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Episode 28: Tyler Gene McMillan

Summary

This week, Kelley Richey and Julia Avery discuss the tragic case of Tyler Gene McMillan in Macclesfield, NC. Tyler died at 13 years old as a result of child abuse at the hands of his father, Brice McMillan, and Step-mother, Sandra McMillan. In June 2008, Tyler was bound to a tree for 18 hours and beaten. He ultimately died of dehydration and a heat stroke with additional wounds. The lack of available details surrounding this case creates more questions than it does answer them.

Victim

Tyler Gene McMillan

Tyler was a boy scout who enjoyed reading, karate, professional wrestling, being outdoors, fishing, and playing with his cousins. He was born and raised in Pitt County North Carolina. Tyler’s schooling began at Greenville Christian Academy, progressed to Trinity Christian School, and ended with homeschooling by his parents. With a Christian faith focused family, Tyler also grew up attending Jarvis Memorial United Methodist Church. After Tyler’s death, he was buries next to his mother, Michelle McMillan, who had tragically preceded him in death as a result of cancer.

Arrested

Brice McMillan

Brice McMillan was Tyler’s father and ultimately responsible for his death. Brice beat Tyler with a rod and tied him to a tree in the sweltering summer heat as a form of discipline over the course of 18 hours. Based on Tyler’s cause of death, it is also evident Brice withheld Tyler from drinking water and nourishment. On the 911 call, Brice refuses to answer the dispatcher’s direct questions regarding what Tyler had been doing right before he was found to not be breathing.

Sandra McMillan

Sandra McMillan was Tyler’s stepmother who was dually responsible for his death. While Brice appeared to be the initiator in this case, Sandra put forth zero effort in standing up for and ultimately saving Tyler’s life. Despite her participation in this child murder, she roams free today with access to her child.

Sequence of Events

Pre-Incident

  • Removed from school to homeschool
  • State had no record of the homeschooling

Incident

  • Tyler Gene McMillan was tied to a tree at his house for 18 hours before he died of dehydration and a heat stroke
  • According to an autopsy report, Tyler McMillan had a body temperature of 105.6 degrees Fahrenheit when he was taken to a hospital. Tests after his death also showed a pattern of dehydration, the report states. The boy also had insect bites over his arms and legs and marks on his wrists and ankles that were consistent with plastic ties, according to the autopsy report. He also had bruises on his buttocks and legs that appeared to have been caused by a rod-like instrument, the report states.
  • His wrists and ankles were bound with plastic wrap and he was also tied to the tree with some other material.
  • Brice McMillan told Edgecombe County deputies he tied his son to a tree at their house because the boy was being disobedient and other disciplinary actions had failed.
  • He said he untied Tyler Wednesday morning and allowed him back into the house but tied him for a second time that night when the boy started misbehaving again.
  • Tyler remained tied up until Sandra McMillan found him unconscious at about 4:30 p.m. Thursday, authorities said. He was taken to Heritage Hospital, where doctors pronounced him dead.
  • It was unclear from the arrest warrant whether the 18 hours the boy spent tied up were consecutive or the total time spanning the two days, and authorities could not comment on the matter.
  • A rope was seen dangling from a tree in the yard outside the house Friday, but it could not be confirmed whether that was used to tie the boy.
  • The dispatcher who took the 911 call on the incident asked Brice and Sandra several times what Tyler was doing before he had stopped breathing. Brice told the dispatcher that Tyler didn’t have any medical problems. Towards the end of the call, Brice and Sandra had stopped responding to questions asked by the dispatcher.

Post Incident

June 2008

  • Tyler was buried next to his mother and remembered by family and friends as a boy who enjoyed reading, karate, professional wrestling and being outdoors fishing and playing with his cousins. “We will miss Tyler very much and are in shock, disbelief and unbearable grief,” his family said in a statement issued Monday afternoon.
  • Brice and Sandra were both charged with murder and felony child abuse. 
  • The 13-year-old’s father, Brice McMillan, 41, wept during most of the brief proceeding. Neither he nor his wife, Sandra McMillan, 36, acknowledged the other while in court; they have retained separate attorneys
  • A 7-year-old and a 9-year-old who lived in the McMillan home were placed in the custody of the Department of Social Services, authorities said. According to an obituary in The Daily Reflector of Greenville, Tyler had one brother.
  • Brice and Sandra McMillan are both scheduled to be back in court July 2 for a probable cause hearing.

