By Alex Bridges
A Woodstock woman stands charged with capital murder in the June 5 death of a toddler.
A grand jury indicted Nicole Dawn Miller in Shenandoah County Circuit Court on Wednesday on one count of capital murder involving a child younger than 14 years old. The indictment states that Miller "did willfully, deliberately and with premeditation kill T.V.," a 20-month old child on June 5.
The maximum penalty in Virginia for a conviction of the Class 1 felony is the death penalty.
Authorities accuse Miller in court documents of abusing and endangering the life of the toddler -- the son of her fiancé, Jeremy Alexander Vermillion -- on June 3. The child, identified in the documents as 18 months old, died two days later at the University of Virginia Medical Center.
Miller, 25, of 135 Valley Vista Drive, who appeared in court before Judge Dennis L. Hupp, remains held without bond in Shenandoah County Jail on previously filed felony charges of abuse and endangerment of the toddler. Attorney William B. Allen III represents Miller on the charges filed in Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court.
Hupp asked Miller about her financial situation and determined she qualifies for court-appointed legal counsel. Virginia code requires the court to appoint two attorneys to any defendant charged with a capital offense, Hupp explained to Miller.
Hupp told Miller he contacted the Virginia Indigent Defense Commission earlier in the day to find her an attorney certified to represent defendants in capital cases. Hupp said the attorney he reached declined to take Miller's case because of a heavy workload.
Hupp continued Miller's case to Wednesday and said he would try to find an attorney to appoint to represent her.
Miller is scheduled to appear in the lower court Aug. 8. She is charged with the abuse of a child resulting in serious injuries and willfully or negligently causing the life of the child to be endangerment. The charges are classified as Class 4 and 6 felonies respectively.
Woodstock police responded to Miller's apartment for a report of an unresponsive 18-month-old male, according to a criminal complaint filed in the lower court with related arrest warrants.
"The child had numerous bruises on his face and body that appeared suspicious," the complaint states.
Officers found the child not breathing and rescue workers took to toddler to Shenandoah Memorial Hospital. At some point along the way the child began to breathe. At the hospital a doctor "observed the bruises and suspected child abuse," the complaint states. The doctor also refuted Miller's claim to officers that the child caused the bruising to himself and said that a child around the same age would not have been able to inflict the bruising either.
The doctor told the police officer who filed the complaint that the child "suffered extreme head trauma and internal injury to the pelvic region," the document states. The child also appeared to have new and old bruising to the entire face and to both arms to both arms that "resembled straps across the arms."
The complaint states that Miller advised officers on the scene that she was engaged to the child's father, Vermillion, who was at work during the time of the incident. Miller told officers she was at the residence caring for the toddler and her two biological children. The identities of all juveniles are redacted in the complaint provided to the Daily.
Miller claimed to officers that her son and the toddler were playing in their bedroom on a small bed when she left the room to make a bottle for her infant child. Miller told officers that about 20 minutes later she heard a thump and then a scream. She returned to the children's bedroom to find the toddler lying on his back, breathing, with his eyes partially open. Miller then called 911.
Miller told officers she suspected that the toddler fell off the bed or that her son pushed him, the complaint states. The officer noted that the bed is approximately six inches off the ground. The complaint states that when the officer asked Miller about the toddler's bruises she claimed the child and her son "fight all of the time." She told the officer the toddler hit his face on the toilet and on a nightstand the week prior to the incident.
During an interview with a Department of Social Services worker and the police officer, Miller said she didn't know about bruises on the child's chest. Miller claimed the bruising may have occurred when she performed CPR and pushed too hard. The officer states Miller made no mention of having performed CPR on the child and, when she contacted 911, told a dispatcher she did not want to perform CPR.
Authorities arrested and charged Miller with the two felonies on June 3.
Vermillion, 25, of the same address, also stands accused of crimes related to the June 3 incident. Authorities arrested and charged Vermillion with felony child endangerment. Vermillion remains free on a $1,000 secured bond, according to records in the Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court. He also is scheduled to appear in the court on Aug. 8.
A complaint filed in Vermillion's case notes that he has primary custody of the toddler. In an interview with authorities, Vermillion "admitted seeing the bruises on the child and assumed the injuries were self-inflicted," the complaint states. Vermillion admitted to seeing the bruises days before the June 3 incident.
"The child later died as a result of non accidental trauma at UVA Medical Center," the complaint with Vermillion's charges states.
Contact staff writer Alex Bridges at 540-465-5137 ext. 125, or firstname.lastname@example.org