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Suspect arrested in 1986 cold case murder of Tacoma’s Michella Welch

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TACOMA -- Tacoma police arrested a suspect in the 1986 murder of 12-year-old Michella Welch.

The Tacoma Police Department announced the arrest Wednesday saying the suspect is in custody and awaiting arraignment. That person has not yet been identified.

Michella and her two younger sisters were visiting Puget Park on N. Proctor on March 26, 1986. Michella left the park to get lunch for her sisters. By the time she returned, her sisters had gone to a nearby business to use the bathroom.

When Michella's sister's returned to their park around 1:00 p.m. that day, she had disappeared. All that was left behind was her bike and lunch.

Authorities searched for Michella and found her body several hours later in a nearby gulch.

Detectives said a news conference would be held soon to provide more details about the arrest.

Another 1986 cold case

Earlier this year, Tacoma police announced they had solved another child murder case from the same year. Jennifer Bastian was 13-years-old when police say she was found murdered in Point Defiance Park 32-years ago. Investigators said her cold case was recently cracked wide open thanks to DNA evidence.

Police in Illinois arrested 60-year-old Robert Washburn, who was charged in Pierce County with murder in the Bastian case.

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.

This is a developing story and will be updated.

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