SANTA CRUZ -- A 34-year-old man charged with killing another man inside a Watsonville residence admitted to shooting and beating the victim in a call he made to his mother from the Santa Cruz County Jail.
Michael Neal Miller is charged with first-degree murder for the death of Dominic Mower and with attempted murder for the shooting of Mower's 22-year-old girlfriend. His preliminary hearing, which is held to determine whether a defendant will be held on the charges, began Wednesday and will resume Thursday morning.
In court Wednesday, prosecutor Johanna Schonfield played a recording of the call Miller made on July 29, just days after Mower was killed.
In the conversation, Miller called Mower "a scumbag and a thief," and told his mother that he shot and beat him. He referred to the shooting of the girlfriend as "collateral damage."
Miller's mother refused to believe her son, telling him "Michael, I believe you are protecting someone, and I don't want you to do that."
"I'm not mom, I'm not," Miller told her in the call.
During the recorded conversation, Miller's mother insisted her son wasn't capable of committing such violence and told him she didn't believe he had done it.
"You're lying to me," she told him.
Mower, 37, was killed inside a home and auto repair operation on Prospect Street in Watsonville in the early morning hours of July 25.
Mower and Miller knew each other, and apparently had stolen a large amount of gold together, Schonfield said. Miller apparently believed he had been ripped off by Mower in that transaction, she said.
Dr. Richard Mason, the county's medical examiner, testified that Mower had been shot in the head four times and also was beaten. He also found methamphetamine and morphine in Mower's system, he said.
Mower's girlfriend, who was shot twice, spoke with detectives from the Watsonville Police Department soon after the shooting as she recovered at an area hospital.
Sgt. Donny Thul testified that when asked specifically who had hurt her and Mower, she told the officers "Mike," a man she described as having dark hair, glasses and a blue shirt. She also said that prior to the shooting, she heard the two men arguing and that she heard something to the effect of Mike telling Mower "he'd ripped him off," Thul testified Wednesday.
Both victims had a history of drug violations, and both Mower and Miller had prior theft-related convictions, police said previously. Mower was arrested in February on an outstanding theft-related warrant after a standoff with police at the Prospect Street building where he was later killed.
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