Several women in the courtroom’s spectator gallery wept when they heard Thomas Miller’s intended plea.
The defendant, accused of shooting and killing his wife Natalie Miller, would plead not guilty by reason of mental illness, defense attorney Robert Oldham informed Natrona County District Court Judge Catherine Wilking.
Miller, 46, stared at the floor during most of Friday afternoon’s hearing.
About midnight on March 27, Casper police received several calls reporting shots fired around the 2500 block of DeSmet Drive. Officers arrived to find Natalie Miller shot to death on her next-door neighbor’s front doorstep.
A female witness told police that Natalie and Thomas had a disagreement about money just before the shooting. Thomas walked to a back room and retrieved his gun after Natalie tried to end the argument and go to bed, the witness said.
Natalie then ran out the front door and to the neighbor’s house, dialing 911 on a cordless phone as she fled, police say.
“Thomas Lee Miller apparently shot Natalie multiple times while she was attempting to gain assistance at the neighbor’s house,” the police affidavit states.
The witness said Thomas then walked back to his house, approaching her as she stood in the doorway.
“You’re next,” he reportedly told her. “You’d better start running.”
Police say the Millers’ two children, a 6-year-old and a 2-year-old, were in the house when the incidents occurred.
Later that day, Thomas Miller was charged with first-degree murder, aggravated assault and two counts of misdemeanor child endangerment.
At Miller’s preliminary hearing in April, Casper police detective Wes Gudahl said the defendant claimed he didn’t remember the alleged shooting.
In perhaps an indication of his impending defense strategy, Oldham asked Gudahl if he had ever heard of the term “event amnesia.” Gudahl said he hadn’t.
At his arraignment Friday, Miller only spoke to confirm that he understood the charges he faced. The state asked for a mental evaluation.
Prosecutors announced that they would not seek the death penalty in this case. In April, they filed a notice of intent to seek the sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole or commutation or life “based upon the circumstances surrounding the events of this matter,” the document reads.
District Attorney Michael Blonigen and Assistant District Attorney Dan Itzen weren’t available for comment Friday afternoon.
Itzen said in the court was procedurally required to set bond since Miller’s was no longer a capital case. Miller had been held without bond prior to the arraignment.
Itzen said Miller had a prior domestic violence charge out of Montana, and asked the court for a $2 million bond. Oldham said his client wouldn’t be getting out of custody anyway, and said he had no problem with that amount.
Judge Wilking set bond at $2 million and ordered a pre-trial conference be set.
Results from the mental evaluation could take as many as 60 to 90 days, according to Nancy Johnson, victim witness director at the Natrona County District Attorney’s Office.