JOINT BASE LEWIS-MCCHORD, Wash. — Spc. Ivette Davila no longer faces the death penalty for killing two of her fellow Fort Lewis soldiers and kidnapping their baby.
Davila pleaded guilty Monday to two counts of premeditated murder and one count each of kidnapping and obstruction of justice on the opening day of her court-martial at Joint Base Lewis-McChord.
In exchange for Davila’s guilty plea, Army prosecutors agreed not to pursue the crimes as capital offenses, meaning she will receive a life sentence but will not face execution.
A charge of burglary was dropped.
Now it’s up to Col. Stephen Hanley, the military judge in the case, to decide whether Davila ever will be eligible for parole.
Davila has been in custody since March 2, 2008, the day she shot and killed Staff Sgt. Timothy Miller and Sgt. Randi Miller in their Parkland home.
Davila appeared at her court-martial wearing her dark green military dress uniform, her long black hair pulled tightly back into a neat bun.
At Hanley’s request, Davila calmly recited her version of the events on the night of the murders, admitting in a flat voice that she planned to kill the Millers at least five hours before she shot them.
She described shooting Randi Miller in the back of the head with her Glock pistol as she lay beside her in bed, where the three soldiers had been lying together earlier in the night.
She described in detail shooting Timothy Miller several times through a shower curtain as he showered, then attempting to cover up her crimes by burning the bodies with muriatic acid.
She admitting lying to a baby sitter so she could pick up the couple’s 7-month-old daughter, Kassidy.
“I never intended to hurt Kassidy,” Davila said, “but I had to get her or people would find out what happened.”
Davila took the baby to her barracks briefly, then, at the advice of another soldier, called the police to tell them what she had done.
According to court documents, military psychologists determined that Davila was “not unable to recognize wrongness,” and was ineligible for a defense by reason of insanity.
Davila said she had been drinking, but not to a point that she was unaware of what she was doing.
“Did you know what you were doing?” Col. Hanley asked Davila at one point in her testimony.
“Yes, sir,” Davila said.
“Did you know what you were doing was wrong?” he asked.
“Yes, sir,” she said.
The Army courtroom was so small, there was room only for about two dozen spectators. So many of the victims’ family members came for the proceedings that the Army set up a separate viewing room for them, where they could watch via closed circuit video.
After Col. Hanley officially declared Davila guilty, he began accepting testimony from the Millers’ family and friends, in preparation for his sentencing decision.
The five hours of testimony that followed was heart-wrenching evidence of the ripple effects murder can cause. Family members spoke of uncontrollable crying, suicide attempts and depression they’ve experienced since the deaths.
“It just killed the inside of me,” said Timothy Miller’s mother, Tamara Gray, struggling to make her voice come out. “I have a hole in my heart that will never go away.”
Gray and her husband have custody of Kassidy, who turns 3 Saturday. She said the child is now old enough to ask questions about her mother and father.
“We tell her that they’re in heaven,” Gray said.
Timothy Miller’s younger brother Daniel Gray said he looked up to Timothy as a hero and now is haunted by violent, unwanted images.
“A lot of times when I picture him now, I picture him with holes in his face,” he said.
Greg Taflinger, Timothy Miller’s half-brother, said, “Tim was the man. He was always there for all of us.”
“I wanted us to grow old together,” he said. “I wanted us to raise our kids together.
Images of the murders have made it difficult for him to take showers, Taflinger said, and to be in rooms with closed doors.
“Now I carry a gun with me everywhere I go,” he said.
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