Bryan Miller

Bryan Patrick Miller was arrested on January 14, 2015 and charged in a series of murders in Phoenix, Arizona known as the Phoenix Canal Murders.

He has been charged in the September 22, 1993 murder of 17-year-old Melanie Bernas and the November 8, 1992 murder of 22-year-old Angela Brasso. Both women disappeared while biking along the trails of the Phoenix canals. Brosso was decapitated. Her body was found near the canal in a vacant lot, and her head was found floating in the canal 11 days later. Bernas’ body was found floating in the canal. She was wearing a turquoise bathing suit that did not belong to her. A male DNA profile was obtained from samples taken from the women’s bodies.

The FGG investigation was conducted by Colleen Fitzpatrick of Identifinders. The case was referred to Fitzpatrick by Phoenix police detectives in October of 2014, after they had met at the ISHI (International Symposium for Human Identification) Conference in 2014 and discussed the possibility of using genetic genealogy. This was the first time that FGG had been used to clear a criminal investigation in North America. Unlike previous investigations, Fitzpatrick used existing DNA databases rather than massive public dragnets to find relative matches. This set a new standard for the field.

Fitzpatrick used Y-STR profiles to trace the male lineage of the suspect using the Sorenson Y-STR database, which was later purchased by Ancestry and taken offline. Fitzpatrick discovered that the DNA profile likely came from a male lineage with the surname Miller. She was able to take an initial suspect pool of 2,000 suspects and narrow it down to 5 men. This information was then be cross-referenced with any Millers living near the Phoenix canals. The initial confirmation of these finding was conducted by surreptitious sampling of Miller, who lived very near the bike path where the women disappeared.

As a youth, Miller was charged with stabbing a woman at a shopping mall. He claimed that the victim reminded him of his mother. Miller was acquitted in 2002 of stabbing another woman. He is currently being investigated for involvement in other murders.

Miller was originally scheduled to be tried in 2016. His trial has been delayed a number of times. He is facing the death penalty. Reports from August of 2021 indicate that Miller and his attorneys are seeking to introduce an insanity plea.

In January of 2022, Miller was declared fit to stand trial. He has asked to be excused from being tried before a jury and asked for a bench trial. He was tried before Judge Samantha Cohen of the Maricopa County Superior Court.

Miller then pled not guilty by reason of insanity. On January 9, 2023, Miller’s defense team introduced testimony that Miller suffered from dissociative amnesia, which is characterized by memory gaps or memory loss caused by a traumatic event. His defence also argued his autism spectrum disorder as another reason for justifying that Miller did not know what he was doing. Dr. Brand, a forensic psychologist who interviewed Miller, testified that Miller did not seem to be aware of his symptoms, and appeared frustrated when presented with the evidence against him. She also testified that while dissociative amnesia could be related to violent behaviour, it was probably not causal.

On April 11, 2023, Judge Cohen found Miller guilty of two counts of first degree murder, two counts of kidnapping, one count of sexual assault, and one count of attempted sexual assault. The judge ruled in April of 2023 that Miller is eligible for the death penalty. He will now proceed to a death penalty hearing.

On May 22, 2023, Miller’s lawyer, Richard Parker, argued at the death penalty hearing that Miller is on the Autism spectrum and suffered abuse at the hands of his mother while growing up. Miller himself stated only that he accepted the verdict, but did not apologize to the victims or their families, stating only that he could not provide them with the answers they were seeking.

On June 6, 2023, Judge Suzanna Cohen handed down two death sentences to Miller for the murders of Brosso and Bernas. Miller is thus far the only perpetrator to receive a capital sentence for a case cleared by FGG.


Associated Press. “Bench Trial for a Man Accused of Killing 2 Young Women in Phoenix.” ABC News 15, October 2, 2022. Last modified October 3, 2022. Accessed October 5, 2022.

