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Did Adrienne Salinas Cross Paths With a Zombie Hunter?

Updated on November 15, 2017
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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.

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.

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.

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, 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 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 Death 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 repeatably 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”

One of Bryan's unsettling Facebook posts
One of Bryan's unsettling Facebook posts

Bryan's uncharacteristic efforts at being extroverted and socially ambitious were becoming more translucent. His unusually optimistic personality and outgoing social media posts were spliced with statements that reflected the dark world he lived in:

  • June 12th, 2013 - "unbearably lonely," "I have been on the edge of giving up for years," "I have had it. It just gets harder to bear as time goes by and with each rejection in my life," "I hate feeling alone. It hurts," "I am heartbroken and have been for some time and its been getting to me lately," "One day I will be noticed and I will not be cast aside."
  • June 13th, 2013 - "My heart has been stepped on and has been shattered at least a hundred times."
  • June 14th, 2013 - “Frakkin anxiety, go away, you suck.”, "Mine (anxiety) is making me cry. I want it to go away.”

Too Close For Comfort

Coincidentally, Bryan had already planned on being in Tempe on the afternoon of Saturday June 15th to attend a friend's party. Even more coincidentally, this party was held at a house which sat less than one mile away from Adrienne Salinas' final destination on the corner of West University Drive and South Hardy Drive. And if that weren't unsettling enough, Bryan's Facebook posts show that he'd cemented a plan days in advance to go on one of his early morning hikes on the morning of June 15th--virtually during the exact time of Adrienne's disappearance.

  • June 10th, 2013 - "Someone get out of bed early and off their lazy butts and join me for a walk, a hike, or a bike ride on Friday or Saturday morning. Talking somewhere between 6-7 am start time.

This alarming geographical coincidence suggests an obvious hypothesis; you have a suspected serial killer who targets young girls while they're walking alone, placed within a mile of where a young girl disappeared while walking alone--and on the same day.

It's not beyond the realm of possibility to imagine that perhaps, given his plans to drive the twelve miles to Tempe to attend his friend's party, Bryan, who often strapped his mountain bike on the rear car rack of his dark grey 4-door Ford Focus hatchback, might've chosen to hike a mountain more convenient to his itinerary for the morning of June 15th 2013--the most convenient choice being Hayden's Butte, which sits along Mill Avenue and very close to the party house.

This hypothesis would allow Bryan to get in his sunrise hike, finish by 9:00 or 10:00am, then possibly hang out on Mill Avenue until the party at 1:00pm--if not get there early to help set up, as was often the case with Bryan.

Adrienne Salinas had to pass Jaycee Park, a small public park on the way to the AM/PM gas station. Cutting through Jaycee Park would have made the fastest route for someone in a hurry to get to the where Adrienne was going. If Adrienne's killer or killers had parked their car in the stretch of tree-shaded parking spots along the park's south side, she would have had to walk right past them in the darkest, most secluded stretch on the entire route. If the abduction didn't happen in this area, the killer or killers would have had to abduct Adrienne in one of the open streets of Tempe, putting them at a higher risk of being seen.

There is a chance she made it through Jaycee Park; and made it up to University Drive. Apparently surveillance video near the corner of Hardy and University show what's been described as a "slender woman" walking through the O'reilly Auto Parts parking lot at 4:52am, and a dark 4-door vehicle driving through the same lot two minutes later..

Did Adrienne rethink her transit expenses and opt to wait for the earliest bus connecting to route 56 bound for Scottsdale? Would she have accepted someone's offer of a ride?

Possible shortcut taken by Salinas resulting in her abduction.
Possible shortcut taken by Salinas resulting in her abduction.
  • August 6th, 2013 - “I will be on extended hiatus from my group functions. This includes the steampunk group. I will still be involved with anything I have already agreed to be a part of. Other than that don't expect to see me.” “Scheduling of events along with emotional problems, I just can't do it.” "I have had a bad couple days. Right now I'm not just sad, I'm angry. I don't deserve what I am being dealt right now and it needs to change.”
  • August 7th, 2013 - "I tend to keep myself busy to keep away the pain.

Aug 9th, 2013 - The remains of Adrienne Celeste Salinas are found in Weekes Wash.

  • Aug 13th, 2013 - “Waking up in an anxiety attack and crying is not a good way to start the day. They say thing have to get worse before they can get better. I don't think I could feel any worse than I do right now.”

As for Bryan's precise whereabouts during the exact moment of the abduction, all that can be known for sure is he displayed no activity online for almost nine hours. He posted no last minute pre-hike invitations to friends, nor any post-hike anecdotes. He was, however, undoubtedly in Adrienne's neighborhood on the day of her disappearance--going so far as to upload party photos he'd taken onto Facebook later that day.

A Change in Transportation

From 2011 to 2012, after I offered to split the $1,000 cash prize with him, Bryan had offered me the use of his car for a series of local treasure hunts put on by the Valley Times. These treasure hunts had me, and hundreds of other amateur treasure hunters, from stay-at-home moms to off duty police detectives, consistently searching lonely, deserted areas around the Valley--one of which was Weekes Wash.

