The 29-year-old man charged with killing his sister's boyfriend at the couple's Alexander Valley house was a childhood friend of the victim who had recently returned to Sonoma County after several years in Las Vegas, family members said Thursday.

Jarrod Joseph Miller, who grew up in Rio Nido, had moved in with his sister and Timothy Neuer, also 29, when he arrived back in town about four months ago, said men who identified themselves as Miller's stepbrothers but who declined to give their names.

They said Miller had no known occupation and was unemployed. "They were trying to put a roof over his head," one of the men said.

"I just want it to be clear — we're here to support Mandy and Tim. Not Jarrod," said another.

Sheriff's investigators said that the two old friends had a falling out and Jarrod Miller moved to Cloverdale. Late Tuesday, following an argument at Neuer's Alexander Valley Road house, Miller pulled a pistol and shot Neuer, deputies said.

Miller was arrested in Windsor a short time later and remains in custody. He appeared in court Thursday afternoon to face a first-degree murder charge that carries a potential 50-year-to-life sentence.

Miller, with a buzz hair cut and short beard, didn't look at family members gathered in the audience and spoke only briefly when Judge Knoel Owen asked if he needed a lawyer.

"Um, I guess I'm going to have to accept an appointed one," Miller said before consulting with attorney Lynn Stark Slater from the Public Defender's office.

Owen postponed entry of a plea until Thursday morning. Miller was denied bail.

Outside court, Miller's step-brothers and step-mother talked to prosecutor Scott Jamar. A step-brother said he was unsure what Miller had been doing in Las Vegas or why he moved back. A family member who declined to give his name said Neuer and Mandy Miller had been dating at least four years.

"Tim was a good man. A kind man. A generous man," the step-mother said.

Jamar declined to discuss the case in detail because of the pending investigation. He would not comment on a motive for the killing or say if the 1,500 marijuana plants found at Neuer's house were connected to the slaying.

He identified the weapon as a .380-caliber semi-automatic pistol. He would not describe Neuer's wounds, but Miller's stepbrothers said Neuer had been shot "three or four times."

"It's all still under investigation," Jamar said outside court.

District Attorney Jill Ravitch, who appeared briefly, said she would handle the case with Jamar.