Victim describes 1989 ‘Zombie Hunter’ stabbing attack during trial

Celeste Bentley told the courtroom Bryan Patrick Miller came up behind her and stabbed her at the Paradise Valley mall in 1989.
Published: Oct. 11, 2022 at 7:40 PM MST
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PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) -- Celeste Bentley sat at the witness stand and told the story of what happened to her in the parking lot of the Paradise Valley mall 33 years ago. In doing so, she helped prosecutors build a case that Bryan Patrick Miller, known by Phoenix sci-fi fans as the Zombie Hunter, had a pattern of attacking young women.

“I noticed there was somebody walking behind me,” said Bentley in the courtroom as Miller sat, looking down at his notes, just 30 feet away at the defendant’s table in courtroom 5B of the Maricopa County Superior Court.

Miller is on trial for the 1992 murder of Angela Brosso and the 1993 murder of Melanie Bernas. The two killings become known as the Phoenix Canal Murders. But three years before they took place, Miller was arrested and convicted of attacking Bentley.

In court on Tuesday, a woman said Bryan Patrick Miller came up behind her and stabbed at the Paradise Valley mall in 1989.

Bentley had taken the city bus to the mall, where she worked. It was 8 a.m., and Bentley said she had noticed that Miller followed her as she exited the bus. “All of a sudden, someone hit me in the back,” said Bentley, who did not immediately realize she had been stabbed. She said Miller ran past her after he had struck her.

“When I reached back, I grabbed my back and then pulled my hand in front of me, because it was wet. And I looked and I saw the blood. And I had known that he had stabbed me,” she said. “I just started screaming and running towards my work.”

Bentley’s coworkers called police. However, before she was taken away in an ambulance, police had already caught Miller, and she had identified him as her attacker. Miller eventually served one year in a juvenile detention facility for the attack.

Miller was not arrested for the Bernas and Brosso murders until 2015, when detectives matched his DNA to ones left at the crime scenes. The trial is set to resume in late October after a two-week break.