A 17-year-old Prior Lake boy faces life imprisonment if convicted of the recent charges brought by a grand jury for his alleged involvement in the shooting death of a Burnsville teen earlier this year.
Last month, a grand jury indicted Braylen Justice Miller and his father, Taran Cortez Miller, 44, on first-degree murder charges for the death of sixteen-year-old Samuel Keezer.
Both face two counts of first-degree murder; one count relates to premeditated murder, the other for murder with intent while committing a felony. If convicted, Minnesota law assigns a mandatory life sentence.
The father and son met Keezer in the Target parking lot in Savage on Feb. 28 to sell him marijuana, according to charging documents. Taran Miller told investigators he shot Keezer in the head inside their vehicle when he thought Keezer “was going to take the marijuana and run out of the car without paying.”
Following their arrests in March, charges were filed against Taran Miller for second-degree murder and Braylen Miller faced two counts of aiding and abetting second-degree murder in the juvenile court system.
The Aug. 14 indictments mark a major development in the case. Taran Miller’s former charges each carried a maximum sentence of 40 years in prison, and Braylen Miller, 16-years-old at the time of the shooting, will now be prosecuted as an adult.
The case’s third defendant, TanyaMarie Esthell Miller, 43, told investigators she knew her husband sold drugs with their son, according to charges.
She pleaded guilty last month to two counts of aiding an offender; one count relates to being an accomplice after the fact, the other to harboring an offender. She is set to be sentenced on Nov. 6.
Officers were called to Target around 7:30 p.m. the night of the shooting.
Multiple witnesses reported hearing what sounded like a firecracker before seeing the victim on the ground, Savage Police Chief Rodney Seurer said.
Officers found Keezer bleeding heavily with critical head injuries. He was able to say his name and that his head hurt before he began vomiting, charges state. He was transported to the Hennepin County Medical Center, where he was placed on life support and later died.
Police said Keezer arrived at Target in a vehicle with three or four other occupants. A witness in the vehicle with Keezer that night told officers Keezer planned to meet Braylen Miller and run off with the marijuana.
The witness told investigators he drove to a nearby parking lot to wait while Keezer got into Braylen Miller’s vehicle in the Target parking lot.
After Keezer didn’t return, the witness found him lying on the ground and bleeding, then fled.
Investigators said surveillance video showed Keezer falling out or being pushed out of a vehicle that was then driven away.
Police connected the vehicle to Braylen Miller.
Investigators were preparing to search the Miller family home and garages when they spotted Braylen Miller running near his house, where they arrested him.
Taran Miller and TanyaMarie Miller were also taken into custody on March 3, according to arrest data.
After his arrest, Braylen Miller told police he went to St. Paul with his father to buy the marijuana to sell to Keezer.
Keezer initially didn’t show up to their first meeting, Braylen Miller told investigators, and instead suggested meeting at Target.
His father told him to go inside the house and get the gun, according to charges.
When Keezer got into the front passenger seat of their vehicle at Target, he kept the door ajar while handling the marijuana. Braylen Miller stated his father shot Keezer in the head, then pushed him out of the vehicle, police said.
Taran Miller then told his son to drive away and called his wife to tell her what happened.
When they returned home to their fourplex residence on Sue Ann Lane, TanyaMarie Miller went to the neighboring unit to retrieve the garage key and hide the vehicle.
In a statement to investigators, Taran Miller’s story matched his son’s.
Taran Miller said he disposed of the bullet casing left in his vehicle and gave the firearm to his sister-in-law at her home in Mankato. His wife drove him.
Officers recovered the murder weapon in a black lock box inside the Mankato home.
A few days after the shooting, the victim’s family and friends gathered in the Target parking lot for an evening vigil. “We love Sam” and “Sam’s World” were among the messages left at a memorial made of flowers, candles and notes.
An obituary described Keezer as “independent, confident, funny, and fearless” and “the most amazing son his parents could have asked for.”
“Sam was taken too soon but will live on through all that knew and loved him,” the obituary reads. “He is in our hearts and will never be forgotten.”
An omnibus hearing for Taran Miller’s case is scheduled for Nov. 6. District Judge Colleen King will preside over the hearing.
Braylen Miller’s omnibus hearing, to be presided over by District Judge Christian Wilton, is set for Dec. 16.