Clifford D. Miller’s fate was decided when he stepped inside a Platte County courtroom Tuesday morning and admitted killing two sisters during a drug-fueled plan to forcibly have sex with one of them.
Pleading guilty to two counts of first-degree murder meant Miller faced mandatory sentences of life in prison with no chance of parole.
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Miller, a 32-year-old Trimble resident, beat and smothered Britny Haarup, 19, and her sister, Ashley Key, 22 on July 13 in Edgerton in Platte County.
Afterward, Miller left Haarup’s 5-month-old and 18-month-old children alone in a crib, loaded the women’s bodies into a truck, drove them to a remote area and dumped them next to a soybean field. Frantic family members and friends spent two anguished days searching for the sisters before authorities found their bodies.
Though Miller did not speak at the hearing, his public defender, Thomas Jacquinot, said he was remorseful.
“I do believe that despite these evil actions he is not an evil person,” Jacquinot said.
Miller looked down as prosecutors presented the facts of the case in a court- room packed with friends and family of Miller and the two victims.
Miller admitted he was high on methamphetamine when he went to Haarup’s home unannounced with a plan to have sex with her, although the two had no previous sexual relationship, said Platte County Prosecutor Eric Zahnd, who called the crimes “outrageously, wantonly vile, horrible and inhuman.”
Key loved music, and Haarup planned to become a neonatal intensive care nurse, said their father, Paul Haarup. He described them as loving and caring and talked of the difficulty ahead for when the family must tell their daughters how their mothers died.
“We are forever broken and damaged,” Haarup said. “We cannot lean on those around us because this has broken all of them too.
“The continued loss of sleep is taxing at best and what little slumber is to be had is invaded by nightmares.”
The crime unfolded just after sunrise, when Miller walked into Haarup’s home. A startled Key awakened from her sleep on a living room couch and confronted Miller, who punched her, grabbed an object from a table and struck her in the head. Miller then smothered Key until she stopped moving. He sat on the couch next to Key’s body contemplating his next move, Zahnd said.
“He decided his only option was to get rid of both women,” he said.
After that, Miller walked into Haarup’s bedroom intending to kill her.
Haarup was asleep on her side facing away from Miller. He struck her head with a stick. Haarup sat up and screamed as Miller repeatedly struck her in the head before suffocating her with a pillow, Zahnd said.
One of Haarup’s daughters was in the room at the time, and the second was in a crib in another room. Miller moved one girl into the crib with her sister.
And, then, after Haarup was dead, he decided he still wanted to have sex with her. He admitted his genitals touched hers, and authorities found his DNA on her knee.
Before leaving the home an hour later, Miller smoked more methamphetamine and wrapped the women’s bodies in plastic and bedsheets. He placed them in the back of a Dodge Ram pickup truck, grabbed the truck keys from Haarup’s purse and took the bodies to tree-lined property near County Line Road.
Miller also stole two rifles plus a 12-gauge shotgun and a double-barrel shotgun. Miller later said he needed money, so he drove the pickup and the weapons to an apartment complex near Prairie View Road in Kansas City, North.
No one knew the sisters were missing until Haarup’s fiance, Matt Meyers, came home that afternoon and found her two daughters alone in a crib.
Haarup’s cellphone and purse, her sister’s purse and her sister’s shoes were at the home. A blood-soaked comforter remained on the couch.
Authorities later found Miller at his girlfriend’s residence in Parkville. Miller was arrested without incident. He’d been spotted in Kansas City and near Trimble driving the truck authorities had associated with the women’s disappearance. Witnesses also told of Miller trying to sell the weapons.
Miller later told investigators that he had known Haarup for some time and was attracted to her.
After the hearing, Miller’s relatives declined to comment.
Paul Haarup said the family continues to struggle with putting their lives back together.
“It is just the last leg of one journey in this situation,” Haarup said as he left the courthouse. “He is put away for life, and that was the goal and we reached that goal.”