LAKE CHARLES, LA (KPLC) - The verdict is in and after three hours deliberating jurors decide Michael Jason Miller is guilty as charged in the brutal beating of 85-year-old Hazel Bergeron in 2007. Photos examined by jurors revealed the brutality of the attack on Bergeron who was black and blue, bloodied and broken and in a wheel chair four months after the attack. She said Michael Jason Miller was the one who did it and she never wavered in her video taped testimony recorded in 2007. Bergeron knew Miller because he had done work in her home for which he was paid. "I seen the face. I knew him. Defense attorney: but he was wearing a mask. Bergeron: I don't care, I still recognized the face and the eyes."
The video was made in advance of trial in case Bergeron didn't live to testify in person and sure enough she died last September. But jurors heard her speak loud and clear about the horrible ordeal through which she suffered and how she was robbed not only of material things but her independence too. "He comes back to me and he says, 'I know you have more money than that. That's when he put the knife to my throat. I says, whatever's in my purse. I threw the money out 'cause I was scared stiff."
Says Prosecutor Cynthia Killingsworth, "She was a very independent woman before this happened. She washed all her clothes, did her laundry and she would tell you that in her statement. Afterwards, she could not live by herself. She was in assisted living for a while and then one of her sons came to stay with her for a while prior to her death."
The defense argued Miller was not the one who broke in and attacked Bergeron, but jurors didn't buy it. Prosecutors Killingsworth and Brent Hawkins are pleased. "Anytime you have a home invasion it's extremely, extremely close to your heart. If anybody has a loved one who has an elderly parent or grandparent and they live by themselves, you always feel vulnerable. When somebody takes advantage of that it's horrible. Especially when they hurt someone as badly as they hurt Ms. Bergeron."
Hawkins says, "From the word go Ms. Bergeron indicated the defendant, Michael Jason Miller, was the person who committed the offenses against her. We didn't have any doubt as to this defendant's presence in the home because that's what our victim told us in her own voice repeatedly."
Miller was convicted of attempted second degree murder and aggravated burglary and could face a total of 80 years in prison. Sentencing is set for September 23rd. Relatives of Ms. Bergeron declined to appear on camera. But they say she wanted to be in the courtroom for the verdict to, among other things, ask him why.
Here is Ms. Bergeron's statement which she wrote before she died:
"I had a life. I cleaned my house, drove my car, went to church and worked in my flower beds. It may seem like a simple life to you, but it was mine and you decided to take it from me. I layed on the floor so cold for yours. My son Joe arrived. I received help, but I never had the life I had again. My independence was gone. I woke up night after night opening my eyes and saw you standing over me. One night I told myself you took away so much, but I was going to win. I wanted to be there to hear the verdict, then to sit in front of you and and ask you why? Why Jay? Why?"