"Zombie hunter" killer sentenced to death for "canal murders" in 1990s

June 20, 2023

On November 9, 1992, the headless body of 22-year-old Angela Brosso was discovered just off a jogging trail in a park near her home in Phoenix.

Brosso had gone missing after going for a bike ride near the water not far from her apartment on West Cactus Road in the North Side of Phoenix. Her severed head was later found in the Arizona Canal, over two miles from her body. Brosso worked for Syntellect Corp., a Phoenix based computer company in the area.

Despite having a description of the clothes she was last seen wearing, Brosso's body was so saturated with blood from the violent and fatal knife attack that killed her, that police were initially unable to tell what colour garments she was even clad in that day.

In an issue of the Tucson Citizen, published 23 Nov 1992, a short article titled: "Police Seek Profile of Murderer" details that Brosso's killer had attempted to skin the victim after beheading her below the chin. With no suspect in sight, police at the time sent all available information on the murder to Washington to be analysed by the FBI's Violent Criminal Apprehension Program. They hoped to develop a profile of the killer to give them an idea of what kind of suspect they were looking for.

In September 1993, 17-year-old Melanie Bernas was discovered in a canal near Dunlap Avenue in Arizona. Officers were called to investigate the scene after other cyclists riding along the popular cycling path noticed a large amount of blood along the trail. Bernas, who was a student at Arcadia High at the time, had gone missing while riding her bike.

The victim's body was found eerily close to where the head of Brosso was discovered in 1992 and police could not ignore the similarities between the two cases, however, did not officially link them at the time. Bernas had been stabbed multiple times in the upper body but a detective on the case said the injuries were not as “massive” as the injuries done to Brosso back in 1992.

The bikes of both victims were not recovered. In an article published in the Arizona Republic, dated, 23 September 1993, a composite sketch of person was interest was printed for the public's review. Police called out for man described as "a thinly built Anglo male" who had been hanging around the canal for several days around the time of the murder to come forward and speak with investigators. He was said to be around 6ft tall with dirty dark blond hair, dressed in a long sleeved brown shirt and faded jeans. The drawing showed a Caucasian male with a bearded chin, thin eyebrows, and long hair. Police referred to the man as an investigative lead rather than a suspect in the murder.

In 2015, Bryan Patrick Miller, was arrested in connection with the 1992-1993 slayings. Around this time, Miller's ex-wife revealed to police that Miller had told her he had stabbed a little girl who lived in the neighbourhood, to death. The girl, 13-year-old Brandy Myers, was going door to door to collect money for her book-a-thon when she disappeared.

Miller, who referred to himself as “the Zombie Hunter”, had horror, true crime and BDSM paraphernalia around his home, including crime scene images and materials pertaining to both cannibalism and necrophilia. Investigators began looking at his online presence, including his DeviantArt account and amazon Wishlist. It was through these accounts that they connected one of his online aliases, Duck / Lucky Duck, to that of a 1970s B-movie Slasher Film, The New York Ripper. In one of the movie scenes, the killer, named Duck, murders a female riding a bicycle.

Investigators believe that Miller may have more victims that they have not yet identified. After the murders, he lived in both Washington and Hawaii, and it is possible he may have victims in both places.

Bryan Patrick Miller was sentenced to death last week for the canal bike murders, where he allowed the judge to decide his fate, rather than leaving it to a jury.

At the time of his arrest, Miller was working at Amazon, and was a single father of a daughter after splitting from his wife. He had been linked to the crimes by DNA and although he initially tried to deny any connection to the victims, later admitted to his guilt. Miller was arrested at the home he rented and lived in with his teenage daughter off 9th Street and Mountainview Road in Phoenix. Police described the rental home as a hoarder situation and investigators were seen taking rusted bicycles from the property.

Miller has a prior criminal record including the stabbing of a woman in Paradise Valley Mall in 1990 when he was a teenager. When asked why he committed the stabbing, Miller told police that the victim reminded him of his own mother.

In a statement read before the court, he attempted to blame his actions on childhood issues with his mother, saying: “I know I am different. I didn’t understand completely why. I thought it might have to do with what my mother did to me. Growing up I was scared, I was lost, I was confused. I was not allowed to express myself. I want to get help and try to open up the parts of me I know I have shut out.”

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