How DNA on coffee cup led to arrest in 1972 rape, murder of woman: Officials

Jody Loomis, 20, was shot in the head on August 23, 1972.

April 11, 2019, 2:29 PM

A 77-year-old Washington state man was arrested Wednesday decades after he allegedly killed a 20-year-old woman, and police say he was nabbed through the novel technique of genetic genealogy.

On August 23, 1972, Jody Loomis was on her way to the stables to ride her horse when she was attacked and shot in the head, officials with the Snohomish County Sheriff’s Office said at a news conference on Thursday. She was raped and her body was left mostly nude, officials said.

DNA was recovered from semen at the scene and that DNA was later uploaded to the law enforcement database CODIS, but there was never a hit on the sample, investigators said.

Poster requesting information in the death of Jody Loomis.
Poster requesting information in the death of Jody Loomis.
Snohomish County Sheriff's Office

The case went cold until the new technique known as genetic genealogy led police to their suspect in 2018.

Genetic genealogy takes the DNA of an unknown killer left behind at a crime scene and identifies a suspect by tracing the family tree through his or her family members, who voluntarily submit their DNA to public genealogy databases. The first public arrest through genetic genealogy was the April 2018 arrest of the suspected "Golden State Killer," and since then, genetic genealogy has helped identify more than 40 suspects in violent crimes.

In 2018, DNA from a semen stain on a boot Loomis was wearing was compared to genetic databases. Genealogists then began to build a family tree, according to the probable cause affidavit.

Jody Loomis and her horse in 1972
Jody Loomis and her horse in 1972.
Snohomish County Sheriff's Office

Genealogists concluded in August that the unknown DNA profile belonged to one of six brothers. Police zeroed in on one of them, Terrence Miller, who had prior sex offenses, the probable cause affidavit said.

On Aug. 29, 2018, investigators followed Miller to a casino and recovered a coffee cup he threw into the trash; tests later confirmed the DNA on the coffee cup matched the DNA from the sperm on the victim's boot, the probable cause affidavit said.

In November, two undercover detectives went to Millers' home in Edmonds, Washington, where Miller and his wife run a ceramic shop out of their garage, said the probable cause affidavit.

After Miller's wife invited the detectives into the garage, they noticed a newspaper from May 2018 on the table, the document said. On the front page was an article on how genetic genealogy led to an arrest in a local double murder, and that crime also involved rape and gunshot wounds to the head, the document said.

"The presence of the newspaper seemed, at best, an odd coincidence," a prosecutor wrote in the probable cause affidavit. "A fair interference could also be drawn that [the] defendant was keeping track of the techniques law enforcement was using to solve cold cases."

Miller is a lifelong resident of Snohomish County. Before the crime, he had been divorced twice and had three daughters, according to documents.

At the time of the crime, Miller was 33 years old and living with his third wife, who has since died, according to documents. He also had two daughters with his third wife.

His current wife is his fourth.

Miller was arrested at his home on Wednesday and is accused of first-degree murder, according to court documents. He was interviewed on Wednesday but declined to give statements to police, authorities said.

Miller did not know Loomis before the crime, according to authorities.

He is due to make his first court appearance Thursday afternoon, officials said.

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