Expert says Marine veteran sought help from VA days before killing two police officers
By MONIVETTE CORDEIRO | Orlando Sentinel | Published: November 12, 2019
ORLANDO, Fla. (Tribune News Service) — Everett Glenn Miller was feeling “hopeless” and “angry” when he sought medical help from the VA four days before killing two Kissimmee police officers in 2017, an expert witness told jurors Tuesday.
Clinical neuropsychologist Robert Cohen testified the Marine Corps veteran went to the VA several times starting in May 2017 worried he had post-traumatic stress disorder because of his increased anger and irritability.
Records from his last visit on Aug. 14, 2017 indicated he was homeless and had just broken up his girlfriend. He didn’t have access to his medicine and had been involuntarily committed to a hospital a month before, the expert said.
“He went in asking for medication,” Cohen said. “He was hopeless at that point. He was angry.”
Jurors weighing a death sentence for Miller returned to the Osceola County Courthouse to hear Cohen and other final witnesses in the trial’s penalty phase before they begin deliberating the convicted cop killer’s fate.
Miller, 48, was found guilty of first-degree murder in the killings of Kissimmee police Sgt. Richard “Sam” Howard, 36, and Officer Matthew Baxter, 26. All 12 jurors will have to recommend capital punishment for the Marine veteran to be sent to death row instead of being sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.
Miller’s defense attorneys plan to present their last witnesses Tuesday morning before the state’s rebuttal witnesses testify. After closing arguments from both sides, the jury will deliberate.
Cohen told jurors he interviewed Miller in jail and evaluated him with a checklist used to diagnose PTSD, which scores the severity of symptoms on a range from 0 to 80, with a score of 33 needed for a PTSD diagnosis.
While in jail on sedatives, Miller scored 24 out of 80 on the checklist, Cohen said. But the night of the shooting, Miller reported symptoms that gave him a score of 56, and VA medical records showed he scored 65 during the time he sought help, the expert said.
Jurors have so far heard from Baxter and Howard’s families and friends, who said both men loved to serve their community as law enforcement officers. Baxter’s widow told jurors she would never be able to fill the void left in her daughters’ lives after the death of her husband.
“It hurts my soul to see my daughters in so much pain,” Sadia Baxter testified on the witness stand. “I’m not their daddy nor will I ever be able to replace him with my love.”
Miller’s family and friends said his successful career and life went into a downward spiral after he left his work as a defense contractor. The Marine veteran worked in the private sector targeting enemy combatants with drone strikes and spent some time at an Afghanistan base that was targeted by strikes and suicide bombers, witnesses said.
Miller was the “epitome of a Marine,” military colleagues said.
“Miller was probably one of the finest Marines I’ve ever served with,” retired U.S. Navy Capt. Thomas Leech, Miller’s commanding officer, testified. “He respected everyone. He treated everyone fairly.”
His cousin Devona Barnes said Miller was depressed and expressed remorse about having killed innocent bystanders.
He struggled to adjust to civilian life and eventually lost his job at a packaging company, became homeless and broke up with his girlfriend. He railed against the government, police and white people on social media, shocking those who knew him as a good friend.
Julian Albright told jurors Miller was upset about police killing unarmed African Americans during the summer of 2017 and showed him guns he was keeping in his car.
“I’m prepared,” Miller said, according to Albright. “I’m not gonna be another statistic. I’m not gonna be caught driving while black.”
A month before Miller gunned down the two officers, he was involuntarily committed under Florida’s Baker Act for running in the streets with a high-powered rifle wearing only boxers. A deputy testified she visited Miller in the hospital and found him laying in his bed while chanting a military song.
Psychologist Steven Gold testified Miller met the criteria for PTSD and diagnosed at the hospital as having a bipolar disorder with psychotic features.
Prosecutors have argued the convicted killer was motivated by his hatred of law enforcement, but Miller’s attorneys said the shooting wasn’t premeditated.
The night of Aug. 18, 2017, Baxter was conducting a routine check on three people near the intersection of Cypress and Palmway streets. A witness said Miller suddenly drove up and started arguing with him for “messing with his people.”
Baxter called Howard to the scene. After an argument, Miller ambushed the two cops, shooting each of them in the head and face, prosecutors said.
Miller was arrested at a bar on Orange Blossom Trail.
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