Detective describes shape carved in victim’s chest during Canal Murder testimony

The lead detective in the "Phoenix Canal Murders" case testified about the heinous manner in which two women were killed allegedly by Bryan Patrick Miller.
Published: Oct. 5, 2022 at 9:25 PM MST
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PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) — A retired Phoenix homicide detective described seeing a cross carved into the chest of a 17-year-old girl who had been murdered on a bike trail next to the Arizona Canal back in 1993. “It’s got a line that goes down between her breasts, and a smaller line that’s horizontal to that. To me, it looked like a basic picture of a cross. Above her breasts are three letters, which are the letters, ‘WSC,’” said Mike Meislish, a lead detective on the Phoenix Canal Murders case.

That victim was Melanie Bernas, who had gone on a bike ride the night of Sept. 22, 1993, and never returned home. On Wednesday, the court heard from her mother, Marlene Bernas, who testified telephonically. “When I said goodbye to her, I kissed her and said, ‘I love you.’ And she was sitting on the sofa. And I said, ‘I’ll see you in a little while,’” said Bernas.

She described a night of fear after returning from dinner to find that her daughter had not come home. “I called the emergency rooms to see if they had had a patient there, who had perhaps had an accident with a bicycle,” said Bernas.

The following morning, Charlotte Pottle was taking a bike ride with her sister and their young children along the Arizona Canal when Pottle noticed something odd on the ground. “As I looked back at my sister, I’m like, ‘What was that?’ And I said it kind of looked like blood,” said Pottle.

When she looked over the side of the canal, she said she could tell something had been dropped off the side. “As I looked straight down, you could see that blood drag mark,” said Pottle.

Pottle called the police. Officer John Thompson arrived at the scene. “I didn’t see anything that appeared to me that there was a sign of struggle at that location,” said Thompson. But he did see a blood trail. “The drag marks and blood went together. And the drag marks appeared to be from something heavy, like a human,” said Thompson.

Police ended up finding Bernas at the bottom of the canal. She had been stabbed in the back and most of her clothes had been removed. Investigators believe Bryan Patrick Miller attacked her on the bike path the night she disappeared. They have not disclosed whether there is any significance to the cross or the initials, “WSC,” which were found carved into Bernas’ chest. Miller is also charged with the murder of Angela Brosso, which happened one year earlier.