Jana Smith places the boot worn by her sister, Jody Loomis, back into an evidence bag while testifying Wednesday in Everett. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

Jana Smith places the boot worn by her sister, Jody Loomis, back into an evidence bag while testifying Wednesday in Everett. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

Trial in Mill Creek murder tests memories of 48 years ago

Jody Loomis’ sister testified this week in the trial of a man accused of killing the 20-year-old in 1972.

EVERETT — The boots were Jana’s back-to-school shoes in summer 1972.

The brownish St. Moritz ankle-high waffle stompers with laces were very much in fashion when Jana was 12 years old. She was flattered her sister, Jody Loomis, who had just turned 20, thought they were cool, too.

Jody was petite enough to squeeze into the size 5½ shoes. So she borrowed them without asking — for the first time, to the best of Jana’s knowledge — to go on a bike ride to her horse’s stable on Aug. 23, 1972.

If not for a microscopic stain left behind on those boots, a suspect might have never been arrested in the killing of Jody Loomis.

Jana Loomis-Smith saw her old shoes for the first time in 48 years while on the witness stand this week in the murder trial of Terrence Miller, now 78.

Miller is accused of raping and killing Loomis on a dirt road off Penny Creek Road, about halfway between the Loomis home in north Bothell and a stable where Jody kept her horse. Defense attorneys have noted there’s no clear evidence to support that the sexual contact was not consensual.

Years of detective work, advances in DNA technology and a pioneering pairing of that DNA evidence with public genealogy databases led Snohomish County deputies to the door of the Edmonds man in 2019.

Now the trial hinges on the question of whether the DNA evidence, in context, will be enough for a jury to find Miller guilty of first-degree murder.

Terrance Miller listens to testimony during his trial Wednesday in Everett. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

Terrance Miller listens to testimony during his trial Wednesday in Everett. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

Miller, who ran a ceramics shop with his wife of more than 40 years, has pleaded not guilty.

The first week of trial has tested the memories of people who knew Jody Loomis in the 1970s and those who saw her on the day she died.

Kenda Machorro, now 62, was the last person known to have seen Loomis alive and well. She was 14, selling bags of apples at a family fruit stand in a driveway near Bothell Everett Highway and 164th Street SE, where her parents operated a dairy and beef farm on hundreds of acres, Machorro testified.

That afternoon, she noticed a young woman with a dark-blonde ponytail riding on a road that was much more rural than it is today. She was cycling in boots. That struck Machorro as odd. She also thought it was odd how the woman inexplicably paused for a long time before pedaling through the intersection along Penny Creek Road, what’s now a well-trafficked arterial route renamed Mill Creek Road.

Loomis then vanished behind trees.

A while later, the police showed up. They briefly interviewed Machorro about what she had seen.

Prosecutors believe Jody Loomis was either forced or lured into the woods by Miller, who was then 30. By all accounts presented so far in the trial, Loomis and Miller did not know each other.

Jana Smith becomes emotional while looking at photographs during her testimony Wednesday in Everett. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

Jana Smith becomes emotional while looking at photographs during her testimony Wednesday in Everett. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

Two passersby found the young woman at 5:30 p.m., dying from a .22-caliber gunshot wound to the head.

One of those witnesses, Walter Morris, then 33, died months before the case went to trial. A prosecutor and a defense attorney questioned him last year in a deposition, and a video recording of Morris’ gravelly voice was played for jurors.

Cathy Lenac, whose last name was Gogal at the time, was in a secret relationship with Morris at 18. Lenac, 66, testified in court this week, in spite of the toll metastatic breast cancer has taken on her health.

She could not remember the exact route Morris took while driving to the woods to go target shooting that day, but she knew they ended up a few hundred feet off the paved road, surrounded by alders.

“Blackberries, blackberries and trees, tall grass,” she recalled.

Lenac recounted how Morris’ sports car, a dark blue Saab Sonett with two seats, was blocked by what turned out to be a tree in the road. Morris got out and was surprised to find a mostly naked woman near the log, with a head wound. Morris told Lenac he would get help, but Lenac thought it wasn’t such a good idea for her to stay behind, since whoever hurt the young woman might still be nearby. So they loaded Loomis into the tiny Saab without dressing her, then raced her to the nearest hospital. Lenac tried to shield her topless body from passing cars. Loomis could not speak. She was pronounced dead on arrival.

