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Phoenix's 'Canal Killer' sentenced to death 30 years after murders

Three decades after the Valley murders of two young women, Bryan Patrick Miller was sentenced to death on Wednesday.

PHOENIX — Three decades after the shocking murders of Angela Brosso and Melanie Bernas, their killer, Bryan Patrick Miller, was sentenced to death.

The court found Miller's age and history of abuse at the time of the murders were mitigating factors in the case, but not significant enough to grant leniency. As such, Miller was sentenced to death for both counts of murder.

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“There is no question that what the defendant did deserves the death penalty,” Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Suzanne Cohen said Tuesday.

The "Canal Murders" that Miller was found guilty of in April were a pair of killings dating back to the early 1990s. The bodies of Melanie Bernas, 21, and Angela Brosso, 17, were found in the Arizona Canal near Metrocenter Mall in 1993 and 1992, respectively. Miller was accused of the crime after DNA linked him to both deaths in 2015.

"The defendant did not just murder them, he brutalized them,” Cohen said.

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Miller's trial started in October of 2022 where his defense attempted to argue that he was not guilty by reason of insanity. They said Miller does not remember the attacks and was abused by his mother as a child. According to their arguments, Miller had developed a complex dissociative disorder in response to early childhood trauma. 

After waiving his right to a trial, Miller's case was heard directly by a judge who disagreed with the insanity defense. Miller was found guilty on both murder charges, as well as charges of kidnapping and attempted sexual assault.

Maricopa County Attorney Rachel Mitchell described the crimes committed against the two victims as "horrific."

“Obviously this has been a long time coming for the victims,” Mitchell said. “I’m glad that our office could bring some measure of justice."

After the death penalty was handed down by Judge Cohen, she asked if any of the victim's family would like to speak, but they declined.

She then asked Miller if he had anything to say. After a few seconds of silence, Miller spoke to her and the court.

“I guess thanks for listening to everything that was said and giving us at least the opportunity to try and convince you otherwise,” Miller said.

Wednesday's sentencing puts an end to the protracted legal battle, but it could be some time until the execution is carried out. Miller is the second defendant to receive a death sentence in Maricopa County this year.


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