On August 4, 1986, a young girl took a bike ride through Point Defiance Park near Tacoma, Washington. She never returned home. Investigators conducted a desperate search but came up empty handed. The case went dormant for decades and eventually ended up on the desk of cold-case detective Lindsey Wade. Through the application of emerging DNA testing and hard work, Wade and her fellow detectives were finally able to piece together what happened that day and bring closure to the family.
Guest detective: Lindsey Wade
Lindsey served as a Tacoma Police Officer for twenty-one years. During her fourteen years as a detective, she investigated sexual assaults, child abuse, missing persons, and homicides. In 2010, Lindsey discovered that serial killer Ted Bundy’s DNA was not in CODIS. She worked with authorities in Florida to track down a sample of Bundy’s DNA and finally entered it into the national database in 2011. In 2012, Lindsey’s work on collecting DNA from convicted sexual predators in Washington state who’d slipped through the cracks led to an arrest in the 1980 homicide of a teenage girl. Lindsey retired in 2018 as the Tacoma Police Department’s cold case detective and joined the Washington State Attorney General’s Office as a senior investigator assigned for the Sexual Assault Kit Initiative. She is a former member of the FBI ViCAP National Advisory Board and teaches child abduction response and cold case investigations for the National Criminal Justice Training Center at Fox Valley Technical College. Lindsey has been a speaker at numerous law enforcement conferences around the country, lecturing on cold cases, sex crimes, DNA, and child abduction response. She recently published a true crime memoir titled, “In My DNA: My Career Investigating Your Worst Nightmares”.Read Transcript
Yeardley: [00:00:03] Hey, Small Town Fam. It’s Yeardley. How are you guys? Oh, my God, it’s so great to be back in your podcast feed. We missed you like crazy during the hiatus. We have a terrific season lined up for you, beginning with today’s case from a new guest, Detective Lindsey. As the detectives like to say, Lindsey is squared away. You guys are absolutely going to love her.
[00:00:30] So, the case Lindsey brings us today is about the 1986 murder of Jennifer Bastian. It’s actually fairly well known as cold cases that take decades to solve often are. But even if you’re familiar with the headlines, I think you’ll agree that there’s no substitute for the in-depth, first-hand account of an investigation from one of the detectives who was on the ground turning over all the stones.
[00:00:57] Of course, as I listened to Lindsey talk about how when she dug into the case, she poured over every former lead, and scrap of old information, and literally built a database cross referencing all the evidence that had been gathered about Jennifer’s murder. I found myself desperately hoping, along with her, that any biological evidence they’d collected back in 1986 had not been purged just because back then, it was hard to imagine how forensic science would evolve to what it is today, and that every swab and tidbit could be used to solve the crime.
[00:01:35] Seriously, there are so many incidents of two steps forward and one back in this episode. Oh, but at the end of the day, this case is a portrait of Lindsey’s patience and perseverance, as well as a promise to herself that Jennifer’s murder would not go unsolved. Here is At Last.
[00:02:00] Hi, there. I’m Yeardley.
Dan: [00:02:02] I’m Dan.
Dave: [00:02:03] I’m Dave.
Paul: [00:02:03] And I’m Paul.
Yeardley: [00:02:04] And this is Small Town Dicks.
Dan: [00:02:07] Dave and I are identical twins.
Dave: [00:02:08] And retired detectives from Small Town, USA.
Paul: [00:02:11] And I’m a veteran cold case investigator who helped catch the Golden State Killer using a revolutionary DNA tool.
Dan: [00:02:17] Between the three of us, we’ve investigated thousands of crimes, from petty theft to sexual assault, child abuse to murder.
Dave: [00:02:24] Each case we cover is told by the detective who investigated it, offering a rare personal account of how they solved the crime.
Paul: [00:02:31] Names, places, and certain details have been changed to protect the privacy of victims and their families.
Dan: [00:02:36] And although we’re aware that some of our listeners may be familiar with these cases, we ask you to please join us in continuing to protect the true identities of those involved out of respect for what they’ve been through.
[unison]: [00:02:46] Thank you.
Yeardley: [00:02:52] Today on Small Town Dicks, we have wait for it, the usual suspects. We have Detective Dave.
Dave: [00:03:00] Good morning, Yeardley.
Yeardley: [00:03:00] Good morning, you. We have Detective Dan.
Dan: [00:03:04] Good morning, team.
