After arrest, police search home in Lakewood as part of 32-year-old Tacoma murder case

LAKEWOOD, Wash. -- A car blocked quiet Crescent Lane Drive in Lakewood as Tacoma police searched a home for evidence connected to the murder of 12-year-old Michella Welch in 1986.

“Never expected this, put it that way,” said neighbor Cindy Peterson.

She echoes how everyone here feels after learning their neighbor is accused in such a horrific case.

“This monster lives right next door to us, if that’s who has done this,” said Peterson.

Peterson says the suspect has lived here for more than a decade, has a wife and two teenage girls.

“He’s always friendly. We’ve been neighbors for many years. I’d talk to him when we get the mail, talk out in the street,” said Peterson.

Q13 News typically does not name suspects until they have been charged with a crime. The suspect is this case is expected to be arraigned in court Thursday, and police plan to have a news conference on the case at 2 p.m. Friday.

Peterson says most people who have lived in the South Sound were rocked by the murders of Michella and 13-year-old Jenny Bastian that same summer.

“These cases stunned the city in 1986. It changed the way that parents viewed the world,” said Pierce County Prosecutor Mark Lindquist.

Tracy Frazier was a friend of Bastian and lived near Michella; she remembers the impact the murders had on families that year.

“All of us kids were scared, couldn’t go nowhere, our parents didn’t want us out, because we didn’t know who these people were,” said Frazier.

More than 30 years later, she still gets emotional, wiping tears. Frazier says she’s been haunted by the murder of her friend and Michella, and on Wednesday she drove here to get some peace.

“Brings a big relief, just to see closure for me,” said Frazier.

Detectives long believed the two cases were linked, but earlier this year, police said, the DNA that helped find the suspect in Bastian’s death was not the same as the DNA of the killer in Michella's case.

The suspect in Jenny Bastian's death, Robert Washburn, pleaded not guilty in May to her murder. He awaits trial in the Pierce County Jail.

Today, people living on this street hope policy activity here may mean that Welch’s cold case will finally be solved too.