GOSHEN — Todd Stewart will spend the next 65 years in prison for the murder of his business partner.
Stewart was sentenced on Thursday morning, May 29, in Elkhart Circuit Court for the September 2012 killing of Mark Miller.
About a dozen friends and relatives of Miller were in court for the sentencing. One hissed "yes" as the judge delivered the sentence.
Stewart's attorney said his client plans to appeal his conviction.
Defense attorney Clifford Williams told the court that in more than 417 pages of discovery material and a four-day jury trial, "in my opinion, we still don't have the truth."
At Stewart's trial, Williams suggested another tattoo artist at the shop as a possible suspect for Miller's murder.
Chief Deputy Prosecutor Vicki Becker said the attorneys in this case did indeed review more than 417 pages of discovery materials, as well as thousands of additional pages of phone records, interviews and other evidence.
"Nowhere was there credible evidence that someone else did this crime,“ she said.
Becker argued that Stewart should be given the maximum sentence of 65 years because of the brutality of the crime, Stewart's lies to police investigating Miller's disappearance and his criminal history of violent crimes. Stewart had previously plead guilty to two battery charges.
For Miller’s family, the sentence brought a sense of relief and closure.
"He deserved the absolute maximum for all the gruesome things he did,” said Sheila Miller, Mark Miller’s mother.
Miller’s ex-wife and the mother of two of his children, Melissa Martin, said hearing the sentence handed down was “breathtaking.”
"I didn’t expect him to get the full 65 (years),“ Martin said.
Both Martin and Sheila Miller addressed the court during the sentencing hearing, describing Mark Miller as a caring man with a ”huge heart“ who would do anything he could to help others.
He was also a loving father and was ”truly a family man,“ Sheila Miller said.
Stewart was convicted of murder on May 1 after a four-day jury trial.
Stewart, 36, was arrested on a warrant in May 2013, six months after Miller's body was found stuffed in a barrel floating down the St. Joseph River on Sept. 20, 2012.
Miller, 44, went missing Sept. 7. He was last seen at his tattoo shop in Dunlap.
Prosecutors told the jury Stewart killed Miller, his business partner, to gain control of the shop, while Stewart’s defense attorneys tried to shift the blame to a tattoo artist who worked at the shop.
Several of Stewart’s relatives were also present in the courtroom, but did not speak.