Yeardley: [00:03:05] Good morning. Might not be morning where our listeners are.
Dan: [00:03:08] Well, it feels like morning to me.[laughter]
Yeardley: [00:03:11] It is technically still in our neck of the woods. And we have the one and only, Paul Holes.
Paul: [00:03:17] Hey-hey, and good morning.
Yeardley: [00:03:18] Hey-hey, and good morning.
Paul: [00:03:20] Look at that.
Yeardley: [00:03:20] I got it all today, [Paul laughs] and he’s wearing his glasses. Listeners can’t see you, but I like it.
Paul: [00:03:26] I was inspired by Dave, because he’s been wearing his glasses.
Dave: [00:03:29] Allergy-inspired glassware.[laughter]
Paul: [00:03:32] I decided I wanted to replicate. I’m just a follower.
Yeardley: [00:03:35] He’s just a follower. That’s what they say about Paul Holes.
Dave: [00:03:38] It’s tree pollen season in the Pacific Northwest.
Yeardley: [00:03:40] Indeed, it is.
Dave: [00:03:41] Miserable.
Yeardley: [00:03:42] We’ve had a lot of rain. Anyway, I digress, because Small Town Fam, we are so pleased to welcome a new guest to the podcast, retired Detective Lindsey.
Lindsey: [00:03:52] Hello. Thank you for having me.
Yeardley: [00:03:54] Thank you so much for joining us today. So, Lindsey, before we get into the case you’re going to bring us today, we’d like to know a little bit about your journey through law enforcement and your jurisdiction, and just give us a little thumbnail background there.
Lindsey: [00:04:09] Sure. So, I joined my agency when I was 21 years old. So, I was hired as a youngster, as a police officer, which, looking back on that now, is just insanity.
Dave: [00:04:22] [laughs]
Lindsey: [00:04:23] Yeah. So, I started at that young age. I think I was 110 pounds soaking wet with all my gear on and everything. I spent about five years in patrol, and then did a year in narcotics, and then took the test to become a detective, and got promoted. And so, I spent the last 14 years of my career as a detective, primarily working sex crimes, and then I did homicide, I guess, for my last 10 years. And our homicide unit also did other things. So, we did missing persons, and we did aggravated assaults as well, and of course, cold cases, and I actually got to be our cold case detective for the last three years of my career.
Yeardley: [00:05:06] Oh, so, you and Paul had a lot to chat about.
Lindsey: [00:05:08] Yeah.
Paul: [00:05:09] Lindsey and I actually met out in Hawaii. We were out there for a conference together and it was before the pandemic. And of course, I am with some of the other Golden State Killer investigators presenting to Honolulu PD and NCIS, the law enforcement out there. And then Lindsey and I, we get chatting over lunch, and this is where her experience is just amazing. The breadth of experience that she has working for the agency she did, it was a busy agency.
Dave: [00:05:35] You guys have department budgets that allow you to go to Hawaii for training?[laughter]
Yeardley: [00:05:41] That’s what Dave is stuck on.
Paul: [00:05:42] I was retired at the time.
Dave: [00:05:44] Okay.
Lindsey: [00:05:44] And I was actually working at the Attorney General’s office by that point, but I was also an instructor for the AMBER Alert Training and Technical Assistance Program. So, I went there as an instructor. So, I was also presenting at the conference.
Dave: [00:05:57] Okay.
Paul: [00:05:58] And then I think at the time you were telling me you were writing a book, do you have a book out now?
Lindsey: [00:06:03] Yes, the book is available now and it’s called In My DNA: My Career Investigating Your Worst Nightmares.
Yeardley: [00:06:10] Congratulations. That is a hard-won victory writing book. I’ve written one. Paul’s done one. It’s a big deal. So, good on you.
Lindsey: [00:06:20] And thank you, Paul, for writing me such a nice review.
Paul: [00:06:23] Oh, yup.[laughter]
Paul: [00:06:26] And if I’m guessing right, the book, in part, is going to be talking about the story that you’re going to tell us.
Lindsey: [00:06:32] Yes. Yes. So, the case that I’m going to talk about today is kind of an overarching scene throughout the entire book.
Yeardley: [00:06:41] Great. All right, so, Lindsey, please tell us how this case came to you.
