Man charged federally for torturing, killing victim in 2008
Aug. 18, 2017
COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — A man accused of torturing his victim with a hot screwdriver before killing him in 2008 faces federal charges, a year after the South Carolina Supreme Court threw out his state conviction.
A federal grand jury on Thursday indicted 38-year-old Antonio Miller of Columbia on charges of kidnapping resulting in death, drug conspiracy resulting in death and using a gun in a drug trafficking crime causing death, said U.S. Attorney Beth Drake.
Each charge is punishable with a life sentence without parole. Prosecutors said at Miller's arraignment Thursday they will not pursue the death penalty.
His public defender did not immediately return a message seeking comment.
Prosecutors have said Miller and two other men broke into Fred Tucker's Aiken home on Sept. 15, 2008, and ransacked it in a search for drugs and money. The 39-year-old victim was bound with duct tape, pistol whipped, burned repeatedly with a screwdriver heated by the kitchen stove, then fatally shot in the chest. The three then rode away in a rented car driven by a fourth man.
Tucker's body was found bound and nude near the front door of his home. Investigators believe Tucker managed to inch his way there from the kitchen.
Before the crime, Miller and the others cased Tucker's home in the rented car that was overdue and being tracked by the rental company. The GPS device put the vehicle at Miller's home, where he and two others were arrested, prosecutors said in court in 2012.
Miller was convicted in 2012 and sentenced to two life sentences for murder and first-degree burglary. He also received a 30-year sentence for kidnapping. But the latter sentence was thrown out in 2014 by the state Court of Appeals, since state law doesn't allow sentencing for both murder and kidnapping.
In March 2016, the state's high court invalidated the search warrant for Miller's home, finding the affidavit used to gain access failed to establish probable cause that evidence of a crime could be found there. A judge had approved the warrant based on crack cocaine and a gun found in the rental, but justices ruled the affidavit failed to link Miller's home to the car parked by its back porch. Items confiscated from the home included a pair of tennis shoes and a gun with blood matching Tucker's DNA, according to court documents.
"It was an accurate decision based on the law," public defender Robert Dudek, who handled the appeal, told The Aiken Standard at the time. "All we can ask for is fairness, and we got it. We're gratified to the Supreme Court for reaching the right result in a tough case."
After the justices refused to revisit their decision, Miller was moved from a state prison to the Aiken County jail pending re-trial. In January, the U.S. Supreme Court denied to hear an appeal of the state court's ruling.
A detention hearing for Miller's possible transfer will be next Thursday in federal court.
The three others charged for the crime pleaded guilty in state court — one to murder and two to voluntary manslaughter.