A man accused of fatally shooting the mother of his unborn child in a shopping center parking lot could become the first person in the state to be prosecuted under a law that considers the murder of a pregnant woman whose late-term fetus also dies a double homicide, authorities said yesterday.
David L. Miller could be charged with murder in the death of the unborn child, said Baltimore County State's Attorney Scott D. Shellenberger, who said he would wait for detailed autopsy results before making a decision.
Under state law, a person who kills a woman pregnant with a "viable" fetus can be found guilty of two murders, the prosecutor said.
No one has been prosecuted under Maryland's fetal homicide law, which was enacted in October 2005, said Dr. David Fowler, the state's chief medical examiner. His office performs autopsies to determine whether a fetus was viable.
Most babies are able to live outside the womb about 28 weeks, or seven months, after conception, Fowler said. "If that child is taken to an emergency room or pediatric emergency room very quickly [after birth], then the chances of survival are very good," he said.
The medical examiner's office has completed an autopsy on Walters, who police said was seven months' pregnant, and the unborn baby, but Fowler would not release the results because they are part of a police investigation. Shellenberger said that it could take up to 30 days to analyze the more detailed information that he will use to make his decision in the case.
The law does not allow the death of a fetus to be considered an "aggravating" factor that could make a death sentence a possibility in the case, Shellenberger said, adding, "In my mind, that's extremely unfortunate."
Miller, 24, of Halstead Road in Hillendale is accused of killing Elizabeth C. Walters, 24, and shooting and seriously injuring her friend, Heather J. Lowe, 24, as they sat in a parked car Monday morning in the Parkway Crossing shopping center on Perring Parkway, north of the city line. Police have said that Miller, who is married to another woman, was the father of Walters' unborn child.
According to police, on the morning of the shooting, several cell phone calls were exchanged between Miller and Walters, a waitress at the Charles Village Pub.
Surveillance tapes show a black 2000 Cadillac pulling up to the gray Dodge Stratus in which the two women were sitting, police said. A person got into the Dodge then left moments later.
Walters was pronounced dead at the scene. Before she was flown to Maryland Shock Trauma Center in Baltimore, Lowe told police that Miller was the shooter, police said.
Miller, charged in a warrant with first-degree murder and attempted first-degree murder, surrendered to police Tuesday night.
In a hearing yesterday in Baltimore County District Court, Miller's attorney, James R. Dills, asked that bail be set, saying that Miller had no previous violent crimes on his record. Judge Patricia Pytash denied the request.
"We have two exceptionally serious charges," Pytash said. She also pointed to a "public safety issue."
Dills declined to comment about the relationship between Miller and Walters.
"We need time to look through everything," he said. "The public and media needs to sit back and look at the facts before they come to a conclusion."
Miller's belongings, including a framed picture of his wife, were cleared from his desk at Northwest Pre-Owned, a car dealership where he was a salesman, soon after his arrest, said Peter Sorice, a dealership manager.
Sorice described Miller as a quiet man who had worked at the dealership for about five months.
"From a business standpoint, he was kind of green," he said.
Miller's wife routinely drove her husband to work in a black Cadillac, Sorice said, adding that he had never seen Walters at the dealership and that Miller never mentioned her at work.