OGDEN -- The word "negotiation" was heard Wednesday for the first time in Dea Millerberg's possible involvement in the death of Alexis Rasmussen.
The 16-year-old was baby-sitting at the North Ogden home of Eric and Dea Millerberg when she disappeared Sept. 10. Both Millerbergs were arrested on unrelated charges as the search for Rasmussen turned into a murder investigation, keyed on items seized from the Millerberg home as well as the impoundment of their two vehicles.
Rasmussen's body was located Oct. 18 in a remote Morgan County location.
After hiding from a throng of television news cameras Wednesday morning for more than two hours, Dea Millerberg made her first appearance in 2nd District Court on drug charges since her stepfather posted $15,000 cash bail Dec. 6.
Prescription drug charges and a child endangerment count for allegedly exposing her 1-year-old daughter to methamphetamine were continued to Jan. 18 by Judge W. Brent West for a status conference.
She left the courtroom silently with an older couple identified only as relatives.
But defense attorney Mike Bouwhuis told reporters he has had talks with prosecutors about a negotiation short of trial on the expected charges over Rasmussen's death, describing them as only preliminary discussions.
"They haven't disclosed enough information about the possible charges for me to advise my client," Bouwhuis said.
As to the time frame of filing those charges, he said, "I think they're close."
Weber County Attorney Dee Smith in brief remarks to reporters would only say his office is still waiting on forensic evidence from the state Medical Examiner's Office and the Utah State Crime Lab.
Eric Millerberg, recently sent to prison for violating probation on earlier drug charges, is depicted in search warrants as the main instigator in the death of Rasmussen. The warrants include incriminating statements from friends of his, including, "I can't believe he killed a little girl." Charges in Rasmussen's death are also expected against him.
The Millerbergs were arrested in the first week of October, days before a search warrant was executed at their home by the homicide task force supervised by the Weber County Attorney's Office.
On Wednesday, Bouwhuis reiterated Dea Millerberg's stance, saying, "All I can say is, she denies causing the death of the girl."
He said she talks about contacting Dawn Miera, mother of Alexis. Miera had been friends with his client, Bouwhuis said, but it would be legally improper for her to talk to Miera at this time.
"But at some point that would be appropriate," he said.
Dea Millerberg's $15,000 cash bail was paid by Gregory John Noble, listed on the bail receipt as her stepfather, from Wyoming. A couple who escorted her to and from the courtroom Wednesday refused any comment to reporters.