Guilty plea entered in 1999 church killings

Published: Jun. 6, 2008 at 5:32 PM CDT|Updated: Jun. 11, 2008 at 4:11 PM CDT
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Shon Miller
Shon Miller

By Caroline Moses

GONZALES, LA (WAFB) - Shon Miller, Sr. pleaded guilty Friday to four counts of first-degree murder for killing his wife, his two-year-old son, his mother-in-law, and a teenager. Miller had earlier pleaded not guilty and was sentenced to death, but the case was overturned, citing insanity as the reason.

Miller, Sr. pleaded guilty in exchange for a life sentence. His victim's family members agreed to give him four life sentence charges instead of the death penalty because they say he is already dying. Miller's doctor says he has, at best, three to five years left to live.

Miller was shot and paralyzed in a stand-off with police at the murder scene. His doctor says his health is getting worse and worse because he has refused proper treatment. His pelvis is splintering, he has infected ulcers, and his skin is rotting.

Valerie Vessel Smith lost three of her family members the day of the shootings. Her mother, Mildred Vessel; her sister, Carla Miller; and her two-year-old nephew, Shon Miller, Jr. were all killed. She says she forgives Shon Miller, Sr. for killing them, but she is relieved he has now pleaded guilty to the crimes.

Smith's father, Roosevelt Vessel, Sr. says he can forgive Miller, too, but he says he will never understand how Miller could do something so brutal to his wife, his daughter, and his own grandson.

"Why did he kill that two-year-old? Why did he kill his own flesh and blood? Carla was his wife. My wife, his mother-in-law. But that baby was a spitting image of him, if you look close."

Miller, Sr.'s plea is final and cannot be appealed. The vessel family says it's some comfort to know he is suffering and will die a guilty man. They say he will have to answer to God in the end.