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Evan James MILLER





Classification: Homicide
Characteristics: Juvenile (14) - Robbery - Arson
Number of victims: 1
Date of murder: July 15, 2003
Date of birth: November 2, 1988
Victim profile: Cole C. Cannon, 52 (his neighbor)
Method of murder: Beating with a baseball bat - Inhalation of products of combustion
Location: Lawrence County, Alabama, USA
Status: Sentenced to life in prison without parole on October 20, 2006
photo gallery

Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals

Evan Miller v. State of Alabama (2,51 Mb)

The Supreme Court of the United States


Miller v. Alabama

Petition for certiorari Brief in opposition
Petitioner's reply Brief for Evan Miller
Brief for Alabama Reply brief for Evan Miller
Oral argument

Evan Miller was 14 when he and a 16-year-old boy got into a fight with a neighbor who was drunk. They beat him with a baseball bat, took $350 and his baseball card collection and set his trailer on fire. Cole Cannon, age 52, died of his injuries and smoke inhalation. 

Evan was tried as an adult and an Alabama jury convicted him of capital murder during the course of first degree arson. He was sentenced to spend the rest of his life in prison.


Jury finds teen guilty of capital murder

17-year-old is sentenced to life in prison without parole

By Seth Burkett -

October 21, 2006

MOULTON — A Lawrence County jury found a teenager guilty Friday of capital murder in the 2003 beating and burning of a neighbor.

Circuit Judge Phillip Reich sentenced 17-year-old Evan Miller to life in prison without parole.

Miller and accomplice Colby Smith killed Cole C. Cannon, 52, in his mobile home July 15, 2003. The two teens, 14 and 16 at the time, allegedly stole baseball cards and $350 from Cannon before beating him with a baseball bat, setting his mobile home on fire and leaving him to die.

Cannon's oldest daughter, Candy Cheatham, didn't accept the muffled apology Miller offered for the pain he'd caused.

"You say you're sorry? You have no idea what kind of pain we went through. It's very difficult to plan your father's funeral and to pick out his headstone," she said.

She is pregnant, she said, and her brother's family also has a child on the way.

"They're not going to know their grandfather. He was murdered by Evan Miller and Colby Smith. He was hit with a bat and left in a fire to die. That's what I'm going to have to tell them," she said.

Cheatham showed Miller pictures of her father as a child that she rescued from the ashes of his home.

"You know, he was a person and he mattered to us. ... I do hope when you're in prison you will find Jesus, but I can't forgive you right now, and I don't think my family can either," she said.

Troubled teen

As deputies escorted Miller from the courtroom, he told family members he loved them, to which they replied, "We love you, Evan."

Miller had pleaded not guilty by reason of mental defect. During testimony Thursday, his mother and a psychologist hired by the defense painted a picture of a troubled teen with a drug dependency and personality disorders.

Susan Miller testified that her son had attempted suicide multiple times, lived in foster care and had been in and out of psychological programs.

Following the trial, Miller told THE DAILY that she doesn't believe her son intentionally killed Cannon.

"He's not a cold-blooded killer," she said. "... My son got caught up in a terrible, terrible situation. I think Evan felt forced into participating because he was too deep into it."

Evan Miller's life essentially ended at 14, his mother said. He has been incarcerated at Lawrence County Jail for about a year since being certified as an adult, she said.

Smith, who testified, agreed to plead guilty to felony murder charges last week in exchange for a life sentence with the possibility of parole. Had he been convicted at trial, he would have faced life in prison without parole.

"I feel that they deserve punishment for what they did," said Evan Miller's sister, Aubrey Miller, 19. "But neither of them had an adult mind. They are victims of the system, but that is not an excuse for what they did. But I don't feel that Evan should have been tried as an adult."

Aubrey Miller said she shared her brother's troubled childhood — poverty, abuse and neglect.

"There are a lot of people responsible for a 14-year-old committing murder," she said. "I really believe that my mother and father should share the blame. Not just for that one night without supervision. It started when he was born. ... He wasn't thinking. No one had taught him to think. We were not taught respect and honesty.

