The Joint Base Lewis-McChord soldier accused of killing two married comrades, trying to burn their bodies with acid and kidnapping their baby could face the death penalty.
Spc. Ivette Davila, 24, faces two specifications of premeditated murder for the March 2, 2008, slayings of Staff Sgt. Timothy Miller and Sgt. Randi Miller in the couple’s Parkland home.
Davila also faces charges of burglary, kidnapping and obstruction of justice, Lewis-McChord announced Monday.
No trial date has been set.
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It will be the first capital case at Fort Lewis in recent memory, if ever.
The last time a local soldier faced capital punishment, Spc. Jamaal A. Lewis was charged with killing two people outside a Lakewood tavern on Labor Day 2005. But then-post commander Lt. Gen. James M. Dubik changed his mind about potential execution. In October 2006, Lewis was tried and sentenced to life in prison with the possibility of parole.
Capital punishment in the military remains rare; the last time a service member was executed was in 1961. Eight service members are on death row, according to the Death Penalty Information Center.
Davila is not a sure bet for death row, even if convicted. A guilty verdict would have to be unanimous, and at least one aggravating factor must exist and outweigh any extenuating circumstances. An example of an aggravating factor would be the defendant facing two specifications of the same capital-punishment-eligible crime, a base spokesman said.
If Davila is convicted of premeditated murder but spared the death penalty, she faces a minimum sentence of life in prison.
Brig. Gen. Jeff Mathis, the Lewis-McChord commander while I Corps is deployed to Iraq, decided late last week to pursue the death penalty. He made the ruling after reviewing the record from last year’s Article 32 hearing, the military equivalent of grand jury proceedings.
The base’s public affairs office said Monday that Mathis wasn’t available for an interview because he will be called upon to take future action in the case.
Davila served with the I Corps honor guard and hailed from Bakersfield, Calif.
Prosecutors said she created an alibi the night of March 1, 2008, by meeting friends at the Emerald Queen Casino in Tacoma. She left in a cab hours later, prosecutors said, then broke into the Millers’ home, planted a bag containing a pistol and met the couple at Club Silverstone in Tacoma.
She returned to Parkland with the Millers in the early-morning hours, prosecutors said. Later that morning, they said, she entered the couple’s bedroom, shot Randi Miller twice in the head and beat her to death.
Davila then went to the shower, where she shot Timothy Miller four times before walking closer and shooting him twice at point-blank range, prosecutors said.
She drove to a nearby home-improvement store, purchased acid and tried to burn both bodies in the bathtub, authorities said. They said she took the Millers’ daughter, Kassidy, and planned to drop her off at an orphanage. But first she brought the child to the barracks, where she told friends she was baby-sitting the child.
A fellow I Corps soldier testified he noticed that Davila seemed quiet. When he asked what was wrong, he testified that Davila said she “hurt people bad, that she was going to hell, that she was going to jail.”
The soldier said Davila admitted to shooting two people and taking their baby. He persuaded her to call police, and she was arrested that afternoon.
Pierce County prosecutors originally alleged Davila was driven to kill because she and Randi Miller shared a love interest in another unidentified soldier. But a motive was not detailed in the Article 32 hearing.
Pierce County authorities transferred jurisdiction to the military, and Davila remains locked up at Naval Base Kitsap-Bangor.
The defense didn’t dispute many of the facts presented at the Article 32 hearing in December, but called into question Davila’s mental capacity. The jailed soldier reported seeing flashes of light, hearing strange voices and believing people were walking on the roof of her cell.
Her lawyers also said Davila was denied the opportunity to travel to Fort Lewis to work on her defense.
Government attorneys, however, argued she’s a cold-blooded killer.
“She was an extraordinarily lethal assassin, who coldly, methodically and deliberately executed Staff Sgt. Miller and his wife, Sgt. Miller,” Capt. Grady Leupold said in closing arguments. “They so underestimated her that they never believed that they would end up bullet-ridden and submerged in muriatic acid in their bathtub.”
Scott Fontaine: 253-597-8646