Three Washington State Trooper Employees Believed Dead in Zillah Fire

By Beacon Staff

ZILLAH, Wash. – Two Washington State Patrol troopers and the head of the agency’s emergency call center in Wenatchee were believed to be dead Monday after an early-morning fire destroyed a house in Yakima County.

Investigators were able to enter the fire scene late Monday afternoon.

The bodies of all three victims were located by 9 p.m. Monday, sheriff’s Chief of Detectives Stew Graham said in an e-mail. He said the investigation at the site would resume Tuesday.

Positive identification of the remains “is going to be a while” and will depend on dental records and DNA, county Coroner Jack Hawkins said Monday night as he left the scene with the last two bodies. Autopsies were scheduled for Wednesday.

Those believed killed at the home were Anne Miller-Hewitt, who supervised 15 dispatchers at the Wenatchee 911 center; her husband, Sunnyside-based Trooper Gary Miller; and Trooper Kristopher Sperry, a native of Eureka, Mont., who graduated from the State Patrol academy in June and was living with the Millers at their home near Zillah.

The cause of the fire was not known. Yakima County fire officials and the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms were investigating.

“We have no indication that this was a crime or a suspicious fire at all right now,” State Patrol Lt. Jim Keightley said. “We are simply conducting a fire investigation to make sure there is no suspicious reason for the fire starting.”

Miller-Hewitt called 911 shortly after 1 a.m. Monday to report the fire, the administrator of Yakima’s emergency call center told the Yakima Herald-Republic. When fire crews arrived, the house, which was several hundred yards from the closest neighbors, was engulfed in flames.

Neither Gary Miller nor Sperry were believed to have worked on any controversial cases recently that might have generated enemies, Graham said.

Miller-Hewitt, 54, began working for the patrol in 1987 and was promoted to head the call center in 2007.

Miller, 55, was hired in 1989 and was commissioned in 1990. He had served in Sunnyside since then.

Sperry, 30, was hired in 2008 and graduated from the academy in June after receiving an award for being the most physically fit cadet in his class. He also was based in Sunnyside.

“Personally it’s horrific,” Keightley told KING-TV. “It’s just unfathomable to me and others that knew them that we lost all three at the same time in the same circumstance.”