A photo of Jody Loomis and neighbor Linda Hook is shown during Hook’s testimony Wednesday in Everett. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

A photo of Jody Loomis and neighbor Linda Hook is shown during Hook’s testimony Wednesday in Everett. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

It was Wednesday, and that summer morning Jana Loomis woke up with one thing in mind. Like her sister, she loved horses. She testified that she ran down Poppy Road to a friend’s home to ride from morning to dusk, with one brief trip home in the afternoon for peanut butter and jelly. By then, her older sister had left the house.

Jody Loomis was supposed to be home by dark. As the night went on, her parents’ mild concern turned to worry, then panic. Around 11 p.m., detectives arrived with terrible news. Jana Loomis-Smith could not remember if they were in plainclothes or not.

Her memories were clear about other things.

Her mother collapsed.

Jody’s fiancé, Jim Roberts, ran out the door in shock.

Linda Hook, a next-door neighbor, was good friends with Jody Loomis. They were about the same age.

Deputy prosecutor Craig Matheson asked Hook about Aug. 23, 1972.

“Do you remember that date?” he asked.

“Very well,” Hook said.

Jody Loomis’ neighbor and friend, Linda Hook, testifies Wednesday in Everett. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

Jody Loomis’ neighbor and friend, Linda Hook, testifies Wednesday in Everett. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

Hook and Loomis had a conversation earlier that day at the back door of Hook’s home on Winesap Road.

“She came to the back door, with a little knock, and I can see her in my mind,” Hook said, beginning to cry, then composing herself. “I can see her cute little face peeking in my back window.”

Loomis asked if she wanted to go ride horses. Hook declined because she was packing to move back to her home state of California. She could still envision the clothes Loomis wore: a summery cropped shirt and jeans. She rode away on a white bicycle.

Hours later, Hook heard her neighbors screaming.

Clues led to dead ends for decades.

The boots languished in evidence lockers.

In 2008, in a renewed push to solve the cold case by the Snohomish County Sheriff’s Office, the boots were among other pieces of evidence sent for new testing at a state crime lab. They found microscopic sperm.

Years later, the genetic profile of that sperm was uploaded into a public online genetic database. A professional genealogist’s research led police to Miller’s family.

Detectives put Terrence Miller under surveillance and surreptitiously collected a sample of his DNA when he threw away a coffee cup at a casino. It came back as an apparent match for the genetic profile on the boot.

The deputy prosecutor brought out a paper bag marked all over with Sharpie on Wednesday.

“Ms. Smith, I’m going to hand you what’s previously been marked and admitted as state’s exhibit No. 139,” Matheson said. “I’m going to ask you to put some gloves on, and then I’m going to hand this to you.”

She pulled on gloves, then removed the contents.

“It’s as I remembered,” she said. “It’s a waffle stomper boot.”

“Does that appear to be in substantially the same condition as the last time you saw it?” Matheson asked.

She twisted the boot in her gloved hands.

“Yeah,” she said.

Later, the prosecutor handed her a black-and-white photo. He asked her to identify the deceased woman pictured on a table, with her round glasses askew.

“Who is it?” Matheson asked.

“My sister,” she said.

Some of the jurors listening were not alive in 1972.

Last week during jury selection, Matheson asked several potential jurors to explain how they would feel to spend a lot of time hearing about a crime from so long ago — if it might feel like time and resources could be spent better.

One of the younger potential jurors, in his early 20s, said he thought it would be “fully relevant” if it meant bringing justice to a violent criminal and giving closure to the victim’s family.

Another man in the jury pool agreed but said if the jury decides the defendant was not the killer, “we have to be able to set (him) free.”

In light of the pandemic, the trial is being streamed on YouTube.

Witness testimony is expected to continue next week. Judge David Kurtz told jurors the trial is on schedule for jury deliberation to begin by the second week of November.

This story has been corrected to reflect that one of the photos was not presented to the jury on Wednesday.

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

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