The descent of Harvard-educated lawyer Eric N. Miller -- from the Securities and Exchange Commission to a low-rent motel where he went on a week-long crack-smoking binge -- ended in August when he was smashed on the head with a metal pipe, a witness to Miller's slaying testified yesterday.
The witness, Kristin Kozak, said she and another friend continued to smoke crack as Miller lay dead on the floor of the motel room on Route 1 in the Alexandria area of Fairfax County. The friend, Dana E. Moro, then stole Miller's automated teller machine card to buy a sleeping bag and gasoline used to burn his body, she said.
Miller's body was found in the trunk of a rented Ford Taurus, which had been set on fire, in Southeast Washington on Aug. 31. District police began working the case as a homicide soon after.
Miller, 45, was an Alexandria native, a husband and the father of two boys. He had worked for the SEC from 1999 until May. About that time, he began staying in a series of motels with Kozak and Moro, Kozak said during a preliminary hearing in Fairfax General District Court.
About a week after Miller's body was found, Kozak said, she went to District police. Detectives there quickly realized that Miller's death may have occurred in Fairfax and summoned Fairfax detectives, who interviewed her that night.
Court records show that Fairfax investigators then went to the Alexandria Motel and found evidence of blood spatters in Room 16. Police seized "several bloody items which corroborated" Kozak's story, and police then obtained a warrant charging Moro, 46, with Miller's murder.
Kozak, 33, said she had known Miller for more than two years and Moro for about five or six months. She said that the three of them had been bouncing from motel to motel for "a few months" and that before Aug. 29, "it had been a week of mostly day and night use" of crack.
She said that Miller and Moro began arguing that night and that Miller pushed her to the ground. "At that point, Dana got very angry," Kozak said, "picked up a pipe and struck him." She thought Moro then pushed Miller down and struck him a second time in the head.
Fairfax Deputy Commonwealth's Attorney Raymond F. Morrogh asked Kozak what happened next. She said she and Moro smoked more crack.
Where was Eric Miller? Morrogh asked.
"He was on the floor," Kozak said quietly.
What was he doing? Morrogh asked.
"Nothing," Kozak said, in barely a whisper. "He was deceased at that point."
Kozak said she and Moro then went to a store to buy some "cleaning agents" and a sleeping bag for Miller's body. However, they didn't have any money.
But Miller had allowed them to use his ATM card in the past. She said Moro took the card from Miller's wallet and used it. According to court records, Miller's card was used at several locations in the Washington area after his death, and surveillance video showed a white man was using it. Miller was black.
Kozak said she and Moro placed Miller's body in the sleeping bag, then in the trunk of Miller's rental car. She drove her truck while Moro drove Miller's car, with the two stopping to buy a gas can and gas before parking the car in the District and setting it on fire.
Kozak has not been charged with a crime. Moro watched her testimony but did not react and did not testify. Fairfax General District Court Judge Ian M. O'Flaherty sent the case to the grand jury for possible indictment next week.