Lindsey: [00:06:45] Yes. Well, it’s an interesting story, because this was a case that I grew up hearing about. This was a case that was woven into the fabric of my childhood and the childhoods of a lot of my friends and people in my community. The case involves a little girl by the name of Jennifer Bastian. She was 13 years old and she did what any other 13-year-old would be doing on a beautiful August afternoon. She took a bike ride and she never came home. The park that she went to is called Point Defiance Park. It’s a pretty well-known park for anybody that’s ever-visited Western Washington. It’s huge, I think it’s over 700 acres. It’s got a beach. It’s got a zoo. So, it’s massive with lots of forested trails and a lot of people visit this park.
[00:07:33] So, on this particular afternoon, Jennifer asked her dad if she could ride her bike around what was called the five-mile drive, and that was a paved loop around this park that was closed to automobile traffic, so that people could walk and bike and that sort of thing. Normally, she would ride with a friend, but on this particular day, her friend wasn’t available, and so she asked for permission to ride by herself. This is midday on a beautiful August. It’s packed full of people. So, her dad said, “Yes, you can go ride your bike.” She left a note saying she’d be back home by 06:30 and took off for the park.
[00:08:14] By 06:30, she wasn’t home. Dad started doing a search around the neighborhood with some other neighbors, reaching out to friends, doing what most parents would do initially, not completely panicked or anything. At first, they thought, “Well, maybe she got a flat tire.” But once they had searched and done her route that she would have taken from the home to the park and hadn’t found her, they called the police, and the police officer who responded– When I first read the reports, I was like, “Wow. I’m impressed how quickly they sprung into action on this case,” because it’s not uncommon for kids to get reported missing or overdue when they should be home.
Dave: [00:08:53] What year was this?
Lindsey: [00:08:54] This was 1986.
Dave: [00:08:55] Okay.
Lindsey: [00:08:56] And so, they immediately called for search and rescue to come out. The reason that they really took the steps that they took on this case right away is because there had been another young girl who had been abducted and murdered in a neighborhood park in the same area of town four and a half months earlier, and her case was unsolved. And so, there were a lot of similarities between the two girls. The girl who’d been killed previously was 12, also had been on a bike, also blonde haired, blue eyed, maybe less than two miles from where Jennifer was last seen. I mean, everybody was at that point going, “Whoa, there’s something very wrong here. Now we’ve got a second little girl who’s gone missing.” And so, kudos to the patrol officer who took those immediate steps.
[00:09:45] He also happened to be on search and rescue at the time, so he was able to get the ball rolling pretty quickly. They had dogs come out to the house, and collect some scent articles from the home, and then they ended up doing a track from Jennifer’s home to the park. The dogs tracked around the five-mile drive, they picked up her scent, but they did not locate her.
Paul: [00:10:07] Is this five-mile drive, this loop? Is it forested on the sides?
Lindsey: [00:10:13] Yes.
Paul: [00:10:13] If she had been pulled off the trail, it would be difficult to find her, right?
Lindsey: [00:10:17] Absolutely. It would be like finding a needle in a haystack. If you google map this park and take a look at it, it’s pure forest.
Paul: [00:10:24] There’s a body of water here too.
Lindsey: [00:10:26] Yes, the entire park is surrounded by a body of water.
Paul: [00:10:29] Okay. So, now there’s also a concern of could she be underwater?
Lindsey: [00:10:34] Right. Could she have fallen off one of the cliffs, I mean, sheer cliffs? There’s no barrier, there’s nothing. You can just go straight down. So, lots of different hazards. After that night with Jennifer, once they had completed the search and they realized, “Okay, we don’t think she’s in the park, but we’re not sure.” They ended up shutting down the five-mile drive for three days. And so, for the next three days, they coordinated this massive search they brought in. I think over the three-day period, there were over 500 searchers with volunteers that were, they call them ESAR, the emergency search and rescue kids that come out and search. They brought in all these volunteers from around the state. They had people on horseback, ATV, they had dogs out, and they found no trace of Jennifer. So, once they got done with that three-day search, the thought was maybe she was abducted and taken out of the park.
Paul: [00:11:27] And her bike wasn’t recovered either.
Lindsey: [00:11:29] No, her bike wasn’t recovered. Nothing. There was no sign. So, this is 1986, this is pre-AMBER Alert. This is pre-24-hour cable news. However, the news was on this. Especially because of the other girl that had been killed four and a half months earlier, the news was really on this. They’re talking, “Could there be a serial killer on the loose?” And by the way, we also had Green River happening in the background during this time.
