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Poisoning Victim's Family Begin Battle To Seek Custody Of Daughter

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RALEIGH, N.C. — In December 2000, Doris and Verus Miller lost their only son, Eric Miller, when he unexpectedly died.

Last November, Eric Miller's widow, Ann Miller Kontz, pleaded guilty to second-degree murder charges in connection with his arsenic poisoning death, avoiding a possible life sentence.

Now, the Millers are trying not to lose Eric's daughter, Clare -- their granddaughter -- who recently turned 6 years old.

"She has that special smile that her father had," remembers a tearful Doris Miller. "Yes, she's all we have left of Eric."

The Millers visit with Clare every few months, and have been doing so since she was born. In fact, they recently returned from a weekend visit with her.

When Miller Kontz was indicted and put in prison in September 2004, she gave custody of her daughter to her sister, Danielle Wilson, of Wilmington.

Although the Millers don't dispute that the child is well cared for by Wilson and her husband, they want Eric Miller's sister, Pam Baltzell, and her husband to have custody.

"We just want what's best for our grandchild, and we want her to know her father," said Doris Miller.

At issue will be whether to disrupt the consistency of a home where the child has been living for more than a year.

But the court battle could be traumatic for a couple who has already suffered so much in the loss of their son and a five-year wait for justice.

"Sometimes, you just have to do what's right, not what's easy," Verus Miller said.

The family will appear in front of Judge Phyllis Gorham Wednesday morning in New Hanover County to ask if they are allowed to intervene in the case. This means the judge will have to decide whether or not they have legal standing to ask for custody.

"We believe in the legal system and we believe what is right will happen," Doris Miller said.


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