Family of woman killed in DUI crash speaks: ‘We all know there’s a missing piece’
JACKSON COUNTY -- Of all the things they lost and all the things they said they would miss about her, Melissa Miller's family kept returning to one thing: the effect of Miller's death on her four children.
Those children, accompanied by other family members, packed one side of Judge Dale Harkey's courtroom Friday. Across the aisle sat family members of the man who killed her.
James Curtis Boyd, 36, was sentenced to 14 years in prison and 11 years of post-release supervision for striking and killing Miller, his girlfriend, with a pickup truck in 2014 while he was drunk. He had pleaded guilty in May to felony DUI causing death.
During the hearing, both families cried.
"I lost my mother three weeks after I graduated high school," said Miller's only daughter, Carissa Lancaster. "I was only 17 when she died.
"She was excited for me to get married, for grandkids. Now, instead of helping me pick out a wedding dress or kids' names, I had to pick out her casket and funeral clothes."
Miller and Boyd had been celebrating and drinking the day before the crash, prosecutors said. They went from a family gathering to meet Miller's sister at a bar, where Boyd became belligerent. They left in his pickup -- with Miller driving because Boyd had a previous DUI -- but Miller got out of the truck after an argument.
Boyd ran the truck into her as she walked along Mississippi 613 in the Hurley community, prosecutors said.
Neither Boyd nor his attorney argued for a lenient sentence.
"I'm very sorry for the pain and heartache," Boyd said in the courtroom. "I wish I could take it all away. I loved Melissa and I was sure we had a future together."
His attorney, Calvin Taylor, said Boyd deserved to spend time in prison.
"It's 100 percent his fault and that's what he told me the day he hired me," Taylor said. "The result of (his actions) is that her children don't have a mother and her mother doesn't have a daughter. It's his fault. That's the end of it."
Harkey concurred with the prosecution's recommendation in sentencing Boyd to 25 years, along with imposing fines, court costs and restitution.
"It's necessary we hear from the people most affected by crime in the community," Harkey said. "It makes it real. We need to be reminded of that sometimes."
He also acknowledged the presence of both families and the pain both felt.
Prosecutors read letters from Miller's cousin and sister, and her mother spoke. Each mentioned Miller's children and how devoted she had always been to family.
Cynthia Shumock, Miller's mother, took a long moment to start speaking and her voice shook from the first word.
"Melissa was always there. The one who would always make you laugh even when you had nothing to laugh about. Summers by the river, birthdays, holidays, they will never be the same.
"Deep down, we all know there's a missing piece and that's Melissa."