Arrest Made 30 Years Later: 'Justice Is Jenni’s'

Robert D. Washburn arrested in 1986 murder of 13-year-old Jennifer Bastian in Tacoma, Wash.
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted May 15, 2018 12:15 PM CDT
Robert D. Washburn   (Woodford County Jail, via News Tribune)

(Newser) – Pattie Bastian waited more than 30 years for some kind of closure on her young daughter's death—and now, finally, "justice is Jenni's." In what the News Tribune calls "one of the most heartbreaking" cases in the history of Tacoma, Wash., 60-year-old Robert D. Washburn was arrested Thursday and charged with the murder of 13-year-old Jennifer Bastian, who disappeared during a bike ride in a local park on Aug. 4, 1986. Jennifer's body was found more than three weeks later in what KOMO describes as a "remote area" of Point Defiance Park, and evidence showed she'd been sexually assaulted and strangled. The case soon went cold—until DNA evidence that emerged in 2013 took investigators in a new direction.

Even though DNA retrieved from Jennifer's bathing suit didn't initially find a match in national and state registries, there were 2,300 names listed in Jennifer's case paperwork—and investigators decided to ask those who didn't have DNA on file to voluntarily submit to testing. Washburn—who'd once called in a tip on Welch's case and had since moved to Illinois—was one of those names, and in March 2017 he submitted a sample; a match was made and he was arrested in Eureka. "This is the best feeling yet," one of the original detectives who worked on the case tells KOMO. Jennifer's mother told reporters Monday: "We never gave up on wanting justice for Jenni. Tacoma never gave up wanting justice for Jenni. And now, after all this time, justice is Jenni's." Washburn, who had no previous criminal record, will be arraigned May 21.

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