August 16, 2010 in Region

3 WSP workers believed dead in Zillah fire

Associated Press
 
Courtesy of Washington State Patrol photo

From left, Washington State Patrol Trooper Gary Miller; Anne Miller-Hewitt, a WSP communications manager in Wenatchee; and Trooper Kristopher Sperry.
(Full-size photo)

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

Investigators entered the fire scene by late afternoon. The house was destroyed and there’s no evidence anyone escaped, the patrol said in a statement.

“The goal for today — if you can call it a goal — is to get in and find the bodies and recover the bodies,” State Patrol Lt. Jim Keightley said. “That hasn’t happened yet, and it’s not clear it’s going to happen today.”

The victims were identified as 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,” Keightley said. “We are simply conducting a fire investigation to make sure there is no suspicious reason for the fire starting.”

The fire was reported at 1:38 a.m. today in a 911 call from inside the home, which was several hundred yards from the closest neighbors, Yakima County Sheriff’s Detective Stu Graham said. Graham said he didn’t know who placed the call.

“It was a very brief conversation,” Graham said. “They said that the house is on fire, they were instructed to leave the house, and that was pretty much the end of the call.”

He said he did not know how long it took firefighters to arrive.

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.”

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