By R. Rider
Debra Milke (born Sadeik, on March 10, 1964) was knowingly, intentionally but innocently charged as the alleged mastermind of a plot to have her then 4 y.o. son Christopher killed. She was convicted to die in January 1991. Crucial facts were neither published by the mass media, nor ever stated at Debra’s trial. Debra Milke’s case is a perfect example for a modern ‘witch hunt.’
Debra Sadeik was born to a German mother (Renate Sadeik) and an American father in a military hospital in Berlin-Steglitz/Germany. The family moved to the US in 1964, and already one year later Debra’s sister Sandra was born. In May 1980 the marriage got divorced. Due to being laid off by her folded company in January 1983, Renate Sadeik accepted an employment offer in Germany and moved to Stuttgart. Sandra lived with her father in Florence, Arizona while Debra stayed in the parental apartment, where friends of her moved in temporarily.
In December 1984 Debra married a carpet layer, Mark Milke. Debra soon became pregnant and gave birth to her son Christopher Conan Milke on October 2nd, 1985. Mark was in an out of jail several times due to alcohol and drug-related charges. In mid 1988 Debra filed for dissolution of marriage, and the two young people were divorced in November 1988. Debra also filed for sole custody, which she was granted in light of Mark’s documented failures. The young mother also obtained an Order for Protection at the Superior Court, Maricopa County, Arizona for herself and her son. During one of Mark Milke’s so-called supervised visitation days with Christopher, Debbie found them together in a crack-house. Debra was physically attacked, managed to get Christopher away from Mark and had to hide with her son with no place to go in fear of being found by Mark Milke. She called her sister’s friend, James Styers, and found temporary shelter in his apartment, renting one room for herself and Chris. Shortly thereafter she found herself a well-paid job at an insurance company. Styers himself (42 y.o. at that time) is an unemployed Vietnam veteran, who also took care of his then 2 y.o. daughter Wendy. Therefore the cohabitation was a convenience on both parts, and Debra paid James for babysitting Christopher while she was at work. In December 1989 she applied for an apartment for herself and Christopher. She intended to move out of James’ apartment in January 1990.
On Saturday, December 2, 1989, Debra’s room mate James Styers along with little Christopher left the apartment in the morning hours to go to the Metro Center shopping mall. Wendy was with her own mother, James’ former girlfriend Gail. Styers and both kids had been at the Metro Center on the preceding evening, and on that Saturday morning Christopher wanted to see Santa Claus again. Since Styers’ own car had wrecked up the two used Debra’s white Corolla, which she had just gotten in September from her mother, who came to visit from Europe. In the early afternoon, around 2.45 p.m., James called Debra, who was at the apartment, doing laundry. James told Debra that Christopher was missing from the Metro Center. He had supposedly used a stall inside a public restroom, and when he came back the little boy was gone. Styers had contacted mall security, and eventually police launched a missing person investigation. Many officers, search dogs and even helicopters were used to look for the little boy. Debra herself was supposed to stay at the apartment in case Christopher called. The little boy knew his home phone number. Debra frantically called both her parents, and Renate described her as being hysterical that moment. Her father (in Florence, AZ) suggested that she call police, and provide any details she could provide. Debra precisely described the clothing of Chris, and handed over photos. In the evening hours her step-mother and step-sister came from Florence to support Debra. Also, friends and neighbors arrived to be with the young woman, who was desperate to hear about her child being found.
Styers voluntarily joined the search staff and seemed concerned about Christopher’s disappearance. Around midnight he (again) mentioned an old high school friend of his, Roger Mark Scott, who he had supposedly met at the Metro Center in the afternoon. Police instantly contacted Scott, who lived with his elderly, frail mother. Scott’s statements appeared inconsistent, and police took him to the main station in Phoenix. Now, both men, Styers and Scott were interviewed. Styers was released around noon on the next day, Sunday, December 3rd, 1989. The interview with Scott was interrupted, and taken over by a long-time police veteran, Armando Saldate, Jun. at around 1 p.m. According to Saldate’s report of that interrogation, Scott admitted knowing where the dead body of Christopher was. He volunteered to lead police the way, but claimed that James Styers had shot him. At least half an hour later, en route to the murder scene, Scott all of a sudden claimed that the homicide only happened because the boy’s mother wanted it done. The dead body was found precisely where Scott indicated. Police along with Scott then proceeded to the Metro Center where the shoes were found which Styers had used in the desert.
Debra had not slept a single minute during the whole night. She provided all information she could to officers at the apartment, and also showed them one gun she knew of in a closet of Styers, when she was asked about guns. Around noon of that Sunday, police suggested that Debra join her step-mother and go to Florence to be with her family. All contact information was provided, and they commenced the drive to Florence. Debra’s father Richard tried to get Debra to eat something, and then she lay down to take a nap. Already a short while thereafter, an officer of the local Pinal County Sherriff’s office appeared, and asked Debra’s to come down to the local jail; Phoenix police would be on the way and wanted to talk to her. Debra got dressed and was accompanied by a friend of the family. The two women waited for more than an hour inside the jail, in a medical room. Then, shortly prior to 8 p.m., Phoenix detective Armando Saldate appeared at the jail. He went inside the room where the two women waited, introduced himself. He sent Debra’s acquaintance out of the room, and shut the door behind him. Debra and Saldate were now alone. After a half hour interrogation Saldate emerged fro that room, and declared Debra arrested. She was placed in a police car and taken back to Phoenix. Three days later Saldate penned a narrative police report, which claims that Debra had confessed to him knowing that Christopher was going to be killed on that Saturday. That confession was not signed, not tape-recorded, and not witnessed by anyone. Ever since Debra Milke steadfastly denies that she ever gave a confession to Det. Saldate; she consistently states for the last 22 years that she had no part in a conspiracy to kill the boy. In fact, she still shows a lot of grief over the loss of Christopher.
