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Classmate, friend emotional after arrest in 30-year-old murder of Tacoma’s Jennifer Bastian

TACOMA, Wash. -- People in Tacoma who knew Jennifer Bastian say the news of an arrest in her 30-year-old cold-case murder is like opening up a fresh wound.

She was sexually assaulted and killed at Tacoma’s Point Defiance Park in 1986.  On Thursday, the Tacoma Police Department says it found the man they believe killed the young girl.

“Whenever we would go to one another’s house, we would meet right in the middle,” said Jenny’s former friend Stephanie Hatch.

Hatch walks the same path she did more than 30 years ago to see her friend Jenny.  She carries with her memories of Jenny in her arms.

“She wrote on the back, ‘Hi ya! How’s it going? Fine here, Jenny, seventh grade,'" said Hatch,  reading the message Jenny wrote to Stephanie on the back of Jenny’s seventh-grade school photo.

Classmate James Peterson relives the last time he saw her.

“I distinctively remember Jennifer riding up and asking if we wanted to go riding with her and, being teenage boys, we all kind of ignored her, then we never saw her again,” said Peterson.

It was August 4, 1986.

“We went out every day scouring the vacant lots trying to find her,” said Peterson.

The pain is so raw for Stephanie that she won’t come  to Point Defiance Park where Jenny’s body was found.

“We were robbed of our innocence.  We were scared after the murder of Welch and then Jenny in Tacoma, it was a scary time,” said Hatch.

In 2013, after decades of silence in the investigation, Jenny’s mother, Pattie Bastian, made a plea for anyone to come forward with information, reminding everyone of her sweet daughter.

“She was always in motion, she was active, all about fun,” said Bastian in an interview with Q13 News in 2013.

Just two years ago, a potential break came in the case.  New computer-generated sketches of a possible suspect.  Then, Thursday, bittersweet news that police in Illinois had someone in custody.

“It’s been a long time coming and there is a lot of relief and emotion,” said Peterson.

“I cried, I shook uncontrollably. I had goosebumps.  Some sense of feeling like Jenny’s finally got some justice,” said Hatch.

Jenny’s sister posted on Facebook a “thank you” message to everyone who still remembers her sister.

The suspect in this case has not yet been charged, so Q13 News is not releasing his name.