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Coffee cup leads to arrest in 1972 cold case murder in Snohomish County

Detectives made an arrest in the 1972 murder of 20-year-old Jody Loomis in Snohomish County. DNA found on a discarded coffee cup cracked open the cold case investigation.

Thursday brought the news that authorities and family members waited nearly 47 years to hear. 

Snohomish County detectives arrested a 77-year-old Edmonds man they believe is responsible for the 1972 murder of Jody Loomis. 

Terrence Miller was arrested Wednesday morning at his home and has been charged with 1st degree premeditated murder. He is being held on $1 million bail.

"Today, we're one step closer to finding justice for Jody Loomis," said Captain Robert Palmer, Snohomish County Sheriff’s Office investigations commander.

WATCH: Detectives announce arrest in 1972 cold case

On August 23, 1972, Jody Loomis was biking to a horse stable near what is now Bothell-Everett Highway and 164th Street in Mill Creek. She was last seen about 5 p.m. riding up a hill on Penny Creek Road, which is now called Mill Creek Road.

Miller is accused of taking Loomis down a dirt road into a wooded area, then raping and shooting the 20-year-old in the head. 

Two people found her body about 30 minutes later in the woods. Loomis died en route to the hospital. 

Detectives believe Miller was living in Edmonds at the time of the murder, about five miles from where Loomis' body was found. However, Miller didn't know Loomis prior to the day she was murdered, according to Captain Palmer.

Miller is a lifelong resident of Snohomish County. For decades, he has lived with his wife in Edmonds, where they sell pottery on weekends.

Investigators identified Miller through genetic genealogy, which uses DNA testing in combination with traditional genealogical methods to determine a relationship between a person and their relatives.

In 2008, detectives sent DNA samples from the crime scene to a lab for testing. A partial DNA profile was found on a semen sample on Loomis' boot and was uploaded into the Combined DNA Index System (CODIS) database. However, there wasn't ever a hit on the sample.

Fast forward to July 2018, and investigators sent the sample to Parabon NanoLabs for analysis. In August, detectives received the results, which named possible relatives of the suspect. Investigators then worked with a genetic genealogist, who built a family tree and helped identify a possible suspect.

"This is where Terrence Miller's name first came to our attention," Palmer said.

When prosecutors charged Miller on Thursday with first-degree murder, they also revealed a 1968 arrest for indecent exposure to a young girl, along with accusations that he molested several family members. No molestation charges were ever filed. 

Credit: Courtesy Snohomish County Sheriff's Office
Terrence Miller circa 1972.

Detectives trailed Miller to a casino where they collected a used coffee cup that Miller discarded. The DNA on the cup matched the semen sample from the crime scene.

"Without the determination of our department, and advances in DNA technology we would not be here today," said Palmer.

This is the second arrest in a Snohomish County cold murder case that has been aided using genetic genealogy.

"It’s exciting for us to have this opportunity and ability to solve cases and resolve questions that have been around for a long time," said Palmer. "It definitely gives us an advantage in coming up with suspect profiles in ways that we don’t have another method to do."

Loomis' case is one of many the Snohomish County Sheriff's Office Cold Case Unit is working to solve. However, it is the department's oldest cold case.

Chuck Wright volunteers with the Snohomish County Sheriff's Office Cold Case Unit and has carried a card in his wallet with information about Loomis’ case for the past 10 years. He has a column in the Mill Creek Beacon and said he’s kept Loomis’ name in the headlines because he wanted to see the homicide solved.

“I wanted people to hang on, and maybe somebody had some information,” said Wright. “Some cases just grab you.”

Wright said he’s relieved some decades-old questions are finally being answered.

Investigators said they are still trying to find out more about a horse bridle missing from the victim.

If the public has any information about Loomis' murder or Miller's past, including any guns he owned, where he worked, what car he drove, and if he ever owned a horse bridle, they are urged to contact the sheriff's office at (425) 388-3845.

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