On May 16, 2010 Haleigh Milwee of Little Rock, Arkansas never gave up as she fought back with her entire soul and being. Haleigh became a victim of a brutal home invasion and repetitive assaults and beatings. Shy of a year later Haleigh continued to have the strength and courage to continue in her fight as she finally got justice on Thursday, April 28, 2011.
Jim Huff, Haleigh’s assailant altered her life forever to the point she will never answer the door to help someone again.
A 57-year-old Little Rock man, Jim Huff drew a life sentence Thursday for a brutal May 16, 2010, attack and abduction of a 25-year-old woman, Haleigh Milwee from her midtown home.
A Pulaski County jury of eight women and four men imposed the life term on Jim Tyson Huff for the kidnapping of Haleigh Millwee. He also received 40-year prison terms each for aggravated residential burglary and aggravated robbery convictions and 6-year terms for seconddegree battery and first-degree terroristic threatening counts.
Circuit Judge Herb Wright, acting on the jury’s recommendation, made the sentences consecutive.
The bespectacled Huff, sitting at a table in the fourth-floor courtroom and dressed in a dark gray pinstriped suit with a maroon tie, exhibited no emotion when the jury verdict was read.
Earlier Thursday, the jury had taken about 30 minutes to find him guilty on all five charges. The jurors deliberated about an hour and 15 minutes Thursday afternoon to reach unanimous agreement on the penalties.
According to testimony, Huff holding a small dog, rang the doorbell of the home Millwee shared with two other women on the pretext of asking her whether the dog belonged to her. She was home alone. He eventually forced his way into the house, punched Millwee and pinned her facedown. He removed several items from a bag, including handcuffs, a bandanna, a stress ball, zip ties and a box cutter, placing them in front of her face.
Soon, Millwee testified Wednesday, he had bound her wrists together behind her back and then fastened her wrists to her ankles, blindfolded her with the bandanna and stuffed the squishy plastic bulb in her mouth to gag her. She struggled to escape while he went through the house only to return and beat her momentarily unconscious. At one point, he threatened to cut out her eyes with the box cutter, she said.
As her attacker dragged her outside, Millwee was able to spit out the gag and struggled again to escape. Huff slammed her head onto the concrete sidewalk, knocking her unconscious again. When she regained her senses, she could feel someone moving her and then heard a neighbor – Greg Alagood – yelling at the assailant, asking what he was doing. “Taking her to rehab,” was the reply, according to Millwee’s testimony.
As he dragged her toward his vehicle, she grabbed at bushes, even her car tire. Alagood ran into the yard while yelling to his wife to call 911, prompting the attacker to jump into his sport utility vehicle and drive away.
Prosecutors used the penalty phase of the trial to painta dark picture of Huff. Three women who had previous encounters with Huff dating back several years testified. Millwee and the other women all lived within a mile of the home Huff shared in Leawood with his wife, Debbie, a member of the nursing faculty at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences.
Kimberly May testified that in 2006 a man went to her door saying he had a work order to repair her telephone. She responded that she was unaware of the work order and her phone was fine but asked him to wait at the door until she checked the phone. Instead, he followed her inside only to find her daughter and granddaughter in the living room. He then asked about her dog, telling her that he had wandered into her backyard to find the dog dead before leaving.
May didn’t call the police, thinking she had “just encountered a weird man. I regret that I didn’t.”
Angel Lee Burnett testified that in 2002 she pulled into her garage late one night to find a man inside. The man ran into her house and out a rear door. Her fiance, a Little Rock police officer, was with her and gave chase but lost him. She later found several undergarments missing. Burnett said she could tell that the man wasn’t expecting her to arrive home with anyone.
“It was pretty apparent to us he saw someone in the passenger seat that wasn’t supposed to be there,” she testified.
In 2009, Christina Wren testified, she was driving home one night when she saw a man at the side of the street bending over “like he was picking up something.” He turned his head “like he didn’t want me to see him.” Wren noted he was wearing a blue latex glove. Wren called 311 to report the incident rather than 911 because it wasn’t an emergency, she said.
All three women testified they recognized Huff when he was arrested in the attack on Millwee.
Later in 2009, Allison Rose testified, she opened the door to her home late one night to find her neighbor, Huff, outside. He told her that something down the hill from herhome was on fire. Her husband, Stan, dressed to go look. While waiting for him, Rose testified, she noticed Huff wearing latex gloves and, in one hand, holding what later turned out to be a BB gun. At that point, she screamed, tried to block Huff from entering the house and wrestled the gun away from him.
A standoff ensued with the Roses telling Huff to return home and Huff refusing to go unless he had the gun. Police eventually arrived, but Huff wasn’t arrested. Charges eventually were filed, but prosecutors said after Thursday’s verdict that they wouldn’t pursue them. Huff was scheduled to stand for a second trial next week.
One of two defense witnesses attorney Jack Lassiter summoned on Huff’s behalf was his wife, who pleaded for a sentence that would allow her to eventually have Huff rejoin her. “I love my husband,” a tearful Debbie Huff said. “He’s my best friend. I’m so lonely without him and so sad. I still believe he deserves our understanding, our compassion and our mercy.”
Under cross-examination from Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Jill Kamps, Debbie Huff only grudgingly acknowledged her husband was guilty of the crimes of which he was accused. She also admitted she was told about DNA evidence. She denied Kamps’ assertions that, according to police, when first told why her husband was arrested, she asked whether his victim had been hurt.
“I can’t speak to their truth,” she said.
Both of Millwee’s parents testified of the psychological fallout their daughter had endured since the attack. Before the attack, she was an outgoing, vivacious young woman just beginning her adult life, they said. Now, she cannot go alone to a grocery store and leaves all lights on at night.
“The cuts, bruises and beating went so deep into her soul it will be a lifetime before she can recover,” her mother, Becky Millwee, testified.
Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Barbara Mariani told the jury that Huff’s actions over the years represented an escalation and that they were coming closer together.
By the time Huff attacked Millwee, he had “thought about everything he was going to do,” Mariani said, recalling Millwee’s testimony showing that Huff laid out the items in front of her. “Think about that escalation when you think about that sentence.”
Noting testimony from defense witnesses about Huff being a friendly man eager to help out neighbors in need, including the Roses, Mariani said he has the “ability to blend in,” an ability that masks his “dark, evil side he can switch on” quickly. It is a nature that cannot be rehabilitated, she said.
Huff altered Millwee’s life forever, Mariani said, to the point she will “never answer the door to help someone again. Justice calls for him to be altered for life. I’m asking for justice here. He doesn’t need to get out.”
Contributing by Arkansas Online
Keeping Haleigh in our thoughts and prayers.
Take care and STAY SAFE!