EFFINGHAM — An Altamont man could be sentenced to 30 years in prison next month after an Effingham County jury convicted him of drug-induced homicide in connection with the fatal heroin overdose of an Effingham woman in February.
The jury needed slightly more than an hour to convict Jay C. Miller, 23, of drug-induced homicide and delivery of a controlled substance. The panel found that Miller provided the heroin that led to a fatal overdose for Jessica N. James, 29. James was pronounced dead Feb. 5, one day after prosecutors said Miller provided her with a dose of heroin.
Miller had earlier pleaded guilty to possession of a controlled substance, receiving a five-year prison sentence on that count.
Judge Kimberly Koester set sentencing for 9 a.m. July 31. Drug-induced homicide is a Class X felony with a sentencing range of six to 30 years.
The bespectacled Miller took off his glasses after the verdict was read, while his mother Susan burst into tears.
On the other side of the courtroom, James' grandmother Betty Fulford and the victim's boyfriend, Aaron Heaton, held hands as the verdict was read.
State's Attorney Bryan Kibler said he hopes the verdict sends a message on the county's worsening heroin issue.
“If somebody brings heroin into Effingham County, and it causes someone's death, we will go after them,” Kibler said.
Prosecutors said after the verdict was read that there was some question whether Miller would be tried on the relatively rare drug-induced homicide charge.
“There was a lot of discussion and consultation between law enforcement, Mr. Kibler, and I,” said Assistant State's Attorney Ralph Fowler, who helped Kibler try the case.
“Finally, we reached the conclusion we had a triable case,” Fowler added.
Kibler said the Miller prosecution was a taste of things to come in the criminal justice community. The prosecutor said Investigator John Maguire of the Effingham Police Department sifted through 30,000 pages of cellphone records, including calls and text messages, to develop a large part of the case against Miller.