Associated Press. “Bid to Toss DNA Evidence in Phoenix Canal Killings Rejected.” Forensic Magazine, February 5, 2021. Accessed February 7, 2021.

Associated Press. “Man Pleads Not Guilty to 1990s Killings of Woman and Teen.” CBS News, February 3, 2015. Accessed December 26, 2020.

Associated Press. “Man’s Trial in Killings Along Canal Delayed Due to Pandemic.” KGUN 9 News, June 21, 2020. Accessed December 26, 2020.

AZ Family Digital News Staff. “‘Zombie Hunter’ Sentenced to Death for Phoenix Canal Murders.” AZ Family, June 6, 2023. Last modified June 6, 2023. Accessed June 16, 2023.

Cassidy, Megan. “How Forensic Genealogy Led to an Arrest in the Phoenix ‘Canal Killer’ Case.” The Arizona Republic, reprinted in AZ Central. November 30, 2016. Accessed December 26, 2020.

Cassidy, Megan. “Phoenix Police: Man Arrested in 1990s Canal Murders.” Arizona Republic, reprinted in AZ Central, January 13, 2015, last modified November 19, 2015. Accessed December 26, 2020.

Cassidy, Megan. “Police: 3rd Victim May be Linked to Canal Murder Suspect.” Arizona Republic, reprinted in AZ Central, November 17, 2015, last modified November 19, 2015. Accessed December 26, 2020.

Fitzpatrick, Colleen. “Solving the Phoenix Canal Murders.” ISHI News, April 5, 2018. Accessed December 26, 2020.

Hoffer, Steven. “Phoenix Police Make Arrest in 1990s Double-Murder Cold Case.” Huffington Post, January 14, 2015, last modified December 6, 2017. Accessed December 26, 2020.

Holland, Catherine, and Phil Benson. “‘Zombie Hunter’ Pleads Not Guilty in Cold Case Killings.” AZ Family, January 13, 2015. Accessed December 26, 2020.

Loew, Morgan, Cody Lillich, and AZFamily Digital News Staff. “‘Zombie Hunter’ Bryan Patrick Miller Found Guilty in Phoenix Canal Murders.” AZFamily, April 11, 2023. Accessed April 11, 2023.

Luperon, Alberto. “Attorney Now Wants Insanity Defence for ‘Zombie Hunter’ Charged with Murdering Two Young Women in Early 1990s.” Law & Crime, August 1, 2021. Accessed December 28, 2021.

Sainty, Lane. “Canal Killings Trial: Bryan Miller’s Attorney Asks for Mercy as Sentencing Nears.” AZ Central, May 24, 2023. Accessed May 27, 2023.

Sainty, Lane. “Judge Rules Bryan Patrick Miller Eligible for Death Penalty in Arizona ‘Canal Killings’.” AZ Central, April 12, 2023. Accessed April 15, 2023.

Whitney, Briana. “Psychologist Testifies Bryan Patrick Miller’s Dissociative Amnesia Could Be Related to Canal Murders.” Arizona’s Family, January 10, 2023. Accessed January 15, 2023.


First Name Bryan
Last Name Miller
Other Names
Victims 2 (Details)
IGG Started 2014-10-00
Case Cleared 2015-01-14
IGG Org Identifinders


Case ID Name Age Case Opened Location Investigating Org Most Serious Charge Disposition Court
1003 Angela Brasso 22 1992-11-08 Phoenix, AZ Phoenix PD First degree murder Accused was convicted after a trial Maricopa CO SUP CT
1004 Melanie Bernas 17 1993-09-22 Phoenix, AZ Phoenix PD First degree murder Accused was convicted after a trial Maricopa CO SUP CT

Last updated: February 9, 2024

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Case data and narrative licensed under CC BY 4.0: Dowdeswell, Tracey (2023), “Forensic Genetic Genealogy Project v. 2022”, Mendeley Data, V1, doi: 10.17632/jcycgvhm96.1. All other content, including photos, have been added.