In front of a packed courtroom Thursday, the Kalispell man accused of killing a woman and her daughter on Christmas day pleaded not guilty to two charges of deliberate homicide.
Tyler Michael Miller, formerly known as Tyler Cheetham, is accused of murdering Jaimi Lynn Hurlbert, 35, and her daughter, Alyssa Burkett, 15, with a .45-caliber weapon on the afternoon of Dec. 25.
Appearing before District Judge David Ortley, Miller sat wearing a blue, county jail-issued uniform with his attorneys, Nicole Ducheneaux and Nicholas Aemisegger. He occasionally turned toward the gallery and, at one point, smiled at someone seated behind him. Otherwise, Miller, 34, said little to the judge other than to ask for time to confer with his legal counsel.
Flathead County Attorney Ed Corrigan asked Ortley to make sure Miller understood his rights in the case and the charges against him, including the potential penalties if he is found guilty.
Corrigan noted that both charges carry possible life imprisonment sentences and could possibly result in the death penalty.
Ortley ordered that Miller be held in jail without bond, but granted Miller’s attorneys request to reserve the right to ask for bond in the future.
According to court documents, 911 dispatch received a call on Dec. 25 at 2:57 p.m. from Miller’s mother, Cindy Regnier, reporting that her son had just shot Hurlbert, his ex-girlfriend, and Burkett.
Former Flathead County Sheriff Mike Meehan said police arrived at the home to find Hurlbert dead from a gunshot and Burkett shot but still alive.
Meehan said Burkett was taken to Kalispell Regional Medical Center where she later died.
Miller fled the scene in Hurlbert’s car, abandoned it and then allegedly stole another one, Meehan said. He abandoned that one as well and fled on foot, but authorities tracked him through the snow to a vacant trailer where he was arrested without incident.
According to court records, once Miller was in custody, he “confessed to killing both Hurlbert and (Burkett). Miller stated he had planned to kill Hurlbert and went to his mother’s house with that intention.”
There was a heavy law enforcement presence at Thursday’s arraignment, with six officers in the courtroom and others outside operating a metal detector for anyone wishing to enter the courtroom. Members of the victims’ families were present as well.
Outside the courthouse, two women acquainted with the victims held signs urging passing drivers to “Honk for Justice.” On the opposite side of one sign, which D’Lon Lambright rotated as she paced, it read, “Murderers Should Be Hanged.”
Lambright said she knew both victims, and holding the sign is one way to make sure people pay attention to the homicide case.
“I’m just doing what I can,” she said. “Being a voice for my friend.”
The other sign, held by Terri Mansfield, read, “Fight Against Domestic Violence.”
“I just think justice should be served,” Mansfield said. “When there’s a case of domestic violence, there should be more done about it.”
Miller’s omnibus hearing is scheduled for Jan. 19. His pretrial hearing is set for Feb. 2, and his trial date is scheduled to begin March 7.
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