OGDEN — The mother of 16-year-old Alexis Rasmussen wept Wednesday while prosecutors described a frightening tale of her daughter's death involving drugs, sex, and calloused efforts to dump her body and lie about her whereabouts.
Other relatives of the teen tried to comfort the mother while failing to hold back their own tears.
"He put her in a garbage bag," deputy Weber County attorney Chris Shaw told the jury, pointing at Eric Millerberg on the first day of his trial for child abuse homicide. "She died in his home after he injected her with heroin and methamphetamine. That's what the evidence will show."
"(Millerberg) did nothing to try to save this young girl," Shaw said. "He did not call 911, he did not try to involve police or call an ambulance. He did not take her to the hospital. He did nothing."
Millerberg injected Alexis with "potentially lethal" doses of drugs while she was supposedly baby-sitting at the Millerbergs' home on Sept. 10, 2011, he said.
"There was no baby-sitting going on here at all," Shaw said, suggesting that Millerberg had provided drugs to Alexis.
One of Alexis' best friends, Brenna Cain, testified Wednesday that she and Alexis often secretly got drugs, alcohol and even sex from Eric and Dea Millerberg, her neighbors in North Ogden. She said they would "hang out at their house" and sometimes get a hotel room "and hang out as friends."
Brenna said she wasn't with Alexis the weekend she went missing, which was "unusual."
"When she hadn't contacted me, I knew something was wrong," Brenna said. "I didn't know where she was."
When she confronted Eric Millerberg about her friend, he denied knowing where she was. "He told me he would never do anything to hurt us."
In addition to child abuse homicide, a first-degree felony, Eric Millerberg, 38, is charged with obstruction of justice, unlawful sexual conduct with a minor and abuse and desecration of a human body. His trial is expected to last six days.
A separate trial for wife Dea Millerberg, 40, who is also charged in the abuse and desecration of Alexis' body as well as with child endangerment, is set to begin in April. She received immunity from the state for testifying against her husband Wednesday, meaning what she said under oath in one courtroom can't be used against her in her own trial.
Dea Millerberg admitted to lying to police and anyone who asked about Alexis up until she bailed out of jail, where she was serving time for unrelated prescription fraud charges. She said she was "terrified" of her husband, who she said was very controlling. She told the court she first spoke truthfully to police on Dec. 30, 2011.
"It was time and I really didn't want her family to keep going through this and not know where she was," Dea Millerberg testified.
She said she gave illicit drugs — including prescription opiates, heroin, Xanax and methamphetamine — to Alexis and to Brenna, and that she and her husband had engaged in sexual conduct with Alexis, including on the night of the teen's disappearance.
Millerberg recounted what she could remember of that night. She said that instead of leaving the house to buy a birthday present for her daughter, Eric Millerberg prepared drugs for injection for the three of them, helping Alexis "get high." The trio had injected methamphetamine and heroin, and had smoked marijuana and drank alcohol.
After Alexis took a bath at the Millerberg home, Dea Millerberg said Alexis reported being really cold and shaking. Millerberg, a former nurse, didn't think much of the girl's symptoms at the time. But when Alexis became unresponsive later in the night, she tried to resuscitate her, but to no avail.
"She wasn't moving. She had mucousy stuff coming out the side of her mouth. She didn't wake up," she said.
It was then that the Millerbergs "panicked" and decided to hide Alexis' body.
Shaw said investigators found the body in a remote area of Weber Canyon 38 days after her mother, Dawn Miera, reported her missing.
Miera told the court she had been in contact with Alexis, via text, up until about 11:30 p.m. on Sept. 10 and that she gave Alexis permission to stay at the Millerbergs' home that evening, as she believed the couple wasn't going to return until quite late.
When she didn't come home the next morning, Miera went looking for her. At the Millerberg home, she was met by Eric Millerberg, who she said was "all over the place."
"He was bobbin' and weavin' all over, jumping from one subject to another," she testified.
Miera said she never stopped looking for her daughter until police told her Alexis' body had been found. Police had been led to the body by an informant, Eric "Peanut" Smith, who told them that Eric Millerberg had called him in September, saying he had "something to get rid of."
Smith had helped to move the body to a more discrete place, Dea Millerberg said, adding that she couldn't tell police of the spot because she didn't know where it was.
While the body was decomposed enough to limit a thorough autopsy, Shaw told the jury on Wednesday that medical and toxicology reports revealed large quantities of both methamphetamine and resulting metabolites of heroin in the girl's remaining muscle tissue. He said medical examiners scheduled to testify in the case "will tell you that the circumstances of this death are very, very suspicious. Someone else had to be involved. There was no reason for her death."
Defense attorney Randall Marshall said that while Alexis' death is a "terrible tragedy the fact that she is dead does not make Eric Millerberg guilty of anything."
Marshall told the jury that "no one has more motivation to lie than Dea Millerberg, because she's in right up to her neck."
In a heated cross-examination, Marshall attempted to chip away at Dea Millerberg's story, to try and convince the jury she wasn't telling the truth.
After the jury was dismissed Wednesday, Eric Millerberg was seen mouthing the words "I'm sorry" to an emotional Brenna, who was seated in the courtroom. He looked to be holding back tears as he exited the courtroom, escorted by a bailiff.
Email: [email protected]
Twitter: wendyleonards; DNewsCrimeTeam