DNA From a Cigarette Butt Leads to Arrest in a 25-Year-Old Murder Case

By Venus Upadhayaya, Epoch Times
April 16, 2019 Updated: April 16, 2019

An Idaho man pleaded guilty to a 1992 murder case on April 12 after DNA from a cigarette butt linked him to another unsolved murder case.

Lee Miller, 54, was arrested on Jan. 2 based on DNA evidence that linked him to the murder of his 57-year-old friend Marilyn Hickey, said the Boise Police Department in a statement. 

On Sept. 8, 1992, the bartender at Drift Inn Tavern had seen Hickey with a red-haired man. The duo had left the place after a game of pool at about 2 a.m.

Days later paramedics had to breach a window to reach inside Hickey’s studio apartment in Bremerton, Washington.

They found her half-naked and strangled on her living room floor, reported the Washington Post. 

For the next 25 years, police were unable to find the red-haired man present with Hickey at the bar. The police didn’t realize that all this time they had a clue inside their file.

Inside Hickey’s purse, police had found a phone number on a scrap of paper that turned out to be the contact of the red-haired man’s friend. This man, a McDonald’s employee by the name of Mike told police that he had introduced Miller to Hickey.

After this, another tipster told police that at times he saw Miller going home with Hickey. However, according to the Washington Post, the police were not able to connect these pieces of the puzzle early on in their investigation.

In 2017, Miller’s connection with Hickey’s murder case became clearer. His name surfaced again in the 1994 fatal stabbing and murder of a 49-year-old woman named Cheryle Barratt in Boise, Idaho.

In Barratt’s case, Miller’s name surfaced only after a confidential informant told police that Miller had admitted to killing Barratt. The police didn’t take it seriously and arrested another man who was released after two months due to a lack of evidence.

During this time the detectives in Garland and Boise started to trace Miller’s movements. Unlike in the 1990s, DNA testing is available these days and the police wanted to collect his DNA. They waited until Feb. 1, 2018, when Miller walked out of his home smoking a cigarette and police picked up the cigarette butt he had tossed.

The DNA on the cigarette butt gave police the evidence that linked Miller to Hickey’s murder.

A motive behind the killing has yet not been discovered and Miller will next move to Idaho to plead guilty in Barratt’s killing, according to KOMO News. 

That investigation is ongoing, said the police.

“This is a significant achievement for the Boise Police Department and the Bremerton Police Department, as we were able to use advancements in technology and coordinated investigative efforts to make strides in two decadeslong investigations,” said Boise Police Sgt. Justin Kendall in the statement.

“Our detectives have worked for years to make progress on these investigations to help find answers for our community and justice for the victims,” he said.

Follow Venus on Twitter: @venusupadhayaya
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