Yeardley: [00:11:55] Oh, my God.
Lindsey: [00:11:56] So, the area was well aware of bad things happening to young women. The Green River Task Force was actually called in because people were wondering, “Could this be the Green River Killer?” So, the news covered it extensively. There was actually a guy who came forward who reported seeing a girl getting forced into a black van inside the park. And his story, his time frame indicated that he was with his own child, pushing his child in a stroller, walking through the five-mile drive.
[00:12:28] When he saw this van pulled over, and he saw a girl on a bike talking to someone in the van, he heard a male voice inside this van saying something to the effect of, “Didn’t I tell you to get in the van?” Then he sees the girl get pulled into the van, then he sees another person in the back pull the bike into the van, and this black van takes off. That’s his story. They actually hypnotized this witness because apparently, they did that back in 1986.
Yeardley: [00:12:54] [laughs]
Paul: [00:12:55] Yes.
Lindsey: [00:12:55] And so, they were working off of this theory that, “Okay, she was kidnapped and she was taken in this black van.” So, black van, [mimics splash] all over the news. That’s all everybody’s looking for. If you were driving a black van in our area in 1986, I feel bad for you because you were probably stopped multiple times by the police. As it turned out, there were additional witnesses who came forward in the following days who had been at the park that day, who knew Jennifer or had given detailed descriptions of what she had been wearing, and her bike, and everything that led police to believe this guy’s timeline is way off. There’s no way this girl could have been abducted at 02:30 in the afternoon, because we’ve got credible sightings of Jennifer up to like 06:00, 06:30 in the evening.
[00:13:42] One of the witnesses was a kid that went to school with Jennifer that literally knew her because he was her classmate. There were other witnesses that described her clothing to a T, this blue shirt she was wearing, her bicycle helmet, her swimsuit, because she had a swimsuit underneath her shirt. So, all of these things made them go, “Ah, not really sure about this van.” So, ultimately, the black van turned out to be a red herring.
Paul: [00:14:07] What Lindsey just laid out there is like, when reviewing a cold case, seeing all these witness statements, it’s starting to take a look at those details that really underpin the veracity of those statements, going, “Yes, I more believe these witnesses because of the specificity of the details they can provide, the knowledge of personal relationships with the victim, with Jennifer, etc., versus now you have that red herring.”
Dave: [00:14:34] The amount of cases that we’ve worked be it an assault or a murder or shoplifting where people are like, “Oh, yeah, I saw the guy and he was running that way,” or people that just want to insert themselves into an investigation because they said, “I was there. I saw what happened and really, they were a couple of blocks away,” and just realized that the police showed up to a house, but they were right there, and it gives them a sense of connection to that story. And then all of a sudden, it blows up.
[00:15:01] I remember the D.C. sniper and they were looking for a white van. And all of a sudden, every car on the freeway is a white van. Just the way it works.
Lindsey: [00:15:10] Yes. So, that was a complete red herring. But during that time, there were hundreds of tips coming in, as you can imagine. One of the things that was interesting in talking to Jennifer’s mom was that she received a visit at that time from the mother of the other little girl who had been killed.
Paul: [00:15:28] Can you say the other girl’s name?
Lindsey: [00:15:29] Yeah. Her name was Michella. Michella Welch.
Paul: [00:15:32] Michella? Okay.
Dave: [00:15:33] And at that time, when Michella’s mother meets Jennifer’s mother, had Michella’s body been found?
Lindsey: [00:15:39] Yes. Michella was found the same day that she was abducted, but her case was still unsolved at that point. So, Michella’s mom went to visit Jennifer’s mom, Patty. It’s interesting in talking to Patty years later about it, because her thought process was, “Well, it was nice of her to stop by, but I don’t know why she came, because my daughter’s not dead.” That had to take a lot of guts for Michella’s mom to go over there and to try to lend support to her. But in Patty’s mind like, “I don’t know why you’re here.”
Dave: [00:16:10] I understand both reactions, for sure.
Lindsey: [00:16:13] Yeah. So, investigators, they actually created a task force. They were looking at both cases because they were so similar. What happened to Michella, she had been at another neighborhood park in Tacoma in the north end, same general area, broad daylight. This time, it was, I think, spring break, middle of the day and she just disappears. So, there were so many similarities that there really was no reason not to believe it was the same suspect. There was one particular suspect that came up. Multiple tips were called in about this guy because he was a creeper. He had a van, he hung out in the park, he would sunbathe in the nude, he had weird drawings of young girls. He was just kind of a whackadoo.
