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Did Adrienne Salinas Cross Paths With a Zombie Hunter?

Keen Azariah is a published freelance journalist, columnist, and illustrator in Phoenix, Arizona.

Author's Note

The following in no way makes the claim that Bryan Patrick Miller was involved in the murder of Adrienne Salinas, nor does it exclude the possibility. The article simply analyzes the circumstantial evidence regarding such a possibility. Since 2015, the author has cooperated fully with Tempe Police regarding accused serial killer Bryan Patrick Miller's possible involvement. The author wishes nothing more than for the tireless efforts of detectives to eventually discover--and bring to justice--the murderer or murderers of this innocent young girl--Adrienne Celeste Salinas.

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Decades of Death

Monday, February 9th, 2014 - 7:30PM

I was pacing back and forth in the dark and empty parking lot next to my apartment when I heard the sound--the unique sound of the souped up Interceptor engine reverberating off of nearby Landmark Towers. About thirty seconds later, my face was illuminated by the bright green emergency lights of a decommissioned black and white police car as it sped to a stop in the parking space directly in front of me--its jagged steel spiked bumper a mere two feet from my shin bones.

"Like the new lights?" asked Bryan as he rolled down his window.”

"I do," I said as I opened the car door and crawled into the passenger seat. "Green's one of my favorite colors."

I buckled my seat belt and glanced through the steel wire cage behind me at the slouching zombie mannequin staring at me from the shadows of the back seat directly behind Bryan.

"Hey dude," I said, greeting the crude effigy with a wave. "Man," I added, turning to Bryan, "I always forget that fucker's back there." Then, checking my watch, I added "If we leave now we should catch the trailers."

Illustration by Keen Azariah

Illustration by Keen Azariah

Driving down Central Avenue, the conversation spanned the usual subjects: work, cars, etc. He'd been putting in a lot of hours at the Amazon warehouse, and usually had some kind of workplace drama to vent. I'd update him on my latest writing assignment for Phoenix Magazine, the stories I was thinking of pitching to the editor, or my pet chihuahua's latest foible.

A few days earlier, I'd won tickets to the premier of A Fantastic Fear of Everything, a movie about a writer whose research into Victorian era serial killers drives him into a state of delusion and paranoia. Having researched serial killers most of my adult life, I was excited to see the film. However, I had an extra ticket and needed to invite a friend, and given the nature of the film...only one name popped into my head.

I thought the film's focus on the Victorian era would be a plus for both of us, seeing as we'd first met four years earlier in the Arizona Steampunk Society--a virtual haven for lovers of all things Victorian. Plus, Bryan had been feeling a bit lonely and depressed in recent months, and I thought that perhaps a good horror/comedy might pick up his spirits.

I hopped onto Facebook.

Illustration by Keen Azariah

Illustration by Keen Azariah

Before long, with a squeak of rubber against asphalt, and the rattle of a pair of steel handcuffs as they fell onto the floorboard, the squad car darted into Filmbar parking lot--its headlights coming to rest on a mural of art. The zombie mannequin in the back seat, having succumbed to a barrage of unnecessary G-forces, was now crumpled directly behind me.

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Part movie theater--part bar--part art gallery, Filmbar was one of our favorite places. After a quick pit stop at the bar, we entered the dark corridor that led into the theater—dripping a trail of IPA foam along the way. We took our seats as the lights dimmed, the trailers rolled, and the title of the feature presentation filled the screen.

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TOWPATH KILLER MAY HAVE USED HACKNEY'S WATERWAYS IN ESCAPE, read the headline as Jack, played by Simon Pegg, thumbed through the morning paper at a local Cafe. Next to the headline is a photograph showing a winding London canal and its adjacent side path. Jack is soon joined by his literary agent, Claire, and elucidates on his project, which he'd named Decades of Death, and one of the research subjects therein--a man who'd decapitated his victim, then tossed the severed head into a river. "Writers and serial killers are very similar," Jack says, "they're practically brothers."

After our mutual interest in the aesthetics of steampunk led our paths to cross in 2010, Bryan and I were slowly but surely making the transition from acquaintances to friends. Introverted and quiet, Bryan took some time to warm up to, but by 2011, I'd grown to know the man beneath the Zombie Hunter persona.

I'd become a regular reader of a monthly valley publication called the Valley Times, which was, at the time, the only valley publication that featured non-political true-crime stories--most of which were penned by local true-crime writer Shanna Hogan. Hogan's June 2011 cover story Cold Case Files, which covered Arizona's most perplexing unsolved cold cases, first introduced me to the names Melanie Bernas and Angela Brosso. Much of the population of Phoenix, being made up of transplants from other cities, had never heard of the Phoenix Canal Murders, and after twenty years, the case had reached a point of stagnation--mostly residing only in the memories of a few cold case detectives, and those born-and-raised in the Valley of the Sun.

In 2012, I was working about 15 hours a week in North Phoenix when the Valley Times, hired me as cartoonist and satirical columnist, serving as a kind of balancing comic relief for Shanna's morbid, cover stories. Never could I have guessed that soon, the names Angela Brosso and Melanie Bernas would once again pass through the lips of every news reporter in Phoenix, and through my mind a million times.

Gone by Dawn: The Disappearance of Adrienne Salinas

Saturday, June 15th, 2013 - Tempe, Arizona

As a Friday night party in the college town of Tempe was winding down into the wee hours of Saturday morning, 19 year old Adrienne Celeste Salinas had her fill of the night's revelry, and decided to drive to Scottsdale in hopes of smoothing things over with her boyfriend, Francisco Arteaga, after the two had gotten into an argument earlier that night.

