Defendant in cold case murder dead in apparent suicide hours before jury finds him guilty

For 48 years, the family of a 20-year-old Bothell woman prayed for justice. Today, they finally got the verdict they had waited so long for. But just hours before the jury came back, the murder defendant, while out on bond, took his own life.

Today marks the end of a long chapter in Snohomish County’s crime history.  It began in summer of 1972. 20-year-old Jody Loomis was riding her bike to the stables, when someone raped and murdered her.

“You really want to catch that person and get them off the street no matter how long it takes,” said Detective Jim Scharf.

RELATED: Snohomish County family still seeking justice for 1972 rape and murder of Jody Loomis

Despite the sheriff’s department’s best efforts, the case grew cold. It wasn’t until Detective Scharf took the case that things began to heat up. In April 2019, using genealogy and DNA, investigators linked Edmonds man Terrence Miller to the crime. 

“I think it’s really remarkable that we could do that after 48 years.”

But not long after, detectives and Loomis family were dealt a massive blow. Remarkably, 78-year-old Miller was able to put up bond after his bail was set at $1 million.

We spoke with Loomis’s sister in court last year, after she watched Miller walk out of the courtroom to the comfort of his own home.

“How could this be? How could this happen? Do you hear of this? I mean, we’ve never heard of this happening before. That he could be out, go home to his house, go home to his wife," said Jana Smith.

It was a shock that came with worry.

“I was concerned about him hurting himself or somebody else because I knew he didn’t want to go to prison,” said Scharf.  "And he never would spend a day in prison.

The sheriff’s department says it appears Miller took his life at his home this morning, while the jury was deliberating.

“I’ve been working on this case for 14 years, so it’s been a lot, a lot of different strange things over the years we had to deal with and it was just like oh we just gotta keep it going for a few more hours for this jury,” said Scharf.

Detective Scharf was terrified it might take away the family’s day in court - the moment to hear a verdict. But within hours of Miller’s death, the jury had spoken: He was guilty. 

“Terry Miller controlled his own fate, and we can't do anything about his choices,” Detective Scharf says.

Ultimately, he’s glad this case finally has come to a close.

Since solving the Jody Loomis’s murder using genetic DNA, the Snohomish County Sheriff’s Department has made breakthroughs on several cold cases using the technology. Detective Scharf decided to hold off on retirement because of it. He says he has a multitude of cases currently in the testing process.