TACOMA, Wash. — After more than 32 years, Robert Washburn confessed to the murder of Jennifer Bastian.
His guilty plea ends a case that left the city in Tacoma in shock and Bastian’s family searching for answers for decades in the 13-year-old’s rape and murder.
“For us, normalcy disappeared on Aug. 4, the day you decided, Washburn, would be a good day to savagely murder our 13-year-old-girl,” Bastian's mother, Patty, said during a statement in court.
Bastian vanished in Point Defiance park while riding her bike. Her body was found days later at a site police say Washburn prepared before raping and murdering her.
Washburn had been a person of interest in the case since 1986, but investigators never had direct evidence linking him to Bastian’s death until May of last year, when Tacoma police asked him for, and got, a DNA sample.
It matched DNA left at the crime scene, and Washburn was arrested at his home in Eureka, Illinois.
Patty Bastian and Jennifer Bastian's older sister, Theresa, confronted Washburn in court after he entered his guilty plea.
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“Not a day went by in a normal way,” Patty Bastian said. “You stole that from us. No longer were we able to look at beautiful summer days the same way.”
“My kids will never know their Auntie Jenny because of you,” Theresa Bastian said. “The world is a worse place because of you.”
Washburn said little, answering Pierce County Superior Court Judge Elizabeth Martin’s questions with a yes or no, and made no statement, instead relying on a written confession Martin read aloud in court.
“I am deeply sorry for the death of Jennifer,” the statement read. “I recognize there is little that my words can do to diminish the tremendous sense of pain and loss that this crime caused to many people."
After the plea, Washburn was sentenced to a little more than 26 ½ years in prison. The 61-year-old must serve a minimum of 20 years before he is eligible for release.
Patty and Theresa Bastian spoke with reporters after court, and although Washburn admitted to her daughter's murder, Patty Bastian says she still wants to know why he did it.
“Yes, I mean, it’s just mind-boggling that he went to the park on Aug. 4 and just decided, 'I’m going to kill a child,'” Patty Bastian said.