Records show how investigators think Bernard Miller wound his way through Collingswood, allegedly breaking into three homes, attacking a couple, and trying to burn their home down with them inside.
By Matt Skoufalos | February 28, 2020
A homeless man accused of committing multiple burglaries, attempted murder, and arson over two days in Collingswood was arrested by police Thursday at a Camden City shelter.
Thirty-six-year-old Bernard Miller, whose last known address was in Sicklerville, was identified by detectives thanks to surveillance cameras in the homes and neighborhoods he targeted, as well as those in the shelter where he was staying.
The first incident was reported just before 11 a.m. February 22, when a Collingswood resident returned to her home in the 400 block of Virginia Avenue to find an intruder within.
According to a statement from the Camden County Prosecutor’s Office, the man allegedly told the homeowner to get on the ground before eventually leaving. Surveillance cameras on the property captured photos of the suspect wearing a distinctive yellow and black Ethik Clothing jacket, which was to be a critical identifier in the subsequent crimes.
Detectives then discovered a video they believe depicts the same man entering the CVS on the White Horse Pike not long after the burglary on Virginia Avenue.
Around 12:30 p.m. that same day, Miller allegedly broke into a home in the 400 block of Champion Avenue in Collingswood, where he stole silver rings and bracelets, a gold necklace, and food.
In that incident, his image was captured on a Ring doorbell camera, again wearing the same Ethik jacket visible in the other break-in.
The next afternoon, Miller again allegedly attempted to burglarize a Collingswood home during the daylight hours, reportedly throwing a rock through the rear window of a home on Crestmont Terrace, then standing on a pallet to attempt to gain entry into the property.
At the smaller unit next door, a resident heard the commotion, and thought it was a contractor working on her parents’ property. She emerged from her home to find Miller allegedly wandering around outside, and asked if he needed any water, according to police records.
Police reports said that Miller then allegedly entered the residence, donned gloves and a mask, and displayed what the woman described as a Swiss Army knife. Her boyfriend attempted to fight him off, but was stabbed multiple times in the head, neck, face, and stomach.
Do you recognize this man? We've collected more surveillance footage of the person who broke into two Collingswood homes Feb. 22. He's seen putting on a black hat, gloves and mask before one of the burglaries. Send tips to firstname.lastname@example.org. https://t.co/HNixKq5x7X pic.twitter.com/g8IZBFpjE1
— Camden Co Prosecutor (@CamdenCoPros) February 26, 2020
According to the reports, Miller allegedly dragged her boyfriend to the bathroom and tied him up, and then bound her hands and feet with a cord. He allegedly stole the man’s cell phone and wallet, and repeatedly asked where her money was.
Then he allegedly lit multiple rolls of toilet paper on fire and placed them throughout the home in an attempt to burn it down.
The woman managed to wriggle out of the restraints and flee, calling 9-1-1. Collingswood first responders arrived shortly thereafter, pulled her boyfriend out of the burning home, and then evacuated him to the trauma unit at Cooper University Hospital, where he has spent the past week fighting for his life.
Miller was eventually identified by detectives through sign-in logs and surveillance photos at a Camden City homeless shelter, where he was allegedly seen removing the Ethik jacket shown in the earlier burglaries from a black-and-yellow backpack.
Survivors thank first responders for their help
Sandy Hughes, into whose Crestmont Terrace home Miller first attempted to force his way inside Sunday, said she was grateful to all the law enforcement professionals and first responders who came to her family’s aid.
“They did a good job getting someone into custody, did a good job getting [the stabbing victim] out of the house,” Hughes said. “It was very much appreciated.”
The man Miller assaulted is stable, but still in intensive care at Cooper University Hospital, Hughes said.
“He was hurt really badly,” she said.
“He’s making forward progress, but he’s got a long way to go.”
Hughes said that her daughter, who was tied up and robbed in the invasion, is out of the hospital and “doing as well as can be expected.”
She expects to return to her work as a youth librarian Monday.
“She’s worried about missing her activities,” Hughes said.
Most of all, Hughes said her family appreciates all the goodwill of the Collingswood community, and wants everyone to know they’re recovering fine.
While the young couple rebuilds, the family of the stabbing victim has organized a GoFundMe campaign to help address his financial needs.
“Thank you all for you support,” wrote its organizer, Darcy Hamlin, who identified herself as the victim’s mother.
“I know you are sharing this, and we’ve received wonderful messages and offers to do more,” Hamlin wrote.
“We don’t know what the future holds, but we do know that despite this evil event, there are truly good people in the world.”