Army charges Fort Lewis soldier in double homicide
Seattle Times staff reporters
The Army has filed premeditated murder charges today against a Fort Lewis soldier accused of killing a military couple and kidnapping their 6-month-old baby.
Spec. Ivette Gonzalez Davila is charged with two specifications of premeditated murder under the Uniform Code of Military Justice in connection with the fatal shooting of Staff Sgt. Timothy Miller and his wife Sgt. Randi Miller in the couple's Parkland home on Saturday.
She has also been charged with burglary, kidnapping and obstruction of justice, Army officials said.
Davila could face the death penalty if it is determined the case should be tried as a capital case, Army officials said. If not, and she is convicted as currently charged, Davila could face a mandatory life sentence, according to a spokesman with Fort Lewis.
Unlike civilian criminal courts, which require a unanimous verdict for a conviction, military juries require only two-thirds agreement for a conviction, according to experts in military justice. To impose the death penalty, which is rare but not unheard of in military trials, jurors still must have a unanimous decision, experts say.
Davila was transferred from the Pierce County Jail to military custody at the Trident Submarine Base at Bangor in Kitsap County on Wednesday after the Army agreed to prosecute the case.
Davila is being held at Bangor because the Army's stockade at Fort Lewis is being renovated.
Pierce County prosecutors had planned to charge Davila, 22, of Bakersfield, Calif., on Wednesday with two counts of aggravated murder in connection with the shootings of Randi and Timothy Miller on Saturday night in their Parkland home. Instead, Prosecutor Gerald Horne agreed to turn her over to military police at the Army's request.
Deputy Prosecutor Ed Murphy, who was handling the case for the county, said he believes the military will seek the harshest possible charges in the case. If not, Pierce County can still prosecute her for the slayings after the military wraps up its case, he said.
"I understand she will be charged with premeditated first-degree murder, which could result in the death penalty or life in prison without parole," Murphy said. "They have jurisdiction because she is active-duty military."
Authorities were led to Davila and arrested her on Sunday after she told a fellow soldier that she had killed the couple, according to court papers. Davila said she was angry with Randi Miller, 25, who she said had an affair with Davila's ex-boyfriend, court papers said.
Davila then dragged Randi Miller's body into the bathtub and poured muriatic acid on both bodies "to get rid of them," court documents say.
The baby was recovered unharmed at Fort Lewis on Sunday. She was turned over to relatives Tuesday night, according to the state Department of Social and Health Services.
According to military law, the "convening authority," normally a base commander, will decide whether the death penalty will be sought in a criminal case. According to the Fort Lewis media-relations office, Lt. Gen. Charles H. Jacoby Jr., base commander, is the convening authority.
The next major court appearance for Davila will likely be an Article 32 hearing, which is similar to a civilian grand jury, said Jeffrey Lustick, a civilian attorney who works as a judge advocate general for the Washington Air National Guard.
"It [an Article 32 hearing] is designed to be an impartial and informal investigative hearing," said Lustick, who is not involved in Davila's case. "Typically, the government will utilize police reports, photographs, even hearsay."
An investigative officer overseeing the Article 32 hearing will recommend whether a court-martial is warranted after hearing the testimony. That recommendation will be passed along to the convening authority.
"What you have to keep in mind in the military process is it is commander-driven," said Tom Krzyminski, a Spokane public defender who is the staff judge advocate for the 141st Air Refueling Wing for Guard Reserve.
If the case is deemed a capital crime, at least five service members would be selected for the jury, Lustick said.
Military defendants would have the option of having the panel made up of all officers or up to one-third of the jury made up of enlisted soldiers, Lustick said.
For the death penalty, jurors must have a unanimous decision, Lustick said.
Jennifer Sullivan: 206-464-8294 or firstname.lastname@example.org
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