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.
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.”
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.
“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.”