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'Zombie Hunter' Charged In 1990s Murders Seeks Insanity Defense
Bryan Patrick Miller is accused of decapitating one woman and killing a teenager after they disappeared months apart near the Arizona Canal in the 1990s.
The lawyer of a man accused of killing two women in the early 1990s, and who was known to some by the moniker "Zombie Hunter," has filed a request for a mental evaluation, according to court records.
Bryan Patrick Miller, 49, previously pleaded not guilty to charges of murder, kidnapping, and attempted sexual assault, according to Fox 10 Phoenix. Now, his defense team is trying a new defense strategy, after a series of postponements over the years, claiming Miller isn’t fit to stand trial.
In June, Miller’s trial was delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, according to AZ Central.
Prosecutor Vince Imbordino claims the new request is another stall tactic.
“This defendant has been in custody for six years,” said Imbordino, according to Fox 10. “He has been seen by multiple defense experts who have never even raised the possibility of insanity. This is just yet another in a long line of delaying tactics.”
Miller, known by some neighbors as "Zombie Hunter" because of a bumper sticker on his car, was arrested in 2015, according to AZ Central. The vehicle appeared to be an old police car with lights on top, making him well known around the community.
Miller stands accused of killing Angela Brosso, 22, who never returned from a bicycle ride in November of 1992, according to AZ Central. Her decapitated body was discovered just as police began to conduct a search for her.
Brosso’s head was found 11 days later in the Arizona Canal.
In September of 1993, Melanie Bernas, 17, was also on a bicycle ride along the edge of the Arizona Canal when she was murdered. The high school student’s body was found floating in the water.
Both Brosso and Bernas were stabbed to death, according to Fox 10.
DNA evidence collected at the crime scenes connected the two murders, leading authorities to deduce that the same man committed them.
Phoenix police enlisted the help of cold case experts from The Vidocq Society, who reexamined the case and created a forensic profile, leading their attention back to an early suspect, Bryan Patrick Miller.
Miller was already on their radar, as he’d been charged in two previous stabbings, according to the Seattle Times. In 1990, when Miller was still in high school, he was arrested for randomly stabbing a woman at a mall and served time until he was 18 years old.
He was later exonerated and not required to submit to a DNA test.
In 2002, Miller was charged but later acquitted in stabbing a woman in Washington state, according to the Seattle Times. Melissa Ruiz-Ramirez was stabbed in the back after Miller claimed that she tried to rob him.
Miller had lived in the states of Washington and Hawaii in the years following the Arizona Canal murders. Authorities are looking into the possibility that Miller had other victims.
Phoenix police sergeant Trent Crump said it’d be “very unusual” if Brosso were his first victim and Bernas his last.
“What appeared to be a random act of violence prior to the homicides, it was one of the precursor events,” said Crump, according to AZ Central.
Crump alleged that Miller stabbed the women because they reminded Miller of his mother.
In February, Miller’s defense team claimed that Miller’s DNA was illegally collected from a coffee mug at a restaurant by an undercover officer, according to AZ Central. Lawyers argued that it violated Miller’s rights and tried to have the evidence thrown out.
DNA collected from semen samples found at both crime scenes matched Miller’s, authorities said, according to Fox 10.
A judge ruled that Miller had no expectation of privacy regarding the DNA samples and allowed the evidence into court.
“Customers who walk to a restaurant’s exit, having left such items behind, implicitly communicated their intent to abandon them,” stated judge Suzanne Cohen.
Miller’s trial is expected to begin on Sept. 21, 2021.
Prosecutors in the case are seeking the death penalty.