Washburn pleads guilty to Jenni Bastian’s murder, sentenced to over 25 years

TACOMA, Wash. – More than 25 years behind bars, that’s how long 61-year-old Robert Washburn will spend in prison for the brutal murder of Jenni Bastian more than 30 years ago.

Washburn pleaded guilty to first degree murder Friday afternoon in the case that forever changed the Tacoma community.

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

The sentencing was a long time coming not only for the Bastian family but also for an entire community that had been turned upside down by Jenni’s murder.

“Thirty-two years, five months and 11 days,” Jenni’s mother Pattie said in open court. “Some would say time flies, as if that would imply a normal life.

Pattie and many other family members got to confront for the first time the man who admitted to killing her daughter, 13-year-old Jenni, in the summer of 1986.

“It’s another day on a roller coaster,” said Pattie. “That has been a roller coaster since May 8, but there’s a certain amount of exhaling that went on in that courtroom.”

May 8, 2018 was the day Tacoma police detailed the shocking turn of events in a press conference. The more than 30-year old cold case of Jenni’s murder had been solved through tireless police work and DNA technology.

“It’s just mind boggling that he went to the park on August 4 and decided, ‘I’m going to kill a child,’” said Pattie.

In the summer of ‘86, Jenni had ridden her bike to Point Defiance to train for a race.

In court Friday, Washburn plead guilty to taking Jenni by the arm into the woods and strangling her, leaving her body to be found days later.

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.

Washburn sat in court Friday without looking at the Bastian family – the judge read his apology.

For Jenni’s family closure has been elusive.

“After 32 years all of this activity and uncertainty comes into your life it’s kind of the opposite of closure,” said Jenni’s sister, Theresa. “So, perhaps after today that will happen, but it hasn’t happened yet.”

The crime 30 years ago not only stunned the Bastian family, but significantly impacted the Tacoma community. But Friday, Jenni’s family believes justice has been served.

“You have made a horribly significance to all of us and now we hope the rest of your life is as horrible as what you have caused us,” said Pattie during open court. “Thanks to the court here, today justice for Jenni will be done.”

Washburn will spend almost as much time behind bars as Jenni’s family was forced to wait for justice. Washburn was sentenced to 340 months in prison.

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