Both Bryan and I had been to Apache Junction several times. He had worked at the Arizona Renaissance Festival at the base of the Superstition Mountains, we'd both attended steampunk events at Goldfield Ghost Town, and he'd done a few novelty photo shoots in the area.

Bryan owned 2 cars at the time of Adrienne's disappearance: A dark grey Ford Focus hatchback, and a matte black Ford Escort. The Focus was put up for sale in September of 2013 after he purchased the 2007 Ford Police Interceptor he would later become known for. The Escort was discovered under a tarp in the backyard of his residence during the 2015 investigation, and left there after the investigation--where it mysteriously disappeared soon after.

Bryan's Ford Focus
Bryan's Ford Focus
Bryan's Ford Escort
Bryan's Ford Escort

Coincidence Happens

Thus far, detectives have released no information regarding the guilt or innocence of Bryan Patrick Miller in the disappearance and death of Adrienne Salinas. The hypothesis I present here is based on conjecture and circumstantial evidence.

Even though the fact that Bryan Patrick Miller was within such close proximity to Adrienne Salinas on the day she vanished is--at the very least--disturbingly coincidental, it in no way proves his involvement in her death.

However, though coincidence may prove nothing--it should never be overlooked.

Case in point: July 27th, 1981, several shoppers in a Hollywood, Florida mall all noticed a man behaving oddly around young kids. Later that day, the story broke that six year old Adam Walsh had disappeared from the same shopping mall not long after shoppers noticed the strange man.

Then in 1991, a man was arrested in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, after police discovered several human corpses in his apartment--his name was Jeffrey Dahmer. After his mugshot was shown on national television stations, it was quickly noticed by some of the same people who'd been shopping in Hollywood Mall the day Adam Walsh disappeared ten years earlier that the man in the mugshot--Jeffrey Dahmer--was the same man they all saw in the Hollywood Mall just before Adam Walsh's abduction.

Coincidentally, Jeffrey Dahmer, not only just happened to be in Florida at the time of the Walsh abduction, he was employed at a sandwich shop approximately fifteen minutes away from the Hollywood Mall. And even though the murder of Adam Walsh has been officially attributed to the late Ottis Toole, the sudden unorthodox closing of the case has been questioned by many still unimpressed by the evidence and unconvinced of Toole's credibility and the validity of his many confessions.

Illustration by Keen Azariah
Illustration by Keen Azariah

Roll Credits

At least twice during our movie night at Filmbar, Bryan would switch from laughing to a kind of silent smile and say "Hmm"--a reaction which usually means the person is relating to a facet of what he or she is seeing. Whenever he did this, I was tempted to whisper "What?" but for the sake of basic cinematic etiquette--I resisted the urge.

Near the end of the movie, an animated sequence plays out as Jack recites the story of a lonely, angry hedgehog named "Brian," who has tendencies toward "malignant anal hoarding," and who deals with past anxieties and fears by creating a new persona for himself--a fake and fearsome alter ego.

Perhaps all of this is nothing more than a long string of coincidences; perhaps Bryan Patrick Miller is exactly what he claims to be--an innocent man. An innocent man who admits to inexplicably stabbing a Paradise Valley woman in 1989, and who was identified by both a surviving stabbing victim from Washington and an eyewitness from Phoenix; An innocent man who had to defend himself from a knife-wielding Melissa Ruiz-Ramirez in 2002, and who happened to live less than a mile away from little Brandy Lynn Myers when she went missing in May of 1992; An innocent man who's DNA mysteriously ended up on the mutilated bodies of Angela Brosso and Melanie Bernas, and who collects realistic photos of dead, decapitated and mutilated women; An innocent man who's own mother suspected him of being involved in the canal murders, and who just happened to be less than a mile away from Adrienne Salinas' final destination on the same day she disappeared. Perhaps Bryan Patrick Miller really is always in the wrong places, always at the wrong times, always with the wrong people. Perhaps he truly is the all-time reigning king of unfortunate coincidence.

After all, it is indeed a coincidence that another young woman, 23-year-old Annovedwin Begay-Barakzai, was found dead in the streets of Tempe on the morning of Adrienne's disappearance. Barakza's boyfriend, 27 year-old Douglas Ray George, was eventually arrested and convicted of her murder.

Still, unlike any cinematic doppelganger, the final credits of the real-life horror movie we call the Phoenix Canal Murders have yet to roll. Unless the man who wrote the script decides to spoil the ending for us, or the trial gets pushed back even further, we'll have to wait until 2018 to officially find out who the Canal Killer is. Whether the name Adrienne Salinas will be credited as one of his victims, remains to be seen.

My thoughts turn to The Boscombe Valley Mystery, when Sherlock Holmes said "Circumstantial evidence is a very tricky thing. It may seem to point very straight to one thing, but if you shift your own point of view a little, you may find it pointing in an equally uncompromising manner to something entirely different."

Then my thoughts turn to A Fantastic Fear of Everything, when Jack said "No no no no--facts like that are beyond the realm of coincidence."

Illustration by Keen Azariah
Illustration by Keen Azariah

NOTE:

This article, or the Salinas case, is not a part of any book in the works by this author.

© 2017 Keen Azariah

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