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Prosecutor: Man injected drugs into Utah teen who died of overdose

Published February 12, 2014 9:56 pm

Eric Millerberg is charged in teen's death.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2014, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Ogden • When Dea Millerberg picked up 16-year-old Alexis Rasmussen from her North Ogden home on Sept. 10, 2011, she had every intention for the teen to baby-sit her young children.

She was going to go shopping with her husband, Eric Millerberg, to pick out a birthday gift for their daughter.

But Dea Millerberg testified that plans suddenly changed when Eric Millerberg asked a question: Want to get high?

"We said yes," Dea Millerberg said.

So instead of a baby-sitting, Alexis went into the couple's bedroom, where Eric Millerberg prepared three syringes of heroin — one for each of them, Dea Millerberg testified. The wife shot herself up in the bathroom, while Eric Millerberg injected Alexis, then himself.

It was the beginning of a drug-fueled night that would end with Alexis fatally overdosing, and the couple, in a panic, dumping the teen's body in a remote area in Morgan County.

Dea Millerberg's account came on the first day of testimony in a child-homicide trial for her husband. The 38-year-old man is charged in 2nd District Court with first-degree felony child-abuse homicide, along with felony counts of obstructing justice, desecrating a body and having unlawful sexual activity with a minor.

As the night progressed, Dea Millerberg and Alexis drove to a pharmacy in Layton to have a prescription filled. When they returned home, it was nearing midnight.

Eric Millerberg was at the home, and he had methamphetamine.

Again in the couple's bathroom, Eric Millerberg prepared three syringes. Dea Millerberg testified that she injected herself, then watched her husband inject the drug into the teenager's neck before injecting himself with the drug.

The three then began trying to have sex, the woman testified, but they were all too high.

"It wasn't really happening," Dea Millerberg said, adding that they then decided to do another shot of meth.

Shortly after her husband injected Alexis for the third time that night, Dea Millerberg testified that the teen began to complain of being cold and shaky. She suggested Alexis take a bath, she said.

"I went in to check on her and she was very disoriented," Dea Millerberg testified. "She kept on saying, 'Just leave me alone. I'm fine.' "

The Millerbergs helped her out of the tub and into the couple's bed, Dea Millerberg testified. They then left her alone and went outside to smoke.

When they came back, the girl wasn't moving or breathing.

"She didn't look right," Dea Millerberg said through tears. "We moved her to the floor and started checking for breathing and a pulse. And she didn't have one."

Dea Millerberg was, at the time, a licensed nurse, and began performing CPR. But Alexis never responded.

In a panic, the Millerbergs weighed their options, Dea said.

"We did discuss [calling 911,]" she said. "He [Eric] said, 'We'll go to jail. We'll lose our kids.' "

So they decided to hide the body.

Dea Millerberg dressed the girl, and the couple put her body in a "footlocker" in the trunk of their car. By then, their two children were awake. The couple put their baby in the car and left their 6-year-old at home.

Dea Millerberg said they drove all over Weber County, ultimately deciding on an area in Weber Canyon near the Taggart exit. "We moved her back behind the trees and covered her with a blanket," she testified.

Alexis' body was found 38 days later — her legs folded against her in a fetal position, her lower half stuffed into a garbage bag.

Meanwhile, Alexis' mother, Dawn Miera, was trying to find the girl.

Miera testified that she when she went to the Millerbergs' home on Sept. 11, 2011, they claimed that sometime after 10 p.m., the girl had told them she was leaving to meet a friend at a nearby elementary school.

Eric Millerberg later told the same story to North Ogden police after Miera filed a missing-persons report.

"He got somewhat defensive," North Ogden Police Officer Brandon Dives testified about his interview with Eric Millerberg. "He advised me that he was not Alexis' father, she was a 16-year-old girl and she can do what she wants."

Deputy Weber County Attorney Christopher Shaw said in his opening statement that police searched high and low for Alexis, and fliers were posted all over Weber County. But no one knew where Alexis was.

"No one had a clue where she was, except all points lead back to him," Shaw said Wednesday, pointing to Eric Millerberg.

Police got a break when an informant told police that Millerberg had called him saying, "I gotta get rid of something," according to Shaw. That person refused to help, but knew Millerberg also had asked about another man they knew, Eric "Peanut" Smith.

Shaw said Smith did agree to help Millerberg, and on Sept. 12, 2011, they moved the girl's body about 20 yards farther from the road.

Smith eventually led police to Alexis' badly decomposed body.

Defense attorney Randall Marshall asked the jury to look carefully at the evidence.

"It's a terrible, terrible tragedy," Marshall said of Alexis' death. "…The fact that she is dead does not make Eric Millerberg guilty of anything."

Marshall told the jury that much of the case against Eric Millerberg relies on his wife.

"No one has more motivation to lie than Dea Millerberg," Marshall told jurors.

Dea Millerberg, 40, is charged with desecration of a human body related to the girl's death. A trial for her is scheduled in April. She was granted "use immunity" for her testimony Wednesday, meaning it can't be used against her.

Testimony is expected to resume on Thursday.

jmiller@sltrib.com

Twitter: @jm_miller