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Miller v. State

Supreme Court of Georgia

October 6, 2014

MILLER
v.
THE STATE

Page 136

Murder. Bibb Superior Court. Before Judge Christian, Senior Judge.

Jonathan P. Waters, for appellant.

K. David Cooke, Jr., District Attorney, Sandra G. Matson, Myra H. Tisdale, Assistant District Attorneys, Samuel S. Olens, Attorney General, Patricia B. Attaway Burton, Deputy Attorney General, Paula K. Smith, Senior Assistant Attorney General, Meghan H. Hill, Assistant Attorney General, for appellee.

BENHAM, Justice. All the Justices concur.

OPINION

Page 137

Benham, Justice.

Appellant Gregory Dwayne Miller appeals his convictions for the murder of Melissa Rushing and the concealment of her death.[1] Construed in the light most favorable to the verdict, the evidence shows the victim was living at appellant's apartment in Macon at the time she was killed. On the evening of August 6, 2008, appellant, along with the victim and one of appellant's friends, Joseph Meredith, went to Wal-Mart. As they were loading groceries in the car to return home, appellant reacted angrily to the way the victim was loading the car and knocked a pizza out of the way. After they returned to appellant's apartment, the victim invited a man she had previously dated to the apartment for the purpose of meeting appellant so appellant could talk to him about procuring drugs, but that man testified he was unable to do what appellant was asking him to do. He spoke to the victim by phone around 11:00 p.m. as he was leaving the apartment complex, and she seemed to be fine at that time.

Later in the evening, appellant was at the apartment with the victim, Meredith, Jermaine Williams, and Alphonso English. Appellant

Page 138

began arguing with the victim about the man she had invited over. He got into a physical scuffle with the victim, hit her with his hand, and hit her in the head with a plate so hard that the plate broke. When the victim fell onto the couch upon being hit with the plate, appellant told her to be quiet or he would " whoop her ass." When English tried to get appellant to stop hitting the victim, appellant [295 Ga. 770] cursed English and told him to leave. Appellant picked up a metal rod door-stop apparently to hit the victim, but Meredith took it out of his hand. At some point, appellant retrieved a rifle from another room and pointed it at the victim. Appellant and the victim went into the room appellant called his office and Williams joined appellant there to smoke marijuana laced with crack cocaine. Williams came back into the living room, leaving appellant and the victim in the office together. At some point, appellant was seen coming out of the office with blood on his hands and holding a knife. Meredith saw the victim in the office with her throat cut and gasping for air " like she was drowning."

Appellant forced Meredith to obtain bleach and pour it over appellant's hands, and appellant took a shower. Appellant then wrapped the victim up in a shower curtain and called his friend Tommy Zellner, who came over. Appellant told Williams, Meredith, and Zellner " what he had done," that " he had to get rid of her," and threatened them and their families if they did not help him dispose of the body. Williams helped appellant move the body downstairs and into the back seat of Zellner's car. Appellant sent Meredith off to fill appellant's car, along with a plastic jug, with gasoline, and the two cars were to meet up. After getting the gasoline, Meredith started driving away from the station but had to pull over and walk because the car broke down. Appellant obtained the jug of gasoline, himself. Using Zellner's car, Williams, Zellner, and appellant drove the body to a secluded location in Bibb County, pulled the body from the car, and then appellant poured gasoline over it and set it on fire. All three men then drove to Atlanta, and appellant did not return to Macon until the next day.

In response to a 911 call reporting a fire on the side of the road, the victim's body was discovered while it was still engulfed in flames. The authorities testified a cord had been wrapped around the victim's neck which then ran down her back to her feet, which were also bound together. Forensic evidence showed there were remnants of melted plastic on the body's head and neck held by what appeared to be an extension cord. Investigators observed blunt force trauma to the face that was inconsistent with damage due to the fire. They determined the body had been doused with a flammable liquid. Appellant's sister heard news on the television that a body with tattoos similar to the victim's had been found beside a road, and this prompted the sister to visit appellant's apartment. There she observed he had been cleaning and noticed the strong smell of bleach. She also noticed a piece of carpet had been cut out of the office floor, and when his sister questioned him, appellant told her he had spilled some ink on the carpet.

[295 Ga. 771] On August 11, 2008, investigators and crime scene technicians inspected appellant's apartment and noted that the victim's clothes had been stacked as if they were being packed away. They found cleaning items, including bleach, in the kitchen and a broken plate in the trash. The carpet in the office appeared to have been recently cut. Investigators found a utility knife in the office with a missing blade. They collected a number of samples they believed to be blood but none of the samples were a match for the victim's blood. The cause of death was deemed to be a combination of blunt force head trauma, smothering, and strangulation. The ...


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