Friday , August 22, 2014 - 9:47 AM
OGDEN — The woman who helped her husband dispose of their baby sitter’s body has been sentenced to prison.
Dea Millerberg, 41, will serve three indeterminate terms of zero to five years in the Utah State Prison, running concurrently.
In 2011, Millerberg and her husband, Eric Millerberg, injected drugs into 16-year-old Alexis Rasmussen and had a salacious sexual relationship that led to her death from an overdose, according to prosecutors.
Children were the focus of the defense counsel, prosecution and the judge Thursday morning.
Defense attorney Michael Bouwhuis stood before Judge Brent West to explain why Millerberg committed the crime.
“As we represent (Millerberg) ... we want to acknowledge first of all that words can’t help Alexis’ mother,” said Bouwhuis, adding that the defense recognizes the “horrible tragedy.”
He said there is no excuse for what his client did, but that there are answers as to why. Bouwhuis described Millerberg’s rough upbringing, that she experimented with alcohol at a young age as a result of her dad dying when she was 5 years old and the hardships she encountered moving from one home to another. However, he said, she did graduate from high school and later completed nursing school.
Bouwhuis said during those years she affiliated with the wrong crowd, who introduced her to the “world of drugs,” where addiction began. She met Eric Millerberg, who “appeared different, not abusive.” After being married, the defendant saw a change and wanted a divorce, but felt for her children.
Dea Millerberg’s aunt, Peggy, said during the sentencing hearing that those same children are who her niece needs to raise and has taken responsibility for. Millerberg, whose own children have experienced many moves, lived with her two daughters in her aunt and uncle’s place this past year.
“They clung to their mom,” she said, “never wanting their mom to leave, begging ’please don’t go,’ ... but improvements have been made.” Through the tears, she pleaded for probation, not separation for Millerberg.
The court recounted the night of Sept. 10, 2011, when Dea Millerberg picked up Alexis to baby-sit their kids.
Instead, Dea and Eric Millerberg, as well as Alexis, got high. Eric injected Alexis with drugs three times; once in the teen’s neck, Dea Millerberg testified.
After which, Dea Millerberg said the teen complained of feeling cold, so Alexis took a bath. The Millerbergs then laid her in their bed and went outside to smoke.
When the couple returned, they found Alexis without a pulse and not breathing. A licensed nurse at the time, Dea Millerberg began performing CPR, but Alexis did not respond.
The couple then decided to dump Alexis in a remote area of Morgan County, where the teen’s body was discovered 38 days later.
Millerberg stood before the judge to address a small audience, most of which included family members and Alexis’ mother, Dawn Miera. Millerberg expressed her emotions through a soft voice and tears.
“I’m appalled and disgusted with what I’ve done; I’ve hurt your family in a way I cannot fix,” Millerberg said. “I’m not going to make excuses ... but I take responsibility and may God bring you peace.”
Evidently, it was not easy, but through the tears, Alexis’s mother kept herself composed.
“Although I would have never made the choices that Dea did with my daughter, I think about things I could have done to make things different. As a parent, your job is to protect your child, and I failed.”
She mentioned children: “I hope nothing like this every happens to any of your children. I hope that all (Dea’s) excuses are gone now, and she is able to step up and give her kids the mother that they deserve.”
“I just want Dea to know that I am thankful to her that she came forward, although sometimes I do question her motives — if they were selfish or did she care about Lexi and feels bad about what she had done,” Miera said. “I don’t know how much (Dea) cares, I don’t know how much she thinks about it, ... (but) she needs to learn a lesson.”
The defense and prosecution recommended that the sentences run concurrently, considering the commendable behavior of Millerberg since her release from jail in 2011.
West credited Millerberg for her behavior, but said post-crime activity is expected to be exceptional.
“While Ms. Millerberg has made great strides ... she has been under a microscope ... and you have to balance (good behavior) with the fact that those are the things (parents) do every single day. ... They go to work, they go to church, they take care of their children.” And while her rough past is recognized, it was her choice, he added.
West ordered Millerberg to serve time for desecration of a human body, illegally obtaining prescription drugs and obstructing justice, all felonies, to which she pleaded guilty in June.
“The judge made what I thought were very valid points in the sentence,” said Weber County Attorney Dee Smith in an interview afterward, adding that he is satisfied with the judge’s decision.
Miera, in an interview with the press, agreed: “I felt the judge made very good points.”
Eric Millerberg, 38, is serving up to life in prison after he was found guilty of child abuse homicide and other charges.
“It’s over and it felt pretty fair, and I’m just hoping that this will bring my family a little bit of closure and it won’t be hanging over our heads anymore,” Miera concluded. “It’s a relief.”
Contact reporter Morgan Briesmaster at 801-625-4268 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter at @SE_mbriesmaster. Like her Facebook page at http://facebook.com/SEMorganBriesmaster.
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