ABILENE, Texas (KTAB/KRBC) – The trial of a father and son who were accused of killing their neighbor during a fight in an Abilene alleyway over trash began January 24.
Both Johnnie Dee and Michael Miller were charged in connection with the murder of Aaron Howard, who was shot and killed in an alley on the 4300 block of Don Juan Street on September 1, 2018. The defense pleads not guilty and said the Millers acted out of self defense, while the state argues that Johnnie and Michael Miller are guilty and should be charged with murder.
KTAB/KRBC was present during day one of the trial: here’s a summary from January 24.
State opening statement:
On day one of the trial, the opening statement from the state said Justin Campbell, who lived with Howard, threw a box spring mattress in the dumpster five days before the incident.
Kara Box, girlfriend of Howard at the time, and Campbell heard Howard say to put the mattress back, to which Johnnie Miller took it out of the dumpster and pulled out his hand gun, according to the opening statement.
Miller then pointed the gun at Howard, who was in a car with family members. Howard told Johnnie Miller that he was pointing the gun towards his nieces and nephews and Box took out her phone to film the interaction.
According to the statement, Micheal Miller came out with a shotgun and Howard was furious, scared and unarmed.
Howard told the Millers “If you point that gun at me, I’ll kill you.” In response, Johnnie Miller edged on a fight by saying “I doubt it” and “Take your swing.”
From this point, the state said Johnnie Miller fired two shots and Howard leaned to the side and was shot in the forearm and then in the chest. Howard threw a bat towards Miller, then Johnnie shot two more times and Micheal Miller shot once, hitting him in the side of the head. After the additional two shots Howard fell to the ground
The state wrapped up the opening argument by saying that the Millers belief to use self defense was wrong.
Defense opening statement:
The defense said that Howard had a history of violence.
Sometime between May and September, the defense stated that Howard was yelling, cussing and threatened to kill code enforcement. After that, Box and Howard were fighting in the front lawn and people nearby came outside because the commotion was very loud.
In the summer of 2018, Howard and his brother fought in front yard, drawing blood, and assaulted his girlfriend and brother. On August 28, 2018, Howard was upset at a mailman in his yard and ran towards them
On the night of the incident, the defense said Johnnie Miler was taking out the trash when he saw a vehicle, trailer and a woman. He heard “Hey, he’s out here, come on” and became scared. He retrieved a firearm and went back outside to keep the box spring from being placed on his gate, which had happened in the past according to the defense.
Howard began to threaten him and Miller took the firearm out and pointed it down. Howard then threw items at the Millers. The defense argued that the Millers acted out of fear when they shot at Howard.
They hit him in the chest and forearm and defense said the shots did not stop Howard from moving towards them and stated that people “missed the whole three quarters of the video.” The defense ended the opening argument with a call to action to find the Millers not guilty.
Witness – APD Officer:
A patrol officer with the Abilene Police Department was brought to the stand as a witness. The officer said he was one of the first to arrive on scene and saw a young man pull a shotgun out. He said that the he saw that a part of the victims’ skull was missing.
The officer added that Johnnie Dee had a pistol in his possession and Michael Miller had a shotgun. The officer also took pictures, as something had been moved.
At the time the first officer arrived on scene, Howard was groaning and in pain.
Witness – Kara Box:
Kara Box, Howard’s girlfriend, shared some information about him and their relationship. She said they met in high school and became a couple in 2017, although they had dated before in 2013 for a couple of months.
Box said she had left a bad marriage and he helped her through it and although they would get into arguments, it was ‘normal couple stuff.’
Box recalled on September 1, 2018, that the mattress was on their property and Campbell went to throw it in the dumpster. They proceeded to go to the alleyway to throw trash away, where they saw Johnnie Miller. At this time, she said no one had any weapons.
Once Johnnie showed a firearm, she began to record the altercation on her phone. She said he was yelling a lot and she told him she was recording ‘just in case.’ Box said Howard was pacing and got in Milers face, but backed off.
Box explained that Howard was mad because he was protective of his family. She continued to film and got in-between the two and sobbed that she did not want anything bad to happen.
She recalled that she was in between the two when shots were fired, but did not remember what caused the first shots. Box explained that she was knocked off balance and her ears were ringing.
When Box regained consciousness, she saw Miller shoot again and screamed as Howard fell to the ground. She stated that the top of his head was missing and that Micheal Miller held a gun to Campbell’s head and Johnnie held one to hers.
Dr. Tasha Greeburg, a forensic pathologist, spoke on the forensics report. She found that Howard sustained a gunshot wound in the right forearm, another through the chest and left lung and a head wound.
She ruled that the lung and head wounds were fatal and he had an enlarged heart, clogged arteries, and reduced oxygen. Greeburg also stated that Howard had an underlying heart disease and the autopsy report showed that the cause of death was the gunshot wound to the chest.
Witness – Justin Campbell:
Campbell, a lifelong friend of Howard, shared that Howard could be aggressive and intimidating at times. On September 1, Campbell saw the mattress in their yard and when he went to throw it in the dumpster, Johnnie Miller came out and pointed a gun at the ground. He grabbed a baseball bat, to which Howard grabbed the larger end of the bat. After the first two shots, Howard threw the bat and Campbell does not recall Howard stepping towards the Millers.