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Vernon robber left trail of coffee cups, and fingerprints

Vernon Courthouse
August 18, 2016 - 11:40 AM

VERNON - A cup of coffee led to a Vernon robber's downfall.

With his face obscured by a hoodie and his head held down Jeremiah James Miller, 42, may have gone unidentified by authorities if not for the fingerprints he left on his coffee cups during a spree of robberies in January 2016.

The robberies took place over the span of roughly one day, starting in the early morning hours of Jan. 27, 2016, court heard during a sentence hearing yesterday, Aug. 17. Miller has pleaded guilty to all three robberies.

Crown counsel Jeremy Guild described how just after 2 a.m., at the 7-Eleven on 39 Avenue in Vernon, Miller made himself a cup of coffee, approached the counter, and told the clerk to open the till. There were two employees in the store at the time.

When one of the employees refused, Miller went behind the counter and brandished a knife. That prompted one of the employees to grab a knife on the counter and attempt to ward Miller off, Guild said. Ultimately, the employee dropped the knife and Miller picked it up. It’s unclear based on video surveillance footage played in court whether Miller attempted to stab the employee with the knife, however both legal counsels agreed an assault of some kind took place, although the employee was not injured.

During the incident, which lasted about a minute, the other employee opened the till and Miller made off with an undisclosed amount of cash.

Later, around 4:11 a.m. on Jan. 28, police received another report of a robbery, this time at Mac’s Convenience Store on 27 Street. Miller entered the store, once again got himself a cup of coffee, and approached the till, Guild said. He proceeded to rip the lone store employee’s security necklace from around her neck. On the necklace was a panic alarm that, when activated, would alert authorities that she was in trouble, Guild said.

Miller then went behind the woman and held something against her back. Once again, he obtained an undisclosed amount of cash and fled the scene, leaving the coffee cup at the store.

The coffee cups left behind in both robberies were analyzed by RCMP forensics, and led to Miller. Police tracked down his last known address in Vernon and attended the residence around 8 p.m. on Jan. 28.

At roughly 8:10 p.m., police observed a Jeep in the parking lot outside Miller’s residence. While police were speaking to the building manager, and checking to see if anyone was home, the Jeep disappeared. At 8:40 p.m., the Jeep was seen returning to the parking lot.

“They were going to try to arrest the person in the Jeep,” Guild said. “Just as that occurred, an… alert on the police radio went off that indicated a major incident.”

Another armed robbery had just occurred.

Police concluded Miller had most likely committed another robbery and arrested him.

The robbery that occurred while police were staking out Miller’s apartment took place at the Village Green Liquor store on 24 Street, where a lone female employee was threatened with a knife, Guild said, adding the woman pleaded with him not to hurt her because she was pregnant.

Miller left the store with about $2,300 from the register.

Miller has an extensive criminal record involving three previous robberies in 2011 and multiple assaults.

Guild noted that about a week before the Vernon robberies, Miller broke up with his partner over drugs and money.

“The break-up, creating stress, also seemed to be a factor contributing to his deciding to commit these offences,” Guild said.

Guild said the offences were planned out, violent, and frightening for the victims involved, and asked Provincial Court Judge Mark Takahashi to consider a six year jail sentence, plus $2,300 in restitution paid to the Village Green Liquor Store.

“Obviously there is a victim who was incredibly frightened and, clearly from what she said, she feared for her life and the life of her child,” Guild said of the liquor store robbery.

Defence counsel Nick Jacob argued for a lower sentence, one to four years in jail.

While Miller is adopted, Jacob noted his biological family struggled with addictions issues, and said it’s possible he was predisposed to addiction. A pre-sentence report also indicated Miller may suffer from fetal alcohol spectrum disorder, Jacob said.

“He’s had a life that’s been characterized by high points and low points,” Jacob said, adding there were periods of stability and gainful employment.

Jacob said his client has problems with impulse control and wishes to receive counselling during his time in prison.

In an apology letter filed in court, Miller tells his victims he is sorry for what he did.

“I can’t take that moment back, but I can do right from this experience. I feel terrible for putting you and your families through this,” Miller wrote. “I will get help so that something like this doesn’t happen again.”

Judge Takahashi has reserved his decision on a sentence for Aug. 24.

UPDATE AUG. 29, 2016: According to court records, Miller was sentenced to three-and-a-half years in jail. 

- This story was corrected at 7:46 a.m., Friday, Aug. 19, 2016 to change the word demise to downfall in the first sentence.

To contact a reporter for this story, email Charlotte Helston or call 250-309-5230 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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