an ordinary crime
homefaqsbehind the scenesthoughts on the caseinterviewsreadings & links
interviews: alice wise


She was shot twice, in the chest and in the head, during the robbery of the Quality Finance Company in Johnston County, N.C., in April 1997. She lost her left eye. Her trial testimony that Terence Garner was the shooter was a central factor in his conviction.

Tell us about what happened that day.

It was a Friday afternoon, approximately 25 minutes until 5 o'clock. I had a customer [Bertha Miller] in my office, and we were discussing the possibility of her purchasing a van that we had for sale.... Then I heard Mr. Woodard in a strange tone of voice say, "May I help you with something?" And I could tell that it was not just a normal "May I help you." So I glanced up a little bit and I saw this individual in front of my desk that had on baggy blue jeans. I looked up, and this taller black guy was in front of my desk. He had a bandana around his face. And then at that point, a shorter black guy had a pistol at Mr. Woodard's head, left temple. And he was saying, "Sit down." Then Bertha, the customer who was seated between my desk and the door, she jumped up and was going to try to run out the door. The taller guy grabbed her and pushed her back in the chair she was sitting in. Then [the other one] kept the gun at Mr. Woodard's temple and he said, "Just do what we say."

What was going through your mind? How did you feel?

The only way I know how to explain that is my personality is, the angrier I get, the calmer I get. ... And Mr. Woodard was calm. Considering he had a gun pointed at his temple, I think he was tremendously calm. Bertha, however was not doing well at all. She was completely hysterical. She was crying. She was screaming, begging, "Please don't kill us."They took us down the hallway to Mr. Woodard's office. They put Bertha... There was a couple chairs in front of Mr. Woodard's desk, and they put Bertha in one and me in the other. The taller guy got duct tape and started taping up Bertha first.The shorter one was telling Mr. Woodard, "Where's the money?" Mr. Woodard said, "It's in the office we just left." And he said, "Well, let's go get it." And so at that point, they went back to my office and to get the money out of the cash drawer. And the taller one tied up Bertha around the ankles and her hands.

At that point...

At that point I think is when the taller one said, "No one's going to die." And so I said, "Just try to calm down Bertha." Then the taller one taped up my ankles with the duct tape. And then my wrists, like this. ... The taller one was continuing with tying Mr. Woodard up as the shorter one with the gun came around to where I was seated. He still had the gun and he asked me, "Where is your money, where's your pocketbook?" I said, "It's in my office." He grabbed my arm and he pulled me up out of the chair and he said, "Well, let's go get it".I couldn't walk fast enough for him because I was tied around the ankles, so he was basically pulling me down the hallway and getting angry and frustrated because of I apparently wasn't maneuvering fast enough for him or something. But he was getting agitated. We got in my office, however. My purse was on a ledge underneath my desk and I tried to get it. But I couldn't because my hands were tied, and I couldn't get that far under my desk. So I told him, "There it is. I just can't reach it." So then he pushed me down. I fell up against the wall. He reached down, and I was watching, as he picked up my purse with his left hand and he had the gun in his right hand.Then there was a shot fired. And so then he's up over ... standing over top of me and I'm looking at this point -- after the first shot's been fired -- I'm looking directly at him. He didn't say anything; he just shot me in the chest. I didn't ... hadn't said anything. The last thing I had said to him was, "There's my purse, I just can't reach it." And then he shot me in the chest.

I know, Terence Garner tried to kill me on April 25 1997, there's no doubt.  I know that.

The taller one, at that point, I think is when he came in my office from the other office and said, "It's time to go, our time's up, we need to go." And the shorter one said, "What do you think, should I go ahead and kill the bitch?" Prior to him saying that, however, after he shot me in the chest, I held my hands up like this and I said, "OK." Of all things to say, but I just, "OK." And then that's when he said, "What do you think, should I go ahead and kill the bitch?"The taller one didn't make any comment. I heard the door open and I was looking straight in the shorter one's face when he fired the third shot. And that bullet went through that... Since I had my hands up like this, it went through both wrists before it entered my head, my forehead. And he never said anything after that. He turned around and walked out.

... Bertha and Mr. Woodard were not there?

They were in the other office when I was shot. ... The rescue personnel got there and did a fantastic job. I was taken to the hospital, to the trauma unit, and had fine physicians, a lot of prayers. I was in surgery for about six-and-a-half hours, I think. And before I went into surgery, I asked had I lost my left eye and they told me, "Yes."

How did you feel?

Numb. It didn't really register. I wanted to know, but it didn't register, I don't think. So I was pretty much numb when they told me.

