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Schulzes give emotional statements in lead-up to Miller sentencing

Emotional victim impact statements were heard at the Loudoun County Courthouse Wednesday at the sentencing hearing of John Miller IV, the driver who crashed into a Lansdowne mother and her five-month-old son with fatal consequences.

Tristan Schulz was killed in the Aug. 31, 2016 crash. His mother Mindy, who was pushing Tristan in a stroller, sustained life altering injuries. The two were crossing the Riverside Parkway and Coton Manor Drive intersection in Lansdowne when the crash happened.

On day one of two consecutive dates set aside for sentencing by Judge Douglas L. Fleming Jr., the court heard eight victim impact statements including testimony from Tristan's father, Rod, and part of a statement read out from mother Mindy.

Supporters of the Schulz family filled the courtroom wearing blue ribbons or garlands. A group of friends and supporters of Miller were also present.

Rod Schulz said his family had endured “17 agonizing months” since the death of his youngest son. He described the horror of seeing Tristan's lifeless body at the hospital and the impact his death has had on Tristan's older brother, Hayden, who turned from a seven-year-old “to a young adult” on the day the collision happened. Hayden continues to struggle sleeping at night.

Rod Schulz told the court about some of the phrases his son uses, like, “I should have been there, I can't protect my mother and I am useless.”

Rod Schulz's statement was briefly interrupted by objections from Miller's defense attorney Steven T. Webster when Schulz accused Miller of speaking to an attorney at the scene.

Loudoun County Commonwealth's Attorney Jim Plowman (R) was asked by Fleming for its relevancy. Plowman mentioned the action reflected “a little of Miller's character.”

Fleming agreed with Webster that Miller has a constitutional right to seek advice from a lawyer.

Rod Schulz went on to state that Miller did not render aid to his wife or baby son.

Later in his two-hour statement, Rod Schulz spoke about a meeting he and his wife had with Miller 15 months after Tristan's death. Schulz said Miller has taken no ownership or responsibility. Miller didn't know Tristan's date of birth when asked and talked only about what he could do for himself and his family, Rod Schulz said.

Last to take to the stand was Mindy Schulz. Clasping her baby son's toy, Mindy Schulz began her statement, at times speaking through tears. She described a number of physical injuries caused by the impact of Miller's SUV that are still with her today, including headaches caused by concussion, knee and ankle damage. In addition she spoke about having PTSD, anxiety and depression.

Mindy Schulz described her life as a “hellish prison Miller has sentenced me to.”

She also spoke about the five years it had taken her and Rod Schulz to become pregnant with Tristan and a miscarriage she suffered in September 2017, shortly after the involuntary manslaughter charge against Miller was dropped.

The Miller and Schulz families live in the same Lansdowne neighborhood.

Every day I have to walk past Miller's house. I am relieving the trauma day after day. I don't go to stores, and I avoid seeing mothers with their babies, Mindy Schulz said.

Mindy Schulz also referenced meeting Miller with her husband a few months ago.

“Not once has Miller taken responsibility,” she said. “Our son didn't matter to Miller at all.”

Mindy Schulz told the court she suffers from “survivor guilt and mom guilt” and how she had tried so hard to keep hold of her son's stroller, which was lifted out of her hands by the impact of the crash.

“It was like the darkness of hell swooped in on me … I refused to believe he was dead,” she said.

At the hospital, an injured Mindy and Rod Schulz were taken to see the body of their son, and Mindy described the crushing pain.

“I am constantly relieving the trauma,” she said. “I never truly will be able to escape it. I have an undercurrent of fear.” Miller broke the heart of our other boy when we told him his brother had died, she added.

Tristan's organs were donated and used in two successful transplant procedures, something that has brought the Schulz's some comfort.

Miller was indicted in November 2016 on charges of involuntary manslaughter, reckless driving and failure to yield right of way to a pedestrian.

In September 2017, the involuntary manslaughter charge in the case against Miller was dropped, when the prosecution said the evidence did not support the charge.

On Oct. 10, 2017, Miller was found guilty on two counts in connection with the death of Tristan Schulz. Miller had entered a no contest plea to the count of reckless driving and pleaded guilty to the count of failure to yield to a pedestrian.

Reckless driving carries a maximum penalty of 12 months in jail and a fine of $2,500. Failure to yield to a pedestrian carries a maximum fine of no more than $250.

The sentencing hearing was continuing Thursday at the Loudoun County Courthouse.

Comments


My heart remains broken for the Schulz family.  I pray for them every day when I pass under the beautiful blue sign for Tristan spanning over WB rt 7.  Never met you, but I love you little man.

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