Canal murders haunt Zombie Hunter’s former mentor

Jerald Schrock described Bryan Patrick Miller as socially stunted, saying he needed to be taught about basic hygiene and the importance of working to pay bills.
Published: Dec. 8, 2022 at 6:00 AM MST|Updated: Dec. 8, 2022 at 9:58 PM MST
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) - When Jerald Schrock returned to Phoenix in November, he felt mixed emotions. But one stood out more than the others.

“I feel guilt. I shouldn’t have left,” Schrock said, who spoke exclusively to Arizona’s Family Investigates. It haunts Schrock to this day, 30 years after he left the Valley to return home to Indiana. Thirty years after the crimes known as the Phoenix Canal Murders began. “Part of me believes that possibly that might not have happened if I had stayed around,” said Schrock.

Schrock moved to Phoenix in the early 1990s and stayed for less than two years. He was a member of the Mennonite Church, and part of his duties involved helping young men at risk of descending into lives of crime. “I was part of an organization that was sort of like a halfway house,” he said. One of the young men he mentored was Bryan Patrick Miller, who had just been released from juvenile detention after attacking a woman in a mall parking lot.

The church put Miller up in a Sunnyslope home, and Schrock lived in an apartment in the back. “Sometimes I felt like a dad. Sometimes I felt like a brother. Sometimes I felt mean when I had to push him to do things he didn’t want to do,” Schrock said. He describes Miller as socially stunted at that time, saying Miller needed to be taught about basic hygiene and the importance of working to pay bills.

Schrock said Miller never came off as violent and thought he could help guide Miller to a peaceful and successful life. “I think he kind of caught back up socially. Then, yeah, it was a friendship. He was like my little brother,” he said. “We could finish each other’s sentences.” However, Schrock’s time in Phoenix was limited. He returned to Indiana in October 1992 after spending roughly one year mentoring Miller. “I knew he probably felt abandoned,” he said, who kept in touch will Miller. Schrock even invited Miller to be a groomsman in his wedding.

But according to police and prosecutors, Miller murdered two young women after Schrock left. Angela Brosso’s naked and mutilated body was discovered on the side of a bike trail near the Arizona Canal in November 1992. Then, in September of 1993, police found the naked body of Melanie Bernas at the bottom of the Arizona Canal with knife wounds. 22-year-old Brosso and 17-year-old Bernas were both riding bicycles when they were attacked and killed. Both had similar stab wounds to the back and the rest of their bodies and were sexually assaulted.

More than 20 years after they were murdered, police matched DNA found on the victims to Miller and charged him with murder. “My first thought was, ‘No.’ I mean, you’re questioning suspects. I understand that. But that’s the wrong guy. I didn’t think it was possible,” Schrock said. He said he returned to Phoenix in November to testify in Miller’s trial for the defense.

On the stand, he spoke about the young man he knew all those years ago. The defense team is asking the judge to find Miller not guilty by reason of insanity. Schrock told AZ Family Investigates he doesn’t think Miller was or is insane. “I really don’t buy the insanity plea. Of course, I don’t really know what insane looks like. But I don’t think it looks like that,” said Schrock. “I just really don’t understand how you get from what I thought I knew to what I think I see,” he said.