Psychologist testifies Bryan Patrick Miller’s dissociative amnesia could be related to Canal Murders

Monday’s testimony was about a condition doctors say he had called dissociative amnesia.
Published: Jan. 9, 2023 at 8:27 PM MST
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PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) - It’s the high-profile capital murder case that all eyes have been on for months, and a big day back in court Monday for the defense talking about Bryan Patrick Miller’s mental and psychological state. Miller is accused of killing two young women in the 90s, dubbed “the Phoenix Canal Murders,” and is known as “The Zombie Hunter” for a character he portrayed in public right before he was arrested for the crimes in 2015.

Monday’s testimony is crucial because it could make or break his insanity plea if he goes to prison or is put to death. His defense team is trying to prove that Bryan Patrick Miller is not guilty by reason of insanity. His DNA was found on the girls, so rather than try to argue that he didn’t do it, his team is going for why he was insane at the time and didn’t know what he was doing was wrong.

Monday’s testimony was about a condition doctors say he had called dissociative amnesia. A glimpse into the psyche of “The Zombie Hunter” as told by clinical psychologist Dr. Bethany Brand, who had several conversations and sessions with Bryan Patrick Miller. She recalled an unusual way he described his mind and the noise inside of it. “He feels like different TVs are playing in his head,” Dr. Brand said.

Dr. Brand said Miller suffered from dissociative amnesia, a condition characterized by memory gaps or loss, especially from a traumatic event or time.

Miller is accused of brutally stabbing and killing Angela Brosso and Melanie Bernas in 1992 and 1993. Both were riding their bikes in Phoenix along the Arizona Canal when they were killed. His defense attorneys argue his autism disorder and dissociative amnesia made him insane at the time of the crimes. Therefore he didn’t know that killing these girls was wrong.

“The state specifically asked you is it your opinion that somebody with dissociative amnesia could cause someone to commit a murder? Do you recall that question?” the defense attorney asked Dr. Brand. “Yes,” she said. “What was your answer to that question?” the defense attorney asked. “Something like it could be related but not causal,” Dr. Brand said. “There could be a part of them, a self-state, that has very violent revengeful feelings, fantasies, and wishes, and another part not know about that. And so, in that case it could contribute, but in other cases there’s plenty of dissociative amnestic patients out there that don’t commit murders.”

Dr. Brand kept notes of what Miller told her, focusing on an avoidance pattern. She said Miller desperately did not want to have a dissociative disorder and didn’t seem aware of his symptoms. “He just became very frustrated every time I kept pushing and playing out things like your semen was found on these women. You know, he became incredibly frustrated with me pushing this. He didn’t become hostile, he didn’t become irate, but he was very frustrated,” she said.

He also never confessed to the murders to Dr. Brand. “I think the most important thing is he doesn’t remember these murders. To not remember doing something so egregious as murders, that’s incredibly dysfunctional,” said Dr. Brand.

Because it’s a bench trial with no jury, all of this will fall solely on the judge to decide whether his condition is enough to rule not guilty by reason of insanity. If that’s the case, he could avoid prison once the trial ends. The possibilities in this trial range from being put in a mental facility, life in prison or being sentenced to death. We now expect this trial to go well into February, if not March before we get a verdict.