EUREKA – A man suspected in the 1986 disappearance and murder of a 13-year-old girl in Tacoma, Wash., was arrested on Thursday. Illinois State Police assisted Tacoma Police in arresting the man at the Woodridge Apartment complex on Bullock Street on the east side of town.
According to Woodford County jail officials, Robert D. Washburn, 60, was jailed on a Washington State fugitive warrant stemming from the 1986 case. He is being held without bond and no hearing for extradition was scheduled as of Thursday night.
According to Loretta Cool, a public information officer with the Tacoma Police Department, there has been an out-of-state arrest in the case and the suspect was expected to be transported to Washington State on Monday to face prosecution. When that occurs, officials will discuss the case in more detail then.
“I think everybody who has been involved with this over the years is extremely happy that it’s been solved,” said Cool.
According to police, Jennifer Bastian left her home about 2:30 p.m. Aug. 4, 1986, in Tacoma. She rode her bike to Point Defiance Park to train for an upcoming bike tour of the San Juan Islands. She left a note saying she would be back by 6:30 p.m., but she never returned home. Witnesses reported seeing her at the park as late as 6 p.m. and a massive search centered on the park. Her body was found three and a half weeks later, on Aug. 28, 1986, in a wooded area nearby. The teen’s body was hidden beneath brush. Her bike was nearby. She’d been strangled.
"The case remains an open and ongoing investigation," said Illinois State Police Lt. Matt Boerwinkle in a news release.
Bastian’s family could not be reached for comment.
According to Nichol Brown, a neighbor of Washburn’s at Woodridge, he would usually gave a hello when he saw her and even came down and chatted occasionally with a group of neighbors that regularly gather in the courtyard of the Woodridge housing complex where they all live.
“He never stayed long, and he never had company,” she said except occasional visits from a few neighbors.
She added Washburn was a live-in caregiver for his 22-year-old disabled daughter. Brown noted he mentioned having worked for Boeing when he lived in Washington State, but she did not believe he worked anywhere since coming to Illinois. She estimated he had lived in Eureka about nine years.
“He was a full-time caretaker,” Brown said. “He would sometimes take his daughter out to go shopping at the Et Cetera Shop. That’s about the only time we saw her come outside.”
Brown and other neighbors asked if there was any danger to them and officers said no, but also told her they “would not be seeing (Washburn) for a long time.” Officers asked Brown and another neighbor to stay with Washburn’s daughter until the daughter’s grandmother, who lives out of town, could come pick her up.
According to Brown, authorities searched Washburn’s truck and she saw them pull out several blankets and what she thought might be a handgun. She added they had heard several rumors about the case.
Knowing the details of the murder caused added concern among Washburn’s Woodridge neighbors. Brown stated a 12-year-old girl lives in the housing complex and had visited Washburn.
“We all were concerned for her,” said Brown said.
She noted the girl and her mother were questioned by authorities when she came home from school on Thursday.
One of the small odd behaviors Brown and other neighbors noted about Washburn was he always kept his truck covered with a tarp.
“It did not matter if the weather was nice or not,” Brown said. “He took the tarp off to drive it and put it back on as soon as he got back.”
News of an arrest overwhelmed those who knew the girl.
James Peterson went to school with Bastian and lived in the same neighborhood. He recalled her being dedicated to training bike rides and asking if he and his friends wanted to join around the time she disappeared.
“I never saw her again,” he commented.
Hearing about the arrest brought up a lot of emotions and memories.
“After all this time, I was just floored,” said Peterson. “This was something I never thought I’d see the day it would happen.”
The Tacoma News Tribune reported that the girl's her mother, Pattie Bastian, told the newspaper in 2013: “Not a day goes by that we do not think of her. She’s our little girl.”
Kelly Rosati lived across the street from the Bastians and remembers the fear and heartbreak after the child went missing.
“Everybody remembers this. It was huge,” said Rosati as she fought through tears.
She added the neighborhood kids all looked up to Bastian. Her death rocked the neighborhood and instilled a sense of fear that still bubbles up when Rosati sees the Bastians' home.
According to Rosati, she’s relieved someone was arrested in the girl's death and hopes it brings closure to her family.
“I think of everybody worrying if the person is still out there, hurting anyone else and not having an answer,” said Rosati. “I’m glad there’s justice for Jennifer and her family.”
Meanwhile, the apartment complex was starting to get back to normal on Friday, although Brown mentioned it will take time to get past the incident.
“Everybody out here knows each other. We’re our own little neighborhood,” Brown said. “You can see everything that goes on in the parking lot from every apartment. We all are in shock out here.”
Pantagraph reporter Roger Miller and News-Tribune reporter Stacia Green both contributed to this story.