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Arrest made in 2000 Illahee murder

Dogged police work has led to an arrest in one of the most perplexing murder cases in recent years in Kitsap County.

At a 2 p.m. press conference Thursday, Kitsap County Sheriff Steve Boyer announced that John Richard Miller, 36, of Seattle had been arrested without incident at work at 4:30 p.m. Wednesday in Seattle.

Miller was charged at 3 p.m. Thursday with the June 2000 murder of Ruth Davison, a 90-year old Illahee resident. Miller pled not guilty.

Superior Court Judge Terry McCluskey set Miller’s bail at $500,000.

Miller stood virtually mute before the judge in loose-hanging jail garb and did not look at anyone else in the courtroom.

Miller will face trial April 7. He was represented by public defender Joanne Dantonio of the Stenberg law firm of Tacoma.

Davison’s strangled, beaten body was found June 16, 2000. KCSO deputies had found Davison’s Chevrolet Lumina, with its engine running, halfway down a 40-foot embankment near her trailer home on Northeast Rue Villa in Illahee.

At first, deputies thought Davison might have been wandering confused in the nearby woods after an accident. They considered a search and rescue effort. Her son was contacted and when he opened his mother’s locked trailer, her body was found inside, further mystifying deputies because there were no signs of forced entry.

Davison’s picture was run in local and regional media for months afterwards and was listed by Crimestoppers with a substantial reward for information. There seemed to be no motive in the murder of the beloved Davison, who neighbors said “knew everybody” and who Boyer called “everybody’s grandma.”

But, behind the scenes, dogged police work had continued. A certificate of probable cause filed Feb. 10, indicates how police began to prove a case against Miller. Miller had allegedly told friends and relatives that he needed “cover” for the night Davison was murdered. At other times he said he had blacked out on the night of the murder after being “slipped” drugs. In talking with family and friends, Miller admitted at various times to being in a red car in Illahee. At one point, Miller described the night of Davison’s death as being “like a dream.”

The statement said Kitsap County detectives interviewed Miller at the state Corrections Facility in Shelton in November 2002.

When detectives asked him about the night of Davison’s murder, he said he has “an image of himself in a bathtub with blood on his hands.” He requested a psychiatrist who might hypnotize him to remember other events of the evening.

At the press conference Thursday, Boyer expressed relief at Miller’s arrest, but said the case was far from closed.

“We just never gave up,” Boyer said. “There are a number of individuals within the general public who may be witnesses or who may have knowledge about this despicable crime. I ask them to come forward and speak with us.”

Boyer said his department got a “great deal of satisfaction in bringing the case to this point.”

“To Ms. Davison’s family, to her friends, and to the neighbors in her community, I hope that the intensive efforts of the Sheriff’s Office ... bring to some degree, a measure of relief,” Boyer said.

Boyer said since 1961, of 77 murders in Kitsap County, only three are unsolved.

Anyone with knowledge of the case is asked to call KCSO detectives

Ray Stroble (360) 337-5614 or Roger Howerton (360) 337-5611.

— Amy Crumley contributed to this story.

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