Debra’s trial was the first one which started (September 10th, 1990). The intense pre-trial media coverage hardly ever stated researched facts, or bothered to look into the case deeper. Debra’s public-paid defender Ken Ray was certainly ineffective to rebut to the wall of accusations and allegations that county prosecutor Noel Levy came up with. In October 1990 the jury reached a guilty verdict. Judge Cheryl K. Hendrix sentenced Debra to die in January 1991. Styers and Scott both had their separate trials; they were also sentenced to die.
The following facts were never addressed at Debra’s trial:
A close look at the case of Debra shows that many details were disregarded or presumably intentionally suppressed and never told to the jury. In fact, the allegation that a conspiracy between Scott, Styers and Debra Milke can only be upheld disregarding crucial details from the police records. While the story on which Debra Milke was sentenced to die claims that the little boy was killed in a desert area north of Phoenix after 1 p.m., a closer research suggests that the killing happened much earlier on that Saturday, sometime between 10.30 and 11 a.m. Also, not only the three fatal shots were fired, but four witnesses independently stated that they heard five to seven shots in total, in two series with a one to two minute break. They also stated that those were the only shots fired on the whole weekend. Two of those witnesses also testified at Debra Milke’s trial. However, reading the court transcripts it appears the new recovery did not make much sense to the jury. The story public defender Ken Ray stated in his closing argument was flawed and hardly convincing in light of the overwhelming pre-trial media attention the case received.
If we are looking at the details of the case, it appears obvious that Styers drove to Roger Scott’s apartment in order to give him one gun which he had purchased for 25$, and Christopher was with him. It is documented that both men went for target practicing before. Styers intended to pick up his own daughter Wendy, but was told by his former girlfriend not to do that before noon. So, he had some time to kill, and the three went to the desert north of Phoenix to try the new gun. This ‘trying the gun’ was the first series of shots. Then, at his trial, Styers testified which appears to be most believable scenario: According to his testimony the three individuals now went back to the car, Styers in front, little Christopher behind him, and Scott at the end, with the gun still in his hands. Styers heard the three shots go off behind him, turned around, and Christopher lay dead in the desert sand, with a chewing gun still clutched between his teeth. That was the fatal second series of shots fired. According to Styers Scott then pointed the gun at him, and babbled something about 250$ which he needed to hire an attorney to file for social benefits. Styers was obviously able to calm Scott down, and the two men drove back into the city. Scott had thrown the shells out of the window of the car. Police was never able to find all the shells. First they stopped at a Walgreen’s store where Scott picked up a prescribed drug, and then the two men sat down at a pizza parlor. Entering the place they noticed that a kid’s birthday party was going on. When the two realized this, they ‘faked’ three drinks (plus one pizza). On this occasion they finalized their plan: Jim dropped Scott off at Osco Drugs, which wasn’t too far away from Scott’s own apartment. Jim then drove to the Metro Center himself. The idea for him was to claim that Christopher was missing from the mall; that way he could distance himself from the murder. Scott arrived at the mall one hour later by bus. The idea for this was to confirm that he had seen Chris and Jim at the Metro Center together. That’s also the reason why Jim would later mention Roger to police again; to confirm precisely that. Police would later find the gun in the apartment where Scott and his mother lived, wrapped up inside a box. Obviously, this was the gun which took Christopher Milke’s life. It appears there is no deeper motive, other than Scott being mentally unstable, and occasion was there. It is also obvious that Scott never liked Christopher, who had a thyroid condition and was at times hyperactive. Scott had a documented history of shooting in alleys and shooting at people. One interview of a fellow inmate of Scott reveals that Scott confessed to him to have committed the killing himself. He also turned down a plea deal offered by Noel Levy to testify against Debra Milke; an agreement that would have avoided a death sentence for him! Debra never believed that the James Styers she knew would have ever done something to her son. With our research we didn’t find any reasonable indication for ill feelings Of Styers towards Christopher.
The research shows that Saldate had a court-documented history of tainting confessions, committing perjury under oath, and lying to his supervisors. County prosecutor Noel Levy also sent Ray Krone inncoently to death row, who was later exonerated by DNA. Other cases handled by Levy include the cases of David Heyde (later also exonerated by DNA), Sean Running Eagle, and Eldon Schurz.
Warning signs that Debra Milke was wrongfully convicted as defined by the Michigan Law University and Northwestern Law:
Co-Defendant Confessed (CDC) – A co-defendant of the exoneree, or a person who might have been charged as a co-defendant, gave a confession that also implicated the exoneree.
False Confession (FC) – The exoneree falsely confessed if (1) he or she made a false statement to authorities which was treated as a confession, (2) the authorities claimed that the exoneree made such a statement but the exoneree denied it, or (3) the exoneree made a statement that was not an admission of guilt, but was misinterpreted as such by the authorities.
Inadequate Legal Defense (ILD) – The exonoree’s lawyer at trial or on appeal provided obviously and grossly inadequate representation.
Official Misconduct (OM) – Police, prosecutors, or other government officials significantly abused their authority or the judicial process in a manner that contributed to the exoneree’s conviction.
Perjury or False Accusation (P/FA) – A person other than the exoneree falsely accused the exoneree of committing the crime for which the exoneree was later exonerated, either in sworn testimony or otherwise.
Plus, if not “Child sex abuse” but “Child abuse” would count, it would be six.