"My daddy will say he tried to do those things, but you don't beat a child into being honest. My mother loves her children, but she's a poor parent."

Cautionary tale

She said she hopes parents will take Evan Miller's story as a cautionary tale.

Aubrey Miller extended apologies to Cannon's loved ones.

"I feel that Candy Cheatham had every right to say what she said. The whole family is justified in their pain and anger. They've waited 3� years. It was very heartbreaking to hear what she said, but they had the right. I feel pain for them, and I also carry the shame and guilt that my little brother is carrying.

"I pray that they will find closure to this, and that they will go on. ... I'm glad that they were able to face it today. I hope they will find it in their hearts to forgive Evan. I really can't find all the words that I want to say to them," she said.


Cole Cannon

Cole Cannon was murdered in Alabama in the case that is at the center of the now famous Miller v Alabama case that is before the United States Supreme Court in the spring of 2012.

Cole’s grieving family is available for the news media by contacting Mr. Cannon’s daughter Candy Cheatham at: She sends the following testimonial:

On July 16, 2003, Cole Cannon (52) was murdered by Evan Miller and Colby Smith who were 14 years and 16 yrs (respectively) at the time. Cole had only lived in Country Living Trailer Park for approximately three weeks. Evan lived in the trailer in front of his. This murder would span from late afternoon on July 15, 2003 until 6:00 AM on July 16, 2003 at which time the Speake Volunteer Fire Department responded in efforts to extinguish the fire.

At some point while Cole was using the Miller’s telephone, Evan and Colby went to his trailer and stole some of his baseball cards. Cole had a baseball card collection and many years prior was owner of a baseball card shop. They hid those cards. Cole was having problems with the installation of his own phone and used the Miller’s phone.

Throughout the night Evan and Colby would make several trips back and forth from Cole’s residence to the Miller’s residence. They both beat him with a baseball bat and their fists. This occurred after they stole his wallet and money. Their versions of who did what is somewhat different. Evan Miller placed a shirt over Cole’s head and said “Cole, I am God and I come to take your life.” They set fire and there was at least three points of origin of the fire, as well as paper with charred ends in a trash basket in the kitchen. Blood splatter was on the wall, as well as large amounts of blood saturating the coffee table, a towel, and pillow.

His cause of death was blunt force trauma, multiple rib fractures, and smoke inhalation. They took his wallet but returned it approximately one week later. They were not immediately apprehended. Evan Miller bragged about his actions to others (as presented as testimony at the trial) and threw Cole’s drivers license in a stream in Bankhead Forest.

In October 2006, Colby Smith pled guilty to Felony Murder and received a Life With Parole sentence. Miller was convicted by an ALL FEMALE jury (mostly mothers) of Capital Murder-Arson and Capital Murder-Robbery. They believed the co-defendant testimony, forensic evidence, and could not imagine the fact that if Miller was capable of this heinous crime, they did not want to know what he would be capable of as an adult. Interestingly, is the fact when the jury returned the first time, they did not understand the instructions and they found Evan guilty of everything, even the lesser included charges, and had to be re-instructed and sent back.

On March 20, 2012, the U.S. Supreme Court will be hearing oral arguments regarding whether it is unconstitutional for a 14 year old juvenile to be sentenced to Life Without Parole. My family and I plan to be there. What is remarkable to me is that yes I was aware of the 2005 ruling regarding the death penalty and the ruling last year that it is unconstitutional to give Life with exception of serious offenses such as murder, but had no idea that advocacy groups for Evan were filing motions with the Supreme Court. That was until just before Thanksgiving when the Supreme Court agreed to hear oral arguments. I am appalled at the misleading information these groups are publishing, even in court documents. In the brief filed by the Equal Justice Initiative for Evan, the facts cited are not those of the case as presented at trial but obviously Evan’s recitation of events not documented anywhere else. The same with his character and background. Instead, they slant to make it sound as if my father initiated things by “interrupting Evan, his family and friend” ”being visibly intoxicated” “making a drug deal with Evan’s mother,” “ accompanying the boys to his home and drinking with them.” Then grabbing Evan’s throat. They cite that “Mr Cannon died of smoke inhalation.” I would like to know of whose account was he visibly intoxicated and did all those things. As if Susie, Evan’s mother is credible. Certainly, Evan Miller is not, and I will address that later. The cause of death was blunt force trauma, multiple broken ribs, and smoke inhalation (all in combination actions of Evan and Colby that resulted in my father’s death.

