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    Man, 78, on trial for 1972 murder kills himself before guilty verdict

    Man, 78, on trial for the 1972 murder of Jody Loomis kills himself before jurors find him guilty after his DNA was tied to the scene using a coffee cup from a police sting

    • On Monday morning, Washington state murder suspect Terrence Miller, 78, died of an apparent suicide 
    • Three hours after Miller’s death, jurors found him guilty of first-degree murder for the 1972 shooting death of 20-year-old Jody Loomis
    • Loomis was riding a bike to see her horse at a stable when she was raped and shot in the head in the woods
    • DNA was recovered from semen found on the boots Loomis was wearing but detectives weren’t able to get a match 
    • They started investigating again last year after uploading the DNA into a public genetic genealogy website 
    • Police said they were able to narrow the DNA down to one of Miller’s relatives 
    • They followed Miller back in August 2018 and retrieved a coffee cup that he threw in the trash, which provided a DNA match to the semen 

    A Washington state man on trial for the 1972 killing of a 20-year-old woman committed suicide while out on bond just three hours before a jury convicted him of murder.

    On Monday, Snohomish County jurors found 78-year-old Terrence Miller guilty of first-degree murder, despite of a defense motion to dismiss the case due to the defendant’s death.

    After a two-week trial, Miller was convicted of shooting Jody Loomis in the head when she was on a bike ride to see her horse at a stable. 

    On Monday morning, Washington state defendant Terrence Miller, 78, died of an apparent suicide, just three hours before jurors convicted him of first-degree murder 

    Miller was on trial for the August 1972 killing of Jody Loomis, 20, who was raped and shot in the head on her way to visit her horse, Saudi (pictured)

    Miller was on trial for the August 1972 killing of Jody Loomis, 20, who was raped and shot in the head on her way to visit her horse, Saudi (pictured) 

    A jury deliberated Friday afternoon and Monday morning before finding Miller guilty in Snohomish County Superior Court.

    Miller died at 10am at his home the 15900 block of 52nd Place West in Edmonds from an apparent suicide, according to the Snohomish County Sheriff’s Office. 

    The official cause and manner of death will be determined by the county medical examiner’s office.

    HOW THE JODY LOOMIS COLD CASE WAS SOLVED:

    On the afternoon of August 23, 1972, 20-year-old Jody Loomis took off on a white 10-speed bicycle headed for a stable on Strumme Road about six miles away from home to visit her horse, Saudi.

    She was last seen alive by a girl working at a fruit stand wearing a crop top, jeans and a pair of ‘waffle-stomper’ boots, which she had borrowed from her 12-year-old sister.

    Loomis paused at an intersection of Bothell Evertt Highway and Penny Creek Road, then pedal east, vanishing from view about halfway through her six-mile ride.

    At around 5.30pm, a couple riding in their car through the woods discovered a half-naked Loomis bleeding from a .22-caliber gunshot wound to the head.

    They rushed the young woman to a nearby hospital, where she was pronounced dead on arrival.

    For decades, the case went unsolved, until 2008, when a state crime lab technician discovered a tiny semen stain on Loomis’ boots that previously had gone unnoticed by the county coroner’s office, sheriff’s detectives and the FBI.

    A DNA sample was extracted from the genetic material and sent to the Washington State Patrol Crime Laboratory, but it failed to produce a match.   

    It was not until a decade later, in 2018, when Washington state investigators got a breakthrough when they joined forces with private forensic experts at Parabon Nanolabs, who were able to extract a genetic profile that could be uploaded to public ancestry websites. 

    A genealogist’s research eventually led to Terrence Miller, a married ceramic shop owner from Edmonds with a history of sex crimes. 

    Investigators set up a task force to follow Miller around, eventually leading them to Tulalip Resort Casino, where they observed him throw away a coffee cup. 

    The DNA sample that was extracted from the discarded cup produced an exact match to the semen found on Loomis’ boot, leading to Miller’s arrest in April 2019 on a charge of first-degree murder. 

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    Miller was not behind bars because he posted $1million bond last year. The judge ordered him to surrender weapons and he had been supervised by a private electronic home monitoring company.

    Miller’s defense attorney Laura Martin argued in court against having the verdict announced on Monday, calming that ‘there would be frankly no public benefit’ to it because her client could not be sentenced. 

    Prosecutors vehemently disagreed, contending that Loomis’ family deserved to get the answers they had been seeking for nearly a half-century, and the judge sided with them.  

    ‘I’m glad that we got to hear the verdict,’ said the lead sheriff’s detective in the case, Jim Scharf. ‘I think that was good for the [Loomis] family.’

    At the center of the trial was DNA in the form of semen recovered from a boot worn by Loomis on August. 23, 1972. 

    It went unnoticed by investigators at multiple agencies until a state crime lab technician discovered it in 2008 as part of a renewed effort by the sheriff’s cold case team to solve the crime.

    A somewhat degraded genetic profile was analyzed and used to rule out potential suspects.

    Then in 2018, the private forensic experts at Parabon Nanolabs extracted a genetic profile that could be uploaded to public ancestry websites, the first step in an investigative technique known as forensic genealogy. 

    Authorities in 2018 uploaded a digital file containing DNA evidence gathered from the scene of Loomis’ murder to GEDmatch, a public genetic genealogy website. 

    An Oregon genealogist, Deb Stone, built the suspect’s family tree based on the DNA, looking for a spot where the limbs intersected. It’s the same forensic tool police in California used to track down a suspect in the Golden State Killer case who murdered 12 people and raped 51.

    The genealogist’s research led investigators to Terry Miller, a retired heavy equipment operator from Edmonds who was running a ceramics shop with his wife.

    Further investigation found that Miller had prior sex offences and he had been living about five miles away from where Loomis’ body was found. 

    An undercover police task force picked up coffee cups he threw away at Tulalip Resort Casino. The state crime lab tested saliva on the cup, and the results came back as an apparent match for DNA on the boot.

    Sheriff’s detectives arrested Miller in April 2019. His defense maintained his innocence in closing arguments last Friday.

    Martin, Miller’s attorney, accused forensic scientists of being ‘sloppy,’ claiming that they failed to follow proper procedures, diluted samples and covered up certain results, resulting in a ‘miscarriage of justice.’

    She also argued that Miller’s semen on the victim’s boot did not prove that he was a murderer.  

    Miller (pictured around the time of the Loomis murder), was arrested in 2018 after a DNA sample from Loomis' boot produced a match

    Investigators picked up Miller's discarded coffee cup to compare his saliva to the sample

    Miller (pictured left around the time of the Loomis murder), was arrested in 2018 after a DNA sample from Loomis’ boot produced a match. Investigators picked up Miller’s discarded coffee cup to compare his saliva to the sample 

    Miller and Loomis did not know each other.

    Miller’s defense attorney continued to proclaim her deceased client’s innocence on Monday, describing the case as a ‘terrible tragedy.’ 

    ‘Death seemed preferable to letting a jury decide a verdict on tainted evidence,’ she said. 

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