ZILLAH - The remains of three Washington State Patrol employees, two troopers and a communications officer, have been positively identified.
Killed in a house fire were Communications Officer 4 Anne Miller-Hewitt, her husband, Trooper Gary Miller, and recently commissioned Trooper Kristopher Sperry. The Millers owned the residence. Sperry had recently graduated from the State Patrol Academy and was living with the Millers.
"Ann and Gary were long-time employees, and were the best of the best," said State Patrol Chief John R. Batiste. "We were just getting to know Kristopher, but he had excelled at the Academy and had a very promising future with our agency."
The remains of the three fire victims were removed from the home in the 300 block of Falcon Ridge Way yesterday, Aug. 16. The first body was discovered at around 4:45 p.m. The second two victims were recovered at 8:30 p.m. and 9 p.m.
Following the recovery of the remains, activity at the scene halted for the night. The investigation resumed at 9 a.m. this morning.
The State Patrol has never lost three employees in a simultaneous event, either on or off-duty.
"Right now, our priority is supporting the co-workers of Anne, Gary and Kristopher," Batiste said. "They are understandably devastated by this tragedy and we have no higher priority than helping them get through this difficult time."
The residence on Falcon Ridge Drive north of Zillah was completely destroyed. The fire investigation will be handled by local fire officials, the Yakima County Sheriff's Office and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.
The State Patrol's Crime Scene Response Team, working out of the agency's Crime Lab, will be providing assistance in gathering forensic evidence at the scene.
Anne Miller-Hewitt held the rank of Communications Officer 4, the civilian equivalent of lieutenant. She led the State Patrol's 911 center in Wenatchee, supervising 15 of the agency's dispatchers. She was hired in 1987, and promoted to her present rank in 2007.
Trooper Gary Miller, 55, was hired in 1989 and was commissioned in 1990. He had been assigned to the agency's Sunnyside detachment area since that time.
Trooper Kristopher Sperry, 30, was hired in 2008 and graduated with the 97th Trooper Basic Class in June 2010. His hometown was Eureka, Mont. While in the Academy he received the top fitness award as the most physically fit cadet in his class. Sperry was living with the Millers while his own home was being built.