By David Schwartz
PHOENIX (Reuters) - An Arizona man has been arrested in the mutilation murders of two young women in 1992, crimes that remained unsolved for two decades after they shook the Phoenix area, police said on Wednesday.
Bryan Patrick Miller, 42, was taken into custody at his Phoenix home on Tuesday night on suspicion of first-degree murder in the separate killings of Angela Brasso, 22, and 17-year-old Melanie Bernas, Phoenix police spokesman Sergeant Trent Crump said.
Both victims had been riding their bikes near a Phoenix canal when they were abducted and murdered.
Brasso’s decapitated body was discovered in November 1992 and her head was found floating in a canal 11 days later. Bernas’ body was found more than 10 months later in the same vicinity. Both victims were mutilated.
Miller also faces two counts of kidnapping and one count of sexual assault in connection with the incidents. He was being held without bond in a Maricopa County jail.
Police said DNA evidence collected at the time of the murders matched a sample obtained from Miller recently by an undercover officer through a ruse, said Crump, who declined to elaborate.
"These were two brutal, horrific murders that shocked the community at the time," he said. "People didn’t feel safe taking a walk or going for a bike ride. We’re glad we were able to solve this after so many years."
Crump said Miller’s name surfaced in an anonymous tip in 1994, but police were unable to pin the crimes on him conclusively at a time when forensic science was less sophisticated. In 1999, authorities were able to determine that the DNA taken from both crimes scenes were from the same person.
A dozen years later, detectives revisiting the case began looking again at Miller, who police said had been involved in a stabbing in a Phoenix suburb in 1989. Police said his DNA matched that found at both sites.
He was arrested at a residence in north-central Phoenix where he lived with his 15-year-old daughter.
Police said it was unclear how long Miller had been in the area and that he had spent time living in Washington state in the mid-1990s.
Court records showed that Miller, in an interview with police, denied any involvement in the murders and could not explain the DNA link.
(Reporting by David Schwartz in Phoenix; Editing by Dan Whitcomb and Peter Cooney)