By Tom Jackman
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, December 2, 2006
The man who killed a Fairfax County lawyer last year during a crack-smoking binge in a Route 1 motel was sentenced yesterday to 33 years in prison.
The body of Eric N. Miller, 45, was found in the trunk of a burned rental car in Southeast Washington in August 2005. Kristin Kozak, who testified that she witnessed the killing, said that Dana E. Moro, 47, had smashed Miller in the head with a lead pipe and that she and Moro had continued to smoke crack while Miller lay dying on the floor.
The two then used Miller's credit card at a nearby Target store to buy a sleeping bag that was used to carry Miller from the room. They then drove Miller's rented Ford Taurus to the District and torched it, she said. Moro testified that he hit Miller twice in the head, but not hard enough to kill him, as they argued inside the Alexandria Motel in the Alexandria area of Fairfax. Moro said he took a nap after the altercation.
At the time of his death, Miller was on leave from his job as a trial attorney for the Securities and Exchange Commission. He was a native of the city of Alexandria, educated at Amherst College and Harvard Law School, and lived just outside the city with his wife and two sons.
Moro and Kozak testified that for a week before Miller's slaying, the three of them had been bouncing from motel to motel, smoking crack. Kozak later contacted D.C. police, cooperated with investigators and was not charged.
Jurors convicted Moro of second-degree murder and credit card theft and sentenced him to 30 years for the murder and three years for the theft. Moro's attorney, Karin E. Kissiah, urged Fairfax Circuit Court Judge David T. Stitt to reduce the sentence, which he declined to do. Under Virginia law, judges can reduce, but not increase, a jury's sentence.
Kissiah noted that Moro, a carpenter, told his probation officer that he was "born with alcohol in my mouth," was given beer as an infant and became an alcoholic, as did every male member of his family. His father was imprisoned; his stepfather beat him; and his mother abandoned him, Kissiah said.
Virginia's voluntary sentencing guidelines recommended a range of 17 1/2 to 29 years for the murder, Kissiah said. "But the guidelines don't take into account," Kissiah said, "the physical and psychological trauma Dana Moro suffered, his remorse and his potential."
Deputy Fairfax Commonwealth's Attorney Raymond F. Morrogh told the judge that there was "nothing in [Moro's] past that justifies this crime. It was brutal by any standard."
Moro did not make a statement, but he did write a letter expressing his remorse to the Miller family, Kissiah said.
A. Melvin Miller, Miller's father, was present at the hearing, but he declined to comment.