The Daily Southerner, Tarboro, NC

Local News

June 30, 2009

Stepmom ‘never meant for any of this to happen’

Remorseful parents sentenced

More than one year after 13-year-old Tyler McMillan's death, Brice and Sandra McMillan were sentenced to prison Monday in Edgecombe County Superior Court.

The couple also spoke for themselves for the first time in court Monday, and had their attorneys and character witnesses speak about their lives before Tyler's death on June 12, 2008.

Tyler died as a result of hypothermia and dehydration, Senior Assistant District Attorney Steve Graham said. The autopsy and police reports said Tyler had insect bites, marks from being struck with a rod as well as flesh missing from his buttocks.

Sandra McMillan, 37, took an Alford plea to second-degree murder in Superior Court Monday, just as Tyler's father Brice, 42, did two weeks ago.

Sandra McMillan received the lengthiest sentence from Superior Court Judge Toby Fitch, between 14 and 17 years in prison with credit for the seven months she's already served. Brice McMillan was sentenced to between 10 and 14 years in jail, also with credit for the year he has served.

Before the sentencing, Brice McMillan said that he had "failed as a father" and asked those affected by Tyler's death to forgive him.

"This is a horrific tragedy,” he said, “something that should never happen to any child, and absolutely something we did not intend to happen."

Sandra McMillan apologized as well, adding that she still loves the deceased child.

"I never meant for any of this to happen," she said.

Graham said the couple could only be sentenced jail time based on their prior criminal record. The McMillans did not have a prior criminal record, he added, and so were not subject to the maximum sentence for their second-degree murder conviction, 40 years in jail.

"It was a difficult case for the state," Graham said in court, because of the district attorney's office's responsibility to prosecute the McMillans' case based on evidence, and not "public sentiment." Before taking their Alford pleas, where they both admit the state has enough evidence to convict them of a crime, the McMillans faced first-degree murder and felony child abuse charges.

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