A murder trial is scheduled in January 2023 for an father and son accused of killing their neighbor over a dispute about a mattress in 2018, according to Taylor County court records released this week. The murder trial for Johnnie Miller, 71, and his son, Michael Miller, 35, had previously been scheduled for Monday in the 350th District Court in Abilene. But another murder trial is underway in the Abilene courtroom, which once again caused the delay in the Miller trial.
The murder trial is now scheduled for 9 a.m. on Jan. 23, 2023, according to court records.
The Millers are accused of shooting to death their neighbor, Aaron Howard, 37, on Sept. 1, 2018, in an alley behind their homes in 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 jury in Taylor County.
“We are justified to use force in self-defense,” Sparks said in a May 2019 telephone interview. “Texas is a ‘stand your ground’ state. You do not have a legal duty to retreat when you’re threatened.” Howard’s common-law wife, Kara Box, witnessed the shooting and disagreed with the self-defense claim in a May 2019 interview with the 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 drew national attention after Box released a two-minute video showing the confrontation and the shooting. She took the video with her cellphone as she stood by Howard. Box has told the Star-Telegram that the couple had moved to that Abilene home in April 2018, but they had never talked to the Millers until the morning of Sept. 1. The Millers were their next-door neighbors. “We had thrown out a twin mattress in a dumpster in our alley a few days before the shooting,” Box said. “You have to have the mattress in the dumpster or they will not haul it away.”
On the morning of Sept. 1, 2018, Box and Howard were in the back yard when they saw the mattress was on their property. Howard tossed it back in the dumpster. Box said that’s when Johnnie Miller came to the alley, pulled the mattress out of the dumpster and tossed it back on Howard’s property. Howard told Miller to put it back in the dumpster. Miller cursed at Howard and told him he wasn’t going to do that, Box said.
“That’s when Johnnie (Miller) pulled a pistol out of his shorts,” she said. Box noted that Howard’s nieces and nephews had been with them in the back yard. “Aaron goes into pappa bear mode,” Box said. “A man has just pulled a gun on his wife, his brother, his nieces and nephews.”
A tense conversation ensues between Howard, who is not armed, and Johnnie and Michael Miller, who arrives on the scene armed with a shotgun, the video shows. Howard threatens to kill the Millers, and the Millers repeatedly curse at Howard in the video. As tempers flare, Box steps in between her husband and Johnnie Miller. Howard’s brother has handed him a baseball bat by this time, but he never swung it, his wife said. “If you come within 3 feet of me, I’m going to kill you,” Johnnie Miller tells Howard. Seconds later, two gunshots are heard.
The video also shows Michael Miller firing the shotgun after the first two shots are fired. Box starts screaming, “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 OK, but he didn’t make it,” Box said. Box said Johnnie Miller walked up to her and put the handgun to her head, yelling at her to get on the ground. She said Michael Miller went over to Aaron’s brother, placed 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.