Former Lake Man sentenced to 28 years in drug trafficking murder of Burnsville teenager | Jordan
A 19-year-old Prior Lake man was sentenced to 28 years in prison in Scott County District Court on Tuesday for his role in the murder of a Burnsville teenager.
Judge Braylen Miller pleaded guilty in December 2021 to aiding and abetting second-degree murder in the death of 16-year-old Samuel Keezer during a drug deal gone wrong.
According to court records, Miller’s father, Taran Cortez Miller, shot Keezer on February 28, 2020, in the back of the head in a vehicle driven by Braylen Miller that was parked in a Savage Target parking lot. Keezer was there to buy marijuana from the Millers.
Taran Miller died while in custody on charges related to the December 2020 murder. He was 44.
Braylen Miller’s mother, TanyaMarie Esthell Miller, 45, was earlier sentenced to three years and three months for her role in the murder. She pleaded guilty in August 2020 to two counts of assisting an offender. After the murder, she hid the vehicle Keezer was killed in and took the gun and ammunition to Braylen Miller to give to her father.
Both Braylen Miller and his father were indicted by a grand jury for first-degree murder in August 2020.
More than two dozen family members and friends of Keezer appeared in sentencing on Tuesday. Most wore red, Keezer’s favorite color, as a sign of support.
District Judge Christian Wilton heard statements of emotional impact on the victim from family members and friends who described Keezer as a kind and easy-going person.
“It’s the definition of a horrible tragedy,” Wilton said. “Two families are destroyed and permanently altered.”
Wilton said Braylen Miller was responsible for the charge to which he pleaded guilty despite allegations that he was abused by his father. Wilton also ordered Miller to pay more than $37,500 in restitution and credited him with 764 days of sentence.
Friend Mason Foster said in court that Keezer “was like the brother I never had”. Foster said he and Keezer met in elementary school and their families were close. “Everything reminds me of him. I see it everywhere. I constantly think about Sam,” he said.
Police body camera footage of a wild cop who responded to the shooting was played during the hearing. We see Keezer on the ground, covered in blood. After being shot in the head, Keezer appears disoriented, but, while his words are slurred, he was able to describe what happened to him and that he was injured.
Judge Wilton overruled an earlier objection from public defenders for Braylen Miller, Corey Marie Sherman and Steven Bereson, who objected to the release of the video or a slideshow during the victim impact statement made by Jody Foster, the Keezer’s mother.
After the shooting, Keezer was given the anesthetic ketamine and transferred to Hennepin County Medical Center, where he fell into a coma and later died.
“My whole world fell apart in that moment,” Foster said during the hearing. She said she was in therapy for several ailments related to her son’s murder and had not returned to work.
She added: “I will always be Sam’s mother, but I will never be whole again.”
Sherman argued for a sentence at the lower end of the sentencing guidelines, which call for between 261 and 336 months. Sherman pointed out that Miller was a minor at the time of the murder and did not pull the trigger.
“Braylen lost the lottery of life,” Sherman said, describing the abuse Miller saw from his father to himself and his mother. Sherman cited several mental health reports that called Miller a conformist and said he lacked the willpower that others might have.
“It’s an uncomfortable reality, but it’s the reality,” Sherman said. Sherman also said Miller’s father brought the gun because he was afraid it would be stolen.
Braylen Miller apologized to the Keezer family during Tuesday’s column. “No child should have to lose their life to certain drugs,” he said, adding that he had nightmares about the incident. “There isn’t a second of every day that I don’t think about what happened.”
Scott County Deputy Assistant District Attorney Debra Jean Lund said there was no evidence that Keezer was going to rob the Millers or that he was ever physically aggressive.
“Sam was shot in the back of the neck and kicked out of the car,” she said, adding that accusing her of possibly trying to rob or rob the Millers was offensive.