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Brittany Miles convicted of murder, gets life in prison

BROOKSVILLE — The prosecutor repeated three words as he peppered Brittany Miles with questions about what happened the day she killed motorcyclist Henry McCain.

"Voluntarily" was one. "Free will" were the others.

"All these actions that you did, you did voluntarily, didn't you?" Assistant State Attorney Bill Catto asked the 23-year-old Spring Hill woman on Thursday, the fourth day of her murder trial in Hernando County Circuit Court.

"Yes," a tearful Miles replied.

"And if you had not done those things, Mr. McCain would be alive today, would he not?"

"Yes," she said. "He would."

Seven hours later, a jury convicted Miles of first-degree felony murder. The 12-member panel reached the verdict after deliberating for about 90 minutes.

Miles hung her head, leaned on the defense table and cried. A few minutes later, Circuit Judge Daniel B. Merritt Jr. levied the sentence required by law: life in prison with no chance of parole.

"It is indeed a sad day, and I have presided over no more unfortunate case," Merritt said. "There is one life gone and essentially another about to be so."

Miles was the only defense witness to take the stand and answer questions about May 10, 2011, the day she drove her Dodge Ram pickup through a busy intersection at the Pasco-Hernando line and slammed into McCain. The 66-year-old funeral director, on his way to meet friends in Hudson, was killed instantly.

Prosecutors in Hernando charged Miles with first-degree felony murder because the crash happened while she was escaping from a DUI arrest in Pasco County. Under Florida law, someone is guilty of that type of murder if a death occurs while the person is committing a felony such as escape.

Miles' attorneys, Aaron Delgado and Robert Rawlins III, argued that her escape ended in Pasco, so there was no legal basis for the first-degree charge. They told the jury she is guilty of third-degree murder, which carries a maximum 15-year prison term.

Miles testified Thursday that she became addicted to oxycodone after a doctor prescribed the drug for pain from a car accident. She took a job dancing at a Port Richey strip club called the Brass Flamingo to pay for her drug habit.

Miles woke up at someone else's house in Pasco the morning of the crash and left for a court hearing involving her young son.

"All I know is that if I wasn't (in court) that morning, they were going to take custody of my son from me," she said.

Pasco County sheriff's Deputy Ashley Grady stopped Miles on U.S. 19 in Hudson about 7:30 a.m. Miles quickly moved eight or nine Xanax pills from her purse to her underwear. She was taking the drug for anxiety, she said, but didn't have a prescription.

She failed sobriety tests and was arrested. Seated in the back of Grady's patrol car, she slipped her right hand out of one of the handcuffs, grabbed the Xanax pills and swallowed them. She said she was feeling the effects of the drugs when she reached her hand out the open rear window, lifted the door handle and ran back to her truck.

Miles said she remembers Grady jumping onto the truck and leaning into the open driver's-side window. She denied elbowing the deputy, causing her to hit the pavement, as Grady testified.

"I didn't know she was hurt," Miles said. "If I did, I would have stopped."

She said she remembers little about the ensuing 7-mile chase that reached speeds of 100 mph. But she said she won't forget maneuvering around a truck stopped at a red light at County Line Road and seeing McCain in the intersection.

"I slammed on my brakes," Miles said, her voice breaking, tears streaming down her red face. "I swerved. I tried to miss him, but I didn't."

Miles drove nearly a mile up the highway, then jumped out of the mangled truck and ran a short distance before a deputy tackled her.

For her actions in Pasco, Miles was sentenced last year to 15 years in prison after being convicted of battery on a law enforcement officer, escape, fleeing and eluding, and DUI. During those proceedings, Miles' relatives said she was a compassionate person and good mother before the pill addiction changed her.

On Thursday, Rawlins asked Miles if she wanted to say something to McCain's family. His widow, Anita, and daughter, Kellie, were seated in the gallery.

As Catto objected to the question, Miles uttered one sentence: "I just want to tell them I'm sorry."

Later, Merritt asked Miles questions submitted by jurors. One of the questions: You said you would have stopped if you knew Deputy Grady was hurt, so why didn't you stop after you hit the motorcycle?

Miles' face contorted, and she began to cry again.

"I didn't realize at the time how serious the accident was," she said. "I did run, and I don't know why."

As bailiffs handcuffed her, Miles looked over at her parents and mouthed the words: I love you. Edward and Debra Miles, who is a Hernando sheriff's deputy, declined to comment to reporters.

Anita McCain called the life sentence justice finally done.

"It's tough, I know," she said of the life term. "But a life was taken, and she had to pay."

Brittany Miles convicted of murder, gets life in prison 03/07/13 [Last modified: Thursday, March 7, 2013 10:49pm]
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