Public Safety

Benton County man denied involvement in girlfriend's death, told investigators he was attacked by masked men

David C. Miller
David C. Miller

A Benton County man told investigators he didn’t know anything about a woman found dead outside of his mobile home on Oct. 25, 2015, and instead, claimed he was taken hostage in the woods, which he couldn’t identify, by two men wearing masks and clad in camouflage.

David C. Miller, 32, who was interviewed at Mercy Hospital on Oct. 25, told investigators one of the unknown men attacked him with a hatchet, and then put a white plastic smoke bomb with a fuse in his jacket pocket, Iowa Division Criminal Investigation Special Agent Ryan Herman testified Wednesday during Miller’s trial in Benton County District Court. Miller was being treated for a hand laceration and head wound at the time.

Miller told the agents one of the masked men told him “you’re mine now,” when he put the bomb in his pocket.

Miller is on trial this week for first-degree murder in the fatal stabbing and strangulation of Miller’s girlfriend, Sabrina Hustad Janish, at Miller’s home, 3257 59th Street Trail, north of Shellsburg in rural Benton County.

The Benton County Sheriff’s Office took a report of a truck stolen from a home on 59th Street Trail around 4 a.m. Oct. 25. The victims told deputies they saw a man take the truck and head south. The truck was later found crashed into construction equipment about 1.5 miles away.

Near the same time, another truck was reported as stolen, and then Linn County deputies took a report of a man who had a head wound was walking along Lewis Bottoms Road, two miles east of where the first truck was crashed.

Herman said the man, who was later identified as Miller and only wearing his underwear, was taken to Mercy Hospital in Cedar Rapids and he and another agent interviewed him while medical staff treated his head wound and lacerations on his left hand.


Herman testified Miller also told the investigators that there were many people out in the woods when he was attacked, who were firing guns at each other and were driving vehicles and some were riding horses during the fighting. But Miller told the agents he got his head wound when he fell down a culvert.

Herman also testified about the crime scene and the jury viewed photos of the victim’s body and a knife in a pool of blood, covered up by a large pillow, in the living room of the mobile home. Herman said there were items knocked over it the living room, as if a struggle had taken place.

Herman said there also was a bloody shoe or boot print on a nylon lunch bag, just inside the entry way. The shoe had a “chevron” or triangle shape on its sole.

Janish’s body was found face down, near the steps of front door to the mobile home, Herman said. She had stab wounds to her face, neck and upper body, along with other scrapes, cuts and defensive wounds to her hands, he said.

The trial, which started Monday, will continue Thursday and is expected to go into next week.


Give us feedback

We value your trust and work hard to provide fair, accurate coverage. If you have found an error or omission in our reporting, tell us here.

Or if you have a story idea we should look into? Tell us here.