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Suspect in 1986 murder of Tacoma’s Jenny Bastian extradited from Illinois to Pierce County Jail

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TACOMA, Wash. — Robert Washburn, the man charged with murder in the 1986 death of Tacoma teenager Jennifer Bastian, was extradited from Illinois to Pierce County on Wednesday.

Washburn’s name now appears on the Pierce County Jail roster.

A background search shows that the 60-year-old Washburn, who has been living in Illinois for years, had lived in North Tacoma near Bastian and near where her body was found at the time of the killing.

According to charging documents, Washburn had long been a suspect based on a tip he gave to police related to the murder of 12-year-old Michella Welch in Tacoma that same year. At one point, detectives suspected the killings were tied together, but they later said they didn’t think they were after all.

Washburn called police in May of 1986 to say he’d seen a man fitting the suspect description in Welch’s case while jogging on Five Mile Drive in Pt. Defiance Park, where Bastian’s body was found. Detectives didn’t interview him until December. He told them he jogged in the park as often as twice a day, and said something about smelling a foul odor and also something about being in the park when it was cordoned off for the investigation into Bastian’s death.

Fast forward to 2013, when the Washington State Patrol crime lab re-examined Bastian’s clothing and found DNA evidence. They couldn’t match it to any state or national databases, but did create a list of suspects to attempt DNA matching with.

Washburn was on the list, and last March, the FBI contacted him and he agreed to a DNA swab. The report came back last week pointing to Washburn, with the DNA test having a 1 in 57 trillion probability that it could match an unrelated person in the U.S. population.


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