SUNBURY, Pa. — World-renowned forensic scientist Dr. Henry Lee has joined police in the search for the remains of Barbara Miller, the 30-year-old Northeastern Pennsylvania woman who went missing 28 years ago this week.
The Sunbury Police Department resurrected the cold case earlier this year, looking at old and new leads. They now suspect Miller was murdered and her remains hidden inside a residence in the nearby city of Milton, Pennsylvania.
Miller was last seen by friends at a wedding on June 30, 1989. Five days later, her ex-boyfriend, Joseph Walter “Mike” Egan — an ex-city detective no longer with the force at the time of Miller’s disappearance — reported her missing. Police pegged him as the lead suspect but he has never been charged. No one has.
Lee’s involvement in the Miller case comes after tons of dirt and concrete were recovered during a six-day dig at the Milton home in early June, a dig that included removing two basement walls of the residence. The dirt and concrete are in police custody and investigators are meticulously sifting through the materials.
Lee operates the self-named Henry C. Lee Institute of Forensic Science in West Haven, Connecticut. He has consulted on more than 8,000 criminal cases in 46 countries including the O.J. Simpson and JonBenet Ramsey cases.
On Monday, Sunbury Police Chief Tim Miller — not related to the victim — met with Lee face-to-face.
“While semi-retired, Dr. Lee told me he only takes on a small amount of cold cases per year,” Chief Miller said. “We are very fortunate now to have Dr. Lee in our camp.”
Lee first gained prominence through his involvement in the murder investigation of Richard Crafts, who in November 1986 killed his wife and disposed of her body using a wood chipper.
Connecticut police located wood chips with blood and flesh, collecting 1 ounce of bone — 1/1000th of the body. Lee used the evidence to identify the slain woman, resulting in a murder conviction against Crafts in 1989.
Lee also testified in the O.J. Simpson trial about a blood stain found on the walkway outside the California home where Nicole Brown Simpson and Ronald Goldman were killed in June 1994. The state said DNA tests indicated O.J. Simpson was the source of the blood, but Lee testified he was suspicious because he discovered four small patches of blood on the paper packet wrapped around the Bundy Drive evidence. In the JonBenet Ramsey case, Lee testified and told investigators they needed to retest for DNA applied to JonBenet’s neck.
‘Good news for us’
Chief Miller and Sunbury Cpl. Travis Bremigen traveled Monday to meet with Lee and his team of forensic investigators at his facility at the University of New Haven in Connecticut. They took with them the unearthed dirt and detached basement walls.
Chief Miller first contacted Lee two weeks ago. The more he told Lee about the case, the more Lee’s interest grew, Tim Miller said.
“I’m impressed that Chief Miller was able to speak with Dr. Lee and thrilled that he’s involved,” Northumberland County Coroner James F. Kelley, a member of the task force assigned to the Barbara Miller cold case, said. “This is good news for us.”
'A man of unparalleled brilliance'
When Sunbury police reopened the case following Chief Miller’s hiring last summer, they poured over thousands of existing documents in the city’s case file. Chief Miller developed a lead indicating the woman’s remains were hidden inside a Milton home — linking several separate descriptions of a possible location to an address provided to city police in 2009. He obtained a search warrant June 7 and for the next six days spearheaded the on-site dig with members of the state police, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Milton police and other Valley law enforcement agencies.
Chief Miller and Bremigen sifted through the dirt and picked away at the cement the past two weeks. What specific evidence has been found isn’t publicly known but it led Chief Miller to reach out to Lee.
Once the conversation got going, Chief Miller said he took a shot in the dark and asked Lee what his price would be to help with the investigation.
Lee’s answer shocked the police department.
“Dr. Lee is the best in the world and after discussing his fees which turned out to be minimal — in fact, all he wanted was a shoofly pie and two Sunbury Police arm patches — we were thrilled and ready to make the trip and we couldn’t have been more excited,” Chief Miller said. “We met a man of compassion, a man of unparalleled brilliance, with a passion for helping his friends in law enforcement bring answers when answers have proven to be elusive.”
Scarcella and Scicchitano write for the Sunbury, Pennsylvania Daily Item.