When my family received the news that there was an “accident,” we went to our father’s trailer. Let me preface that I have worked in the criminal justice system for the last 13 years. I have taught as an adjunct-professor for the last six years at a University, which includes juvenile justice issues. At the time of my father’s death I was working as a child abuse investigator in Lawrence County, AL, so I knew of Evan and his family. Yes, he was in foster care and anyone that encountered him, mental health counselors, teachers, had the same thing to say, he is manipulative. He was in a truck with two others and they spun out in the gravel when we arrived. His mother was spatting off saying my dad fell down and hit his head, was bleeding, and that he died from falling asleep holding a cigarette. I ignored her for various reasons. It was clear that this was no accident after our arrival.

Evan was diagnosed by Dr. Gregg with conduct disorder, neglect of child, personality disorder-anti-social. Decatur General West also diagnosed him previously with depressive disorder, oppositional defiant disorder, conduct disorder, poly-substance, and factitious-disorder-malingering (feigning mental illness, exaggerating mental illness). He has exhibited narcissistic behavior and no remorse. He has never apologized and his actions do not indicate any progression to remorse. Although, this has caused extreme hurt and I along with my family have experienced a number of emotions, God is working on me to forgive Evan and Colby. I am almost there. I have no anger, wrath, or ill-will. But I have a duty to seek justice and expose darkness which includes the false information, lies, and propaganda of the Equal Justice Initiative.


Evan MILLER v. STATE of Alabama

Court of Criminal Appeals of Alabama


The evidence presented at trial established that in July 2003, then 14-year-old [*683] Evan Miller and his 16-year-old codefendant, Colby Smith, robbed and savagely beat Miller's neighbor, Cole Cannon. After beating Cannon to the point that he could not get off the floor, Miller set Cannon's trailer on fire. Cannon's body was later discovered by firefighters, who were called to extinguish the fire.

Colby Smith testified that he became acquainted with Miller during high school and that they had known each other for approximately four or five months before the crime. (R. 979.) On the evening of July 15, 2003, Smith was spending the night at Miller's trailer. Around midnight, Cannon came over complaining that he had burned his food and asking if they had something he could eat. Cannon appeared to have been drinking, and Smith smelled alcohol on his breath and noticed that he was "staggering." (R. 710, 980.) While Miller's mother was preparing some spaghetti for Cannon, Miller and Smith went over to Cannon's trailer to look for drugs, but they were unable to find any. The two, however, found and stole some of Cannon's baseball trading cards. Miller and Smith then returned to Miller's trailer.

When Cannon finished eating, he returned to his trailer. Miller and Smith then went back to Cannon's trailer intending to get Cannon intoxicated and to steal his money. Miller and Smith smoked a joint and played drinking games with Cannon until he passed out on the couch. While Cannon was unconscious, Miller stole Cannon's wallet and took it into the bathroom where he split a little over $300 with Smith. While Miller was attempting to put the wallet back in Cannon's pocket, Cannon jumped up and grabbed Miller around the throat. Smith, who witnessed the altercation, grabbed a baseball bat and hit Cannon on the head. Miller then climbed onto Cannon and began hitting him in the face with his fists. Despite Cannon's pleas to stop, Miller picked up the bat, which Smith had dropped, and continued to attack Cannon by striking him with it repeatedly.

