BANGOR, Maine — Michael Miller Jr. should have been spending Tuesday celebrating his mother’s 49th birthday.
Instead, he sat in a second-floor courtroom of the Penobscot Judicial Center and watched as the man convicted of shooting his mother and father to death nearly two years ago was sentenced to 40 years in prison.
“It was hard to be here doing this today and not home celebrating,” Miller Jr., 29, of Webster Plantation said after Nathaneal Nightingale was sentenced to four decades behind bars.
Nightingale, 33, of Burlington and Miller Jr. were best friends until Nightingale confessed to the killings two weeks after Michael Miller Sr. and his wife, Valerie Miller, both 47, were killed in the kitchen of their home on Tucker Ridge Road in Webster Plantation on Nov. 28, 2009.
A tearful Nightingale spoke directly to the Millers’ sons shortly before being sentenced.
“That apology meant nothing to me,” Miller Jr. said outside the courtroom. “I felt like it was something I had to sit through.”
Nightingale was indicted in December 2009 by the Penobscot County grand jury on two counts of murder. On May 31, 2011, j urors found him guilty of manslaughter, not murder, in the death of Michael Miller Sr. but found him guilty of intentional or knowing murder for the death of Valerie Miller.
Superior Court Justice William Anderson on Tuesday sentenced Nightingale to 40 years in prison for murder in the death of Valerie Miller. He sentenced Nightingale to 15 years for manslaughter in the slaying of Michael Miller Sr. The judge ordered that the sentences be served at the same time.
Miller Jr. said after the sentencing outside the courthouse that he, his brother Matthew Miller, 26, of Webster Plantation and other family members were disappointed Nightingale will not serve a longer sentence.
“When you lose two people, you want the person who killed them to suffer for the rest of his life,” he said.
Nightingale faced up to 30 years in prison for the death of Michael Miller Sr. and a minimum of 25 years in prison and a maximum sentence of life in the death of Valerie Miller.
The defendant’s parents and other relatives urged Anderson to be merciful.
“Mr. Miller [Sr.] said that he loved him like a son,” Nightingale’s mother, Beth Coyle of Burlington, told the judge before the imposition of the sentence. “[Nightingale] turned his back on the teaching of his youth and chose the wrong people to call friends.”
Victoria Garnett, Coyle’s sister and the mother of Michael Miller Jr.’s fiancee, Alexis Lord, told Anderson that her nephew’s lifestyle, which included drug use, was a factor in the Millers’ deaths.
“In autumn 2009, he found himself in the wrong place at the wrong time,” Garnett said. “The person who spoke most positively about Nathaneal is not here. Michael Miller Sr. loved Nathaneal and Nathaneal loved Michael Miller Sr. That’s Gospel.”
As Garnett continued to describe the defendant in glowing terms, the Millers’ sons left the courtroom. They returned about 10 minutes later, before Nightingale issued his apology.
Assistant Attorney General Andrew Benson recommend that Nightingale be sentenced to between 60 and 65 years in prison. Defense attorney Jeffery Silverstein of Bangor urged Anderson to put his client behind bars for between 40 and 45 years.
“I’m disappointed in the sentence,” Benson said outside the courthouse. “It diminishes the gravity of the offense, but I understand the judge’s reasoning.”
Silverstein called the sentence fair. He said that Anderson’s denial of a motion to suppress that allowed the jury to hear Nightingale’s confession to police would be appealed to the Maine Supreme Judicial Court.
An earlier version of this story requires correction. “I am sorry to the Miller family and my family for the mistakes that brought us here today,” Nightingale said. “I apologize for the pain and worry for everyone involved.” In her address to the judge, Nightingale’s aunt Victoria Garnett said the events that her nephew found himself in the wrong place at the wrong time were in “autumn 2009,” not "autumntime."