Sordid tale had depressing common denominator: drugs

Through his early and mid 20s, Joseph Howard Milman hung around with teenagers like Justin Howard, thirty-somethings like Jeremy Morelli and guys in their 50s or close to it, like Scott “Skippy” Hyatt and Bobby Mell.
What brought all these characters together was drugs. And it was drugs that led to Milman’s arrest on charges he murdered Hyatt and wounded Mell on Oct. 19, 2014, in a house on East Riviera Boulevard, north of Indialantic. Last week, a jury convicted Milman of manslaughter and attempted murder in the armed robbery of Dilaudid pills.
But on the witness stand last week, the lanky and gaunt Milman denied the charges, all but accusing Morelli of the crime.
Milman also painted a picture of a young man taking the wrong road at an early age. “I used drugs since I was 13 after my mother died.” He’s had 10 felony convictions before this trial, and of those priors, he said, “I pled guilty because I did what I was accused of.”
During the fall of 2014, Milman had no stable residence, living where ever he could find a place to lay his head, a van outside Howard’s house; a couch at the house owned by Elvira Hull, known as Grandma. He met Howard through Morelli. “Skippy rented one of the rooms at Grandma’s house. I knew Bobby from around the neighborhood.”
In early October 2014, Morelli, Howard and Milman discussed a plan to steal Dilaudids from Hyatt when he took a shower. Howard testified he offered his mother’s pistol for intimidation in exchange for 10 pills. But Milman said the gun was to be traded for methamphetamines. Failing to do so, he gave the pistol to Morelli, Milman testified.
“Morelli told me he had someone who may be interested in buying it,” Milman said on cross-examination. “I did not want to carry gun around.”
But he never told Howard he gave Morelli the weapon.
Meantime, Hyatt moved to Mell’s place saying he feared he’d be robbed of his pills, the trial revealed. Milman’s story was that Grandma was going to kick him out because of syringes found in his room.
According to Milman’s testimony, in the wee hours of Oct. 19, he and Morelli searched their contacts for drugs. “As a last resort I called Bobby. We walked to Bobby’s house, Jeremy and I.”
On cross, Milman said, “Jeremy wanted some crack. I wanted some marijuana. Bobby said he’d make calls for me.”
On arrival, Milman went into Bobby’s room. “I saw Skippy and Bobby shooting up Dilaudid with a hypodermic syringe.”
Unable to score drugs, Milman and Morelli returned to Grandma’s and went to sleep. “I woke up around 10 a.m. and mopped the floor.”
Howard and his friend Michael Billias stopped by for marijuana. The plan to steal Hyatt’s pills came up. “There was not a change in plan that I was part of,” Milman testified. “I sold Howard and Billias’ weed and went back to chores. I was part of the conversation for ten minutes.”
Later, Milman said he joined Morelli on the bike path that ran past Grandma’s house. A couple blocks later, Morelli pulled out a golden mask from a backpack. “He tried to give me the mask. I said (expletive) no. I did not touch it.”
Morelli, Milman said, then walked towards Mell’s house. Milman did not, figuring the robbery was going to take place.
“I told him two times not to do it. I tried to deter him. I thought of calling Bobby and Skippy to warn them.”
But he didn’t.
When Morelli returned, Milman described him as sweaty, kind-of pale with blood on one of his hands. Milman said Morelli pulled out a bottle of pills from his pocket and dumped the majority in his hand. “He put the bottle in the backpack. He tossed the backpack to me. I slung the backpack on my shoulder and took off to Justin’s house. I was on autopilot. I did not believe this was really happening.”
He testified he did not look inside the pack. When Milman arrived, Howard and his girlfriend, Ashley Lawson came outside. “I was out of breath and tired. I walked past them into the house to the hall bathroom.”
He took off the backpack put it on the floor and washed his hands and face. Milman said he spent less than five minutes at the house – and left the backpack.
“I never told Howard I shot them. I said Skippy was dead and Bobby might be. That’s what Morelli told me. I had no way to tell if Morelli had a firearm in the backpack,” he said.
Milman testified he never saw a knife as Howard and Lawson claimed. He had no blood on his shoes. “I never told them Jeremy Morelli did it. I never took the pills out of the backpack. I never gave Howard any pills.”

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