Whether prosecutors can establish sufficient probable cause to proceed with attempted murder and other charges against Warren Miller — filed after he allegedly choked his estranged wife just feet away from where their preschool daughter slept — remains to be seen.
Miller’s preliminary hearing on Friday extended into time allotted for other cases and, with the defendant’s agreement, was paused mid-way through. The hearing is now set to resume Nov. 19.
Miller is charged with attempted first-degree murder, second-degree assault, obstructing a peace officer and non-injury child abuse, which he denies. Only his felony charges were eligible for the preliminary hearing on Friday, Oct. 22, when defense questions suggested Miller’s level of intoxication meant he lacked the intent necessary to prove the charge of attempted murder.
On Aug. 4, Miller’s landlord called police, reporting that he heard a woman screaming for help from the mobile home he rented to her and Miller in the 600 block of U.S. 50 in Delta.
Bradely Bardessona, now a Delta County Sheriff’s Office deputy, was a Delta Police Department officer when he responded to the scene Aug. 4. He testified Friday that a man he later learned was the landlord flagged him down upon his arrival; the landlord reported he’d seen through a back window a woman “being choked out.”
As Bardessona followed the property owner to the home, he saw and heard Officer Mark Bowen knocking on the door, announcing himself and telling the occupants to open up.
Body camera footage played in court Friday showed that, as well as recorded a man inside the home repeatedly shouting “(expletive) you.”
Bowen battered down the door with a long-handled sledgehammer the property owner handed to him, per his later testimony and footage from his own body camera.
“I tried three times to get the door open,” Bowen said.
Bardessona testified that he saw a man, whom he in court identified as Miller, on top of the woman. She was facedown by the coffee table and, the deputy said, he thought she was dead.
“There was zero movement. It looked like a dead body,” Bardessona testified. “Her face was as purple as the walls in the back of the courtroom,” he added, indicating the medium-plum carpeting on the walls. “There was no life.”
Bardessona said the woman had blood on her face, through her hair and on other parts of her body; one eye was protruding from its socket and there was prominent bruising along both sides of her tracheal tube.
Bowen also testified as to what he saw in the home: A man lying on top of a “lifeless” woman. Bowen yelled to “get off of her” and warned the man he would be tasered. In response, the suspect said “(expletive) you” and kicked him.
Bardessona deployed his Taser multiple times causing Miller to writhe and scream, per the body cam footage. Under questioning, Bardessona said he’d first fired probes into Miller, but one of them struck a wallet in Miller’s pocket and did not connect, so he drive-stunned Miller by putting the Taser prongs directly against his skin.
Miller is recorded repeating dozens of times what sounds like “you have them both,” apparently in response to officers telling him to show both his hands.
Bardessona testified, however, that Miller was not showing both hands and at first, kept hold of the woman’s leg, then flipped around to kick Bowen.
“It was a lot of resistance,” Bardessona said.
Bowen tended to the woman on the floor as other officers attempted to get Miller off her and restrain him.
Bowen testified he detected a faint pulse, but, he said: “She was not breathing at that time.”
After a few moments, she took a breath and began to cough. Bowen covered her with a blanket and kept reassuring her as they waited for an ambulance. She kept pointing to a door-less room about 5 feet away and repeating the name of a child. Bowen then went into the room and found a 3-year-old girl kneeling on her bed. He picked her up and took her outside, where the landlord’s wife took charge of her.
According to Bardessona’s testimony, once she was at the hospital, the woman told him she had filed for divorce and Miller was angry about that.
Miller attacked her as she walked from her bathtub and into the kitchen, striking her on top of the head, Bardessona said he was told. The woman fell as she braced for another blow and Miller, who fell on top of her, began choking her from the rear, the deputy further testified.
“She said, ‘I knew he was going to kill me,’” Bardessona said.
Because evidence rules are relaxed at preliminary hearings — which function as a means of weighing the probable cause supporting a charge — Bowen was allowed to give some hearsay testimony. He said the landlord’s wife reported that she heard Miller yelling earlier that day because a male friend of the woman had visited the residence.
Public defender Patrick Crane asked Bardessona how intoxicated he thought Miller was at the time of the incident. The officer said he hadn’t had time in the moment to assess that but that he later believed Miller had been extremely intoxicated.
Crane in responding to Assistant District Attorney Rob Zentner’s objection said that although intoxication is not an affirmative defense, intent is an element of the charge of attempted murder and all elements must be proved. An intoxicated individual might not be able to form the requisite intent.
Bardessona said he learned the hospital held Miller for observation because of how intoxicated he was. Miller, he said, did not admit to do anything and when he tried to speak with him, the defendant invoked his right to an attorney.
When the hearing resumes Nov. 19, Crane will be able to cross-examine Bowen. Zentner intends to call two more witnesses after that and the defense will also call witnesses.
Katharhynn Heidelberg is the Montrose Daily Press assistant editor and senior writer. Follow her on Twitter, @kathMDP.