Man charged in 39-year-old Minneapolis cold case makes first court appearance

Man charged in 39-year-old Minneapolis cold case

Man charged in 39-year-old Minneapolis cold case

For nearly 40 years, the family of Robert A. Miller has waited for answers in his murder. Monday, the man charged with his murder finally appeared in court.

Matthew Russell Brown, 66, of Ingleside, Illinois, has been charged with second-degree murder and first-degree burglary, according to court records.

RELATED: 66-year-old arrested in connection with 1984 Minneapolis murder

On July 19, 1984, police officers responded to multiple 911 calls from an apartment on Girard Avenue South at around 2:30 a.m. There, two women — one bleeding from a cut on her face — ran outside saying a man had broken into the apartment and attacked them with a knife.

Miller’s body was found inside but for years, there were no leads. But as DNA analysis improved, suddenly a breakthrough came.

“It was like the day it happened. I fell apart, I lost my voice,” James Miller, Robert Miller’s brother, told 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS on Monday.

Miller was in Hennepin County court Monday to see Brown face a judge for Robert’s murder.

Over the past eight years, Minneapolis police investigators on the FBI’s cold case task force worked to identify DNA found in a trail of blood at the crime scene. They consulted with a genealogist and determined that, based on the DNA profile, Brown was a suspect.

In March this year, police collected a disposable plastic cup that Brown had used, court documents state. The DNA on that cup matched the evidence from the crime scene.

“It was difficult — I didn’t even know what to expect,” David Miller, Robert’s nephew, said.

David also came to court on Monday to see the man charged in his uncle’s killing.

“It’s hard for me to understand the mind of a person who carries a knife around with bad intentions, it’s just hard for us to imagine, it’s been hard on the family,” he added.

But the wait continues for the family while the wheels of justice turn nearly 40 years later, something that didn’t always seem likely.

“There were a couple of calls over a course of time where they thought they had a lead but then they fell through,” James Miller said. “I think about my brother all the time but I never thought they’d ever crack the case.”

“It feels good to finally bring a case together and give the family some sense of justice,” Lieutenant Richard Zimmerman, lead homicide investigator with the Minneapolis Police Department, said.

And after nearly three decades with the department, Lt. Zimmerman, knows that feeling well.

Sitting alongside Chief Brian O’Hara, the two equally credit both the investigators in 1984 with gathering and preserving evidence that July day and the advance in technology with this cold case arrest.

“We’re incredibly thankful that we’re able to make use of the evidence that we’ve had for decades to try and bring about closure,” Chief O’Hara said.

Chief O’Hara adds he hopes to use this type of technology to make developments in other cases.

Zimmerman said for families with loved ones part of ongoing cold case investigations, that all cases are treated equally and that the work isn’t done until a case is wrapped up.

“A homicide case [is] open until it’s closed.” Lt. Zimmerman said.

Brown’s bail is set at $1 million. His next court hearing is scheduled for Aug. 28.