Jury finds Milliner guilty of murder
by Chris Norwood

TALLADEGA — A Talladega County jury of seven women and five men spent just over half an hour deliberating Wednesday morning before finding Michael Milliner, 37, guilty of two counts of capital murder. Formal sentencing will be Jan. 23, 2013, at 9 a.m., but the only sentence available in this case will be life in prison without the possibility of parole.

Milliner was charged with killing his ex-wife, Shalanda Elaine Pope, early in the morning of Aug. 31, 2010. Pope died of a single gunshot wound to the head inside her car in the parking lot of Blue Bell Creameries, where she worked in Sylacauga.

Milliner and Pope married in 2000, but separated in November 2009, after Milliner allegedly dragged her into the street and pointed a shotgun at her. Several witnesses testified to overhearing Milliner making harassing phone calls and threatening to kill her. At least two law enforcement officers overheard those conversations, but Pope was always reluctant to press charges. She did, however, request a police escort on several occasions when she was going to work.

On the morning she died, Milliner met Pope at her car, across from her home, as she was getting ready to go to work at 4 a.m. Her two oldest sons tried to pursue them, but were not sure where they were going.

According to witness testimony and video surveillance of the Blue Bell parking lot, Pope’s red Mazda arrived at 4:21 a.m. At 4:22:07 according to the time stamp on the video tape, the shot that killed Pope was fired. She was holding her purse and had just opened the car door when the video shows the window next to her shattering. Some 18 seconds later, there is a second shot and Milliner can be seen rolling out of the passenger side of the vehicle. He had shot himself in the head and lost an eye in the process, but survived. Her sons arrived just over a minute later, and Sylacauga police were on the scene less than a minute after that.

Paramedics transported Milliner to the Sylacauga Board of Education Building, where he was airlifted to UAB Hospital. According to a physical therapist who testified Tuesday, Pope was in a mentally altered state for eight days, and did not speak during that period. On Sept. 8, 2010, when asked if he knew where he was and why he was there, he said, “I did it because I was just tired of a lot of things.”

The state’s only witness Wednesday was state medical examiner Stephen Boudreau, who testified that Pope’s gunshot wound was the cause of death.

Milliner opted not to testify on his own behalf, and defense attorney Jeff Salyer did not call any other witnesses.

Across the hall, another jury upheld the conviction of two Talladega women for resisting arrest from Talladega Municipal Court.

There will be no more jury trials this week, but Circuit Judge Bo Hollingsworth will be holding a bench trial for James Sims, who is charged with shooting into an occupied dwelling. Sims is not contesting the allegation, but says he is not guilty by reason of severe mental disease or defect.

Contact Chris Norwood at cnorwood@dailyhome.com

© 2012