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Prosecuting Attorney

Posted on: May 24, 2018

Man Charged with 1986 Murder of Jennifer Bastian

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TACOMA, WA – Today, Pierce County Prosecutor Mark Lindquist will arraign Robert Dwane Washburn for the 1986 cold-case murder of 13-year old Jennifer Bastian. Washburn, 60, has been charged with premeditated murder in the first degree. 

“Today, we amended the complaint to include aggravating factors of sexual motivation and deliberate cruelty. This will allow us to seek an exceptional sentence,” said Prosecutor Lindquist. “Our goal is to hold the defendant fully accountable.”

On August 4, 1986, Jennifer was reported missing by her parents. They told police their daughter was an avid cyclist and left home early that day to ride her bicycle around Five Mile Drive at Point Defiance Park. Tacoma Police closed off the park and did an extensive search, but found no sign of the girl.

On August 28, 1986, Jennifer’s body was found after officers received reports of a strong odor along Five Mile Drive. The Green River Task Force was called in to assist because of their experience processing outdoor crime scenes. According to investigators, the location where her body was found appeared to have been prepared before she was brought there.

In 2011, a cold case team was formed to include the Pierce County Prosecutor’s Office, the Tacoma Police Department, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation. TPD Detective Gene Miller supervised the team. He retired in 2013 and joined the Prosecutor’s Office as an investigator.

“Gene never gave up on the Bastian case and neither did his former colleagues at the Tacoma Police Department,” said Lindquist. “This case is one of the reasons we formed a cold case team in 2011, and this case is one of our biggest successes.”

In November 2013, the Washington State Patrol Crime Lab examined the swimsuit Jennifer was wearing the day she disappeared. Semen was found in the crotch area of the swimsuit and a male DNA profile was developed. Searches of the state and national databases yielded no match.

In April 2016, a list of persons of interest was created and investigators set out to collect DNA from everyone on the list. On March 6, 2017, the FBI contacted Robert Washburn at his home in Illinois. Washburn voluntarily gave a DNA sample.

On May 3, 2018, the Washington State Patrol Crime Lab informed Tacoma Police a DNA match with Washburn was found from semen in Jennifer’s swimsuit.

The estimated probability of a matching profile is 1 in 57 trillion.

Washburn was found living in Eureka, Illinois. Early this month he was arrested and waived extradition. He arrived back to Washington state late last night and was booked into the Pierce County Jail.

Charges are only allegations and a person is presumed innocent unless he or she is proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

For more information, please contact James Lynch at (253) 798-6265, jlynch@co.pierce.wa.us.

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