Jury convicts trio on kidnapping charges

Nicolette Miller sobbed and leaned her head on the shoulder of her partner and co-accused Leonard Thompson as the jury read guilty verdicts Tuesday evening.

Nicolette Miller sobbed and leaned her head on the shoulder of her partner and co-accused Leonard Thompson as the jury read guilty verdicts Tuesday evening.

Thompson, Miller and her son Andrew Miller were all found guilty of kidnapping, unlawful confinement or imprisonment and assault.

The jury deliberated for four-and-a-half hours, coming back with a decision around 5:30 p.m. on Tuesday.

Victim Frank Guenther, who admitted he was a drug dealer at the time of the incident, testified last week that he had met the trio on Feb. 28, 2009 to sell them crack cocaine.

He said it was common for him to keep stashes of drugs around the community, so he wouldn’t have to go home to fetch it and decided to meet them in an alley behind the Royal Bank in Oliver.

Guenther said he was jumped by the Millers and Thompson and forced into their Ford Explorer. They drove to the Thompson ranch, south of Vaseux Lake, where Guenther said he was then forced into a truck and they continued to drive north towards Summerland.

On the drive, Guenther said he was punched several times and elbowed by the trio, who he said told him they were upset about a $100 debt disagreement over an above-ground pool and they mentioned a drug debt that Guenther had with his suppliers.

“Nicki confirmed that it was going to be the worst night of my life,” said Guenther during the trial. “They said when you fall behind these are the things that happened, and he (Thompson) said he was hired to bring me to someone and I had blown it and this is what happens.”

After stopping at Pyramid Park, along Highway 97 just north of Penticton, Guenther said he was told to strip, and when another vehicle pulled up he was pushed out of the vehicle. Guenther blacked out from either the fall or getting beaten up.

Andrew Miller’s girlfriend, who was in the truck but was not get charged, said she heard the words “get him”  and Nicolette Miller yell to her son to kick Guenther but could not see who actually committed the assault.

Guenther said he was put in a headlock and dragged out onto the beach. He eventually got into the water, swam out until he could no longer hear anyone on shore, then ran to the highway and flagged down a passer-by for assistance.

Defence lawyers closed with the arguments that the trio did not know they were taking victim Frank Guenther on a ride that would end with him being kicked and assaulted.

They said their clients simply wanted drugs, and when Guenther did not have them they offered to drive him to “re-load” with his supplier. The defence argued that once the beating started by men in the unknown vehicle, they drove off frightened and not wanting to be involved.

The trio will remain out on bail with conditions until a pre-sentence report is conducted and a sentencing hearing held on Aug. 12.