Afterwards, Miller placed a sheet over Cannon's head and told him, "I am God, I've come to take your life." (R. 986.) After Miller hit Cannon a final time with the bat, Miller and Smith returned to Miller's trailer. A few minutes later, however, Miller and Smith returned to Cannon's trailer and attempted to clean up the blood. Afterwards, Miller and Smith set several fires to cover up their crime. Initially, Smith used a lighter to start a fire on a couch in the back bedroom, while Miller set another fire on a different couch "to cover up the evidence." (R. 990.) As they were leaving, Smith saw Cannon "[j]ust laying there." Feeling sorry for Cannon, Smith placed a towel under his head in an attempt to stop the bleeding. Smith also turned on the faucet in the kitchen sink and stopped it up, hoping that the water would extinguish the fires. As they were leaving Cannon's trailer, Smith heard Cannon asking, "Why are y'all doing this to me?" (R. 990-91.) Approximately 10 minutes later, Smith returned to Cannon's trailer alone. He could hear Cannon coughing but "smoke was coming out and [Miller was] coming behind [him,]" so he returned to the Miller's trailer. (R. 992.)

Firefighters, who were called to the trailer park to extinguish the fire at Cannon's trailer, noticed blood on the coffee table and blood spatters on the wall. This led the firefighters to the discovery of Cannon's body in the hallway leading to [*684] the back bedroom. Fire Marshal Richard Montgomery, who conducted the initial investigation, concentrated on the north bedroom where most of the damage from the fire occurred. The investigation was later turned over to Investigator Tim Sandlin of the Sheriffs Department after Fire Marshal Montgomery indicated that the fire was "obviously suspicious." (R. 796, 798-802.) After talking with Cannon's family members, Investigator Sandlin became aware that certain items, including Cannon's wallet and some trading cards, were missing from the trailer. Cannon's wallet was eventually recovered from underneath the couch in his trailer, but his driver's license was missing. Investigator Sandlin also removed a baseball bat from underneath the couch.

After this discovery, Investigator Sandlin went to Miller's trailer to speak with Miller and his mother, Susan. Susan gave Investigator Sandlin a box of trading cards, and Miller and his mother agreed to ride with him to the sheriffs office to give statements.

At the sheriffs office, Investigator Sandlin obtained basic information from Miller and read him his rights from the juvenile Miranda form, which Miller and his mother both signed before Miller began recounting the events of the night of July 15 and the early morning of July 16. In his statement, Miller initially told Investigator Sandlin that on the evening of July 15, he was at his trailer watching a movie. Although he admitted that Cannon came over to their trailer, he denied going over to Cannon's trailer. Miller also claimed that he did not learn about the fire at Cannon's trailer until the fire department arrived the next morning. However, when Investigator Sandlin asked Miller to begin by describing the morning's events and work backwards to the previous evening, Miller became "frustrated and agitated" and told Investigator Sandlin "to forget all that, that that wasn't true." (R. 706-07.) Miller then requested that everyone except Investigator Sandlin leave the room. After Miller's mother and juvenile officers left the room, Miller gave Investigator Sandlin another statement, which Sandlin typed up for Miller to read and sign.

In his second statement, Miller explained that, on the evening of July 15, his family was getting ready to go to bed when Cannon came over to use the telephone. While Cannon was at his trailer, Miller went over to Cannon's trailer where he found some trading cards that "looked like they were worth money." (R. 710.) When Cannon came back to the Millers' trailer around midnight to get something to eat, Miller went to Cannon's trailer to get the cards. Around 2:00 or 3:00 a.m., Miller and Smith returned to Cannon's trailer to drink beer. According to Miller, as the evening progressed, Cannon became so intoxicated that he had trouble standing and eventually fell down, hitting his nose and lip on the table. Miller stated that when he tried to assist Cannon, Cannon grabbed him by the throat. Miller said Smith pushed Cannon off of him just as Cannon grabbed a bat and hit Miller on the arm. Smith then grabbed the bat from Cannon and hit Cannon on the arm. Afterwards, Smith threw the bat down and Miller kicked it under the couch. Miller then punched Cannon several times in the face before seeing Cannon's wallet on the floor and taking about $300 in cash and a driver's license. After hearing Miller's mother knock on the front door and tell them that the police were on the way, Miller and Smith ran out the back door. As they were leaving, they could hear Cannon asking, "Why did you do this to me?" (R. 711-12.)

