Sonoma County District Attorney Jill Ravitch returned to the courtroom Friday to tell a jury that a man accused of killing his sister's boyfriend had methodically planned the victim's execution.
Jarrod Miller, 30, faces two 25-years-to-life prison sentences if convicted of first-degree murder and firearm enhancements in the March 8, 2011, shooting death of Timothy Neuer, 29.
Taking her first case since she was elected the county's chief prosecutor in 2010, Ravitch opened the trial by playing a 911 tape in which the defendant's younger sister, Amanda Miller, frantically reports her brother coming into her house and killing her boyfriend before driving away.
A friend who witnessed the shooting, Ross Parent, can be heard sobbing in the background as Mandy Miller, crying and her voice occasionally rising in grief, briefly explains that Neuer is dead and her brother is driving away from her Alexander Valley Road home.
"My brother came in and shot my boyfriend," she said frantically. "He's dead."
Ravitch, who pledged to personally prosecute cases during her campaign and is trying the case with Deputy District Attorney Scott Jamar, told the jury of eight women and four men that evidence presented over the next several weeks would show that Neuer "was a marked man" that March night.
"This was a planned execution," she said, detailing Miller's rental of a car in San Francisco three days before the shooting, his trip to a store in Verdi, Nev., where he purchased a .380-caliber semiautomatic pistol and ammunition, returning the rental car the next day.
She said Mandy Miller, though about four years younger, had repeatedly helped her older sibling emotionally and financially, even allowing him to live with her and Neuer for several months. But tensions had begun to rise as the weeks dragged on and there were no signs Jarrod Miller intended to pitch in or find his own place. They ultimately persuaded him to move into a Cloverdale home that they had lived and still rented.
But the night of March 8, Ravitch said, Neuer became fed up with Jarrod Miller's dependency. Neuer and his girlfriend went to the Cloverdale house, and scolded Miller for being a mooch, wanting him out of the Cloverdale home, as well, Ravitch said.
An hour or so later, Miller arrived at the Alexander Valley Road house and asked to see Neuer, who was in the bathroom getting his head shaved. Neuer, still angry, said whatever Miller had to say could be heard in the bathroom, but Miller said he wanted to wait until Neuer came out and sat down, attorneys said.
When Neuer came out, demanding that Miller leave, he stood up from the couch, pointed the pistol and fired two times even as his sister grabbed him to try to stop the gunfire. Miller then stepped forward and fired a third round into Neuer's head, Ravitch said.
Miller's defense attorney, Joe Bisbiglia, told jurors during his opening statement that the case was one "of illness, not one of evil," a tragic story that began years earlier with psychological problems that started to emerge when his client was a teen.
He said Miller was a paranoid schizophrenic who, because of his illness, could become volatile and impulsive under stress, He said Miller had tried repeatedly to get his life in order, only to face disappointment, first in the U.S. Marine Corps, then at a design school in Nevada and at one point was homeless.