Miller Sentenced to Life in Prison without Parole for Double Murder

By Beacon Staff

A Kalispell man who admitted murdering his former girlfriend and her daughter on Christmas day in 2010 was sentenced to life in prison without eligibility for parole, after a lengthy, emotional hearing in Flathead County District Court.

Tyler Miller, 35, stood to receive the sentence from Judge Stewart Stadler on Feb. 10 after the nearly three-hour hearing. Miller admitted last December to shooting Jaimi Hurlbert, 35, and her daughter, Alyssa Burkett, 15, with a .45-caliber pistol.

During the often-tense sentencing hearing, the victims’ families expressed anguish and anger at Miller, who would alternate between smiles and frowns during their testimony.

Though previous court records describe Miller as proud of the killings, he expressed remorse during the sentencing hearing.

“I can’t really find the words to say how I feel,” he said. “If I could take it back, I would.”

Hurlbert’s friends and family described a poisoned relationship between her and Miller, though the couple did seem happy after the birth of their daughter.

D’Lon Lambright, Hurlbert’s friend for 16 years, began her testimony with a description of the beating Miller delivered to Hurlbert after he shot her, saying that the damage done to her face made her unrecognizable.

“This is what you did to my friend and you sit there with that smirk on your face and it repulses me,” Lambright said.

She went on to say that Burkett would never get the chance to experience life beyond her 15 years, and that Miller stole those chances from her. The relationship between Miller and Hurlbert was caustic, Lambright said, and Hurlbert was afraid for her life.

“She was tired of being scared of you,” Lambright told Miller. “You loved her and no matter what, she hated you. Every single time she came back to you it was because she was scared and just wanted to live in peace.”

Hurlbert’s younger sister, Jennifer Hurlbert, repeatedly told Miller to look at her while she spoke, which he did. She told Miller that though he had previously said he was “going down like a true soldier,” he was actually “going down as a true coward” because he killed a child and ambushed a woman with a gun.

She asked Miller if he remembered her sister’s unique eyes and the way she loved being in the outdoors, or Burkett playing her guitar and riding her longboard.

“It is obviously so unfortunate that you were ever brought into this world,” Jennifer Hurlbert said, and “even more unfortunate that Jaimi met (and trusted) you.”

Hurlbert’s father, Butch, called Miller a “cancer” and a “coward” who shoots “women and little girls.”

“I’ve never known hate in my life like I hate you,” Butch Hurlbert said.

The witnesses also said Hurlbert was struggling with a methamphetamine addiction, but was trying to come to terms with it before her death.

Miller’s defense attorneys, public defenders Noel Larrivee and Nicole Ducheneaux, questioned a mental health therapist who said Miller was bipolar and on meth, creating a “perfect storm” for the events that transpired.

The therapist said she believed Miller could be rehabilitated now that he was off methamphetamines and on mood stabilizers and anti-psychotic medications.

Larrivee also presented evidence that law enforcement had been contacted at least 10 times on Dec. 24, 2010, regarding Miller and his threats toward Hurlbert and her family, and still he was not arrested.

Despite this, Larrivee repeatedly said Miller is the only person responsible for the deaths of Hurlbert and Burkett.

Before sentencing, Flathead County Attorney Ed Corrigan asked the judge to make Miller ineligible for parole. He said any mental health defect or statement of duress that Miller was under during the time of the murders was the result of meth use, and therefore cannot serve as a mitigating factor.

Larrivee told Stadler that he wanted to try the case in court because it could have brought many emotions and issues to light, but Miller decided to change his plea. Miller is bipolar, Larrivee said, and the meth only enhanced it.

“All I’m asking you to do is recognize that Tyler, once medicated, once treated, once clean, is capable of being a good person,” Larrivee said.

While sentencing Miller, Stadler said there were multiple aggravating factors in this case, including Miller’s lengthy criminal history, his inability to finish treatment programs, disciplinary write-ups from previous incarceration and warnings on file that he is a threat to society.

And though Stadler acknowledged evidence of mental health difficulties, he said Miller’s voluntary meth use largely negated them as mitigating factors.

It also appeared that Miller responded to being medicated, Stadler said, but noted that the only time this has been successful was while Miller was in custody. This makes Miller an “immediate threat” to the general public, Stadler said.

Stadler sentenced Miller to two life sentences at the Montana State Prison, to be served consecutively, without eligibility for parole.