Man convicted in 1972 murder died by suicide, autopsy shows

Hours before being found guilty, Terrence Miller died of a gunshot wound — the same cause of death for Jody Loomis.

Terrence Miller during his arraignment at the Snohomish County Courthouse in Everett on April 15, 2019. (Andy Bronson / The Herald)

Terrence Miller during his arraignment at the Snohomish County Courthouse in Everett on April 15, 2019. (Andy Bronson / The Herald)

EVERETT — Terrence Miller, the Edmonds man on trial for a 1972 cold-case killing, shot himself as he awaited the verdict, the Snohomish County Medical Examiner’s Office announced Tuesday.

An autopsy confirmed that Miller, 78, died by suicide.

In court, Miller had maintained his innocence in the shooting death of Jody Loomis. Decades after the killing, his spermatozoa were discovered on a boot worn by Loomis on the afternoon of Aug. 23, 1972.

A jury convicted him of first-degree murder around 1 p.m. Monday. After reading the verdict, Snohomish County Superior Court Judge David Kurtz notified the seven women and five men of Miller’s death.

“I am sure that you have noticed that Mr. Miller is not present,” the judge said. “I am sorry, for everyone, on all sides, but I have to report that Mr. Miller has passed away.”

Kurtz thanked the jurors, who showed up in court and sat through proceedings that were complicated by the pandemic. They also viewed photos and other graphic evidence documenting the killing.

“I must say, I have never respected the service of jurors more than I have in these recent weeks, in these challenging times, and particularly in a case such as this,” Kurtz said.

About three hours before the verdict was reached, Miller took his own life at his home, about 4½ miles west of the crime scene, authorities said. He was a retired equipment operator and a lifelong Snohomish County resident.

As of Tuesday, investigators had not said what kind of gun was used in the suicide, or how they believe Miller obtained the weapon.

In 1972, Loomis, who lived in the Bothell area, suffered a .22-caliber gunshot to the head. Passersby found her alive but unable to speak on a dirt road in what’s now Mill Creek. She died that day. She was 20.

It took nearly 47 years for Snohomish County sheriff’s detectives to track down and arrest Miller. A genetic profile from the material on Loomis’ boot was eventually uploaded to public genetic ancestry databases and used to build a family tree for the suspect. A genealogist identified Miller as a person of interest. Detectives quietly put him under surveillance until they could get a sample of his DNA from a discarded coffee cup at a casino. It came back as an apparent match to the semen.

Detectives arrested Miller in April 2019.

He posted $1 million bond and was effectively under house arrest for over a year. Judge Kurtz required him to surrender firearms and other dangerous weapons. Sheriff’s deputies also served a warrant on his home on 52nd Place around the time of his arrest, in search of guns and other potential evidence related to the crime.

Miller did not take the witness stand in his trial this month.

According to trial testimony, he told his wife and another close friend that he felt the DNA evidence was too strong to overcome and that he would most likely end up in prison.

Caleb Hutton: 425-339-3454; chutton@heraldnet.com. Twitter: @snocaleb.

Suicide prevention help

There are resources for people struggling with suicidal thoughts or other mental health concerns. Among them are phone and online chat services. They are free and confidential.

If there is immediate danger, call 911.

• National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 800-273-8255, suicidepreventionlifeline.org

• Care Crisis Chat: imhurting.org

• The Trevor Project Lifeline for LGBTQ Youth: thetrevorproject.org, 866-488-7386

• Mental Health First Aid courses: mentalhealthfirstaid.org

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