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Bradley Miller charged with murder in connection with body found on Unaka

Bradley Miller

By Serina MarshallAccording to a press release from the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, the discovery of a body on Unaka Mountain has evolved into a homicide investigation.According to the release, a joint investigation by special agents with the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation and detectives with the Unicoi County Sheriff’s Office has resulted in charges being placed in connection to the death of a Johnson City woman.

On May 30, at the request of 1st Judicial District Attorney General Ken Baldwin, TBI agents began working alongside the Unicoi County Sheriff’s Office to investigate the circumstances leading to the death of 48-year-old Athena Saunders after her body was found just off a gravel road near the Unaka Mountain Beauty Spot.

The subsequent investigation resulted in authorities obtaining warrants on Saturday, June 4, charging Saunders’ boyfriend, Bradley Miller, with first degree murder, abuse of a corpse and tampering with evidence.

“We interviewed the boyfriend (Miller) and he told us there had been a recent breakup and he had allowed her to stay there (at Miller’s home) because she didn’t have anywhere to go,” said Unicoi County Sheriff Mike Hensley.

“He claimed the last time he saw her was on Friday,” Hensley said.

 “We also at the same time took a DNA sample from him and TBI took a statement from him,” Hensley added.

“Later we found out more evidence that was suspicious,” the sheriff noted.

“We put out a BOLO (be on lookout) for her vehicle and we found the vehicle,” Hensley said. “We had to wait for forensic evidence to come back and we’ve received that.”

According to Hensley, the forensic evidence was sufficient to obtain warrants for Miller’s arrest.

“I can’t say enough about the TBI and the TBI Crime Lab in Knoxville,” Hensley said.

Hensley also praised the William L. Jenkins Forensic Center at East Tennessee State University.

“That’s who does the autopsies,” he said. “They rushed this through to put it top priority, and we were able to get the results soon.”

The sheriff noted that Miller has been placed on the Ten Most Wanted Tennessee TBI Crime List.

The addition to the list will circulate nationwide, according to the sheriff.

 “Hopefully it’s just a matter of time before we have him in custody,” Hensley said.

At press time, attempts to locate Miller have been unsuccessful. Anyone with information concerning his whereabouts is asked to call 1-800-TBI-FIND or the Unicoi County Sheriff’s Office at (423) 743-1850.

According to the TBI release, the Johnson City Police Department also assisted with the investigation.

According to Leslie Earhart with the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, the agency would be unable to provide any further information at this time concerning the investigation as it remains ongoing. Earhart did confirm that the suspect has been added to the TBI’s Most Wanted list.

District Attorney Ken Baldwin’s office declined to comment on an ongoing investigation.

Editor’s Note: Bradley Miller has been apprehended. He was taken into custody on Tuesday morning, June 7. Details are pending.