Danville drug program grad faces murder charge

Danville drug program grad faces murder charge

PENSACOLA, Fla. – A former Danville woman and her daughter, along with a third woman, are in jail in northern Florida, awaiting trial on charges alleging they killed a teenage girl by beating her and setting her on fire.

According to authorities, the victim was able to identify the women as her attackers before lapsing into a coma and eventually dying.

Tina L. Brown, 39, her daughter, Britnee Miller, 16, and Heather Lee, 27, of Pensacola were charged in April with first-degree premeditated murder and kidnapping in the death of Audreanna Zimmerman, 19, of Pensacola.

According to Escambia County, Fla., State's Attorney Bill Eddins, the three females attacked Ms. Zimmerman on March 24 in woods near her home. There they poured gasoline on Ms. Zimmerman and set her on fire. Nearby residents called 911 after seeing the severely burned woman.

"She was able to make what we call a dying declaration, saying who had attacked her and that the burns to her were done intentionally and an accelerant was used," Sgt. Ted Roy, public information officer for the Escambia County sheriff's office, told The News-Gazette on Friday. "These women lived in the same small trailer park probably within four trailers of each other and had argued off and on for some time."

The attack was within a half-mile of the trailer park, Roy said.

Ms. Zimmerman was transferred from a Pensacola hospital to the burn unit at the University of South Alabama Medical Center in Mobile and was in a coma for two weeks. She died on April 8.

On April 27, a grand jury indicted Brown, Miller and Lee for the murder. Brown and Lee face the death penalty if convicted. Miller will be tried as an adult but is not eligible for the death penalty because of her age.

The defendants, who are being held without bond, will make their next court appearance on July 2.

Brown had been an assistant manager at California Catering in Danville until about a year ago, according to owner Mary Lewis.

"She had been a model employee. She was personable. She showed up for work on time, worked extra if I needed her," Lewis said. "I trusted her with driving my car, living in my house and working at my business."

Brown graduated from the Vermilion County Drug Court program on Dec. 13, 2006. A year earlier, when she was a new participant in the program, Brown spoke with The News-Gazette after watching other people graduate: "Just to see them make it through and follow the steps and make meetings and believe in themselves, it inspires me," she said in November 2005. "If they can do it, I know I can, too."

Lewis said that Brown had lived a "hard, hard, hard life ... probably a third of it had been as an addict."

Lewis said she never felt threatened by Brown but said that Brown had threatened someone who threatened Lewis.

"I think, back then anyway, she thought of me as a mother figure," Lewis said.

Lewis said she believed Brown had gotten back on drugs about a year ago because Brown forged a set of checks.

"But when I turned her in when the forged checks started showing up, she just fell out of sight," Lewis said.

The Danville High School registrar's office said Britnee Miller last attended school May 29, 2009.

Sections (2):News, Local