BAY CITY, MI — Rather than take his chances with a Bay County jury and possibly face life in prison as his two codefendants now do, a man has accepted a plea deal for his role in a botched marijuana robbery-turned-homicide. As a result, he one day be a free man again.
Brandon D. Miller, 26, on the afternoon of Tuesday, Nov. 23, appeared before Bay County Circuit Judge Harry P. Gill and pleaded no contest to single counts of first-degree home invasion and conspiracy to commit first-degree home invasion. Both charges are 20-year felonies.
Miller’s trial was to begin the following Tuesday.
Bay County Chief Assistant Prosecutor Jeffrey D. Stroud said as part of the agreement, Miller is to serve his resulting sentences consecutively with one another. The combined minimum sentence is to be 15 years, Stroud added.
In exchange for Miller’s pleas, Stoud agreed to dismiss charges of first-degree murder, armed robbery, and conspiracy to commit armed robbery.
By pleading no contest as opposed to guilty, Miller did not orally admit to having committed a crime. Defense attorney Andrea J. LaBean said Miller was pleading no contest for reasons of civil liability.
The convictions stem from the July 2019, killing of 39-year-old Tyler R. Gruber, shot twice inside his home at 505 N. Henry St.
Miller’s two codefendants, Brandon M. Dupuis and Devon J. Knights, were convicted in separate trials earlier this year of first-degree felony murder and numerous other charges. A conviction of first-degree murder mandates life imprisonment without the possibility of parole.
During Dupuis’ and Knights’ trials, Bay County Prosecutor Nancy E. Borushko and Stroud argued the three men in the early hours of July 29, 2019, entered Gruber’s home to steal medical marijuana plants Gruber and his roommate cultivated in an upstairs room.
Gruber had several surveillance cameras in and around his house and recorded footage of the intrusion, videos of which were played in both prior trials. Once the trio were in the house, Dupuis went to a kitchen drawer and retrieved a loaded handgun.
Dupuis and Knights then went up the stairs, leaving Miller in the first-floor living room. Moments later, Gruber emerged from his bedroom and confronted Miller. As Gruber and Miller fought, Dupuis and Knights ran back downstairs, with Dupuis firing the gun at the grappling men. Dupuis fatally wounded Gruber and shot Miller in his leg.
The intruders ran outside, with the wounded Miller flagging down a passerby who drove him to a hospital for medical attention.
To establish Miller’s guilt, Judge Gill reviewed a transcript from a preliminary examination, in which a Bay City police detective testified he had interviewed Miller at a hospital shortly after the shooting. Miller told the detective he, Dupuis, and Knights planned to burglarize Gruber’s home of money and pot. Miller told the detective Dupuis retrieved a gun from a drawer in Gruber’s house and used it to fatally shoot the homeowner.
Dupuis, 29, was represented in his trial by Saginaw attorney James F. Piazza, who argued Gruber’s killer couldn’t be identified as Dupuis in the video footage. Attorney Alan A. Crawford defended the 26-year-old Knights, arguing at trial that Dupuis acted as a lone wolf when he shot Gruber and that his client had no intention of harming or killing anyone.
Judge Gill is to sentence Dupuis on Dec. 2, Knights on Jan. 13, and Miller on March 15.
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