Based on Miller's statement, Investigator Sandlin called Deputy Fire Marshal [*685] Lyndon Blaxton to let him know that he had "additional information" on the fire. (R. 806.) As a result, Deputy Blaxton, Investigator Sandlin, and other law-enforcement agents agreed to meet at Cannon's trailer on July 24, 2003, to conduct a full fire investigation. During the investigation, Deputy Blaxton noticed blood spatters on the wall, a table, a pillow, and a towel. (R. 807-08.) Deputy Blaxton also identified four points of origin for the fires, including a large one in the south bedroom, which spread down the hallway; a second one on the bed, which had been completely consumed by fire; a third one on the couch; and a fourth one which originated from a cushion that had been placed on the floor before being set on fire.

Forensic pathologist Dr. Adam Craig performed the initial external examination on Cannon's body. Because he claimed there was no indication that Cannon's death had resulted from a crime, Dr. Craig did not perform a full autopsy, and he initially ruled that Cannon's death was an accident caused by the inhalation of smoke and soot. After further investigation, however, Investigator Sandlin requested that Cannon's body be exhumed so that a full autopsy could be performed. On August 1, 2003, Dr. Craig performed a full autopsy and discovered several injuries not caused by the fire, including a two-inch contusion to the left side of the forehead caused by blunt force and six rib fractures on both sides of the body. Dr. Craig was also able to determine from hemorrhaging that these injuries occurred before Cannon died. Toxicology analysis showed Cannon's blood-alcohol level to be .216. Based upon these findings, Dr. Craig reaffirmed his initial finding that the cause of Cannon's death was "inhalation of products of combustion," but added that "multiple blunt force injuries and ethanol intoxication" were contributing factors that made it more difficult for Cannon to breath in the fire or to escape from the burning trailer. (R. 939-40.)

Deputy Tim McWhorter of the Lawrence County Sheriffs Department testified that on July 31, 2003, and August 4, 2003, he transported Miller from the Tennessee Valley Detention Center to two different mental-health evaluations. Deputy McWhorter stated that although he engaged in "small talk" with Miller, he did not interrogate him, talk about the murder investigation, threaten him, or offer Miller any benefit for making a statement. During their first trip, Miller asked Deputy McWhorter "if he had previously told something that wasn't true but now wanted to go back and tell the truth, would he get in any trouble." Miller also told Deputy McWhorter that he deserved "to do some time in a correctional facility, that he was not innocent and he had been involved in the assault on Mr. Cole Cannon." (R. 871.) Similarly, during their August 4 trip, Miller told Deputy McWhorter that he "had been really messed up" when Cannon died, because he had taken two Klonopin tablets and had drunk most of a fifth of whiskey. (R. 873.) Miller stated that he and Smith went to Cannon's trailer after Cannon told them that he had some "acid", but when they got there, Cannon refused to discuss anything but music. When they attempted to leave, Cannon grabbed Miller by the neck. Miller then "slammed Mr. Cannon really hard" because he was "really pissed off." Miller knew that the autopsy would have revealed marks and bruises because "they had roughed him up pretty good." Miller said that he could not remember everything, but "the more he thought about it, the more it made him think he started the fire." (R. 874.) The following morning, Smith told Miller that Cannon had died in the fire.

Nancie Jones, the head of the DNA section of the Huntsville Regional Laboratory [*686] of the Alabama Department of Forensic Sciences, testified that she examined numerous items for the presence of DNA. Several items, including an aluminum bat, a towel, and a portion of a gold cushion tested positive for human blood, but Jones was unable to obtain usable DNA profiles from the blood on the bat or the towel. Jones was able to use the blood taken from the gold cushion to create a DNA profile, which was consistent with the DNA sample taken from Cannon during the autopsy. Jones was also able to exclude both Miller and Smith as sources for the DNA found on the cushion. The bloodstains from the wall in Cannon's trailer were also consistent with Cannon's DNA profile and inconsistent with Miller's and Smith's DNA profiles. Jones also found bloodstains consistent with Miller's DNA profile on an Old Navy brand t-shirt and on the underarm portion of a Hanes brand t-shirt. Jones could not exclude Cannon as a second source of blood on the Hanes t-shirt; however, the blood spatters on the shirt were consistent with someone being hit with an object rather than being shot with a gun.



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