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North Ogden woman sent to prison in drug-related death of baby sitter

Poor choices caused mother to 'lose all her common sense,' judge said

Published: Thursday, Aug. 21 2014 3:20 p.m. MDT

Alexis Rasmussen, 16, died of a drug overdose after baby sitting the children of Eric and Dea Millerberg in September of 2011. An apologetic and extremely emotional Dea Millerberg will serve up to five years in prison for her involvement in the drug-related death of her babysitter, 16-year-old Alexis Rasmussen.

Family photo

OGDEN — An apologetic Dea Millerberg will serve up to five years in prison for her involvement in the death of 16-year-old Alexis Rasmussen, despite the changes she has made in her life since the drug-related incident in 2011.

It was a harsher sentencing than prosecutors or the defense had anticipated, given that Dea Millerberg, 41, had cooperated in testifying against her husband, Eric Millerberg, a known gang member and drug dealer now serving life in prison.

"I have to balance society's need for punishment and the need for rehabilitation," said 2nd District Judge W. Brent West.

He said he couldn't value Millerberg's need to be with her own children more than the fact that Alexis doesn't get to be with her mother.

"They say addiction is a victimless crime, but this is a case where there was a real-live victim that arose out of the selfishness of Mrs. Millerberg and Mr. Millerberg as they indulged in their drugs," West said, adding that Dea Millerberg's choices to do drugs, get involved with Eric Millerberg and others caused her to "lose all her common sense."

"She was not in a position to save or help Alexis when she needed her the most," West said.

Alexis had been the Millerbergs' baby sitter but had gone to them multiple times with a friend for illicit drugs and sex. Eric Millerberg taught Alexis how to inject methamphetamine and a lethal dose of that, as well as heroin, was found in her body when it was recovered after 38 days of searching for the missing girl.

While a medical examiner didn't rule the death as a homicide, it was clear she died on Sept. 10, 2011, from a drug overdose.

Alexis' mother, Dawn Miera, said she would never treat someone's daughter the way Dea Millerberg had treated hers.

"As a parent, your job is to protect your children and I failed," she said. "I do know Lexi was trying to find herself, and she found Dea."

Miera said she hoped her former friend could "step up and give her kids the mother that they deserve." She didn't say how she felt about prison time for Dea Millerberg.

"I don't know how much she cares, how much she thinks about it," Miera said. "I don't know if she has learned her lesson."

But Miera did say she was grateful that Millerberg had helped to "get someone very bad off the streets."

Weber County Attorney Dee Smith said prosecutors couldn't have convicted Eric Millerberg without the testimony from his wife, who proved to be a credible witness as well as a participant in the crimes.

"He was the one who was most responsible. He's the one with the violent criminal history. He was the one that injected Alexis with that methamphetamine," Smith said.

Dea Millerberg pleaded guilty in June to three third-degree felonies, including obtaining a prescription illegally, obstructing justice, and abuse or desecration of a human body. Prosecutors had offered her "use immunity," meaning what she testified to wouldn't be used against her in her own trial.

Defense attorney Michael Bouwhuis outlined the life Dea Millerberg lived, beginning with a botched childhood, dysfunctional mother, accidental pregnancies and failed marriages. In spite of that, he said, she completed school, bought a house and worked as a nurse.

"Despite this cyclical pattern of being sober and getting back into drugs, she's still able to maintain some regularity," Bouwhuis said of his client, adding that she was also a victim of Eric Millerberg's violent and destructive behaviors.

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