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Riverton man gets 65 years to life in prison for killing son

Apr 20, 2017 - By Daniel Bendtsen, Staff Writer

Paul Miller has been sentenced to 65 years to life imprisonment for the August killing of his 3-month-old son.

During the Wednesday sentencing, prosecuting attorney Ember Oakley said even though Miller pleaded guilty to second-degree murder, he has failed to take responsibility for his actions.

Oakley and the mother of the deceased child, Tasha Croak, both argued for a life sentence.

"I believe that if he gets out, he will murder someone else," Croak said.

Their son, Hunter, had been born severely premature and weighed only about eight pounds at the time of his death.

He died from a skull fracture and blunt force trauma after Miller hit him in the head while trying to calm him.

Miller said the death was an accident.

"I don't know my own strength," he told Judge Norman Young while pleading guilty in January.

Oakley said the physical evidence showed the death was no accident.

She noted that Miller also admitted during a pre-sentence investigation that he had killed a dog in a similar manner in 2015.

"Bearing no remorse, learning nothing from that incident, he repeats the behavior a year later," she said.

"(He has) not once, but twice, killed another living being in anger."

Miller told detectives that he didn't know how to care for Hunter, though Croak said they both met repeatedly with doctors and nurses after the premature birth.

"He lied over and over when detectives interviewed him," she said. "There is nothing we didn't know before we left the hospital."

Before Miller was sentenced, Croak gave an emotional testimony detailing how Hunter's death has led to insomnia and nightmares.

"Any time I see an infant, it breaks my heart and I remember what I have lost," she said. "I will never hear (Hunter's) first word or feel his arms around me. I never knew how much I could love until the first time I heard him cry."

Miller's attorney, Valerie Schoneberger, argued for Young not to rely on Miller's "bizarre statements" about his manner of killing both the dog and Hunter, noting Miller's impaired verbal ability and low "intellectual functioning."

"He should not be punished more harshly for ... his inability to express remorse," she said.

Schoneberger said that although the dog's death was investigated, Miller was not charged with animal cruelty.

Miller was evaluated at the Wyoming State Hospital before his sentencing, and Schoneberger said he is "very childlike in his understanding of things."

She had asked for a sentence of 25-40 years imprisonment.
 

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