[00:17:02] So, they investigated him and searched his van. At that time, they didn’t have DNA testing online yet. So, they were basically taking hair samples and blood samples and doing ABO typing and that kind of a thing to rule suspects in and out, at least on Michella’s case, because they did have evidence in her case to test against. So, all that to say, they didn’t come up with anybody that they could develop probable cause to arrest. And ultimately, both of the cases ended up going cold.
Lindsey: [00:17:54] With Jennifer’s case, she goes missing August 4th, 1986. And then on August 26th of that same year, there’s a jogging group from the YMCA, and they’re like a running club. They’re running through the five-mile drive at Point Defiance Park, and one of them notices a foul odor. This wasn’t terribly unusual because there’s a lot of wildlife in that park, so you have deer and other things that die out there. But he reported it to the Park police. Park police come out and they can also detect the odor, but they can’t identify where it’s coming from.
[00:18:30] So, then they called Tacoma police, patrol officers come out, they try to locate the source of this odor, and they can’t locate the source either. They actually brought in a generalist canine. The dog could not locate the source of this odor. So, then they get a hold of search and rescue. They bring in these air-scent German Shepherd dogs to come in through search and rescue. And after, I think it was about a two-hour search, so that tells you how dense this wooded forest is. They finally locate Jennifer.
[00:19:00] So, this is now on the 28th of August. So, she was missing for 24 days. She was found off the five-mile drive, so we knew that she had been riding her bike on the five-mile drive. The five-mile drive was kind of an elevated road. You would take a trail, and walk down the trail towards the wooded area, and then eventually towards the cliffs, and then there was the beach and the water and all of that. So, she was found off of one of these trails. These trails, they were everywhere. There was no really clear reason for her to be on this particular area of the trail. There were lookouts all the way around the five-mile drive where people could pull off and look at the water.
[00:19:42] This was not at a viewpoint or a lookout or anything like that. This was just woods. So, the place where she was actually located was very hidden, very camouflaged. You wouldn’t see her body, if you were standing right in front of it, because it was basically like a hollowed-out area of shrubs and brush and trees. You actually had to get down on your knees and climb in there to find her. It’s like a cave.
Dave: [00:20:10] I can totally picture it. After the amount of times that patrol or as a detective, we responded down to riverfront areas and wooded areas that are buffers between the more incorporated parts of our city. The amount of foliage on the forest floor is so thick. Dan’s been through so many tracks with canines where it’s like, one step every 10 seconds, 15 seconds where you really have to spot a point, put your feet over branches to egress through this stuff. It’s really difficult. So, it doesn’t surprise me. Like, it’s really easy to hide a body in a forested area.
Dan: [00:20:49] So, is this igloo that you describe, is this manmade or is this just a feature of circumstance?
Lindsey: [00:20:55] There was a pathologist who came out and evaluated the scene. It was his opinion that this location had been prepared ahead of time. The floor area of this was clean. It wasn’t like there was salal and other ground vegetation growing up underneath this.
Dave: [00:21:12] It’s been cleared out. It’s been manipulated.
Paul: [00:21:13] Right. I know, like, in my experience and this isn’t to disparage this pathologist, but this isn’t the pathologist areas of expertise. If I am wanting somebody to evaluate this location, I want the park ranger, I want the botanist, I want the people that really understand this environment and give me their opinion as to, am I dealing with something that was prepared ahead of time? As Lindsey’s describing where Jennifer is being found going through my head is, “Okay, this location, what does that inform me about who the offender is? Does he have prior knowledge of this location? Was he lying in wait, or was this truly just happenstance?” Right now, I don’t know, but it’s something that you have to start doing early on in a case. What do I know about this guy based on where her body is found?
Lindsey: [00:22:05] Right. So, Jennifer was found inside this, we’ll call it a cave, and her bicycle was found maybe 50 yards from where she was found. Her bicycle was basically tossed off to the side of a trail, and there are ferns everywhere out there. And so, the offender had ripped up the fern fronds and laid them out to camouflage the bicycle. By the time she was found, however, all those fronds had shriveled up and turned brown, and so the bike was pretty easy to see.
