Miranda Miller has been sentenced to 25 years in prison for the murder of her 3-year-old son, Evan Brewer.
Miller asked for a lighter sentence Thursday, saying she, too, was a victim of her live-in boyfriend, Stephen Bodine, who was convicted of killing Evan and encasing the boy’s body in concrete to hide the death.
Miller and her attorney said Bodine brainwashed her and had her under a hypnotic trance, controlling her through physical violence, mental abuse and drugs.
“Ms. Miller had no free will. She was his slave. She didn’t leave because she couldn’t,” said Steven Wagle, Miller’s attorney.
Miller said she did try to get away from Bodine, but he had isolated her and taken control of her money. He would give her drugs. He put a tracking app on her cell phone, so he always knew where she was, she said.
“Stephen Bodine knew my weaknesses,” Miller said, “and used them to control me, and then he used my son Evan to control my actions, to tell me that I was not a good mother, that I could not discipline enough or the right kind of discipline.”
Sedgwick County District Judge Stephen Ternes and Evan’s family members who came to the hearing to argue for a harsher sentence weren’t buying it.
“While I did hear your statements, I must say after hearing the evidence in the trial that you are more than a mother who failed to protect her child. You actively participated in his murder,” Ternes said.
Miller pleaded guilty in late 2018 to second-degree murder, aggravated kidnapping, child abuse and aggravated endangering a child. As part of a plea deal, she agreed to testify against Bodine in exchange for a lesser charge of second-degree murder.
Miller and Bodine subjected her son to horrific abuse, which included forcing him to stand naked in chains for hours with a belt around his neck.
Ternes said during Bodine’s sentencing that Evan’s death could have been avoided if either one of them had made one phone call to family or authorities, asking for help.
Instead, they repeatedly refused to let Evan’s father, Carlo Brewer, see him or talk to him in the final weeks of his life.
Carlo was one of four family members who spoke at Miller’s sentencing hearing. After searching for his son for months, he said, he began to give up hope.
“I would imagine what it was going to be like when I found him. I pictured my son, excited to see his dad, running into my arms. I would often think about everything I would tell him. And it always started with ‘Daddy loves you.’ And then I would tell him stories about everything everyone had done to try to find him,” Carlo said.
But he never got the chance. After several months without seeing his child, he said, his thoughts began to change. Instead of imagining a reunion, he started to worry for his son’s mental and physical state.
“The day Evan was found, I was in disbelief and denial. I thought there was no possible way that anyone, even the worst individuals, could look into his beautiful, innocent eyes and harm him. I didn’t believe that a mother was harming or allowing someone to harm their child,” Carlo said.
“The individual who gave birth to this child betrayed him, and was his predator. And my son Evan was found in a cement structure,” Carlo said.
“Miranda was not a victim,” said Shayla Johnston, Evan’s cousin. “Miranda was never a hostage. I think the judge’s decision reflects that.”
She said she hopes Miller’s sentence serves as a warning to other parents.
“It’s a message to parents out there who allow their children to be abused and who participate in it. Just because you’re a victim of domestic violence yourself does not give you an excuse to not accept help that’s given to you,” Johnston said.
Johnston said on May 4, 2017, two weeks before prosecutors say Evan died, she was able to speak to Miller away from Bodine at the Sedgwick County Courthouse.
“I told her I could help her right then,” Johnston said. “And I said if she didn’t get away from Bodine, that not only would she risk her life and her child’s life, but she would risk losing custody of her child.”
Miller’s response to an offer for help getting Evan away from Bodine was, “Over my dead body,” Johnston said.
“I should have done more to protect my son and myself,” Miller said. “I should have called the police when the abuse first started.”
“At the time, I did what I thought was best,” Miller said. “In the end, I failed as a mother to protect my child. I will live with that the rest of my life.”