OGDEN — When investigators found Alexis Rasmussen's badly decomposed body, she was kneeling, face down.
But North Ogden police detective Mike Tribe said the recognizable evidence — the neon toenail polish and the ankle bracelets — led him to believe this body was that of the girl he had been searching for. Finally, it was her jaw that convinced him.
"After hours of looking at her photographs, I knew it was her teeth," he said. "It was her smile."
Tribe was the last witness to testify Monday before 2nd District Judge Scott Hadley ordered Eric Millerberg, 36, to stand trial on charges of child abuse homicide, a first-degree felony; obstruction of justice, a second-degree felony; unlawful sexual activity with a minor and abuse or desecration of a human body, both third-degree felonies, in connection with the 16-year-old Alexis' death.
Eric Millerberg's wife, Dea Millerberg, testified against him in the preliminary hearing, detailing the couple's relationship with the girl who was once their babysitter. Dea Millerberg said she and her husband met Rasmussen in the spring of 2011 through another 16-year-old girl in their neighborhood. Though Rasmussen babysat for their daughters a few times, the relationship quickly turned social.
Dea Millerberg said the teenager would come over to drink and occasionally smoke marijuana, but eventually started asking for and smoking methamphetamine. In August 2011, Eric Millerberg injected Rasmussen with methemphetamine for the first time and the three of them engaged in various sexual acts, Dea Millerberg said.
The night of Sept. 10, 2011 started out with Dea Millerberg calling and asking Rasmussen to baby-sit, but instead they "hung out." She said Eric Millerberg prepared three syringes of heroin, one of which Dea Millerberg said he injected into Alexis.
She and the girl ran an errand to fill a prescription, before returning and shooting up methamphetamine. It was then that Dea Millerberg said her husband shot the drug into the teenager's neck. After Eric Millerberg and Alexis engaged in oral sex, the three shot up again and Rasmussen said she was "as high as she has ever been," according to Dea Millerberg.
Each time, she said, Eric Millerberg prepared the drugs and he was also the one to inject them into the teenager's arm and neck.
"(Alexis) became disoriented," Dea Millerberg said. "She didn't seem to know where she was. Her mood, her demeanor kind of changed. She seemed kind of shaky."
The three smoked cigarettes, before Alexis said she was cold and took a bath. She later got out and laid on the couple's bed. It was there they later found her dead.
"I walked in and she didn't look OK," Dea Millerberg testified. "She wasn't breathing. She had mucousey stuff coming out of the right side of her mouth."
Dea Millerberg attempted CPR to no avail. Then, "it was really a panic," she said. The couple talked about their two young children and Eric Millerberg's status on probation.
"We decided police were not going to be called," Dea Millerberg said, crying. "I dressed her, wrapped her in a blanket. I had a foot locker-type box (we put her in) and put her in the trunk of the car."
They "drove all over the place before deciding to leave the body up Weber Canyon in Morgan County.
"We opened the trunk, pulled her out and then (Eric) placed her behind some trees," she said.
They threw the box and Alexis' purse in a Dumpster on their way home. In a separate Dumpster, they threw the carpeting from the trunk "just in case there was any evidence on it."
The teenager's friend and neighbor to the Millerbergs said she and Alexis went over to the couple's home often to use drugs and said it was Eric Millerberg that taught them how to smoke methamphetamine.
Eric Millerberg told a member of his gang that he met in jail that he was a "watcher of the flock" and that he would administer drugs to teenagers that came to him "so they wouldn't go elsewhere and try it on their own," North Ogden police detective Bill Aeschlimann testified, reading from a statement prepared by the jailmate, Casey Peterson.
The man told police that Eric Millerberg talked about giving drugs to Rasmussen and the sexual acts between the teenager, his wife and himself. He also told Peterson that the girl had died at his home and that he couldn't revive her.
"I was paranoid and I did not want to be involved," Peterson said in the statement. "I have a 16-year-old daughter."
But it was Eric Smith, another friend of Eric Millerberg's, that led police to the teenager's body. He said Eric Millerberg called him late on Sept. 12 and asked for help. The pair drove up Weber Canyon to Morgan County and found Rasmussen's body. They attempted to dig a hole in which to bury the body, but the ground was too hard.
Instead, Smith held the flashlight as Eric Millerberg moved Alexis' body further from the dirt roadway. Later, police came to Smith and told him his name had been mentioned in connection with Alexis' disappearance. The man initially denied knowing anything, but eventually told the truth.
"I wanted the family to have closure," he said. "Then again, they came at me and said they knew about my involvement in it and that they'd give me immunity if I helped them."
Dr. Joseph White, assistant Utah medical examiner, said the teenager's body was badly decomposed when he examined her Oct. 19, 2011 — nearly five weeks after her death. Still, he was able to identify her through dental records and take samples from her muscle and insect larvae found in her body.
He determined there was both morphine, most likely from the use of heroin, and methamphetamine in her system. Her cause and manner of death were undetermined.
"The circumstances of the death and discovery of the body are suspicious," he wrote in a report, before clarifying in court, "(That statement) was made to indicate that it seemed highly unlikely this was a natural or accidental death."
Prosecutors have called Dea Millerberg's involvement "minimal" compared to her husband's role. She has pleaded not guilty to one count of abuse or desecration of a human body, a third-degree felony.
She filed for divorce from her husband on Feb. 9. Eric Millerberg is currently in prison on a separate drug-related probation violation. He entered pleas of not guilty to each of the four counts immediately after he was bound over for trial.
His next hearing has been set for May 15.
Defense attorney Randall Marshall said he does not think the state will offer any deal that does not require Millerberg to plead guilty to the homicide charge. Most likely, he thinks it will go to trial.
"Her death is a tragedy, clearly, but that doesn't mean Eric is guilty of anything," he said.1 comment on this story
In court, Marshall questioned whether Eric Millerberg could be charged with child abuse homicide under the statute. Weber County Attorney Dee Smith countered that any adult who causes a substantial risk of death, impairs a child's health or causes a child to stop breathing can be charged under the statute.
"As you look at the facts of this case, we have an adult who injects a child with heroin and methamphetamine," Dee Smith said. "(Dr. White) said the injection alone would cause a risk of death. Adults have a responsibility to provide appropriate care to children."