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UPDATE: Milner gets life without parole

Courtney Astolfi • Aug 8, 2014 at 9:29 PM


UPDATE 12:15 p.m.: Judge Roger Binette sentenced Michael Milner to life without parole today for the 2012 killing of 3-year-old Owen Barker. 

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A judge will decide today what penalty to impose on the Sandusky man responsible for the death of his girlfriend's three-year-old son.

Michael Milner, 26, pleaded guilty to aggravated murder earlier this year for the 2012 beating death of Owen Barker.

Milner will be sentenced to prison this afternoon, at the conclusion of a lengthy hearing intended to help Erie County Common Pleas Court Judge Roger Binette decide just how long to put Milner behind bars.

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Four options are on the table: life without parole, or life with the possibility of parole after 20, 25, or 30 years.

Erie County prosecutor Kevin Baxter previously recommended Milner be sentenced to one of the latter three possibilities, but the final say ultimately rests with Binette.

To better inform that decision, two days worth of court proceedings were set aside for family members, victims, and other involved individuals to speak about Milner and the circumstances that led up to Owen's death.

On Wednesday, Milner's mother, twin brother, his mother's boyfriend, and a cousin all spoke of the boy “Mikey” once was, and the troubled path he embarked on early in life.

The relatives each acknowledged the rocky home life Milner endured as a child and in his teens — but each relative also addressed Milner's desire to do right by his then-girlfriend's young son, Owen.

“Anyone (who) takes the time to...get to know Mike will tell you that he's a very loving, (emotional) and sometimes goofy young man that has a big heart. I don't know exactly what happened, but I do know that Mike never meant to harm Owen, that he loved that little boy and he has regretted his actions that night since the split-second it happened,” Milner's mother told the court.

After the relatives made their statements, Angela Wiley, a mitigation specialist with the state public defender's office, was questioned by the defense attorney, prosecutor and judge.

Wiley was tasked with reviewing Milner's life — had the death penalty case gone forward without a plea deal being reached, Wiley would have testified about everything from Milner's school life, to friends, to family life and his criminal past.

At defense attorney John Parker's prompting, she shared numerous details about Milner's past, including the alleged toxic environment in which Milner's father was raised, and failed counseling efforts during Milner's youth.

However, when Baxter had the opportunity to question Wiley, the prosecutor focused on the various and conflicting versions of what Milner claimed happened the night Owen died.

Baxter also brought up old bruises found on Owen, indicative of ongoing abuse, as well as multiple threats Milner has allegedly made against the himself and a Sandusky police detective.

Proceedings then broke for the day, but will resume this morning at 8:30 a.m.

At that time, a psychologist will address the court, as will family members of Owen.

A final sentencing decision should be reached by the end of today. 

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