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‘Justice is Jenny’s’: Family of slain Tacoma child reacts to arrest in 32-year-old case

TACOMA, Wash. – We’re hearing for the very first time from the family of Jennifer Bastian since the Tacoma Police Department arrested the young girl’s alleged killer.

Bastian was 13-years-old when police say she was found murdered in Point Defiance Park 32-years ago. Investigators say her cold case was recently cracked wide open thanks to DNA evidence.

“Thank you for all coming today,” said Jennifer’s mother Pattie Bastian during a Monday afternoon press conference at Tacoma Police headquarters. "And most importantly thank you for never letting us feel alone over the past 32 years."

Jennifer’s family wasn’t alone but rather flanked by detectives current and retired, the Bastian family never gave up hope her killer would be found.

“Because of all of you, we have all survived what a family should never have to,” said Pattie.

Last week, police in Illinois arrested 60-year-old Robert Washburn, who was charged in Pierce County Monday with murder in the case.

“I knew that Pattie knew this day would eventually come,” said Tacoma Police Chief Donald Ramsdell. “She never lost hope that someday the perpetrator who took her daughter’s life would be brought to justice.”

In a twist of fate back in 1986, police say, Washburn first called in a tip about the murder of another Tacoma girl, 12-year-old Michella Welch, whose body was found three months before Bastian disappeared. He was never arrested but his tip put Washburn on detectives' radar.

While DNA later proved Welch and Bastian’s killer were not the same person, police say DNA submitted voluntarily by Washburn matched what investigators found on Bastian’s clothing. Now Washburn has been charged with Bastian’s murder.

“For a lot of us, our childhood ended that day,” said Ana Perera, who says Jennifer was her friend before she was killed.

Many of Jennifer’s friends remember the murder like it was yesterday – but they also remember Jennifer as she was, a young girl full of love and spirit.

“Tacoma, the North End,” said Stephanie Hatch, “It was scary time.”

“I distinctly remember her coming up and asking if anybody wanted to go (bike) riding with her,” said James Peterson. “And being teenage boys we just kind of ignored her and we never saw her again.”

The Pierce County prosecutor says he waived his right to an extradition hearing and could face a Pierce County judge before June.

“We were overwhelmed by this 32 years ago and continue to be overwhelmed today,” said Pattie. “We never gave up on wanting justice, Tacoma never gave up on wanting justice for Jenny and now, after all this time, justice is Jenny’s.”

Tacoma police say the Bastian case is still under investigation – they’re asking anyone with information regarding Washburn to come forward with any new details.