OGDEN — Dawn Miera stood in front of a judge Tuesday and tried to explain how the loss of her 16-year-old daughter changed and affected her life and her family.
She said she cries over Alexis Rasmussen every day. She sometimes won't drop her other children off at school, fearing she might not see them again.
She has to tell her 7-year-old that no amount of wishing on shooting stars will bring Alexis back. She said the girl is at least relieved that her older sister can't be killed again.
"I will never be as happy as I was when she was more than just a memory," Miera said. "Something as small as her empty chair at the dinner table can send me spiraling into sadness. We had to create a new normal because, even though one of the most amazing people in the world is gone, time goes on."
She asked that the man responsible for her daughter's death, Eric Millerberg, be kept in prison where he can't hurt any one else. Second District Judge Scott Hadley complied, sentencing Millerberg, 38, to at least six years and up to life in prison — the maximum sentence available.
"This homicide it is not a typical one, if there is such a thing," Hadley said. "Intentionally injecting a young lady with dangerous drugs multiple times it's just beyond reckless."
The judge ordered Millerberg to spend five years to life in prison for child abuse homicide, a first-degree felony; one to 15 years for obstructing justice, a second-degree felony; and two terms of zero to five years for both unlawful sexual conduct with a 16- or 17-year-old and abuse or desecration of a human body, third-degree felonies.
The judge ordered the sentences to run consecutive to each other.
"(Alexis) was simply an immature victim that you took advantage of after you injected her with drugs," the judge told Millerberg. "Frankly, the conduct that bothers me the most was the conduct after, that things could have been done to make it less horrendous than it was, but they weren't."
Millerberg was convicted last month by a jury that took less than 90 minutes to declare his guilt.
Eric Millerberg said Tuesday he was sorry for the loss to Alexis' family and that he couldn't imagine what this has done to them. Still, he stopped short of taking complete responsibility for her death.
"I'm willing to shoulder the responsibility for the role I played and the things that I have done," he said. "There's no way it's all mine."
He is appealing the conviction.
The key testimony in the trial came from Millerberg's wife, Dea, who said it was Eric Millerberg who injected methamphetamine and heroin into the teenager's body. Alexis baby-sat for the couple, but her friend also testified that she and Alexis would go to them for drugs and alcohol.
The Millerbergs prepared drugs for the three of them, and they injected methamphetamine and heroin, smoked marijuana, drank alcohol and engaged in sexual activity the night Alexis died.
After Alexis took a bath at the Millerberg home, Dea Millerberg said the girl reported being really cold and shaking. Millerberg, a former nurse, didn't think much of the girl's symptoms at the time. But when Alexis became unresponsive later in the night, she tried to resuscitate her, but to no avail.
It was then that the Millerbergs "panicked" and decided to hide Alexis' body. The North Ogden girl was last seen the night of Sept. 10, 2011, when she was reportedly baby-sitting the couple's two young daughters. Eric Millerberg told both the girl's mother and a close friend that he didn't know where she was or what happened to her. Her body wasn't found until Oct. 18 in Morgan County.
Dea Millerberg is facing a charge of abuse or desecration of a human body, a third-degree felony, in Alexis' death. She has a hearing set for March 26.
Millerberg's attorney, Randall Marshall, argued that while the case is tragic, Alexis' death was not an intentional, premeditated murder. He said there was nothing to warrant the request for consecutive sentences.
"We have something that clearly was an accident," he told the judge. "No one intended for there to be a death — no one."
He said Millerberg struggled with drug and alcohol use and also questioned why his client was taking the bulk of the blame, when Dea Millerberg was also present the night the girl died and the decision was made to dispose of her body.
"The circumstances of this case are a bit suspect to begin with," Marshall said. "All the blame now rests on Mr. Millerberg for this death. He essentially is being saddled with all the burden, all the responsibility for Lexi's death as if he was the only one involved."
Prosecutor Christopher Shaw took issue with the contention that the death was an accident and only involved one victim. He pointed to Alexis' family and said he wasn't about to tell them there was only one victim in the case.
"Intentionally injecting heroin and methamphetamine into a young girl is not an accident," he argued. "This is no accident. This is child abuse homicide. That's clear in the record, it's clear in the facts. That's what happened here."
He said Millerberg has failed to take responsibility for his actions in the teen's death and pointed to his long criminal history, which includes several felonies and failed probation opportunities.
"It's clear he doesn't respect rules and never has," Shaw said. "This defendant has had every opportunity to clean up and he chose not to. He chose to provide those illicit drugs to a 16-year-old. It isn't by chance that Mr. Millerberg winds up here, it is by choice."
Weber County Attorney Dee Smith said he hopes the sentence sends the message to the Utah Board of Pardons and Parole that Millerberg is a dangerous person who should never be released from prison.
Alexis' mother, Dawn Miera, said the sentencing "went as best as it could go."
"It's good to finally have a little bit of closure, a little bit of justice for Alexis," she said.