Local News

Stepmother pleads guilty in son's tree-tying death

Posted June 29, 2009

— The stepmother of a 13-year-old boy, who died last year after spending the night tied to a tree, pleaded guilty Monday in connection with his death.

Sandra McMillan, 37, entered an Alford plea of second-degree murder in the June 12, 2008, death of Tyler McMillan, who died from dehydration and heat stroke.

Tyler McMillan Parents sentenced in teen's death

McMillan and her husband, Brice McMillan, were arrested shortly after Tyler's death and charged with murder and felony child abuse.

Earlier this month, he also pleaded guilty to second-degree murder under an Alford plea in exchange for testifying against his wife, whose trial was slated to begin next week.

In an Alford plea, a defendant pleads guilty, while maintaining his or her innocence, and admits it is in his or her best interest to take the plea deal because prosecutors have sufficient evidence that could find him or her guilty.

Both were sentenced Monday – Sandra McMillan to 13 to 16 years in prison and Brice McMillan to 10 to 13 years in prison.

Both tearfully apologized in court Monday afternoon, saying they did not intend for Tyler to die.

"If I could go back and change everything I would," Sandra McMillan said. "I loved Tyler. I never meant for any of this to happen."

"I loved my son," Brice McMillan said. "I'm so sorry to all those who trusted me with his care. I failed as his father."

Prosecutors said they offered the plea because they did not believe the McMillans intended to kill him and that the deal was in the best interest of all involved.

Tyler's maternal grandmother, June Sasser, however, said by phone Monday that the sentences were light. She called them "an injustice to Tyler and what he went through."

Authorities have said that Brice McMillan told investigators that he twice tied Tyler to a tree as punishment for disobedience and that the boy was left outside overnight on the second occasion.

According to an autopsy report, Tyler had a body temperature of 105.6 degrees Fahrenheit when he was taken to a hospital. Tests after his death also showed a pattern of dehydration, the report states.

The boy also had insect bites over his arms and legs and marks on his wrists and ankles that were consistent with plastic ties, according to the autopsy report.

He also had bruises on his buttocks and legs that appeared to have been caused by a rod-like instrument, the report states.


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  • jasoncar Jun 30, 2009

    The preacher that testified for Sandy during sentencing said he gave gave Sandy advise on punishments. Was he the one that taught Sandy how to tie Tyler to the tree. I wish the media would have covered what was said during sentencing better. Sandy never at any time took any responsibity for any of her actions. She lied and tried to blame everything on Brice. She was under his control----what a joke. I guess she forgot that there were 5 people in the household and a vido tape. Brice is guilty of not protecting his sons. He took full responsibity of his actions and lack of actions. He took full responsibity for Tyler's death. She never loved Tyler or his brother. She is a very cruel person and I now know she is a liar. She is only sorry that this happened because she is going to jail.

  • pebbles262004 Jun 30, 2009

    This just makes me sick........They should have gotten life inprison or even death. That poor child went through all that he went through for them to just get a slap on the wrist.

  • mrsmom Jun 30, 2009

    This makes me sick! These folks will be out of jail before that child could have turned 30. That is just wrong!

  • mom2threecld Jun 30, 2009

    even prisoners have their codes. child molesters and killers are the lowest of the low so hopefully life will be short lived for them as they deserve. they do not deserve to live on tax payer money in prison

  • mom2threecld Jun 30, 2009

    people know that you DON"T tie your child to a tree for ANY reason. they are probably sorry they got caught and punished, not sorry for the child. i will never understand how people mistreat their children. they can get on your nerves at times, but you don't hurt them. this was so sad for the child.

  • determined2win Jun 29, 2009

    The defendants in this case got off too easy in the trial court. Maybe the prison 'court' will be more harsh...

  • airbornemonty Jun 29, 2009

    "Prosecutors said they offered the plea because they did not believe the McMillans intended to kill him and that the deal was in the best interest of all involved."

    I don't believe that. I think the prosecutors didn't pursue the case because they would rather sit behind a desk and make google eyes at the receptionists for eight hours if that long.

  • holmesap Jun 29, 2009

    I want to know where the prosecutor got his education in law? He doesn't think they intended to kill him. If someone did this to his child would he feel the same way? I am sure glad I never committed a crime and needed him for a lawyer!

  • KM13 Jun 29, 2009

    Poor Tyler has been killed all over again. In court today, Brice was sentenced to a minimum of 125 months (about 10.5 years) and a maximum of 159 months (a little over 13 years). Sandra was sentenced to a minimum of 157 months (a little over 13 years) and a maximum of 198 months (about 16.5 years). For the life of an innocent and helpless child. It's a sad commentary on our society that we place so little value on the life of a child. Bernie Madoff swindles people out of money and gets 150 YEARS. YEARS! And 2 child killers get 10 and 13 years. That is not justice - it's a travesty. In Court, Sandra said she loved Tyler and she never meant for him to die. That's not love - love is patient and kind, it does not torture children. I think the only thing she's sorry about is that she's going to jail for at least 13 years. I'm sorry too - she should have gotten much more jail time than that. So should Brice.

  • Brogden Jun 29, 2009

    They each got a little more than 10 years - for killing this child.
    Car jackers get more than that!