Death penalty attorneys appointed for murder defendant

By Joe Beck

Nicole Dawn Miller will be represented by two attorneys from Harrisonburg as she faces a charge of first degree murder involving the death of a child from injuries reported at her Woodstock apartment in early June.

The court-appointed lawyers, John Holloran and William Eldridge, appeared on behalf of Miller for the first time at a hearing Wednesday in Shenandoah County Circuit Court.

“I appreciate your willingness to take this case,” Judge Dennis L. Hupp told Holloran and Eldridge after announcing the appointment.

State law requires defendants facing a possible death penalty sentence to be represented by lawyers certified for practice in that area of the law.

Authorities have accused Miller of killing a 20-month-old child identified in court documents as the son of her fiancé, Jeremy Alexander Vermillion. Vermillion, who was not home at the time police believe Miller injured his son on June 3, has been charged with felony child endangerment.

Miller appeared relaxed and was animated as she spoke with two other female jail inmates seated in an area of the courtroom reserved for prisoners while they waited for the judge to appear and call their cases. Miller also looked out frequently toward spectators in the courtroom.

Eldridge met with her in a jury room to introduce himself and begin discussing the case after the hearing was completed. Her next court date is scheduled for 3 p.m. on Sept. 18.

Miller, 25, has been in jail since June 3 when she was initially charged with child abuse and child endangerment.

Police called to her apartment at 135 Valley Vista Drive reported finding a 20-month-old boy not breathing and bruises covering his face and body.

The child’s breathing was restored on the way to Shenandoah Memorial Hospital, but he died two days later at the University of Virginia Medical Center in Charlottesville.

A doctor at Shenandoah Memorial Hospital told police that the boy’s injuries appeared to be caused by abuse and were not self-inflicted. Miller had insisted to police that she believed the boy’s injuries came from falling off a bed or from contact with another child.

Contact staff writer Joe Beck at 540-465-5137 ext. 142, or jbeck@nvdaily.com