Pattie needed to get her mind off Jennifer’s disappearance on the 28th day. To keep herself occupied, she chose to paint the dining room. The detective arrived at that point. He snatched the paint roller from her grip and motioned her to take a seat. He then informed her that they had located Jennifer. A group of joggers discovered her in an overgrown area along a pathway. Jennifer Bastian’s bike had been buried by fern leaves, and her body had been discovered lower down in an igloo of wood and leaves. She had been strangled and sexually assaulted. After years of working on these cases, Detective Lindsey Wade retired from the force in 2018. She provided the last round of DNA samples, a total of 18, before she left. After 25 days, she received a call from the detective who had taken her job, informing her that they had found a DNA match for 60-year-old Robert Washburn. He was apprehended in his residence.
Michella Welch, 12, and Jennifer Bastian, 13, were brutally murdered in Tacoma, Washington, in 1986, and it was initially assumed that they were killed by the same individual. After all, they not only happened within five months of one another, as depicted in ‘Dateline: Evil Was Watching,’ but they also had other similar horrific features, including indicators of sexual assault.
However, that was not the case; while Gary Hartman was to blame for the first, Robert Washburn was to blame for Jennifer’s untimely death — so let’s learn more about the latter now, shall we?
Who is Robert Washburn, and Where Did He Come From?
Robert Dwane Washburn, born in 1958, was a 28-year-old Pierce County native who lived about two miles from Point Defiance Park when the incident occurred on August 4, 1986. According to reports, the then-mechanic was added to the suspect list when he told officials he frequently jogged near the woods/crime scene, but he was never a hot lead.
This could be due to his lack of severe criminal history, he was detained but not punished for car prowling and trespassing in the 1990s or because he later relocated to Skagit County.
Robert’s relocation to a new region (sometime after his second divorce) appeared to have little bearing on Jennifer’s situation, especially as he eventually relocated to Eureka, Illinois. Furthermore, he allegedly stopped working after his final shift in the late 2000s to be the sole caretaker of his crippled daughter, to whom he looked to be sincerely dedicated.
However, things changed in March 2017, when the FBI knocked on his door to inquire about the cold case after discovering new DNA evidence more than three decades later, and he gladly handed them a sample.
What Happened to Robert Washburn and Where Is She Now?
In May 2018, DNA tests revealed an incontrovertible link between Robert Washburn and Jennifer Bastian’s 1986 rape and homicide, resulting in his arrest and charges. He was then extradited to Washington, where a Pierce County judge indicted him in court and set his bail at $5 million.
Robert pleaded guilty to first-degree murder in January 2019, and received the maximum sentence of 26 1/2 years in prison – the sole condition was that he divulge what he’d done to Jennifer.
In court, Robert didn’t say much other than “yes” or “no” while keeping his head down, but he did submit a written statement that the judge read aloud. Apart from stating that he wanted to plead guilty from the outset to avoid the stress of a trial, whether, before a judge or a jury, he said that he regrets his acts and the impact they caused.
Robert had written, as agreed, “I strangled her until she died.” “I am heartbroken at Jennifer’s death.” As a result, he is currently detained at the minimum-medium security Airway Heights Corrections Center, where he will spend the rest of his natural life.