Forensic evidence, witness testimony highlight Milliner murder trial
by Chris Norwood
TALLADEGA — Testimony in the capital murder trial of Michael Milliner continued Tuesday, with the state presenting some forensic evidence and witness testimony regarding threats that Milliner had made to the victim, his ex-wife Shalanda Pope.

Milliner and Pope married in 2000, but separated in November 2009 following an incident where Pope was allegedly dragged out into the street by Milliner, who then pointed a shotgun at her. He was gone by the time police arrived, but the shotgun was recovered. Milliner allegedly made several threatening phone calls before confronting Pope as she was getting into her car on the way to work at Blue Bell at around 4 a.m. Aug. 31, 2010.

Once arriving at Blue Bell, Milliner allegedly shot Pope once in the head, killing her. He then shot himself in the head, but did not die. The bullet destroyed one of his eyes.

Blue Bell surveillance video shows something shattering the driver’s side window of the car the two were in. A few seconds later, Milliner is seen falling out of the passenger side of the car and attempting to get back up. He does not appear to have lost consciousness before being taken from the scene by paramedics.

Timothy McSpadden, a firearms and toolmarks expert from the state forensics lab in Montgomery, testified that the two shell casings recovered inside the car where Pope was shot matched the gun recovered at the scene. He said he was not asked to make a determination on how far the gun would have been from the victim.

Pope’s oldest son testified that he went to close the door behind his mother as she was leaving to go to work on Aug. 31, 2010, then heard her scream. He reopened the door and saw Milliner grabbing her waist. When he asked if she was OK, she said she was and told him to go back inside as she and Milliner got into her car. The son woke up his younger brother and the two of them went looking for Pope. They called 911. They were unable to tell the dispatcher where to go, however.

In the meantime, Blue Bell employees had heard the shots and seen the results, with an employee calling 911 as she ran away from the scene. The brothers arrived at Blue Bell just ahead of the police.

Several witnesses, including the son, various co-workers and members of law enforcement all testified that Milliner had called Pope on various occasions after the separation and either threatened to kill her or threatened to kill her and then himself. For most of July and August, Pope was escorted to work by Sylacauga police officers or Talladega County Sheriff’s deputies.

Most of the rest of the testimony Tuesday involved chain of custody for the physical evidence recovered from the crime scene.

District Attorney Steve Giddens said he expected the state to rest its case after testimony from the state medical examiner this morning.

Circuit Judge Julian King told jury members they would probably be able to begin deliberating this afternoon or Thursday, depending on the defense’s case.

If convicted, Milliner would face life in prison without the possibility of parole.

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© 2012