‘So old and small and weak’: Family of girl killed in 1986 get first look at accused killer

TACOMA, Wash. – The Bastian family got their first in-person look at the man police say murdered their daughter 32 years ago.

On Thursday, Pierce County prosecutors charged Robert Washburn with first-degree murder, claiming he planned the murder of 13-year-old Jennifer Bastian in 1986.

Jennifer’s family, including some of her childhood friends, packed the courtroom to look Washburn in the face for themselves.

“I never expected this to happen,” said Jennifer’s sister, Theresa Bastian. “I certainly didn’t expect the person who committed this crime to seem so old and small and weak. It’s definitely not what I pictured.”

Only a few weeks ago Tacoma police announced Washburn had been arrested in Illinois after investigators say DNA tied him to the murder.

“I was 15 when this happened. This, you know, colored my entire life, my entire adult life,” said Theresa.

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.

“He’s here, he’s off the streets and he can’t hurt anybody else,” said Jennifer's mother, Pattie Bastian.

The Bastian family was quiet and reserved in the court gallery, holding each other as the man accused of murdering Jennifer faced a judge.

On Thursday, prosecutors added aggravators of sexual motivation and deliberate cruelty to the charge of first-degree murder, but prosecutors say this isn’t a death penalty case.

“We want to send the message that we’re never going to give up and we want the bad guys to know we’re never going to give up and we want the community to know we’re never going to give up,” said Pierce County Prosecutor Mark Lindquist.

If convicted, the 60-year-old Washburn could spend the rest of his life in jail.

The Bastian family says they have no interest seeking the death penalty.

“Nothing is going to bring Jennifer back and I certainly don’t want to be responsible for anybody else’s life,” said Pattie.

The state asked for high bail and the judge set it at $5 million.

Jennifer’s murder first stunned the Tacoma community when it happened in 1986 – and they were again stunned recently when police say they finally found the man responsible. Now the victim’s family hopes justice finally comes home for her.

“We trust and respect the prosecutor’s decision and we know they would not charge if they didn’t have the evidence to convict,” Theresa said.