OGDEN, Utah – A Utah woman accused of helping her husband dump their teenage baby sitter's body in the woods after a night of sex and drugs has been sentenced to up to five years in prison.
A state judge sentenced 41-year-old Dea Millerberg in an emotional hearing on Thursday. Calling the crime heinous and depraved, Judge W. Brent West said he would have leveled a harsher sentence if not for a plea deal prosecutors agreed to in exchange for Millerberg's testimony against her husband.
"She lost all her common sense, and was not in a position to help Alexis when she needed her the most," said West as Millerberg burst into racking sobs.
Prosecutors said Millerberg and her husband had a drug-fueled, salacious sexual relationship with 16-year-old Alexis Rasmussen that led to her death from an overdose in 2011. Rasmussen had a friend who lived across the street from the Millerbergs, and they began giving her drugs in exchange for baby-sitting services, prosecutors said.
She was missing for more than a month before a man who helped Eric Millerberg move Rasmussen's body led police to where she was hidden.
Rasmussen's death, however, was not ruled a homicide. If Dea Millerberg had not testified that her husband injected the girl with heroin and methamphetamine, prosecutors might not have been able to convict him.
"He was the one who was most responsible for this act," Weber County Attorney Dee Smith said. Dea Millerberg, a nurse, testified she tried but couldn't revive the girl. The couple strapped their infant daughter into their car, leaving a 6-year-old behind, and drove to dispose of Rasmussen's body.
Rasmussen's mother, Dawn Miera, said Thursday that she was satisfied with the sentence and ready to put the case behind her.
"I go back over and over again, thinking what I could have done to make things different, and I wonder if she does the same," said Miera of Millerberg. "I do know Lexie was trying to find herself and she found Dea."
Millerberg's attorney, Michael Bouwhuis, asked the judge for probation, saying his client had been off drugs for three years since Rasmussen's death and recently regained custody of her children. Millerberg had an unstable mother, started drinking at 13 and later turned to drugs, and she was abused by Eric Millerberg as well as by a previous husband, Bouwhuis said.
Wearing a short-sleeved collared shirt and small silver cross around her neck, a tearful Dea Millerberg turned to the teenager's mother in the courtroom and apologized to her.
"I just want to say that I am appalled and disgusted by what I've done," she said.
Millerberg pleaded guilty in June to three felonies, including desecration of a human body. The county attorney said Thursday that he was satisfied with the sentence in what he called a difficult case.
"It's the kind of thing that makes you hug your kids at night," he said.