National News

'It's a blessing': Woman, 75, freed from prison after 30 years

Posted June 19, 2018 5:16 p.m. EDT

— A woman who spent more than three decades behind bars had her sentence commuted by Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens on his last day in office.

Verdia Miller, who turns 76 soon, spent more than 30 years in prison for a 1978 murder that she was a witness to, but she did not pull the trigger; she was there when Larry Dean Smiddy was shot to death.

"It's a blessing to be free," Miller told News 4 while strolling down a sidewalk. "I love the trees, the birds, looking at the flowers."

For years, the Community Coalition for Clemency petitioned for Miller's release. St. Louis University Law School's John Amman was one of Miller's biggest advocates. He and others pleaded her case to Missouri's highest office. Then, on his last day, Governor Greitens gave Miller a call.

"He said 'I am the governor of the state of Missouri. I'm Eric Greitens and why I'm calling you is I commuted your sentence today. I signed your papers you will be able to go home to your family. I said thank you, thank you Jesus.'"

During her time in prison, the world changed, and so did her life. When she was sent to prison, she had a daughter, a sister and a second husband. When she left, they were all gone.

"I stood at each gravesite. That was very hard - my daughters and my sister stuck by me," Miller said. "I feel so all alone now."

She still thinks about the man who was murdered, and the night she made a poor decision to jump into a car when the victim and a man named Eddie Jackson. Miller was outside of the car when the shooting started. She says she pleaded with Jackson to spare her life.

"In my heart, that scene will stay with me forever. I was screaming I was begging for my life because he pointed the gun at me he said 'I can't leave no witnesses.'" But, Miller survived the night, promising to stay quiet.

She spoke to News 4's Chris Nagus about her time in prison and what she plans to do going forward. Watch the video above for the whole story.