<i>Editor’s note: The main piece of this story was written before the jury returned its verdict on Wednesday, July 19. On Thursday, July 20, the jury recommended that Dana Moro be sentenced to 30 years in prison for murder and three years for credit card theft. Judge David T. Stitt will formally sentence Moro later this year.</i>
Deputy Commonwealth's Attorney Raymond F. Morrogh called murder victim Eric N. Miller a "brilliant lawyer," with "huge intellect" who was a "product of a wonderful family."
The 45-year-old married father of two boys was educated at Amherst College and Harvard Law School before becoming an attorney who had worked at the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, Morrogh said.
But Miller had a problem, and his addiction to cocaine and crack cocaine "led him to be with the wrong people" and to his murder in August 2005, the prosecutor said.
"Eric Miller's life ended on the floor of Room 16 of the Alexandria Motel [on Richmond Highway]," Morrogh said during opening arguments Monday in the trial against Dana E. Moro, 47.
And while Miller lay dead on the floor of the hotel room, his companions Kristin Kozak and Dana Moro smoked the crack cocaine Miller brought, Morrogh said.
Moro later used Miller's ATM debit card so he and Kozak could buy cleaning supplies to clean up blood in the hotel room and a sleeping bag to haul Miller's body away.
Moro testified Tuesday on his own behalf, but his testimony corroborated many details of the prosecutor’s version of events.
Moro and Kozak put Miller's body in the trunk of the Ford Taurus Miller had rented, and later took the car to 911 3rd St. in Southeast Washington. On Aug. 31, 2005, Moro doused Miller's body with gasoline and ignited the car while Kozak waited a block away, Morrogh said.
D.C. Metropolitan police found the Ford Taurus rental car on Aug. 31, 2005 while it was still ignited, and discovered Miller’s charred body in the trunk of the car.
Kozak threw a bag with Miller’s wallet, car keys and the lead pipe used to murder Miller into the Potomac River, where a dive team later discovered the murder weapon, Morrogh said.
<b>MORO KILLED MILLER</b> with a heavy metal pipe after an altercation in the 12-by-12-foot hotel room, according to the prosecutor’s opening statements.
Miller had been involved in a sexual relationship with Kozak, who also was involved with Moro. The three had been using crack cocaine together on a weeklong binge, according to testimony in prior court proceedings.
On Aug. 29, 2005, Miller brought cocaine with him to the hotel but didn’t want to share the crack with Moro.
Kozak grew frustrated with Miller, and Miller pushed Kozak to the floor. In the ensuing altercation, Moro hit Miller with a heavy metal pipe that Kozak kept with her for protection when she went into the city to buy drugs.
“It was quick, very quick,” Moro testified. “The whole thing couldn’t have took 15 seconds.”
Moro testified that he thought he hit Miller only hard enough to cause two big knots on his head.
<b>"THIS CASE IS NOT</b> as simple as the prosecutor would have you believe," said Moro’s defense attorney, public defender William Edwards. "This is a case that involved self defense."
During his opening statements Monday, Edwards told the jury that Miller had an extraordinary level of cocaine in his body at the time of his death, and might have died of an overdose.
"It is possible that Mr. Miller died of his own misconduct," Edwards said.
No positive medical evidence proves that Miller died of blunt force trauma or from the car burning, Edwards said Monday.
But even though the burning of Miller’s body made it more difficult to examine, the District of Columbia Medical Examiner ruled that Miller died as a result of blunt force trauma.
“Evidence of blood spatter was apparent throughout the [hotel] room which is consistent with the cause of death,” according to Fairfax County police documents.
Melvin Miller, Miller’s father, last saw his son on the morning of the murder at breakfast at the Table Talk Restaurant on Duke Street in Alexandria. Miller’s family is expected to testify during the sentencing phase of the trial if the jury finds Moro guilty.