OGDEN -- It didn't take long for the tears to begin when opening statements commenced Wednesday in the trial of Eric Millerberg, more than three years after he allegedly killed family baby sitter Alexis Rasmussen by drug injection and hid her body.
Several family members wept quietly on the front row at Ogden's 2nd District Court as prosecutor Chris Shaw detailed the graphic nature of the allegations against Millerberg and the deteriorated condition in which police found Rasmussen's body 38 days after she was reported missing.
"There (were) fly larvae present, no internal organs really salvageable," Shaw said, saying the body was partially hidden by shrubbery and half-concealed "in a common garbage bag."
Rasmussen's mother, Dawn Miera, testified at length about realizing her daughter had gone missing in September 2011.
"I thought she (Rasmussen) was there with the kids by herself," Miera said, speaking of the evening of Sept. 11. "I thought it was really weird that they (the Millerbergs) had been gone that long and had a young baby. ... I kept calling and asking her, are they home yet, are they home yet, are they home yet."
She said she was uneasy with her daughter's agreement with the Millerbergs in the first place.
"I wasn't happy about her baby-sitting to be honest with you," Miera said.
But because Miera was worried her daughter wouldn't be safe walking home so late, she said it would be fine for her to stay over. That was the last communication she had with her daughter.
Prosecutors claim Millerberg injected Rasmussen twice with methamphetamine that night and engaged in oral sex with her. They say he also attempted intercourse, but experienced erectile dysfunction because of the drugs in his system. He is charged with first-degree child abuse homicide, unlawful sexual conduct with a minor, desecration of a corpse and obstruction of justice.
Shaw described a detailed timeline in Rasmussen's death for the jury, saying it began with a text message from Dea Millerberg on Sept. 10. asking Rasmussen to baby-sit that evening.
"The idea, at least ostensibly, was that she (Rasmussen) would baby-sit," Shaw said. "But that's not what happened. This defendant prepared three syringes of heroin .. one for him, one for Dea Millerberg and one for Alexis Rasmussen."
Instead of leaving Rasmussen to baby-sit, Shaw said, the couple stayed home and had three-way sex with the teenager and gave her drugs. Rasmussen overdosed severely on heroine and methamphetamine and died late that night or early that morning, according to the prosecution's case.
On Sept. 12, Millerberg enlisted help in moving the body to a more secluded spot, the prosecution charged.
Shaw said to the jury that one of Eric Millerberg's accomplices in moving the body and another man whose help he tried to enlist both incriminated Millerberg. The former, Eric "Peanut" Smith, later led police to the body site, Shaw said.
An inmate of Millerberg's also gave police incriminating information, according to prosecution.
But the most vital witness was Dea Millerberg, who agreed to testify against her husband. Dee Millerberg testified Wednesday, knowing her statements couldn't be used in her own obstruction-of-justice and body-desecration trial cases.
Dea Millerberg said she personally saw her husband inject Rasmussen in the neck. After the teenager had been injected a second time, she began to feel "shaky," Dea Millerberg said. Dea Millerberg told prosecutors she started to worry after Rasmussen got in the bathtub to feel better.
"I kept telling Eric, 'I don't think she's OK, something's wrong,' " she said. "He said I was paranoid. He said, 'She's really high, just leave her alone. You're causing her to be this way.' "
The husband and wife went to the upstairs deck to smoke cigarettes. When they returned downstairs, Dea Millerberg said, Rasmussen looked unresponsive.
"We kept checking for breathing and a pulse," she said through thick tears. "She didn't have one -- she didn't have one."
Dea Millerberg is a former nurse who lost her job in May 2011. She tried chest compressions, but was unable to revive Rasmussen.
She told prosecutors her husband decided against calling 911 or seeking help.
"He said, 'We'll go to jail, we'll lose our kids,' " she said. "He said I'd go to jail. He said, 'They'll give you the death penalty.' "
The couple drove around several country roads in the very early morning hours, looking for a place "to hide a body where she wouldn't be found," according to Dea Millerberg's testimony. The body was found later in a remote area of Morgan County near Taggart.
Dea Millerberg said their baby was in the vehicle during the drive and that they left their 6-year-old daughter at home.
Eric Millerberg's public defender questioned Millerberg's legal motivations for testifying against her husband and also questioned her memory of events due to her history of drug abuse.
"It's hard to remember that much stuff that far in the past isn't it?" Marshall asked her.
Shaw said the fact that Millerberg didn't seek help for Rasmussen when she became weak and the way Rasmussen's body was found indicated Millerberg's brutal disregard for the teenager.
"He didn't call 911, he didn't call police, he didn't say 'Dea, let's take her to the hospital,' " Shaw said. "What he did do was self-preserve" by hiding the body.
An autopsy revealed Rasmussen's body contained 175 times the safe level of methamphetamine, Shaw said.
Marshall gave an opening statement of only a few minutes. He implored the jury to uphold a high standard of conviction and favor facts over emotions.
"We're not called here to be a lynch mob (or to say) 'Well, she's dead, somebody's got to pay,' " Marshall said. "Your job is to listen to the evidence carefully and decide what to believe and what not to believe."
Witness testimonies resume Thursday at 9 a.m. in Ogden's 2nd District Court.
Contact reporter Ben Lockhart at 801-625-4221 or email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter at @SE_Lockhart.