Boise man sentenced to 25 years after police solve 2 cold case murders from 1990s

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The 54-year-old man who killed two women in the 1990s, one in Boise, finally faced sentencing Wednesday, and a judge ordered him to serve 25 years to life in prison.

Lee Robert Miller pleaded guilty to second-degree murder in the 1994 killing of Boisean Cheryle Barratt. Barratt was 49 when she was fatally stabbed in her North End home in April 1994. Her throat was slit and she was nearly decapitated.

Miller also has been charged and sentenced for second-degree murder in Washington state for 57-year-old Marilyn Hickey’s death. In 1992, Hickey was found strangled in her home and her body was desecrated.

According to authorities, Miller was asked during the investigation whether he had other victims, and his response was, “I don’t know. I hope not.” Both the Ada County judge and the Kitsap County judge focused on how troubling that statement was, according to an audio recording of the sentencing.

District Judge Steven Hippler imposed Miller’s sentence for Barratt’s death and Kitsap County Superior Court Judge Jeanette Dalton imposed a 17-year sentence for Hickey’s death. The Kitsap County judge noted that in Washington, 17 years is the maximum possible sentence for second-degree murder.

The 17-year sentence will run consecutively to the Idaho sentence.

“These are not murders with a single fatal kill,” Hippler told Miller before announcing his sentence. “These are cases where the victims were brutalized.”

Hippler noted that a “serial killer” is defined as someone with three victims or more. While Miller was convicted of only two murders, the judge said his “I don’t know” response about other victims was, of course, worrisome.

Miller was arrested after DNA evidence linked him to the scenes of both Hickey’s and Barratt’s murders. Boise police were able to obtain a sample of Miller’s DNA on Feb. 1, 2018, from a cigarette butt, according to a 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.

In court, Miller apologized to the victims’ families, saying, “I don’t expect them to ever forgive me.”

Attorneys in Washington state and Judge Dalton spoke via teleconference after Hippler handed down his sentence in Ada County.

Dalton told Miller that she believed had he been apprehended back in the 1990s, he would have been charged with first-degree murder, possibly facing a much heavier sentence. But because he wasn’t apprehended until recently, memories have faded and there is less evidence, making the second-degree murder plea an option.

Judge Dalton said Miller had not demonstrated any true remorse or concern for the victims’ families, with the exception of his Wednesday apology. For 20 years, she said, “you were allowed to live the life you wanted.”

Dalton outlined how brutal the killing of Hickey was, and how her body was desecrated.

“You have not demonstrated that you have the capacity for empathy,” the judge said.

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Reporter Ruth Brown covers the criminal justice and correctional systems in Idaho. She focuses on breaking news, public safety and social justice. Prior to coming to the Idaho Statesman, she was a reporter at the Idaho Press-Tribune, the Bakersfield Californian and the Idaho Falls Post Register.