OGDEN, Utah (AP) – A Utah man convicted of killing a teenage baby sitter after a night of sex and drugs that also involved the man’s wife was sentenced Tuesday to up to life in prison – the maximum amount allowed under the state’s guidelines.
During a hearing Tuesday, a judge scolded Eric Millerberg, 38, by telling him that he took advantage of a young victim in an especially egregious homicide and then showed callous disregard for the body once the girl died.
“Intentionally injecting a young lady with dangerous drugs multiple times is just beyond reckless,” Judge Scott M. Hadley said.
A jury last month found Eric Millerberg guilty of child-abuse homicide in the 2011 death of Alexis Rasmussen, 16. He was also found guilty of unlawful sexual contact with a minor, obstruction of justice and desecration of a dead body.
Hadley ordered Millerberg to serve consecutive sentences of 5 years to life on the homicide charge; one to 15 years on obstruction of justice; and two terms of zero to five years on desecration of the body and the sex charges.
A parole board will ultimately decide how long Millerberg serves in prison, but prosecutors are hopeful the sum of those sentences will mean Millerberg spends the rest of his life behind bars.
That’s what Rasmussen’s family and prosecutors asked for Tuesday during the sentencing hearing.
“He’s a sick man, and there’s no place for people like him except in prison,” wrote the teen’s father, Kirk Rasmussen, in a letter read aloud in court. “He ruined a child that had the rest of her life ahead of her.”
Her mother, Dawn Miera, told the judge that she suffers every day from the death of her daughter and struggles to explain to her young son where his sister is.
“How do I explain to my 7-year-old that wishing on a shooting star will not bring his sister back?” Miera said.
“I cry over her every day. I miss her every day,” said Miera, crying as her hand trembled holding a printout of her words. “I’m not sure when and if this pain will ever go away.”
Eric Millerberg, wearing an orange prison jumpsuit and speaking quietly, apologized to Rasmussen’s family for the pain he has caused. He said he’s willing to shoulder his portion of the responsibility, but he said he wasn’t alone in causing the death.
His attorney, Randall Marshall, said his client is being unfairly saddled with all the responsibility for Rasmussen’s death. Millerberg’s wife, Dea Millerberg, was involved in the death but is being let off easy, Marshall said. Dea Millerberg, 40, is awaiting her own trial on charges of desecration of a body. She testified against her husband during the trial.
Marshall asked the judge to take into consideration that the death was accidental. “Nobody intended there to be a death,” he said.
Weber County Deputy Attorney Christopher Shaw shot back at that notion, saying injecting a teenage girl with methamphetamine and heroin is no accident. He highlighted 20 years of crimes and poor choices made by Millerberg, who has been in and out of jail for years.
“It’s not by chance that Mr. Millerberg ended up here. It’s by choice,” Shaw said.
Miera, Shaw and Rasmussen’s father all criticized Millerberg for a lack of remorse.
“I didn’t see him blink back one tear. I didn’t see him show one ounce of emotion,” Shaw said. “Does he assume any responsibility?”
Marshall said that’s not true.
“Some people show more emotion than others. He cares. He’s very sorry about Alexi’s death,” Marshall said.
During a three-day trial in February, prosecutors brought detectives, medical examiners, prisoners and Dea Millerberg to the stand to show that Eric Millerberg recklessly injected Rasmussen with lethal doses of heroin and methamphetamine.
Prosecutors told jurors that Eric Millerberg and his wife then dumped Rasmussen’s body in the woods of northern Utah while lying to police as the girl’s mother desperately searched for her for more than a month.
Rasmussen’s body was found 38 days after her death in a remote, wooded area in Weber County.
On Valentine’s Day night, the eight jurors reached their verdict just two hours after they were given the case.
Copyright 2014 The Associated Press.