OGDEN — It came down to two stories, a husband's and a wife's, in a trial over the death of 16-year-old Alexis Rasmussen.
Jurors believed the wife.
Following three days of testimony — half the time the trial was expected to take — the jury deliberated for less than 90 minutes Friday night before finding Eric Millerberg, 38, guilty of child abuse homicide in the teenager's death following a night of drugs, sex and alcohol when she was supposedly baby-sitting at the Millerbergs' North Ogden home on Sept. 10, 2011.
Millerberg was stone faced as the forewoman from the five-man, three-woman jury read the verdict, pausing between each count as sobs erupted from Alexis' family.
Millerberg was also found guilty of obstruction of justice, a second-degree felony, unlawful sexual conduct with a minor and abuse or desecration of a human body, third-degree felonies.
Alexis' mother, Dawn Miera, did not comment as family and friends left the courthouse, alternately weeping and celebrating. She will likely speak at Millerberg's sentencing on March 18.
Defense attorney Randall Marshall, who expressed his disappointment as he hurried from the courthouse, said he expects Millerberg will appeal the decision.
As he excused the jury, 2nd District Judge Scott M. Hadley thanked them for their prompt decision and their willingness to continue working into the evening.
"You can see it in your faces, the hard work you've done," Hadley said. "It's hard work and it's never pleasant, frankly, to judge another human being."
Much of the case against Millerberg came from his wife Dea's testimony, which Weber County Attorney Dee W. Smith called "specific and graphic" as she described her husband shooting Alexis up with methamphetamine and heroin, sex acts between the three of them and later driving around looking for a place to dump Alexis' body after attempts to resuscitate her failed.
"Normal people don't inject little girls with heroin and methamphetamine," Smith told the jurors during closing arguments.
Smith urged jurors to consider that the law defines child abuse as inflicting injuries that impair a child's health, and said that included preparing and administering narcotics to Alexis and her friend, Brenna Cain.
"That's child abuse, and the defendant committed it when he stuck that needle in (Alexis') neck," Smith said, calling the behaviors reckless and dangerous.
Cain testified that she and Alexis often secretly got drugs, alcohol and sex from the Millerbergs, and when Alexis disappeared, they were the first people she approached.
The Millerbergs told Cain — as well as police, family members and almost anyone who asked — that Alexis had left their house around 10 p.m. to go meet a friend at a nearby elementary school, though text messages to Alexis' mother placed her at the Millerberg home until at least 11:30 p.m.
At the time of the disappearance, Eric Millerberg attempted to shift responsibility from himself, saying it wasn't up to him to tell the 16-year-old she couldn't leave his house, Smith said.
It was Eric "Peanut" Smith, an inmate who met Eric Millerberg behind bars who eventually led police to Alexis' body 38 days after she was reported missing. Eric Millerberg had asked for Smith's help moving the body deeper into the trees, hoping snow would cover it before any hunters stumbled upon it.
Another friend and inmate testified that Eric Millerberg had come to him for help moving the body, but he refused.
- Man killed in avalanche had a passion for...
- About Utah: Company helps show 'you don't win...
- Community comes together to surprise...
- Behind the masks: Why some Utahns choose...
- Photos: Olympian Noelle Pikus-Pace speaks to...
- Dog lovers walk to support anti-bias measure
- No money for House Speaker Becky Lockhart's...
- Local religious leaders urge support for...
- Advocates rally and 'roar' for... 56
- Utah Democrats offer full Medicaid... 34
- Gov. Herbert threatens veto of House... 31
- Judge: Biological father will share... 28
- The story of a fish, a river and what's... 24
- Local religious leaders urge support... 23
- Cities, state battle panhandling... 22
- Utah unemployment rate hits five-year low 16