Sierra Miller’s compassion and generosity almost got her killed.
Last June, she lent three teens a phone to call for help and offered them a ride to safety. The trio shot her, took her car and left her to die.
The gunman, Deandre Hudson, now 20, was sentenced to 12 to 30 years in prison in District Court on Wednesday after pleading guilty to robbery and battery charges related to the attack on Miller.
Miller said Wednesday she used to be the person in her neighborhood who would give a needy stranger the shirt off her back.
"Now I’m afraid to even say ‘hi’ to someone," she said.
On June 27, the then-20-year-old was with her father and her wheelchair-bound mother at their home in the 3800 block of Eblick Wash Drive, near Pecos and Alexander roads.
Miller answered the front door and encountered Markell Jones, who was then 17, and LaMarcus Gamble, who was 14. They told her they were being chased and asked to use her phone. Miller led them to the garage and offered them the use of her cordless phone, prosecutor Danae Adams said.
She eventually offered to take them home and as she drove away from her house in her Volkswagen Beetle, Hudson rode up on a bicycle and jumped into the car.
They had her drive to several areas before they pulled out a gun and told Miller to drive out into the desert, authorities said. When she refused and got out of the vehicle, Gamble and Jones beat her, and Hudson shot her in the chest. They left her on the ground, stole her car and later torched it by lighting a rag in the gasoline tank, Adams said.
Miller identified the suspects through photo lineup from her hospital bed, she said.
She still faces surgeries. She has a crack in her spine that will never heal and a hole in her liver.
When Hudson shot her, he also eliminated Miller’s career aspiration.
"Being a mechanic was my dream," she said in court.
She had been training to repair cars and had a 3.8 grade point average and a scholarship at the time of the shooting. But the injury to her back made it impossible for her to continue her training.
"My career is gone. I have to start my whole life over," she said.
In addition, she said the care she can give her disabled mother has also been limited. "I’m unable to help her and it hurts because she is my best friend," Miller said.
Adams recommended the judge follow the department of parole and probation’s recommendation and make the sentences for all three counts to which Hudson pleaded guilty run consecutively, which would have meant a maximum of 51 years.
Hudson’s attorney Cynthia Dustin was able to win some leniency for Hudson by emphasizing that he was the first of the three to come forward and admit responsibility so that Miller could avoid testifying and cross-examination at a trial. Hudson has admitted full responsibility, she said.
Gamble and Jones are scheduled to be sentenced May 30.
Hudson apologized to Miller and her family.
"I know I’m going to prison. Hopefully, when I get out I can be a better person," he said.
Miller said she could not forgive Hudson now, but promised she’d try to forgive him if he would do something for her — apologize to his relatives, who sat in the courtroom in tears.
"You put my family in hardship and you also put your family in hardship," she told him.
After the sentencing, she gave a hug to members of Hudson’s family as they left the court.