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Everett Miller verdict: Marine vet guilty of 1st-degree murder in killing of 2 FL cops

Judge's gavel. (Staff Sgt. Nicholas Rau/U.S. Air Force)

As she stood outside the Osceola County Courthouse, one of her three young daughters perched on her shoulders, Sadia Baxter reflected on months spent sitting through hearings, jury selection and the entire trial of her husband’s killer, Everett Glenn Miller.

“This means so much to my family and our law enforcement officers,” she said, after a 12-member jury needed to just two hours to find Miller guilty of first-degree murder Wednesday. “I’ve sat here every single day as a proud representative of my family. My girls are too little to sit in their own seats, so I sat there as a proud mother.”

Prosecutors said Miller was motivated by hatred of police when he gunned down Baxter’s husband, 26-year-old Kissimmee police Officer Matthew Baxter, and Sgt. Richard “Sam” Howard the night of Aug. 18, 2017. As the jury’s verdict was read, the families, friends and colleagues of the two slain officers wiped away tears and hugged each other.

Sadia Baxter, a special agent with the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, said justice was served, though nothing can bring back her husband or Howard.

“Although the void cannot be filled, we have so much love and support from this community, from our family and friends,” she said.

Miller showed no visible emotion as the verdict was announced. Earlier, he waved at his mother and other family members sitting in the gallery and broke down in tears, putting both hands around his head. Miller’s family did not comment after the verdict.

Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty for Miller, 47. Jurors will return Nov. 5 for a sentencing hearing to decide if Miller should face execution or life in prison without the possibility of parole.

Matthew Baxter’s mother, Donna Brown St. John, said she was finally ready to start healing.

“Justice has been served for my son and for Sam,” she said. “I never knew what grief was like. Nobody does. … Now Matthew can rest.”

During closing arguments Tuesday, prosecutors told the jury Miller wanted to “make a statement” with the killings. After ambushing Howard and Baxter and shooting them in their heads, prosecutors said he re-positioned both bodies parallel to each other and fired again at the officers’ faces.

But his defense attorneys said Miller, upset over high-profile police brutality cases, got into a fight with Baxter after seeing the officer harass people. His lawyers argued the state proved second-degree murder, but not the premeditation required for first-degree murder.

Just prior to the killings, Baxter was conducting a routine check into three people at Cypress and Palmway streets. One of the three, Maribel Gonzalez King, testified that Miller suddenly drove up and started asking the officer, “Why the [expletive] you messing with my peoples?”

After Baxter called Howard to the scene, Miller argued with the two officers, saying he feared for his life and had a license to carry a concealed weapon, Gonzalez King said. Howard ordered Gonzalez King and men she was with to leave immediately. As she walked away, Gonzalez King said she heard two gunshots, a pause, then two more.

She looked back to see Baxter and Howard on the ground, bleeding.

Prosecutors say Miller fled to a bar on Orange Blossom Trail, where he was arrested.

Miller’s family and friends told the Orlando Sentinel after the shooting he had been struggling with post-traumatic stress disorder after coming home from a two-decade military career, but jurors did not hear evidence regarding any diminished mental capacity because Circuit Judge Greg A. Tynan ruled Miller’s attorneys could not use his “abnormal mental condition” as a defense to the killings.


© 2019 The Orlando Sentinel