State prosecutors will pursue death penalty for Everett Miller, sentencing in November

Now found guilty of the first-degree murders of two Kissimmee police officers, Everett Glenn Miller must wait until November before learning his fate.

Jurors found Miller guilty after only two hours of deliberation Wednesday. After the verdict was read, Ninth Circuit Court Judge Greg Tynan set the penalty hearing for Nov. 5.

Tynan told the jury that they were still bound by a court order to refrain from any news, conversation or research related to the case until they decided Miller’s punishment; prison or death.

Closing arguments were made Tuesday by Assistant State Attorney M. Ryan Williams and defense attorney Frank Bankowitz.

Williams argued that Miller killed Officer Mathew Baxter and Sgt. Richard “Sam” Howard to “make a statement.”

“Every time Everett Miller pulled back the hammer on that firearm, he was making a choice. Even before he pulled the trigger to end the lives of these two officers, he made a choice to kill them,” Williams said in his closing arguments.

He told the jury that Miller shot the officers in the head, then turned them over on their backs and shot them in the face.

“That was my argument in closing based upon the facts presented.  There was testimony (from several responding officers) that (Baxter and Howard) were found lying on their backs, hands by their sides, parallel to one another,” Williams said in an email to the News-Gazette.  

Kissimmee Police Lt. Christopher Succi testified that, based upon his experience as a major crimes investigator, he had never seen a body fall that way, Williams said.

During the trial, the prosecution showed a YouTube video of Miller shooting a .22 caliber revolver at a gun range. They said it was the same, small gun Miller used to “ambush” the officers.

“Miller puts the gun to Sgt. Howard’s head and he pulls the trigger. And Sgt. Howard falls without a scratch, without ever knowing what happened,” Williams told the jury.

After a quick struggle, Miller then pulls the trigger again and kills Baxter, he said.

Miller’s defense cannot file an appeal until after he is sentenced, according to prosecutors. It was unclear Thursday if Miller’s attorneys planned to do so.

Miller’s defense argued that the 47-year-old retired Marine’s actions did not constitute first-degree murder because the crime was not premeditated.

“Think about the series of facts in this case and how they developed. How everything was very, very quick,” Bankowitz said in his closing arguments. Everything happened within minutes, or even less.”

Jurors didn’t buy it.

Miller’s trial began in late August but was delayed by the threat of Hurricane Dorian, which closed schools and public offices around Labor Day.

The start of the trial coincided with the two-year anniversary of the murders of Baxter, 27, and Howard, 36, who were shot Friday, Aug. 18, 2017.

Howard, a 10-year veteran of Kissimmee Police Department, was the father of one. Baxter, a three-year veteran of KPD, was the father of three.

Miller shot the two officers about 9:30 p.m. after a brief encounter with them and several bystanders on Palmway and Cypress streets near downtown Kissimmee. Part of that encounter was caught briefly on film by a bystander.

Another video of Miller being arrested the month before the killings also was presented in court. He was detained and held involuntarily for psychiatric evaluation under Florida’s Baker Act law in July 2017.

Miller reportedly had been walking down Old Dixie Highway in only his boxer shorts carrying a rifle. The Baker Act law is used by doctors, police and certain other professionals to involuntarily commit people who are considered to be a danger to themselves or to others.

The film was shot by Miller’s sister, Shavon Sutton, the only witness called by the defense.

Sutton said in court that her brother was caring, attentive to his family and fun. She said that changed after he retired from the military in 2010, lost his job, ended a relationship and became homeless.  

She said her brother often sent her children gifts and “whatever we needed...He looked out for us. He looked out for the family.”