Va. Man Convicted In Lawyer's Killing

By Tom Jackman
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, July 20, 2006

Eric Miller and Dana Moro came from different worlds, but their lives intersected in Room 16 of the Alexandria Motel on a hazy summer afternoon last year. And Miller wound up dead.

Late yesterday, a Fairfax County jury convicted Moro of second-degree murder and credit card theft. The jury plans to sentence Moro on the charges today.

Miller, 45, was the oldest son of a tight-knit Alexandria family, his parents respected pillars of the community. He graduated from Amherst College and Harvard Law School, and he was an accomplished trial attorney for the Securities and Exchange Commission. He was married with two children.

Moro, 47, was an itinerant Alexandria carpenter. His father spent much of Moro's childhood in prison. His stepfather beat him. His mother abandoned him. Every male member of his family was an alcoholic, his sister said. He has convictions for burglary, larceny, assault and drug possession.

But both men grew addicted to crack cocaine. And in an argument that started over cocaine, Moro grabbed a metal pipe and smashed Miller twice in the head, as Miller lay on the floor of Room 16, on Aug. 29.

Kristin Kozak witnessed the episode and related it to a Fairfax jury Monday. She said Miller had been withholding the cocaine from her and Moro. When she tried to grab it, Miller shoved her over the bed and onto the floor of the 12-by-12-foot room.

Kozak said that was when Moro picked up the bar she carried for protection and attacked the 5-foot-2 Miller. She said that after the beating, the two smoked the cocaine Miller had been withholding.

Moro testified Tuesday that Miller had grazed Kozak with the metal bar, then aimed it at Moro. Moro said the two struggled and that he pulled the bar away from Miller and hit him twice, "real quick, bam bam," Moro said. "I thought I knocked him out."

Moro and Miller acknowledged that they had cleaned up the blood in the room, stuffed Miller's body into the trunk of a car and -- after another full day of smoking crack elsewhere -- drove the car to the District and set it on fire Aug. 31. They also said they had used Miller's credit card to buy food and items used to discard his body.

Fairfax Deputy Commonwealth's Attorney Raymond F. Morrogh asked the jury to convict Moro of first-degree murder. He said the attempts to conceal the murder "supports the premeditation aspect of this crime."

Deputy Public Defender William R. Edwards said there were "extremely different versions of what happened in this case" and noted that Kozak was often unclear about her responsibility in the case. She has not been charged.

The jury took about two hours to reach its guilty verdicts.

Miller's father, A. Melvin Miller, former head of the Alexandria School Board and the county Housing Authority, told the jury that his son was "the smartest person I ever knew" and that "if he had a fault, he didn't pick friends very well." He said the SEC had placed his son on paid administrative leave for 18 months, giving him more time with his family and extra income.

Moro was one of five children who grew up while their father was in prison, his sister Donna Marie Delia said. His mother remarried an Air Force sergeant, who beat the children, Delia said. The parents split when Delia was 16 and Moro was 11. She said Moro had begun drinking by then. He was placed in a foster home, where he was beaten again.

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