'Zombie hunter' held without bail in cold case murders

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By Mike Gertzman By Mike Gertzman
By Mike Gertzman By Mike Gertzman
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

PHOENIX -- Phoenix Police made an arrest Tuesday night in two separate cold case deaths that happened more than 20 years ago.

The mutilated bodies of two women were found in the 1990s, about a year apart.

"These two cases shocked our community," Phoenix Police Sgt. Trent Crump said.

Crump said a DNA match linked the suspect to the crimes.

Bryan Patrick Miller, 42, was taken into custody at the Amazon warehouse where he works. He was booked into jail on two counts of premeditated first-degree murder, two counts of kidnapping and one count of sexual assault.

Police said he is tied to the deaths of Angela Brosso, 22, on Nov. 8, 1992 and Melanie Bernas, 17, on Sept. 22, 1993.

Brosso had been reported missing from a bike ride. Her headless body was found in a northwest Phoenix park south of Cactus Road.

Bernas was murdered while on a bike ride along the Arizona Canal. Her body was found in the canal.

At the time, police said the same suspect killed both women. Crump called the two crimes "horrific."

After his arrest, Miller denied any involvement in the murders. Miller did tell officers, however, that he hung out in the area of the crimes in the early 1990s, according to police.

Police did not elaborate on how they came to suspect Miller, saying only that investigators forensically linked him to the victims.

"The evidence samples collected from both victims were determined to be the same unknown DNA profile. This profile matched the defendants DNA profile," according to the arresting officer's probable cause statement.

According to court paperwork, he "could not explain" how or why his DNA matched that recovered from the victims.

"When these crimes occurred, we didn't have DNA technology," Crump said. "Detectives still gathered that evidence at the scene and collected it until we had that technology years later."

"We were able to enter DNA into a database on these two cases at about 1999," Crump continued.  "When we got the technology of DNA we were able to link these two cases together, forensically, yet there was no DNA sample in the CODIS national database to ever tie anyone to this case."

Crump said it didn't keep detectives from continuing their legwork. He said police used a ruse with an undercover detective and were able to obtain Miller's DNA.

Police spent the night at Miller's home and expect to remain there throughout the day. They say Miller appears to be a hoarder and they have quite a bit to sift through as they search for evidence.

Miller describes himself as a "zombie hunter" and has a decommissioned police car that he reportedly took to various festivals and  conventions.

"He dressed in this zombie hunter kind of cyber punk outfits that was frightening, too," Eric Braverman said. He met Miller at a convention about a year ago.

Miller's teenage daughter is now staying with other family members.

A judge denied Miller bail, calling him a "danger to other persons or the community."

"There is no reasonable release condition that could assure the safety of the community," Commissioner Jane McLaughlin said.

A status conference will take place on Jan. 21, followed by a preliminary hearing on Jan. 23.

Crump said the police department will work with the County Attorney's Office in prosecuting the case.

"The fact that those involved in this case in 1992 have showed back up at the scene last night and this morning speaks volumes to the crews that were working on it and wanting to thank the crews out here now," Crump said.

Crump said Miller was arrested when he was a juvenile on an aggravated assault charge after stabbing a woman 25 years ago at Paradise Valley Mall.