O.J., JonBenet, Barbara Miller

Sunbury Police Chief Tim Miller, left, and Cpl. Travis Bremigen, right, listen to Dr. Henry Lee discuss some materials in his office on the campus of the University of New Haven in Connecticut on Monday. Lee, who worked on the O.J. Simpson and JonBenet Ramsey cases, has offered to aid in the investigation of the 1989 disappearance of Barbara Miller.

SUNBURY — World-renowned forensic scientist Dr. Henry Lee has joined the Sunbury Police Department and Chief Tim Miller in the search for the remains of Barbara Miller.

Lee operates the self-named Henry C. Lee Institute of Forensic Science in West Haven, Conn. He has consulted on more than 8,000 criminal cases in 46 countries including the O.J. Simpson and JonBenet Ramsey cases.

On Monday, Chief Miller met with Dr. Lee face-to-face. Lee referred all questions to Chief Miller, the lead investigator in the case, who said the meeting was productive.

“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’s involvement in the Barbara Miller case comes after an eighth cadaver dog detected human remains last week on evidence discovered from a search and dig operation inside and beneath a Milton residence, Chief Miller announced Tuesday.

Tons of dirt and concrete are in police custody since the six-day dig that began June 7, including two basement walls, and investigators are meticulously sifting through the materials.

“Since June 7, there have been some sleepless and strenuous nights,” Chief Miller said. “Carrying the hopes and expectations of an entire community is no easy task. The family of Barbara Miller wants answers. The community wants answers.”

“After seven cadaver dogs alerted to the presence of human remains, I had to make a difficult decision on whether or not to take the walls of the home in Milton,” Chief Miller said. “That decision was not easy but I made it because it was the right thing to do. The last several weeks have been somewhat exhausting as we combed the materials we collected while looking for clues.”

Police suspect the 30-year-old Sunbury woman was murdered and her remains hidden inside the residence. She was last seen by friends at a wedding June 30, 1989. Five days later, her ex-boyfriend, Joseph Walter “Mike” Egan, reported her missing to Sunbury police. Egan, an ex-city detective, was no longer with the force at the time of Miller’s disappearance. Police pegged him as the lead suspect but he has never been charged. No one has.

Lee’s history

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 bloodstain 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 Dr. 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 Cpl. Travis Bremigen traveled Monday to meet with Lee and his team of forensic investigators at his facility at the University of New Haven. They took with them the unearthed dirt and detached basement walls.

Northumberland County Coroner James F. Kelley, a member of the task force assigned to the Barbara Miller cold case, has long advocated for the Barbara Miller case to be solved.

“I’m impressed that Chief Miller was able to speak with Dr. Lee and thrilled that he’s involved,” Kelley said. “This is good news for us.”

Lee has taught forensic science at his state-of-the-art facility, home to a cold case center, to law enforcement from all over the world, according to the University of New Haven website. Occasionally, Lee joins an investigation when he detects something of interest.

Chief Tim Miller first contacted Lee two weeks ago. The more Chief Miller told Lee about the case, the more Lee’s interest grew. Last week, Chief Miller said Lee offered his assistance.

“One thing I know for certain is things don’t add up,” Chief Miller said. “I have found things that simply just can’t be explained. For that reason, I called Dr. Lee, who is the most recognized forensic scientist in the world.”

Chief Miller said when he arrived Lee already had a Barbara Miller file prepared. Lee told Miller he had been reading up on the case and watched live video of the dig in Milton.

“This was an experience of a lifetime,” Chief Miller said. “I got to meet the best in the world and got to ask for help face-to-face on behalf of our community.”

The price of a pie

The home where Chief Miller searched was once owned by former Northumberland County Judge Sam Ranck. Egan’s sister, Cathy Reitenbach, rented one of two apartments in the two-story duplex at 751 N. Front St. Reitenbach died in January. The property’s current owner and tenants are not under investigation.

When Chief Miller reopened the case, he poured over thousands of existing documents in the city’s Barbara Miller case file. He 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 resulted isn’t publicly known but it led Chief Miller to reach out to Lee.

When Chief Miller spoke to Lee, the chief said he was only expecting to maybe get some advice but not actually meet with 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 unparallelled brilliance, with a passion for helping his friends in law enforcement bring answers when answers have proven to be elusive.”

Police updates in the case have been sporadic but Chief Miller said he will inform the public when appropriate.

“I will leave you with this thought,” Chief Miller said. “If you know something, say something. There is no such thing as a secret. Cpl. Bremigen and I are both honored and privileged to have represented the family of Barbara Miller and our community on this trip.”

Email comments to fscarcella@dailyitem.com and escicchitano@dailyitem.com. Follow both on Twitter: @scarcella11 and @ericshick11.

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