BREMERTON — Craig W. Miller, 45, of Bremerton was arrested at 3 p.m. April 12 on suspicion of murdering his neighbor, 87-year-old Floyd Zumwalt, on Nov. 7, 2015.
Miller was booked into Kitsap County Jail; bail was set at $1 million. A court appearance is scheduled for 9 a.m. May 2, according to the Kitsap County Jail roster.
“Our detectives and officers have been diligently working on this complex case for months, and hopefully this arrest can begin to bring some closure and justice for the family and friends of this 87-year-old man,” Bremerton Police Chief Steve Strachan said in an announcement of the arrest.
At 4:48 p.m. Nov. 7, 2015, Miller called 911 saying he found Zumwalt “‘off the bed’ and ‘drunk,’ bleeding and lying on the floor,” according to the certificate of probable cause written by Bremerton Police Detective Martin Garland.
“Miller commented to the 911 operator that he can hear Zumwalt breathing and he sees Zumwalt’s chest moving up and down,” Garland wrote. “The 911 operator asked Miller to offer aid and perform CPR for Zumwalt, but Miller refuses, although he tells the operator he is a retired fire chief and an EMS (Emergency Medical Services) instructor.”
According to the probable cause certificate, Miller repeatedly left Zumwalt’s side while talking to the 911 operator, went outside to smoke a cigarette while waiting, and “even glibly jokes with the 911 operator when she asks if he thinks Zumwalt was struck a bat.”
According to the report, Miller said, “Well, I’m no expert in forensics, but that’s what I’d say!”
The statement goes on to explain that when BPD officers arrived, Zumwalt was lying in a pool of blood with an obvious head wound, and was “so clearly deceased” that BPD officers confirmed his death on arrival and offered no aid.
Garland wrote that Miller provided an initial statement, was photographed, then released from the scene. He was contacted again within hours and officers collected Miller’s clothing. However, Miller provided a different pair of pants to the officers than what he’d been wearing at the scene of the crime, claiming the pants he’d been wearing had become too loose so he changed, but had “no explanation for what happened to those pants or why he provided investigators with a different pair.”
In his statement to the police, Miller said he never got closer than arm’s length to Zumwalt, never offered aid, never checked his pulse and that he didn’t take anything from Zumwalt or Zumwalt’s apartment.
When asked if his fingerprints would be found on the murder weapon, Zumwalt said, “God, I hope not,” according to the probable cause statement.
The WSP Crime Laboratory later found blood on the upper half of one of Zumwalt’s shoes; DNA from the blood matched Zumwalt’s, “showing the odds that it belonged to someone besides Zumwalt as 1 in 220 quintillion.”
The statement of probable cause goes on to share witness testimony. Police spoke with another of Miller’s neighbors and one of Miller’s friends, both of whom said Miller told them, “Zumwalt is dead and was beaten and stabbed.”
“Both of these conversations take place separately and prior to Miller’s recorded interview at the Bremerton Police Department (which started about 11:38 p.m. Nov. 7),” Garland wrote in present tense.
“This is significant because detectives are still processing the crime scene at this time and the coroner doesn’t move Zumwalt’s body until about midnight that night, and it’s at that time that a broken knife blade is discovered underneath Zumwalt’s body … The stab wound is obscured by Zumwalt’s clothing and cannot be seen without a manipulation of the clothing and/or the body, yet Miller knows that Zumwalt was both beaten and stabbed.”
The Kitsap County Coroner’s Office later confirmed in an autopsy that Zumwalt’s cause of death was blunt head trauma and a stab wound to the abdomen.
Investigators also spoke with Zumwalt’s next door neighbor and her boyfriend, who were home at the time. Both saw Miller enter Zumwalt’s apartment, and then “heard a loud thump from Zumwalt’s apartment like something heavy hitting the floor of the wall.”
The boyfriend said after hearing the noise, he exited the apartment and looked toward Zumwalt’s apartment “and noticed the blinds in Zumwalt’s bedroom swaying as if from a disturbance.” The neighbor said she saw police arrive at the apartment about half an hour after the noises.
“Craig Miller is the only person seen with Floyd Zumwalt on the day he is murdered,” Garland wrote.
“Miller is seen entering Zumwalt’s apartment by multiple witnesses moments before sounds of a struggle are heard coming from Zumwalt’s bedroom. Miller is a trained EMS instructor and refused to provide aid to Zumwalt. Miller has intimate knowledge of the crime scene known only to the killer and is found to have Zumwalt’s blood on his clothing. Miller disposes of his pants after the murder with no justification or explanation.
“For these reasons, I believe there is probable cause to believe Craig Miller intended to and did in fact cause the intentional death of Floyd Zumwalt.”
— Michelle Beahm is a reporter with the Kitsap News Group. She can be reached at mbeahm@sound publishing.com.