OGDEN — Eric Millerberg’s defense attorney intends to hire an expert to challenge the official cause of death for the teenager Millerberg is accused of killing.
On Tuesday, public defender Randall Marshall told Judge Scott Hadley he would be petitioning the court to appoint an expert to evaluate the state medical examiner’s findings in the Sept. 11 death of 16-year-old Alexis Rasmussen.
The teen was supposedly baby-sitting for Millerberg and his wife, Dea, on Sept. 10, but she was actually continuing the drug-riddled relationship she’d fallen into with the Millerbergs, who were twice her age.
At Eric Millerberg’s April 9 preliminary hearing, Dea Millerberg testified to helping hide Rasmussen’s body after she died from an apparent overdose of meth and heroin injected by Eric Millerberg. She testified she witnessed the multiple injections that night.
“There are a lot of questions about how the death occurred,” Marshall told reporters after Tuesday’s hearing. “They (prosecutors) have several experts. We just want one.”
Marshall also said the case against his client “is not a slam-dunk case for the state. He’s anxious, when we’re prepared, to have his day in court.”
Marshall also called it ironic “that we have to get funding from the county, the same county that’s prosecuting” Millerberg.
The Weber County Attorney’s Office has a role in approving county authorizations for public defenders, such as Marshall’s request for an expert. To avoid any perceived conflict of interest, the office’s civil division, not criminal prosecutors, represents the county in court regarding such funding requests.
Marshall also has slighted the case as being dependent on Dea Millerberg, which he reiterated Tuesday to reporters, saying, “she has a motive to lie, to protect herself. We anticipate we will be able to rebut much of her testimony.”
Dea Millerberg testified with immunity at the April 9 hearing, but she is still charged for her part in hiding Rasmussen’s body.
She also has two pending drug-related cases, one for a charge of forging prescriptions for painkillers and the other for alleged child abuse for methamphetamine found in her infant child’s hair after follicle testing.
The official cause of death for Rasmussen was “undetermined,” according to testimony from a deputy state medical examiner on the autopsy of Rasmussen’s badly decomposed body.
But the high levels of meth found in the body allowed for the listing of a drug overdose as “highly plausible” as a cause of death.
Hadley set a July 10 deadline for Marshall to file his motion requesting expert witness fees, with oral arguments to be scheduled likely in September.
“We’re ready to set a trial date,” Deputy Weber County Attorney Teral Tree told the judge. “I want it on the record that we’re ready to go to trial today.”
“Well, we’re not,” Marshall said, “not until I have an expert and can anticipate what he’s going to give me.”
Rasmussen failed to return home Sept. 11 and was reported missing by her family. Her body was found Oct. 18 in a remote area of Morgan County.
Dea Millerberg’s next court appearance is set for December.
She is set for trial on the prescription drug case, with the charge related to Rasmussen’s death “trailing,” meaning it will be resolved after the drug trial.
Eric Millerberg was returned to the Utah State Prison, his fifth trip to Point of the Mountain, on a probation violation for a prior drug conviction before he was formally charged with Rasmussen’s death.