Murder trial begins for man suspected of killing his ex-wife
by Chris Norwood
A Talladega County jury of nine women and five men was selected Monday to try Michael Milliner, 37, for the capital murder of his ex-wife, Shalanda Pope in 2010. If convicted, Milliner would face life in prison without the possibility of parole. The death penalty does not apply in this case.

Assistant District Attorney Christina Kilgore told the jury that Milliner and Pope had gotten married in 2000, about the same time that Pope began working at Blue Bell Creamery in Sylacauga. They separated in late 2009.

Kilgore said that Milliner had threatened to kill Pope on several occasions. On Aug. 31, 2010, Pope was getting ready to go to work when her oldest son heard her scream. He said he saw Milliner get in the car with his mother before she sped off. He went into the house and woke up his brother and decided to go look for them. The older brother called 911, but said he didn’t know where to tell the dispatcher to send the officer.

Video footage from three of Blue Bell’s 16 exterior cameras showed Pope’s red Mazda arriving in an employee parking lot about 4:20 a.m. After the car stops (it was not in a proper parking space), footage from one of the cameras shows something inside the car flying through the driver’s side window. Some 18 seconds later, Milliner fell out of the passenger side of the car.

The tape goes on to show Pope’s body being discovered by an employee and police arriving on the scene a few minutes later. Although Milliner had shot himself in the head, the bullet passed through his sinus and exploded one of his eyes, but did not kill him.

There was no audio on the surveillance tape, and Blue Bell safety director Mindy Greer, who vouched for the authenticity of the video she had provided to Sylacauga Police, admitted that it was impossible to tell who had fired the gun when cross examined by defense attorney Jeff Salyer.

Pope was shot one time, just above her right ear. The bullet passed all the way through her brain, came out the other side of her head and through the driver’s side window of her red Mazda.

“Murder is the ultimate form of control,” Kilgore told the jury during her opening statement. “He controlled her by taking her life, by taking everything from her.”

She went on to paint a picture of Pope’s “red Mazda in the Blue Bell parking lot. It’s raining, the windshield wipers are swishing and you can see into the car when they do. Shalanda is slumped over in the driver’s seat, the keys in the ignition, the engine still running. There is brain matter in the car.”

In addition to Greer, Talladega County E911 director Victor Kennedy also testified Monday, as to the authenticity of the 911 calls from a Blue Bell employee and Pope’s oldest son.

Testimony is set to resume today in the courtroom of Talladega County Circuit Judge Julian King.

Across the hall, another jury was selected to hear an appeal from Talladega Municipal Court, where two women were convicted of resisting arrest after a series of brawls broke out at a child’s funeral.

© 2012