DNA leads to arrest in a second Washington State cold case involving a murdered young girl

Cops in Tacoma, Wash., attempted for years to solve the murders of two young girls who were last seen riding bicycles 32 years ago.

Now, within the past six weeks and with the aid of DNA evidence, they have announced separate arrests in connection with the two homicides, reports say.

Twelve-year-old Michella Walsh and 13-year-old Jennifer Bastian were vibrant girls when they killed in two neighborhood parks within a five-month span in 1986. They had also been raped.

On Friday, Gary Hartman, 66, of Lakewood, was charged with Michella's murder, Q13 Fox reported. He worked as a nurse specialist at a psychiatric hospital.


In May, Robert Washburn, 60, of Eureka, Ill., was charged with Jennifer's murder, according to reports.

Investigators tapped public genealogy databases to identify potential suspects in the two killings, according Tacoma police and The News Tribune in Tacoma.

Tacoma Police Chief Don Ramsdell said solving both cases in a short span of time was “extraordinary,” according to the paper.

For years investigators believed the same person killed the two girls. DNA evidence ruled out a connection in 2016.

Tacoma police obtained Hartman’s DNA recently when he used a napkin to wipe his mouth at a restaurant, Q13 reported. A detective who was tailing Hartman seized the napkin as evidence.

KING-TV spoke to Nichola Eby, Michella’s sister, who was 9 in 1986.

“You think 32 years later, you should be OK, but it’s not,” Eby said. “It’s still real all the time.”