A Waco man who told police he was distracted while looking at his cellphone pleaded guilty Tuesday in the June 2016 traffic death of an unborn baby and to causing injuries to the child’s mother and her friend.
Jeff David Miller, 47, pleaded guilty to two counts of aggravated assault and one count of manslaughter. He pleaded guilty without a sentencing recommendation from prosecutors, leaving it to 19th State District Judge Ralph Strother to determine his punishment.
Strother ordered a background report on Miller, which he will consider before sentencing him in late March.
Police initially arrested Miller on two counts of intoxication manslaughter and two counts of intoxication assault because both women riding in his car were pregnant and both lost their unborn children. However, prosecutors agreed to drop one count of manslaughter during negotiations in the case.
Lab tests revealed that Miller had marijuana and methamphetamine in his system.
The two women, Marissa Morales, 22, and Sandra Castro, 33, were passengers in a 2015 Nissan Versa that Miller was driving south in the 900 block of North 38th Street when it left the road and hit a utility pole. Both were seriously injured.
“Mr. Miller always intended to take responsibility for his actions,” said defense attorney Robert Callahan. “He remains friends with the family of both of the women in the car, and is very sad that one of the women lost her baby in this accident. He has been nothing but remorseful from the beginning.
“However, the district attorney’s office was offering a much higher sentencing range on a charge of intoxication manslaughter and intoxication assault. It was simply a case where the evidence showed he was not intoxicated at the time of the crash. In fact, the amount of narcotics in his system was a therapeutic amount. We still have the punishment hearing to go, but we have pleaded open to the court and we know the court will be fair. We look forward to presenting our side of the case,” Callahan said.
Prosecutors initially offered Miller 40 years in prison in a plea agreement, Callahan said. With the new charges, Miller, who is seeking deferred adjudication probation, faces up to 20 years in prison on each count.
Prosecutors will oppose his request for deferred probation.