Denying a last-minute motion to suppress DNA evidence by lawyers representing 78-year-old Terrence Miller of Edmonds, Snohomish County Superior Court Judge David Kurtz on Thursday ruled that this pivotal evidence may be presented at Miller’s upcoming trial. Miller is facing first-degree murder charges in the 1972 rape and murder of then 20-year-old Jody Loomis, a crime that languished in the cold case files for decades.
Loomis’ body was discovered on Aug. 23, 1972 by a local couple in a heavily-wooded area near what is now Mill Creek Road, east of the intersection of Bothell-Everett Highway and 164th Street Southwest. According to police reports, the couple said that she was still breathing, was mostly naked and had a gunshot wound to her head. The couple took her to what was then Stevens Memorial Hospital in Edmonds, where she was pronounced dead on arrival.
Evidence collected at the murder scene and from the victim’s body included traces of semen found on Loomis’s boot; the boot and other evidence were preserved for future forensic examination. For several years law enforcement investigated various leads, but nothing came of these and the case went cold.
With subsequent advances in DNA forensic technology, in 2008 the boot and other pieces of evidence were tested for DNA by the Washington State Patrol Crime Lab, where technicians were able to extract sufficient DNA from the boot to create a profile. The profile was uploaded to the FBI’s Combined DNA Index System (CODIS) database, but no match was found. Over the next 10 years, several individuals of interest were identified and tested, but none fit the DNA profile.
By 2018, the emerging field of forensic genealogy provided a new tool for law enforcement to identify DNA by comparing it to samples uploaded to various public genealogy websites, and then looking for close relations and tracing family trees. The sample from Loomis’s boot revealed a connection to an Edmonds family with seven siblings, including Miller.
Based on this information, undercover officers from the Snohomish County Regional Narcotics Task Force began following him.
On Aug. 28, 2018 the officers observed Miller at the Tulalip Casino where they saw him throw a coffee cup in the garbage. They retrieved the cup and forwarded it to the Washington State Patrol Crime Lab, where technicians were able to extract a DNA profile and further determine that it matched the DNA profile from the semen stain on the Loomis’s boot.
Miller was arrested at his home in April 2019, and pleaded not guilty at his arraignment later that month. His trial was initially set for June 7, 2019. His legal team requested more time to prepare the case and was granted a continuance. The next week Miller was released on $1 million bond to await trial. Various subsequent continuances were requested and granted, with the latest trial call set for Oct. 16.
In this latest action, Miller’s defense team argued that the DNA sample from the coffee cup that linked Miller to the crime was obtained without his knowledge or consent in violation of the privacy guarantees under the Washington State Constitution, and should therefore be suppressed. Judge Kurtz rejected this motion, clearing the way for the evidence to be presented at trial.
Jury selection is set to begin on Monday. The trial could last 10 days or more.
— By Larry Vogel