After finding Kevin McMiller guilty of capital murder and other crimes, a Jefferson County jury took less than 30 minutes to decide that he should spend the rest of his life in prison.
The jury recommended that Judge Jodi Raines Dennis sentence McMiller, 22, to four consecutive terms of life in prison on charges of aggravated residential burglary, kidnapping and rape to go along with an automatic sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole on the charge of capital murder.
After denying a defense motion to take the jury recommendations under advisement until Friday, Dennis said she “accepted the verdict” and proceeded to sentence McMiller four separate times, one for each of the charges.
McMiller was convicted in the March 23, 2012, stabbing death of Shirley Owney, 39, and the kidnapping and rape of a then-16-year-old member of Owney’s family.
McMiller, who did not testify during the trial, spoke briefly after being sentenced, telling Dennis he “should have gotten the death penalty” and he “wouldn’t live two years in prison.”
He also said he shouldn’t have done what he did to Owney.
The now 17-year-old sexual assault victim told Chief Deputy Prosecutor Wayne Juneau during the penalty phase of the trial Thursday the incident “changed my life completely.
“I miss talking to her,” the girl said about Owney. “I miss having her around.”
She also talked about being forced out of the apartment after seeing Owney stabbed and taken to an abandoned house almost three blocks away where she was sexually assaulted repeatedly by McMiller.
“I think about that just about every day of my life,” she said, adding that she had been to counseling and it “helped a little bit. I still have nightmares.”
Donnie Ringo, who is a member of the girl’s family, said after the trial that he, like other family members, was “glad it was over.”
He also talked about the girl, and during testimony during the penalty phase, told the jury: “Her birthdays are not the same. She doesn’t want to celebrate them anymore. Bad memories of that fatal day bring unwanted memories.”
Owney was killed and the girl kidnapped and raped on the morning of her 16th birthday.
Ringo also said the girl tried to prevent the assault on Owney by “grabbing the knife he was stabbing Owney with and sustained severe cuts to her right hand.
“She underwent two surgeries that left her with approximately 50 percent use of her hand,” Ringo said. “While severely injured, she was taken out of her home, assaulted and lost a lot of blood.
“Holidays are not the same,” Ringo said. “Thanksgiving and Christmas are hard for her to celebrate … and as she gets older, it will only get tougher.”
Prosecuting Attorney S. Kyle Hunter said that because of the nature of the case, the prosecutors believed that McMiller deserved life in prison “and the jury did just that.”
Hunter also credited the work of police and first responders for quickly locating McMiller and the girl after the incident started, saying it possibly “may have saved another life (that of the girl).”
During his closing argument, Deputy Prosecutor Bryan Achorn said the girl “has forever been changed by the events of March 23, 2012,” when McMiller jumped through a glass window at the apartment on Poplar Street, stabbed Owney to death, then took the girl to the abandoned house where she was sexually assaulted.
“There was no hesitation, no conversation when he chased down Shirley Owney and the girl,” Achorn said. “He shut the door, locked it, then killed her brutally, in her own house, her own place of safety.
“Then, he put the knife to the throat of that 16-year-old child and walked her out of the apartment,”Achorn said. “There was no hesitation, no conversation. He broke into the apartment to kidnap and rape the girl and he had to kill Shirley Owney, which he did without hesitation. He did not care if she lived or died.”
A few minutes later, Achorn said, “There is no reason to believe the girl went voluntarily on that walk of terror.”
Also during the penalty phase of the trial Thursday, the state presented testimony and a video of an attack by McMiller on jail deputy Nehemiah Buffkin on July 3, 2013.
Buffkin testified that he was conducting shower call when McMiller, who had been held at the adult jail since being arrested on March 23, 2012, “said he was going to beat my ass.”
The video showed McMiller chasing Buffkin, knocking him to the floor and repeatedly punching him until other deputies arrived and pulled off McMiller.
The testimony and video prompted Juneau to say that the violent outburst, just over a year after Shirley Owney was stabbed to death, was “Kevin McMiller being Kevin McMiller.”
Because of McMiller’s violent outbursts, including the one at the jail mentioned during the penalty phase of the trial, McMiller was shackled to his chair and almost a dozen deputies were on hand during the trial, some in the courtroom and others inside and outside the doors.
Hunter said their presence went unnoticed by both the jury and spectators to the trial, which began Tuesday.
Following the testimony of Buffkin, Ringo and the girl — attorney Sandra Trotter Phillips, who with attorney John Cone from the Public Defender’s Office represented McMiller — asked the jury to sentence McMiller to 10 years in prison on the counts of aggravated residential burglary, rape and kidnapping, because he would receive an automatic sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole for the capital murder conviction.
“When this is over, Kevin McMiller will be the property of the Department of Corrections and he will die there,” Phillips said. “Life without is life without. Anything else is just words on paper. It is what it is.”
Juneau asked that the jury sentence McMiller to life in prison on each other counts, and 30 minutes later, the jury went along with Juneau’s request.
Thursday afternoon, Chief Deputy Sheriff and Jail Administrator Greg Bolin said the sheriff’s department will be contacting the Arkansas Department of Corrections about McMiller as soon as they get a copy of the judgment and commitment order from the court.
“We’re going to try and get him out of here as quickly as we possibly can,” Bolin said.
McMiller will have 30 days from the date that order is signed to file an appeal of his conviction and sentence with the Arkansas Supreme Court.
The jury appeared to be all white. It was made up of eight women and four men.