tampabay.com

Subway shooter convicted

A sandwich store worker was shot to death in 2004 when she fumbled to open the cash register.

By COLLEEN JENKINS
Published May 18, 2007


TAMPA - After sitting through the four-day trial of her daughter's accused killer, Susan Kovach-Bertele heard the words Thursday she longed to hear.

Guilty. Guilty. Guilty. Guilty.

Still, she didn't see any remorse on Phillip Austin Jr.'s face.

"One would think you would be ashamed," Kovach-Bertele told him. "But I know you're not."

Jurors found Austin guilty of murdering Kovach-Bertele's 22-year-old daughter, Danielle Miller, on Dec. 4, 2004, at the Subway at 8019-A W Hillsborough Ave.

They also held Austin, 20, responsible for the attempted murder of Dorothy Hayes, a sandwich shop employee shot in the abdomen, and for robbing both women.

Austin won't be sentenced until June 15; he will receive an automatic life sentence on the first-degree murder charge. He already is serving a 25-year prison sentence on unrelated felonies.

The guilty verdicts, which came after five hours of deliberating over two days, softened the harsh images Miller's family encountered during the trial.

They saw surveillance video that showed two hooded men run into the Subway flashing guns. They heard Hayes describe how one of the men hovered behind Miller, yelling for her to open the cash register. How Miller, a senior at the International Academy of Design and Technology, freaked out and fumbled with the touch screen.

How Austin said she was too slow, then shot her three times.

Austin's attorney, Grady Irvin, argued that prosecutors charged the wrong guy. But Marquis Devon Alexander, the accomplice in the robbery, and Darrell Sebron Doby Jr., the getaway driver, both identified Austin as the shooter.

Alexander and Doby previously received prison sentences for their roles.

Rachelle Miller, Danielle's identical twin sister, asked Circuit Judge William Fuente to order the maximum punishment for her sister's killer. His heinous acts, she said, had left her alone, without her better half.

"A part of me was lost that night," said Miller, now 25.

Kovach-Bertele, too, said Austin had taken something precious.

"I never believed in an eye for eye," the Ohio woman said. "But when you take away something you give birth to, a mother's eye, you believe in it."

After hearing the verdict, Austin covered his face with his hand. Irvin, his attorney, told reporters that his client was interested in sharing his feelings with Miller's family if they would accept communication from him.

Hearing about the offer, Kovach-Bertele didn't hesitate.

"I do not want it," she said.

There was a time when she wished for an apology from him. Now it was too late.

Colleen Jenkins can be reached at 813 226-3337 or cjenkins@sptimes.com.