Police make arrest in two 'cold case' murders from 2 decades ago

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Melanie Bernas (left), Bryan Patrick Miller, Angela Brasso By Mike Gertzman Melanie Bernas (left), Bryan Patrick Miller, Angela Brasso By Mike Gertzman
By Mike Gertzman By Mike Gertzman
By Mike Gertzman By Mike Gertzman
By Mike Gertzman By Mike Gertzman
By Mike Gertzman By Mike Gertzman

PHOENIX -- Phoenix police have made an arrest in two "cold case" murders from more than two decades ago.

Police closed in on the suspect Tuesday evening at a home in a neighborhood near 7th Street and Hatcher. Officers arrested 42-year-old Bryan Patrick Miller. He faces two charges of murder. He was living at the home with his teenage daughter.

Investigators have already spent many hours searching the home and will likely be there for several days. There is stuff stacked to the ceiling inside the home. Police said it appears to be a hoarding situation.

The case focuses on two young women killed a year apart back in the 1990s.

On Sunday, November 8, 1992, Angela Brosso left home to ride her bicycle. Her decapitated body was later found in the field just east of her apartment complex at 2529 W. Cactus Road. Her head was found in a canal.

On September 22, 1993, Melanie Bernas was also riding her bicycle when she disappeared. Her body was found in the canal near 9200 N. Black Canyon Highway.

"These two cases shocked our community," Phoenix Police Sgt. Trent Crump said. "This is a win for the homicide unit. This is a win for the community. This is an individual that has gone under the radar for 20 some years. We believe that shortly after these murders he moved out of state and ultimately came back here we believe after a grandmother who owned this home here behind us died."

The murders went unsolved for years. Then in 1999, investigators were able to link the cases together using DNA and forensics. Police obtained more DNA evidence last week that they said linked Miller to the murders.

"We determined that individual had no DNA on file and undercover Phoenix police detectives were able to obtain a DNA sample for the suspect just last week," said Sgt. Crump. "Once we got that DNA sample from the suspect that sample was analyzed by our crime lab and within literally hours we had a hit from those two murders scientifically linking him by DNA to those two murders over twenty years ago."

Police removed a bicycle from a shed in the backyard of Miller's property on Tuesday night.

Miller is being cooperative, according to police. They said he had not admitted to anything.

"He has not admitted involvement in this crime. He has placed himself at or near the areas of the crimes during the time that these crimes occurred but he has not admitted involvement in these crimes and he has not talked about any other crimes," said Sgt. Crump. "We do not have his DNA in the CODIS data bank yet. We did that match in our crime lab and we will enter that in there and we will begin to start looking now at this individual for other crimes here and very likely in other states where he may have been."

Police think Miller may have moved to Washington state when he moved out of Arizona before moving back to Arizona a few years ago. Miller has no adult criminal history. He does have a juvenile case from many years ago for aggravated assault at Paradise Valley Mall. Sgt. Crump said Miller was arrested for stabbing a woman who was going to work at Paradise Valley Mall.

In 2011, a cold case squad reviewed the case and got a lead, but it took a few more years to track down that lead.

Miller is facing charges of first-degree premeditated murder, kidnapping and sexual assault. He is being held in the Maricopa County Jail without bail.

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More information on the cold cases can be found online.