Trial set in January for Texas father and son accused of killing neighbor over mattress

Trial set in January for Texas father and son accused of killing neighbor over mattress

A murder trial is set for January 2023 for an Abilene father and son accused of killing their neighbor over a mattress dispute in 2018, according to Taylor County court records released this week.

The murder trial of Johnnie Miller, 71, and his son, Michael Miller, 35, had already been set for Monday in Abilene’s 350th District Court.

But another murder trial is underway at the Abilene courthouse, which has once again caused the Miller trial to be delayed.

The murder trial is now scheduled for 9 am on January 23, 2023, according to court records.

Previously, Taylor County courthouse officials adjourned trials because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Johnnie Miller, left, and his son, Michael Miller, are accused of shooting a neighbor over a mattress in 2018 in Abilene, Texas.  The murder trial is scheduled for January 23, 2023 in Abilene, Texas.

Johnnie Miller, left, and his son, Michael Miller, are accused of shooting a neighbor over a mattress in 2018 in Abilene, Texas. The murder trial is scheduled for January 23, 2023 in Abilene, Texas.

The Millers are accused of shooting dead their neighbor, Aaron Howard, 37, on September 1, 2018, in an alley behind their homes on the 4300 block of Don Juan Street in South Abilene.

Abilene is about 150 miles west of Fort Worth.

In a May 2019 interview with the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, Fort Worth attorney Justin Sparks, one of the defense attorneys representing the Millers, said his clients would be ready to face a grand jury in Taylor County.

“We are justified in using force in self-defense,” Sparks said in a May 2019 telephone interview. “Texas is a ‘stand up’ state. You have no legal duty to back down when threatened.”

Howard’s wife Kara Box witnessed the shooting and took issue with the self-defense claim in a May 2019 interview with Star-Telegram.

“It wasn’t self-defense,” Box said in a telephone interview. “You can’t provoke someone and call it self-defense.”

The case came to national attention after Box released a two-minute video showing the confrontation and shooting. She recorded the video with her cell phone while standing next to Howard.

Box told Star-Telegram that the couple moved into Abilene’s house in April 2018, but they never spoke to the Millers until the morning of September 1. The Millers were his next-door neighbors.

“We took a single mattress out of a dumpster in our alley a few days before the shooting,” Box said. “You have to have the mattress in the trash or they won’t take it away.”

On the morning of September 1, 2018, Box and Howard were in the backyard when they saw that the mattress was on their property. Howard threw it back in the trash.

Box said that’s when Johnnie Miller reached the alley, took the mattress out of the dumpster, and threw it back on Howard’s property.

Howard told Miller to put it back in the trash. Miller swore at Howard and said he wouldn’t do that, Box said.

“That’s when Johnnie (Miller) pulled a pistol out of his shorts,” she said. Box noticed that Howard’s nieces and nephews were with them in the backyard.

“Aaron goes into pappa bear mode,” Box said. “A man has just pointed a gun at his wife, his brother, his nephews and nieces.”

A tense conversation ensues between Howard, who is not armed, and Johnnie and Michael Miller, who arrives at the scene armed with a shotgun, shows the video.

Howard threatens to kill the Millers, and the Millers repeatedly curse Howard in the video.

As tempers heat up, Box comes between her husband and Johnnie Miller. Howard’s brother gave him a baseball bat at this point, but he never swung it, his wife said.

“If you come within three feet of me, I will kill you,” Johnnie Miller tells Howard. Seconds later, two shots are heard. The video also shows Michael Miller firing the shotgun after the first two shots are fired.

Box starts yelling, “No, no, Aaron!” after her husband is shot in the chest and head.

“I ran to Aaron and for a second I thought he was going to be okay, but he couldn’t resist,” Box said.

Box said that Johnnie Miller walked up to her and put the gun to her head, yelling at her to fall to the ground. She said that Michael Miller went to Aaron’s brother, put the shotgun to his head and ordered him to the ground.

Abilene police arrived a few minutes later, responding to a report of shots being fired in the neighborhood.

This report contains information from the Star-Telegram archives.

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