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!
Fight or Flight Response: We All Have It…
“I fought with everything that I had.”
On a typical Sunday evening, May 23rd in Leawood; an upper middle-class neighborhood in Little Rock, Arkansas, Haleigh Millwee, 24 years old heard a knock at the door. A man at the door was 56 year-old, Jim Huff who said that he was looking for the owners of a small dog. As Haleigh leaned forward to look at the dog’s information Huff pushed his way into her home. He handcuffed her; tied up her feet together, put gloves on, gagged her and blind-folded her.
“I think that I really upset him because I didn’t do what he said or told me to do. That is why I got beat several times. I fought with everything that I had, I had nothing to lose.” Haleigh prayed, “Lord, I’m not ready to die today, I have too much more that I want to do.”
When Huff attempted to remove Haleigh from her home, neighbors saw that she was struggling with the suspect and helped her to escape. Good Samaritan’s stepped into the storm. The vehicle that Huff was driving was identified by one of the neighbors. Huff lives with his wife LESS than a mile away from Haleigh Millwee’s home.
Huff was arrested three days after the invasion, assault and attempted abduction and remains in jail. Bond was set at $2 million dollars. Huff is facing four felony charges that include kidnapping, burglary, robbery and theft. If convicted Huff faces up to 140 years in prison and $60,000 in fines. Huff has pleaded not guilty.
Haleigh’s assault and attempted abduction brings much warranted uneasiness to Leawood and rightfully so. Lt. Terry Hastings with the Little Rock Police stated, “You never know. People may have seen this fellow, may have talked with him or had a conversation with him. We (the police) need to know.”
Being a target of any assailant is a true fear many have as individuals are realizing more and more that victimization does not discriminate.
It goes without saying that Haleigh’s mind was racing during her assault. Will I be killed? Will he beat me more, rape me, abduct me or kill me? The level of terror and anxiety was enormous and causes most victims to sometimes act irrationally. Some freeze and become incapacitated from fright. Others instinctively resist and try to fight back. Others will run away if possible. This is what is known as the “fight or flight syndrome/response”. This fundamental physiologic response forms the foundation of modern day medicine. The “fight or flight response” is our body’s primitive, automatic, inborn response that prepares the body to “fight” or “flee” from a perceived attack, harm or threat to our survival.
The first thirty seconds are the most critical to your survival.
What Would You Do?
Most people have never pondered this question for themselves or with their family. How would you react under similar circumstances? How would you react independent or together in your family or with friends? How you naturally react depends on many factors: your sex, age, physical condition, culture, personality, how you process information, how you react under extreme pressure, special training, skills and past experience in responding to aggression. Most people do not know for sure how they would respond to a personal crisis until it occurs. Many are surprised afterward by their behavior as having been heroic, calm, cowardly, or stupid.
Would you try to overpower your assailant? Would you try to escape and call for help? Would you comply with his demands and hope that he doesn’t hurt you? Would you allow him to tie you up? Would you allow him to take you away from your home? Would you risk death?
The response possibilities are endless, but most fall into three general response possibilities. You can resist the assault, comply with all commands; or you can try to stay calm, wait, and resist, comply, or flee as the assault evolves. One thing is clear, there is not one single correct response to a life-threatening home invasion or assault of any kind. Thechoice is personal, based on your own assessment of your physical and mental capabilities and your belief as to the level of eminent danger.
Sometimes fighting and screaming, especially if there are neighbors or others who will intervene or call the police. It makes no sense to risk fighting if you are physically incapable of doing so effectively. Total compliance sometimes works. The assailant might leave you unharmed and just leave. However, compliance may increase the duration of the assault and therefore increase the potential for further harm. You need to thoughtfully consider how you might act under circumstances and plan accordingly.
Never Stop Thinking
Keeping a cool head is important, even in dire circumstances. If you keep your wits about you one can increase their options by waiting for the right moment to act. Always be thinking and re-evaluating the situation as it evolves. At first there may be no chance for escape, but after a while you may see an opening. Fighting may not be wise, however assailants may let their guard down once you appear to comply. If you decide to strike a blow, do it fast, suddenly and forceful to the nose, eyes, or throat with the heel of your open palm as if you were holding a grapefruit without concern for the damage you might inflict. While the assailant is momentarily stunned, make your escape. Don’t stand there waiting to throw more punches. You might ask, won’t that cause them to harm me for sure? Maybe, if they catch you. This is an option that must be considered. Always be looking for that chance to escape, your “window of opportunity”.
Haleigh never gave up, she fought back with her entire soul and being. Once outside she drew major attention to herself in seeking help from her neighbors, The Good Samaritans. Instinctively Haleigh knew that if she allowed her assailant to take her from point A, her home, to point B, an unknown destination that she would not live. The second crime scene is almost always more violent than the first if you comply. Never listen to your assailant, “if you do as you are told that he won’t hurt you”. Wait up a sec and think about this…why in the world would you ever believe anything a person says that has already caused harm to you? Talk about a line of crap…he had no right to harm you in the first place; why would you trust or believe anything he would say?
In my posts to come we will take a look at many different assault scenarios along with personal safety education.
Tip – Prevention works best. Your home is your fortress. Harden your home or apartment with strong doors and locks. Install a wide-angle peephole and instruct everyone in your family NOT to open the door to strangers. Chain latches are ineffective as a barrier, so use your peephole to look outside before opening the door. Every exterior door should have two deadbolts, one keyed and one key-less. I don’t care how “kind” the person on the other side of the door “looks”, if you don’t know him/her; DO NOT LET THEM IN nor communicate through the door with him/her. Matter-of-fact don’t even acknowledge their presence. Keep a watchful eye and call 911 if you “gut instincts” tell you that you are in danger.
Take care and STAY SAFE!