has pleaded not guilty. Dea Millerberg is awaiting her own criminal trial on charges of desecration of a body.
THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP’s earlier story is below.
A Utah man prosecutors allege had a drug-fueled, sexual relationship with a teen baby sitter that led her death has decided not to testify in his trial.
Eric Millerberg, 38, made his decision known Friday afternoon in a court room in Ogden. He told the judge that he decided to take his attorney’s advice and refrain from taking the stand.
He is charged with felony child abuse homicide in the 2011 death of Alexis Rasmussen, 16, He has pleaded not guilty.
The prosecution’s final witness, a police detective who found Rasmussen’s body, took the stand Friday afternoon. The defense hasn’t announced any plans to bring witnesses to the stand. That means closing arguments are scheduled to start Friday.
The 10-person jury told the judge that they are willing to stay into the night Friday to deliberate.
Earlier Friday, a Utah assistant medical examiner, Joseph White, testified that Rasmussen had enormous amounts of methamphetamine and heroin in her system that likely caused her death.
She had seven times the lethal amount of methamphetamine in her system and high levels of morphine and amphetamines, White said.
But White stopped short of declaring drug overdose as the cause of death because he couldn’t rule out other possibilities such as strangulation, stabbing or blunt force trauma. That’s because the girl’s body was badly decomposed, the skin gone from her chest, neck and face, he said. Prosecutors say the girl was found 38 days after her death in a remote, wooded area in Weber County.
“It’s a foul circumstance and it seemed clear that somebody else was involved,” White said, while later adding, “I felt it was most intellectually honest to list the cause and manner (of death) as undetermined.”
His testimony came during the third day of the trial.
Weber County prosecutors say Eric Millerberg and his wife, Dea Millerberg, 40, had a drug-fueled, sexual relationship with Rasmussen that led to the girl’s death.
Dea Millerberg testified this week that her husband injected Rasmussen, who did baby-sitting for the couple’s two children, three times that night with heroin and methamphetamine. She said the three of them also had sex together. After the girl became unconscious, they dumped her body in a remote, wooded area, she said, out of fear of losing their children.
Dea Millerberg has “use immunity,” meaning prosecutors can’t use her testimony in this case against her at her own criminal trial in April on charges of desecration of a body.
Eric Millerberg’s attorney, Randall Marshall, has cautioned the jury that the evidence against his client comes largely from Dea Millerberg, who he says is lying to protect herself from prosecution.
A prison inmate also testified this week, saying Eric Millerberg told him about giving Rasmussen the lethal mix of drugs.
On Friday, White went into detail about how lab results that showed the high amounts of the different illegal drugs. He said it showed she had doses of methamphetamine and heroin in levels well above traceable amounts.
“These are obviously significant results,” White said. “Certainly, enough to explain the death.”
White also said an internal exam of Rasmussen’s body and a review of her medical records show she was completely healthy prior to her death with no pre-existing medical conditions.
Eric Millerberg sat with his attorneys listening to the testimony wearing glasses and a suit and tie that largely hides his array of neck and arm tattoos. He occasionally spoke to his attorneys, but remained largely stoic.
Family and friends of Rasmussen filled the front row of the gallery, carefully listening to testimony as they whispered to each other.
Copyright 2014 The Associated Press.