Police arrest Illinois man in girl's 1986 cold case murder in Washington state

An Illinois man has been arrested in the cold case rape and murder of a 13-year-old girl in Washington state more than 30 years ago, according to reports.

Jennifer Bastian, who was last seen riding her new 18-speed Schwinn bicycle in a local park in Tacoma on Aug 4, 1986, had been strangled, local media reported. Police found her body near a wooded trail in the park 24 days later.

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Jennifer Bastian's seventh grade class yearbook.  (Q13 Fox)

The suspect was identified Thursday as Robert Washburn, 60, of Eureka, Ill., according to the Tacoma News Tribune. He is a former Tacoma resident, who lived near the park at the time of the murder.

“I think everybody who has been involved with this over the years is extremely happy that it’s been solved,” Tacoma police spokeswoman Loretta Cool said, according to the paper.

“Not a day goes by that we don’t think of her,” Patti Bastian, Jennifer’s mother, told the newspaper in 2013. “She’s our little girl.”

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Stephanie Hatch was friends with Jennifer Bastian 32 years ago. She was killed a few month before Jennifer was found dead. Police say there is no connection to the killings.  (Q13 Fox)

For years, police believed the man who killed Jennifer also raped and killed 12-year-old Michella Welch in March 1986 in another North End Tacoma park, the Sky Valley Chronicle in Monroe, Wash., reported.

But police ruled out a connection in 2016 when they released composite sketches of a male suspect in each case. Welch's murder is still unsolved.

James Peterson, one of Jennifer’s former classmates, told Q13 Fox in Seattle that he last saw Jennifer the day she disappeared.

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Tacoma police released this composite sketch of 13-year-old Jennfier Bastian's killer in 2016.  (Q13 Fox)

“I distinctively remember Jennifer riding up and asking if we wanted to go riding with her and, being teenage boys, we all kind of ignored her,” he said. “Then, we never saw her again.”