Crime & Courts

Columbia man sentenced for screwdriver torture and murder

Antonio Miller
Antonio Miller Photo provided by the Aiken County Detention Center

In the 10 years since Fred Tucker was tied up, tortured with a scalding screwdriver and shot dead in his South Carolina home, one of his killers has been convicted on state charges and sentenced to life in prison, seen that conviction overturned and pleaded guilty to federal charges. Now he’s again heading to prison. 

Antonio Miller, 40, of Columbia, was sentenced in federal court to 30 years in prison after pleading guilty to federal charges related to the 2008 killing of Tucker in Aiken, the U.S. Attorney’s Office announced Wednesday. Miller pleaded guilty previously to using a firearm to commit murder in furtherance of a crime of violence and drug trafficking, kidnapping resulting in death, and conspiring to distribute crack cocaine resulting in death. 

Prosecutors said Miller and three co-defendants targeted Tucker to rob him of drugs and drug proceeds to further their efforts to distribute crack cocaine, according to a news release. Carrying multiple firearms, the men drove to Tucker’s home in rural Aiken County, bound his hands and feet with duct tape and repeatedly burned him with a scalding flat-head screwdriver, prosecutors said. 

After the men tortured Tucker to learn the location of hidden drugs and proceeds, he was fatally shot in the chest, prosecutors said. Work by law enforcement, searches of the rental car and Miller’s home revealed crack cocaine that was taken from Tucker and firearms that ballistics matched those used to kill Tucker. 

After Miller’s codefendants pleaded guilty to state charges, a Aiken County jury convicted him in 2012 on charges of kidnapping and murder, and a judge sentenced him to life in prison. However, the S.C. Supreme Court overturned that conviction in 2016 after determining that the affidavit supporting a search warrant for Miller’s Columbia home was invalid because it “failed to establish probable cause that evidence of a crime may be contained in the residence,” the Aiken Standard reported. 

Miller could have faced the death penalty, since murder committed during a kidnapping, or while using a firearm during a violent crime or drug trafficking, is eligible for capital punishment, according to the Death Penalty Information Center. However, the government in August filed notice of its intent not to seek the death penalty against Miller. 

State prosecutors had planned to retry Miller on the state charges, but according to the plea agreement filed Tuesday, the Second Circuit Solicitor’s Office agreed Miller “will not be prosecuted for any similar or related state crimes” stemming from Tucker’s killing.