Over 30 years later, a man accused of killing a Washington girl in 1986 is behind bars after authorities obtained a DNA match.
The News Tribune reports that police arrested Robert D. Washburn, 60, of Eureka, Illinois, on Thursday and charged him in connection with the death of 13-year-old Jennifer Bastian. On August 4, 1986, Jennifer disappeared while riding her bicycle in the Point Defiance Park area of Tacoma. Weeks later, authorities found her lifeless body off of Five Mile Drive in a secluded, wooded area.
Tacoma police didn’t provide much information about the suspect. The Illinois State Police helped capture Washburn. They’re holding him for extradition back to Pierce County, Washington. Authorities plan to discuss the incident further once the suspect is back in Washington, which likely will not happen until Monday at the latest.
At the time Jennifer disappeared, Washburn reportedly lived less than five miles away from Point Defiance Park. On the day she vanished, the young girl asked her father if she could ride her Schwinn bicycle through the park, in anticipation of an upcoming bike tour in San Juan Islands she planned to attend. Hours later, when she failed to return home, Jennifer’s parents called police.
Authorities interviewed two people who saw a girl on a bicycle close to Five Mile Road. They indicated a young girl in her early teens got off of her bike, took her helmet off, drank water, and talked about an upcoming bike tour. However, no suspects were identified.
On August 26, 1986, a jogger smelled a foul odor coming from the woods while jogging around Five Mile Road near Commencement Bay. Upon inspecting the area, the jogger found human remains. The remains were later determined to be of Jennifer Bastian. She’d been strangled to death.
Police initially thought another girl at the time, 12-year-old Michella Welch, was murdered by the same person who killed Jennifer. DNA testing in recent years determined that the deaths were unrelated. Welch’s case remains unsolved.
Washburn’s arrest occurred on the same day police released a press release indicating they had a DNA match on the remains of 10-year-old Lindsey Baum, who disappeared in McCleary, Washington, in 2009, while waking home after visiting a friend.
The story is still developing. Check back with CrimeOnline as additional details become available.
[Feature Photo: Jennifer Bastian and Robert Washburn/Police Handout]