January 2009

  • Brice and Sandra were scheduled to appear in court again on January 13, 2009. On March 10, 2009, Sandra was released after posting bail on a $200,000. secured bond which had been set by Judge Milton Fitch Jr. of the North Carolina Superior Court. The bond requires Sandra to live with her cousin in Cary and wear an electronic monitor
  • at all times. Sandra is not allowed to leave the state and would be giving limited visits with her eight year old daughter who lives with her grandparents and will be called as a witness at Sandra’s trial. Sandra is allowed to leave her residence ONLY for attorney visits.
  • Sandra entered a plea of not guilty during her appearance in court in January of 2009. Brice also plead not guilty to charges against him, he is being held without bail. The District Attorney’s Office stated that they will not seek the death penalty against Sandra, though they have not said if they will seek it against Brice. A tentative date has been set for trial for Sandra, for July 6, 2009

June 2009

  • The father of a 13-year-old boy who died after being tied to a tree pleaded guilty Monday to second-degree murder.
  • During a pre-trial hearing, Brice McMillan, 42, entered an Alford plea in exchange for testifying against his wife, Sandra McMillan, who is charged with murder and felony child abuse.
  • Sandra McMillan, 37, the boy’s stepmother, is out of jail on bond. Her trial is slated to begin July 6. Brice McMillan will be sentenced after her trial.
  • In an Alford plea, a defendant pleads guilty, while maintaining his or her innocence, and admits it is in his or her best interest to take the plea deal because prosecutors have sufficient evidence that could find him or her guilty.
  • In June of 2009, Brice McMillan and Sandra McMillan were in court after plea deals were made in the case of Tyler. Brice and Sandra were at first charged with first degree murder and felony child abuse, the couple, SICKENINGLY, was allowed to use the Alford plea which allows them to claim their innocence while at the same time, admitting that there was enough evidence to win a conviction.
  • Brice was sentenced to ONLY ten to 13 years while Sandra was sentenced to ONLY 13 to 16 years. 
  • Brice and Sandra cried in court as they said they never meant for Tyler to die.
  • Tyler’s maternal grandmother, June Sasser was in court and had this to say: “I think he’s a sorry excuse for a man and I think he’s a sorry excuse for a father” June was not happy about the sentences saying that Bernie Madoff was sentenced to far more: “He gets 150 years. Two people kill a child in a God awful way, they get ten years?”June said that she rarely got to see her grandsons after Brice married Sandra and that Sandra had thrown away any reminders of their mother. Brice had called her from jail to tell her about Tyler’s death: “In a very flat, dead, monotone voice he said “Tyler’s dead and I’ve been arrested for first degree murder and I’m in jail”
  • When Brice plead guilty, June started a petition and wrote to the District Attorney’s Office asking that they NOT offer a deal to Sandra. It was said in court that the Prosecutors offered the couple a deal because it was believed that they did not mean to kill Tyler:
  • “What did they think was going to happen? Maybe they weren’t trying to kill him, but they were sure trying to hurt him. He was just one of the most sweetest and loving young men I’ve ever seen” – June Sasser

Outcome

  • Cases and arrest warrants appear to have been sealed
  • Brice McMillan – Released (51)
  • Brice pleaded guilty to a lesser charge and was sentenced to 10-13 years in prison. 
  • Sandra also entered a plea of 2nd degree murder and was sentenced to 13-16 years in prison. Sandra has not admitted to guilt but has stated that she took the deal because of the evidence the prosecutor had on her.
  • Both tearfully apologized in court Monday afternoon, saying they did not intend for Tyler to die.
  • “If I could go back and change everything I would,” Sandra McMillan said. “I loved Tyler. I never meant for any of this to happen.”
  • “I loved my son,” Brice McMillan said. “I’m so sorry to all those who trusted me with his care. I failed as his father.”
  • Prosecutors said they offered the plea because they did not believe the McMillans intended to kill him and that the deal was in the best interest of all involved.
About Author

Julia Avery was raised in a large and religious family in rural Kentucky. She was the fifth child out of six; all homeschooled until graduation with exception for the youngest. Due to a suppressed childhood, she dreamt with immense imagination and vigor. This is something she has never outgrown and never plans to. Amongst such dreams and passions is the desire to make a lasting and positive impact on the world, to create endlessly, always improve, and love fully. She loves photography, art, film/tv/entertainment, writing, politics, ....and most everything really!

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