When did you see the face of the man who shot you?

They had a bond hearing set and I attended it. It was on a Monday morning in the courtroom. I was sitting on the second row on the right-hand side. The taller one came in first. And the one that shot me was behind him, directly behind him. They were seated in front of me. I got the district attorney's attention, and he came back where I was. I told him that the two that they had just brought in -- and I pointed at them -- were the two that robbed us and the shorter one was the one that had shot me. That was the first time that I saw him.

It was a few months after?

Maybe a couple weeks. I'm not sure. ...

Did it affect your life?

Drastically. Completely -- 180. Nothing is as I knew it before that day -- nothing. I had worked since I was 15 years old. I have never been a Susie Homemaker. I admire women that can, but I never was. I took pride in my work. I can't work anymore.

Why?

Because I have chronic pain in my right hand particularly; both hands, but my right hand particularly.

Because of the bullet?

Right. The third bullet that was fired hit my right hand first and went through my wrist. So my right hand is the worst, as far as the pain. And also I can't because of post-traumatic stress.I am now... I'm terrified of crowds. I don't trust people, because I think I did nothing to Terence Garner and he shot me. The robbery was over. There was no reason. Nothing provoked it. So if Terence Garner tried his best and he did all that he could do to kill me, then there are other strangers that out there that could possibly want to do the same.

Do you think post-traumatic stress will go away?

I'm told that it won't. I'm seeing a psychiatrist regularly. I asked him about two months ago, "Am I ever going to get over this?" And he frankly, bluntly said, "No, you're not." I had never even heard of post-traumatic stress. I've learned a lot about it. A lot of things that I experienced I've learned are post-traumatic stress symptoms. I have a very dear family, a lot of close friends, but they don't understand what post-traumatic stress is either. It's kind of like, sometimes I feel like they're thinking, "This happened to you four years ago." ...

Is there any chance you made a mistake?

Oh, absolutely not. The only way that this situation -- other than one of the victims literally dying -- the only way that this situation could be any worse is for the wrong person to be in prison for doing this. I would rather know that the man that tried to kill me is on the street than the wrong one in jail. I could live with that easier.No, there is no doubt. Like I said, I see this man's face every day. I was looking at this man when he very coldly tried to take my life. You don't forget that; you try. You don't forget that. There's no way. I would not say if I was not 120 percent sure. I know, Terence Garner tried to kill me...there's no doubt, I know that.

Why did Henderson insist it was not Terence Garner?

Well, I guess the truth has not come out in that respect. I mean, they rode to the office that day, so I know that he knew Terence Garner. I know he knows Terence Garner, because they were both in the office that day. ... I don't know. I wish I knew, because I know, Henderson knows, Riddick knows and Terence Garner knows what happened and who was involved. I don't know why he's saying that.

... But you don't think a mistake is possible -- a mistake that it's the wrong man?

No. As I said, just a few minutes ago, on the way to court, the morning after they said that someone else had confessed, I was much calmer, because I knew rationally there was no evidence that would justify this man being released. And there can't be, because this Terence Garner shot me. There is no possibility. There is no doubt -- there's none, none whatsoever -- none.

Nothing you can learn?

No, no, no. Nothing is going to change that fact. I mean, it's a fact. ... It happened and it was him and that is intact because of it... It's for real. And Henderson may say -- and will say, I assume as he is -- that, no, it wasn't Terence Garner or anyone else. But the facts are, I'm telling the truth. I know who shot me, and it was Terence Garner. And nothing's going to change that.

Have you seen Deloach?

I've seen Terrance Deloach, yes. There's no similarities, if that's what you're asking. Terrance Deloach is much taller, darker-complected, no similarity. No similarity in size, height -- no similarities at all. None. I saw him in court.

And it couldn't be him?

No. I'd never seen this man before that day, no.

He can confess, and it doesn't matter?

I know he's lying. He's lying if he confesses. It's... No possibility.

What were your words, the last thing you said to the jury?

The last thing that I said to the jury was that I knew it was Terence Garner that shot me. His face is the last thing that I saw with both my eyes. Terence Garner shot me.

home - introduction - faqs - behind the story - thoughts about the case - interviews - readings & links
discussion - video excerpt - tapes & transcripts - press - credits - privacy policy
FRONTLINE - pbs online - wgbh

web site copyright 1995-2014 WGBH educational foundation

SUPPORT PROVIDED BY

NEXT ON FRONTLINE

Solitary NationApril 22nd

FRONTLINE on

ShopPBS