Closing arguments set in “Zombie Hunter” trial for the Phoenix Canal Murders

Bryan Patrick Miller, known as “The Zombie Hunter,” has been on trial since October for the ‘Phoenix Canal Murders’ of two young women in the 90s.
Published: Apr. 3, 2023 at 8:04 PM MST
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PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) - After six months, the trial of an accused Phoenix serial killer is nearing a verdict. Bryan Patrick Miller, known as “The Zombie Hunter,” has been on trial since October for the ‘Phoenix Canal Murders’ of two young women in the 90s.

It’s a high-profile capital murder case Arizona’s Family has been following closely, and one that finally could have a verdict next week. But as unusual as this case has been from the start, there are a lot of possible outcomes here.

Closing arguments are now set for this Wednesday, possibly into Thursday. Because this is a bench trial, everything is up to the judge, who will consider all of the evidence heard over the past six months and decide whether Bryan Patrick Miller is guilty of first-degree murder or not guilty by reason of insanity.

We’re likely now just days away from that decision. The final witness of a trial that’s lasted half a year, Miller’s ex-wife, Amy, was back on the stand Monday. While she testified that he said if he didn’t love her, he would kill her and about the violence that made her fear for her life, she never brought any of that up during divorce and custody hearings for their daughter Sarah.

“Why didn’t you tell them?” asked the prosecutor. “I felt Sarah needed both of her parents, and if I said something like that the chances were they would remove her from ever seeing him, and I didn’t want that to happen to her,” Amy said. This came after days of Amy testifying about their sadistic sex life, where she told the court Miller made her watch gruesome porn that included people being boiled in water and eaten.

The defense is arguing Miller is not guilty by reason of insanity due to his dissociative amnesia and autism disorder, that he didn’t know what he was doing at the time was wrong, and couldn’t remember the crimes.

The prosecution hammered their points home to the judge Monday that he knowingly sexually assaulted and killed Angela Brosso and Melanie Bernas and deserves a first-degree murder conviction. “The reality of this is they found sperm on the oral swab. No evidence has been presented that would suggest that anyone else could be responsible for sperm on or around the victim’s body other than the defendant,” the prosecutor said.

After closing arguments this week, this entire case rests on the shoulders of the judge, something we don’t normally see and something she doesn’t usually deal with. “I’ve done a lot of research on what is required in a bench trial in capital case and at this stage, there are verdict forms and that’s what you’re going to get. Just as if there was a jury,” said judge Suzanne Cohen. And also, like a jury, the judge told the court she’d be by herself in a room reviewing everything. “I’m going to come down here and deliberate in the jury room because then the evidence is closer to me,” said Cohen.

At the earliest, that verdict could come down next Tuesday. If he is found not guilty by reason of insanity, then he’d likely be placed in a mental institution, but for how long, we don’t know. If he is found guilty, they would start the trial’s penalty phase, so this would continue into May before we would get his sentence, which could range from the death penalty to life in prison to a certain number of years behind bars.

If we head to the penalty phase, the defense said they’d call 26 witnesses for that with three weeks of testimony but didn’t say who they’re calling. The lead prosecutor said they’re considering bringing in Victoria Mikelsen from Washington state.

We did not hear from her during the trial, but Miller’s ex-wife, Amy, told the court he confessed to attacking her when they lived in Washington, an attack she barely survived as a teenager.

The only reason Miller hasn’t been charged with her attack is because of the statute of limitations in the case.