ALABAMA – Kelly Lynn Miller, who fled to Thailand to avoid prison, stepped foot back in Alabama Friday night for the first time in five years.
Miller, convicted in a fatal 2004 DUI crash, stopped and briefly spoke to the media as she was escorted into the Jefferson County Jail in Bessemer. “Honestly I know you guys have painted a really ugly picture of me as someone who just doesn’t really care and that’s not the case,” she said. “Like I cried, when this accident happened 10 years ago, I was 26 and I cried every day for months and I never ever forgot about it.”
She apologized to the family of her victim, 57-year-old Donnie Goodwin. “For the man’s family, for Donnie’s family, I know they’ve had to suffer a lot and I truly am deeply sorry.”
Asked why she ran, Miller hesitated and then became emotional. She was unable to answer the question. “Honestly, I’m having a tough time,” she said. “I’ve just lost my child.”
Two Jefferson County sheriff’s deputies flew to California Thursday to bring the 36-year-old Miller back. She arrived in Birmingham via a commercial Delta flight at 9:36 p.m. and then was taken directly to the Jefferson County Jail in Bessemer. She arrived at the jail about 11 p.m.
Miller was deported from Thailand, according to the U.S. Marshals Service. U.S. Marshals and other government investigators escorted her to California where she remained in lockup for two weeks.
Miller fled the state five years ago to avoid going to prison for the DUI fatality in Hoover. Authorities say she left Alabama and hid out in New Orleans until investigators started questioning friends and family there. From New Orleans, she flew to Dallas, then Hong Kong and finally Thailand.
She was taken into custody Feb. 10 by Phuket Tourist Police, who had been watching her for a month, according to Thai Authorities. She had her two-month-old son with her at the time of her arrest. The boy reportedly stayed in Thailand with his father.
Miller’s arrest was announced at a press conference in Thailand March 11. Miller applied lipstick during the news conference. Authorities said when Miller learned the media was waiting for her at the Jefferson County Jail Friday night, she asked a female deputy escorting her if she had any makeup Miller could use. The deputy didn’t provide Miller with any makeup.
A 1996 Pelham High School graduate and “self-employed entertainer” who reported a $4,000 monthly income before she fled the U.S. years ago, Miller fled Alabama and the country in 2009 to avoid the five-year prison sentence.
Miller, then 26, was charged with drunken driving in the Goodwin’s death on Interstate 459 in Hoover in 2004. Goodwin had parked his truck in the right emergency lane near Parkwood Road bridge and was checking his tires when he was struck and killed.
Hoover and Bessemer police responded to the scene, which happened about 12:15 a.m. that Tuesday. Police believe Miller sideswiped the truck with her car and then hit Goodwin. She paid a $1,000 bond and was released later that day.
A Jefferson County grand jury in 2006 indicted Miller on vehicular homicide, according to Alabama court records. She was arrested again, and then released on $10,000 bond. The case was set for a jury trial on Jan. 22, 2007 but Miller pleaded guilty. Her lawyer, Ralph “Buddy” Armstrong, who has since passed away, applied for probation.
Instead of granting probation, Jefferson County Circuit Judge Teresa Petelos sentenced Miller to five years in prison. The judge set a $50,000 appeal bond. Miller eventually made bond, and then fled to Thailand. She was official declared a fugitive in 2010.
It wasn’t immediately clear when she will be moved to Julia Tutwiler Prison for Women in Wetumpka. Miller will have to appear before Circuit Judge David Hobdy to answer to the failure to appear charge before beginning her sentence in state prison.
Authorities are looking into whether time will be added to her sentence, and also whether charges will be filed against those who helped her while she was on the run.
“The family has been more or less holding our breath wondering if she was ever going to pay for this,” Brenda Bagwell, Goodwin’s sister, said. “A sentence of only five years was a slap in the face and then when she ran it was unbelievable.”
Bagwell has said she hopes her family can begin to heal. “There’s not a day that has gone by that I have not thought about that person,” she said of Miller. “She took away a brother I was very close to. My mother is 87 years old and she was very close to him. It’s been a tough few years. He was a good brother and son and we miss him really bad.”
Longtime Fugitive Kelly Lynn Miller Returns to Alabama