Sharin' Morningstar Keenan. Please remember that name.
July 22, 2013 11:28 AM   Subscribe

For 30 years, an ex-con drifter from Saskatchewan named Dennis Melvyn Howe has eluded police in connection with the abduction, rape and murder of a 9 year old Toronto girl. In 2008, an Idaho man named Robert James Miller wrote two long, bizarre posts on the forum at He claimed to have identified Howe and turned him in after seeing a 1998 episode of America's Most Wanted. The FBI is now investigating the possibility that Miller himself is Dennis Melvyn Howe.

Mr. Miller also appears to have uploaded this short clip from the AMW episode to youtube in March of this year. (check the comments)

His blog, which focusses on art history yet also has sidebarred link to the Web Sleuths ongoing thread about the case.
posted by mannequito (15 comments total) 14 users marked this as a favorite
A criminal can't help returning to the scene of the crime. SOmetimes online.
posted by ocschwar at 11:49 AM on July 22, 2013

Eh? The FBI took Miller's fingerprints two weeks ago. Howe had a criminal record in Canada. Seems like it would be pretty easy to confirm if it's him or not.
posted by IanMorr at 12:11 PM on July 22, 2013 [1 favorite]

oh weird. a close friend of mine was just telling me about this situation, because she is friends with Bob Miller, has known him for a decade. I'd never heard of this story before, certainly interested in seeing if he turns out to be Howe...
posted by supermedusa at 12:12 PM on July 22, 2013 [1 favorite]

Seems a case of one of three/four situations:

- brazen it out until the authorities finally put him out of his misery of running (not quite suicide by cop))

- a very very long con (snag a bag from a drifter/thrifthunt) and hope they didn't get a lot of him at the original scene (fingerprints can be obscured but not changed, DNA improving yearly)

- it really isn't him as the killer gone to another name. Might not have actually got the guy who was the guy, but the items could still be from a random drifter/thriftshop.

I'm leaning towards the first but think more likely the third.
posted by tilde at 12:23 PM on July 22, 2013

There's a striking resemblance between the two men. I hope that the publicity around this leads to Sharin's killer being captured (whether it's this guy or not).
posted by gentian at 12:27 PM on July 22, 2013 [1 favorite]

They look sort of similar, but the upper lip/nose area is quite different.
posted by jason_steakums at 12:49 PM on July 22, 2013

Does this kid's first name end in an apostrophe? If so, why? Is that a weird cultural thing that I've never come across before?
posted by dobbs at 1:00 PM on July 22, 2013

Does this kid's first name end in an apostrophe? If so, why?

Yes, and hippies, presumably.
posted by one more dead town's last parade at 1:04 PM on July 22, 2013 [3 favorites]

I will be shocked if the author of the two comments on the AMW site is not the killer.

There is eerie and compelling stuff in those comments describing his relationship with the guy he's tipping as the real killer:
We had become friends even though I was paying him for his help and was anxious for him to better his position in life and even took him around on his job interviews a couple of mornings. After getting to know him better and becoming more less friends, I brought him back with me to my home in Nampa and introduced him to my wife Nancy. My wife is Canadian and so was he, for I had heard all about his family there many times.

On one day before the weekend Thursday or Friday, we went to Fred Myers to buy some hardware for hanging pictures and I felt that he was walking on my heels, so once or twice I just stop dead so he would run into me, just for a joke. Then I also would make abrupt turns right or left because he walked watching his feet, therefore he would continue on straight until he figure out what I was doing. We just laughed about it then, but when we were back at the gallery alone, he look at me real serious, and said rather meanly; "I ought to kick your ass!" I looked him right in his eyes and said; Go for it M---. F---. He laughed and said; "You turkey" in more of a friendly manor.
The bit about the other man "walking on my heels, so once or twice I just stop dead so he would run into me, just for a joke. Then I also would make abrupt turns right or left because he walked watching his feet, therefore he would continue on straight until he figure out what I was doing. ..." reminds me forcibly of the brain syndrome in which people will experience something they are doing to themselves as the actions of another person doing something to them, such as the case of a woman sitting with her knees drawn up and her arms around her legs who experienced that as being held from behind by a male stranger (lost the link for the moment, I'm sorry to say).

It's as if he's letting us witness the process by which the part of himself that will take the rap splits off to become an independent person.
posted by jamjam at 1:24 PM on July 22, 2013 [1 favorite]

Weird. I've been in that appliance junk shop with my husband looking for a part to an old stove. The guy's strange enough that we wondered at the time how he stayed in business. Maybe he's just an attention seeker, if so, he's a jerk. If he's the murderer I hope they nail him. Brrrr

Poor child.
posted by BlueHorse at 4:06 PM on July 22, 2013 [2 favorites]

At the risk of having to eat my words: those two photos are not the same person. Period.
posted by dances_with_sneetches at 8:48 PM on July 22, 2013

This is such a bizarre story. He does seem to look an awful lot like the pic to me, except for the nose. The nose, though, looks a lot more similar to the police artist's sketch of Dennis Melvyn Howe here (via this page). And Miller actually looks rather like Howe's mom (mom photo via this page).

Playing around in photoshop, the facial dimensions (in terms of distances between features, etc.) of Howe and Miller seemed to align almost exactly. On the other hand, if the ear is accurate in the police sketch, it's not the same guy, and Miller looks like he probably had red or auburn hair, not dark brown.

With viable fingerprints and DNA (assuming they have those), it seems like they ought to be able to clear him or make an arrest, though I suppose that a) working between two countries slows things down a bit, and b) it's wise to be cautious, since "guy seems weird on the internet" might not be the best basis for an investigation from a defense lawyer's point of view.
posted by taz at 5:26 AM on July 23, 2013

dances_with_sneetches, I was unimpressed by the comparison of Miller and the age-progressed photo of Howe, but comparing the actual photo of Howe side by side with the Miller photo was a lot more persuasive.
posted by katemonster at 8:53 AM on July 23, 2013

Oh, yeah, I should have specified that I didn't mean the age-progressed photo, which doesn't resemble Miller very much at all to me. I was looking at the photo of Howe from the National Post link (that was from about 5 years before the murder of Sharin' Keenan, incidentally – presumably a mugshot). Here's a thing I was doing just to see how the features of the two faces aligned. The red lines are where I measured on the photo on the right (length of nose, width of mouth, distance between eyes, etc.) and then shifted them straight over (not raising or lowering) to the mugshot pic to see how closely they lined up.

They seem really close. On the other hand, if I were seeing somebody profiled as a murderer (or... just anybody prominently or shockingly in the news I guess) who seemed very physically similar to me, I might start following that person/story very, very closely, either consciously or unconsciously, which could be the case here. He could have seen photos of the suspect and felt a frisson of identification from some physical similarity, even enough to become somewhat fixated on the story to the degree that he was always looking out for that guy, and eventually turned in this homeless dude as he says in his story – even if it was a case of ideé fixe more than anything else. Still the expression in the eyes seems so alike! But then I'm looking for that, aren't I?
posted by taz at 9:45 AM on July 23, 2013

Update: someone purporting to be Robert James Miller posted more "information about himself and his life in the US" information on the news link. It is time-stamped "11 hours ago" - nearly three here (Eastern Daylight), so 4am EDT?
posted by tilde at 11:59 AM on July 23, 2013

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