Suspect in 25-year-old unsolved Boise homicide arrested in Washington state killing

How DNA evidence works

With the exception of identical twins, each person has a unique DNA profile. This makes DNA matching a powerful tool for finding and convicting the perpetrator of a crime.
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With the exception of identical twins, each person has a unique DNA profile. This makes DNA matching a powerful tool for finding and convicting the perpetrator of a crime.

A Boise man was arrested on a charge of first-degree murder Wednesday in connection with a homicide in Washington from 1992, based on DNA evidence connected to an unsolved Boise slaying from 1994.

According to a joint release from the Boise and Bremerton, Washington, police departments, Lee R. Miller, 54, was charged in the death of 57-year-old Marilyn Hickey, of Bremerton. He is being held in the Ada County Jail and will eventually be extradited to Washington.

The Boise Police Violent Crimes Unit worked with the Bremerton Police Department on the case over the past year, the release said.

The Kitsap Sun wrote that Hickey was last seen alive leaving a bar with a man fitting the description of Miller. Hickey was found strangled in her home, the Sun said, and Miller is believed to have lived in the area at the time.

According to a statement of probable cause from Bremerton police, Hickey was found in her studio apartment with injuries “indicative of manual strangulation” in September 1992. She was also found with a pair of scissors in her chest; it is believed she was stabbed post-mortem, the documents said.

Semen was also found at the scene at the time, though it was unable to be matched. The case “went cold” after a few months; no arrests were made and a few pieces of evidence were found at the scene.

The case was reopened in 2006, when unknown DNA found at the scene of the killing of 49-year-old Cheryle Barratt in Boise matched the unknown DNA from the Hickey slaying, though neither belonged to a national database.

Bremerton Police Detective Martin Garland, who authored the statement of probable cause, wrote that he opened Hickey’s death as a cold case in 2017, as did Boise police on the Barratt case.

Boise police were able to obtain a sample of Miller’s DNA on Feb. 1, 2018, from a cigarette butt, according to the statement of probable cause. Miller’s DNA was submitted to the Idaho State Crime Lab and was found to match the DNA at both scenes.

Miller is still considered a suspect in Barratt’s death and has not been charged.

“Based on the stated observations, I do in fact believe that Probable Cause exists to believe Lee Robert Miller is the person last seen with Marilyn Hickey before her death ... and that Lee Robert Miller was in fact responsible for the death of Marilyn Hickey,” Garland wrote.

The death of Barratt is one of at least 21 unsolved homicide cases in the Treasure Valley since 1980. She was stabbed to death in her North End home.

Floyd E. Parker Jr. was initially charged with murder in Barratt’s death in 1994, and he spent two months in jail. The case was dismissed that July after it was determined that there was not enough evidence to go to trial. DNA evidence taken from under Barratt’s nails was tested in Nevada two weeks after the dismissal, but it “provided no information about the killing,” according to previous Statesman reporting.

“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 decades-long investigations,” Boise Police Sgt. Justin Kendall said in the release. “Our detectives have worked for years to make progress on these investigations to help find answers for our community and justice for the victims.”

Michael Katz covers breaking news at the Idaho Statesman. He attended the University of Southern California and grew up in Pasadena, California.