Special Assignment: Triumph Over Tragedy

Posted Wednesday, March 11, 2009 --- 10:00 p.m.

"My name is Craig. I am the person who shot Jackie when I was a 16 year old kid," says Craig Sussek, as he sits is a prison visiting room, reading from a letter he wrote about the day his life changed forever.

It was November 5, 1995. Sussek was with his friend, Josh Briggs.

"Me and Craig, we kind of worked ourselves up," recalls Briggs. "We convinced ourselves that no one cared about us so we didn't care what we did anymore."

By chance, they stopped at a home in Reedsburg.

"Then we came up with our brilliant plan to steal a car," says Briggs.

Sussek continues the story, "We rang the doorbell. No one answered. We went into the house and Josh was looking for the keys."

Little did they know, Jackie Millar was asleep in the other room.

"He [Josh] found some keys and we were about to leave in the car when Jackie came out," recalls Sussek, "From that point, things kind of went out of control."

Sussek and Briggs ordered Millar back into the house. They made her lie down on the living room floor, covered her head with a pillow and shot her in the back of the head.

"Ultimately I pulled the trigger and shot Jackie," says Sussek.

"He [Craig] said he didn't know why he did it, he just did," remembers Briggs. "He panicked or was scared. It all happened so fast."

"As soon as it happened, I was like, 'Whoa, what did I just do?'" says Sussek.

"I remember looking at Jackie and then I looked at Craig and I just took off," says Briggs. "We ran to his [Craig's] house and were there a few hours later when they caught us."

Both boys were convicted of attempted homicide and sentenced to serve most of their lives in prison.

Meanwhile, Millar was fighting for her life.

She was in a coma for six weeks and spent the next year in the hospital recovering from severe brain trauma. Her two sons were by her side.

"They didn't know if if I would survive," says Millar as she shakes her head and smiles, "But we all know how that turned out."

But Millar faced an uphill battle. She was legally blind, paralyzed and had to relearn how to do everything.

"How to sit, how to stand, how to walk, how to talk, how to swallow, how to eat, how to get dressed," recalls Millar, "Even how to go to the bathroom."

But there was one thing they couldn't teach her at the hospital. It was something she'd only learn by coming face to face with her attackers.

"It is a time for me to ask questions about that day I was shot," explains Millar, "I can't remember anything."

Millar made her first prison visit two years after the shooting and has been going once a year ever since.

"I wanted to meet with her to say that I was sorry, but at the same time I was scared to death," says Sussek, ""I never in a million years would have thought that Jackie would want to meet with me, let alone say she forgave me for what I did."

"I forgave Craig and Josh so that I could go on with my life," Millar explains.

The two talk about life, family and her continuing struggle to live a normal life.

"This is my brace," says Millar as she points to her ankle.

"And what does it do, help keep your ankle straight?" asks Sussek as he leans down to get a better look at the brace.

"The brace keeps my foot up so I can walk," responds Millar.

But along with the small talk comes talk of the bigger picture, one they both live with every day.

"When I see Jackie, it's a blessing to me," explains Sussek, "I see her as a friend now, not the lady that I shot."

Millar looks Sussek straight in the face and says, "I am at peace with the way I have to be.

"I got to meet you," she says as she smiles and lets out a little laugh.

But Millar still wanted to find peace in knowing her other attacker, Josh Briggs. Five years ago, she finally got the chance.

"That first day, I walked over to you. I hugged you. Do you remember what you said to me?" asks Millar as she and Briggs sit at the corner of a table.

"I'm sorry," he responds knowingly.

"You kept repeating it," recalls Millar, "That meant the world to me."

Millar also visits Briggs in prison every year.

"Every time when Jackie has to struggle, guilt always flashes through me," explains Briggs, "I don't forgive myself for what I did. It means a lot to me that Jackie does, but it's one of those things that's hard for me to accept."

Millar has taken this unlikely friendship a step further. She says she loves them.

"They are near and dear to me," she says with a soft voice, "They made a mistake, a horrible mistake. It is not mistakes that tell us who we are, it is what we do about them."

Both Sussek and Briggs made Millar a promise: to better themselves.

They've written letters to kids, adults, and other inmates.

"The future that Jackie once had... the future that I once had were both changed in one second," says Sussek as he reads from one of his letters. "May all of us be guided to righteousness. I wish all of you the best."

"Give me a hug," says Sussek as Millar gets up to leave, "Alright Jackie, I love ya."

"I love you, too, " replies Millar as they embrace.

-----------------------------------------------------------------

Briggs will be eligible for parole in 2012 and Sussek will be eligible in 2015.

While Millar says she has forgiven them, she also says she made a promise to her sons not to help either one serve less than his full sentence.

She does not plan to say anything on their behalf at their parole hearings.


Comments are posted from viewers like you and do not always reflect the views of this station.
powered by Disqus
NBC15 615 Forward Drive Madison, Wisconsin 53711 Business: 608-274-1515 Newsroom: 608-274-1500
Gray Television, Inc. - Copyright © 2002-2014 - Designed by Gray Digital Media - Powered by Clickability 41127492 - nbc15.com/a?a=41127492