However, after Adrienne took the Rio Salado Parkway/Ash Avenue curve a bit too fast and collided with the curb, flattening both driver's side tires, she drove her damaged car to Brown street and parked it, then walked back to her apartment. Later, Adrienne again set out for Arteaga's home in Scottsdale, this time on foot.

It was just after 4am, and the streets were dark and desolate, The crescent moon was in the sky, and Adrienne's attention was devoted to her cellphone as she juggled the tasks of repeatedly calling her boyfriend's cellphone--and arranging a rendezvous with a taxi cab at the nearby AM/PM gas station.

She was alone, vulnerable, and distracted--a perfect window of opportunity for any predatory hunter who sees a distressed young girl caught up in the hills and valleys of youthful romance as nothing more than a young gazelle separated from the herd..

Adrienne would never make it to the AM/PM gas station, or to Scottsdale to see her boyfriend. Somewhere between her apartment and the gas station, Adrienne had crossed paths with something terrible.

There would be no sign of Adrienne Salinas for almost two months.

Sunday, July 21st, 2013 - A deluge poured down on east Phoenix, and high waters ripped through the streets of Apache Junction. Flood waters turned Weekes Wash into a raging river, resulting in the closure of Lost Dutchman Blvd..

About two weeks later on August 9th, well after the rains subsided and all the mud dried up, Apache Junction resident Dan Kelly would venture out to the border of his property along Weekes Wash and Lost Dutchman Blvd., and discover the decomposing remains of 19 year old Adrienne Celeste Salinas.

And just like that--a highly publicized missing persons case had just taken the worst possible turn, and all the remaining hopes of a heartbroken family came crashing down into a new terrible reality.

Though Adrienne's autopsy report could not officially categorize her cause of death as a homicide, its lack of detail regarding examination of a head or any personal items seemed to inadvertently suggest the possibility that perhaps not all of her remains had been found. Moreover, the fact that her body ended up 30+ miles away from where she disappeared left little doubt that foul play had been involved.

Illustration by Keen Azariah

Illustration by Keen Azariah

Apprehended

Tuesday, January 13th, 2015

On a cool winter afternoon, two Phoenix police detectives walked up to the security check point of the Amazon warehouse in west Phoenix, and asked the security guard to speak with a supervisor. After the detectives informed the supervisor that they have probable cause to arrest Bryan Patrick Miller, the supervisor walked the detectives to his office where he checked the employee roster and confirmed that Bryan was currently working on site. A Human Resource Department supervisor then led the two detectives to an empty conference room, then went to get Bryan. At 5:54pm, Bryan entered the conference room and was immediately advised that he was being arrested for the murders of Angela Brosso and Melanie Bernas. He was then handcuffed, taken out a side entrance, placed into an unmarked transport vehicle, and driven to Lower Buckeye Jail. Meanwhile, police were serving a search warrant on his home at 844 E. Mountain View Rd. in Sunnyslope.

The next morning, I checked my Facebook news feed, and a 10-point magnitude emotional earthquake shook my world to rubble. Bryan's face was everywhere.

Soon after his arrest, myself, and most of Bryan's friends were taken back by the revelation of his troubled past, included a non-fatal 1989 incident in Paradise Valley when he admittedly stabbed a random woman for inexplicable reasons, and another more recent incident that occurred in Everett, Washington in 2002, when--reportedly--Bryan picked up one Melissa Ruiz-Ramirez after she took Bryan up on his offer to let her use his work telephone. Then, Bryan attacked her shortly after they arrived at his place of work--stabbing her in the back.

However, Bryan's account differs greatly. In his letters, he admits he offered Ramirez, who Bryan claims needed to make a telephone call, the use of his work phone. He also admits that Ramirez did get cut, but he claims that it was a result of the scuffle that occurred after she had attacked him with a knife when he refused to give her money during what he considered a botched robbery.

Regardless, these new revelations made it seem like there were too many bloody women in Bryan's past for it all to be attributed to bad luck.

Thursday, February 12th, 2015 - Scottsdale, Arizona

I was on assignment in Old Town for Phoenix Magazine when my cellphone rang.

"Is this K?" a voice asked.

"Yeah, this is K," I replied, "But you can just call me Keen."

It was Tempe Police Detective Alan Akey, who was in charge of the Salinas case. Two weeks after Bryan's arrest--using the name "K"--I'd sent in an anonymous tip to Tempe Police regarding Bryan's possible involvement in the abduction and murder of Adrienne Salinas, and he responded by asking to hear more about Bryan, so I sent him my personal cellphone number.

"Can you come in to the station today to talk?" he asked, to which I replied "Sure."

Later that day, at a large table at Tempe Police Station, Detective Akey slid a color photo of Bryan across the table.

"For the record," Detective Akey asked, "this is the friend we're talking about?"

"Yes," I replied, "that's him."

I then took him through the reasons I thought Bryan could possibly be the person responsible for Adrienne's death.

All through the spring and summer of 2013, Bryan was showing signs that his anxiety and anger were reaching hostile levels. Coinciding with this rise in emotional stress, came the turning of a new leaf regarding his physical health. By June 2013, Bryan was attempting to get back in shape, and had made a habit of hiking or biking valley mountains during the very early, pre-dawn hours of the morning--a habit which proved compatible with his consistent bouts of insomnia. These issues were manifesting onto Bryan's main source of emotional ventilation - social media.

  • May 31st, 2013 - “Who wants to either go walk with me on the trails of North Mountain Park or go for a bike ride in the morning?”
  • June 7th, 2013 - “Who is free and wants to get off their ass and exercise in the morning?”
  • June 8th, 2013 - “Well, once again nobody wanted to go out and exercise with me this morning :( What to do now....hmmmmmm”