Kidnapping trial postponed after defendant fails to appear in court

Published 9:21 am Tuesday, October 24, 2017

A Criminal Court judge postponed the scheduled trial of a Carter County man accused of kidnapping and assaulting his elderly landlord after the man failed to appear for a court hearing on Monday.

Eric Matthew Miller, 38,  of 1955 Gap Creek Road, Elizabethton, was scheduled to appear in Carter County Criminal Court on Monday morning for a motion hearing in his criminal case. Miller faces charges of two counts of especially aggravated kidnapping, three counts of aggravated assault, and two counts of violation of an order of protection.

When the case was brought before Judge Lisa Rice for the hearing, Miller was not in court.

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“Mr. Miller, I guess, is on the lamb,” said Miller’s attorney Patrick Denton. Miller was released from jail on August 23 after posting a $23,000 bond in the kidnapping case.

According to court records, Miller also failed to appear in court on October 2 in another case that is linked to the kidnapping case. In that case, Miller is charged with possession of drug paraphernalia, driving on a revoked license, and simple possession of Schedule II drugs (methamphetamine). Those charges stem from a traffic stop performed by deputies of the Carter County Sheriff’s Office while they were searching for Miller in connection with the reported kidnapping.

Denton informed the court he had learned some information that could change how he and his client approach the pending court cases.

“The state has indicated they are going to indict him for coercion of a witness,” Denton said.

Assistant District Attorney Matt Roark informed the court the State also plans to indict Miller for failing to appear in court.

Miller had been scheduled to stand trial on Nov. 8 on the kidnapping case. Both Denton and Roark asked the court to reschedule that trial in light of the potential new indictment on the coercion of a witness allegation as well as Miller’s failure to appear in court or to meet with his attorney.

Rice granted the request to cancel the scheduled trial. She also ordered the issuance of a capias for the arrest of Miller and directed that he be held without bond until he appears in court. She said she would revisit the trial schedule once Miller is in custody.

The kidnapping case against Miller stems from incidents investigated by the Carter County Sheriff’s Office earlier this year. On Jan. 28, deputies responded to a home on Gap Creek Road where officers say Miller assaulted 84-year-old Olen Pate.

According to police, Miller lived with Pate and worked as a helper on Pate’s farm.

According to court documents, Pate told officers Miller became violent, hit him, threw him to the ground, choked him from behind and beat him with a wooden cane until it broke. Pate said he tried to get away, but Miller would not let him leave and had disconnected the phone line. Officers said Pate was eventually able to get out of the home and made it to a neighbor’s to call 911. Miller was arrested that same day by officers.

Following Miller’s arrest in January, General Sessions Court Judge Keith Bowers Jr. granted Pate an Order of Protection against Miller. The two pending counts of violation of an Order of Protection stem from incidents where police say Miller had contact with Pate in violation of the court order.

In one incident, police say Miller called Pate from the Carter County Detention Center and told him to drop the charges. In the other incident, police said on Feb. 22, just days after posting bond on the kidnapping and assault charges, Miller returned to Pate’s home and was found by officers in a crawl space under the house.