[00:22:36] Again, you’d have to be standing right there though. It’s not like, if you were going down the five-mile drive and you looked over, you wouldn’t see it. You wouldn’t see any of this. So, you had to be standing right on top of it, basically, to see.
Paul: [00:22:46] Well, think about how extensive the search was. You have all of these volunteers and trained experts from search and rescue, and they don’t find Jennifer or her bicycle. It really shows how hard it is to find a missing person in this type of environment.
Lindsey: [00:23:02] Right. So, with Jennifer, the Green River Task Force was called in to process the scene. The way that she was found, she was lying on her back, and her swimsuit had been pulled down around one of her ankles. She still had her shoes on. She still had her bicycle gloves on. She was very badly decomposed. So, there was not a lot that they could tell from the autopsy as far as whether she had been sexually assaulted. They believed she had been sexually assaulted because of the positioning of her body and the way her swimsuit had been arranged, but they couldn’t conclusively say that because there wasn’t a lot they could do during that autopsy.
Paul: [00:23:43] There can be so many sexual acts that occur in which you don’t have physical evidence. Even absence of any type of trauma to the victim’s body is not conclusive that there were no sexual acts that occurred.
Lindsey: [00:23:55] Right. So, they did an extensive scene investigation. They sifted the dirt. They were collecting hairs from the ground and doing what they could for, again, the technology that they had at the time. They basically hoisted her bike up in the air and did some kind of, like, it wasn’t super gluing. It was something that they did with a laser back in 1986 for fingerprinting.
Paul: [00:24:21] So, they didn’t tent the bike and fume it out there at the scene?
Lindsey: [00:24:24] They did. They hoisted it up in the air.
Paul: [00:24:26] Okay. So, likely what they did do was a superglue method. And then there’s a dye staining that it’s a solvent-based chemical that will get absorbed by where the superglue gets deposited. For the listeners out there, superglue fumes will deposit where there are fingerprint residues. And so, it’s a very, very sensitive technique. I’m very impressed that this was being done. Once you get this dye stain absorbed in the superglue where there’re fingerprints, then you hit it with an alternate light source or laser and it fluoresces. The fact that they are doing this out in the field, I would have taken the bike back, protected the bike, taken it back, and have that process done in the lab. But you had some skilled people processing this bicycle out in the field.
Dave: [00:25:14] Yeah. The Green River Task Force component to this is– You think about guys who these are detectives over and over again who are processing bodies in wooded environments.
Paul: [00:25:25] Yeah.
Lindsey: [00:25:26] So, 1986 really is when the science of DNA technology was invented, but they weren’t doing that yet, at least in my town in 1986. So, they did what they could with the evidence that they had. They didn’t obtain any usable prints from the bike or from her helmet or any of the other items that they collected at the scene. They collected some other random things. They did find some hairs at the scene that they collected. And then basically, they continued following up on leads. There was really nothing forensically that was helping out with the investigation at that point. They did believe Jennifer had been strangled. There was a cord that was wrapped around her neck and this cord had a loop on one end, so, like a slipknot.
Paul: [00:26:11] Like, drapery cord?
Lindsey: [00:26:12] Yeah, drapery cord.
Paul: [00:26:13] And this wasn’t something that Jennifer would have had with her. This is something the offender brought.
Lindsey: [00:26:18] Correct.
Paul: [00:26:18] And he’s tied a loop into it, in essence, to make it a manually cinchable ligature.
Lindsey: [00:26:25] Right. A control mechanism, in essence.
Paul: [00:26:27] This is like, when you run into on patrol and the guy’s got burglary tools on him. There’s obviously premeditation going on. This guy, it sounds like this weapon he brought to this scene, he had intent going into this location.
Lindsey: [00:26:42] Yeah. This isn’t something that you would have on you [laughs] just while you’re going to the store or you’re going to the beach or the zoo. And certainly, it’s not something that would have been part of her bike kit or anything like that. So, Jennifer’s case, it just fizzled out after the leads that they did have were followed up on. They interviewed so many people, they did collect a ton of hair samples and blood samples from people, and basically, the case just went cold.
Dave: [00:27:10] You’ve run out of stuff to work on.
Lindsey: [00:27:12] Yeah.
Dave: [00:27:12] You’re just waiting for information to come in.
Paul: [00:27:15] And that’s what does realistically happen. And at this time, as Jennifer’s case starts to fizzle out in terms of leads and evidence, is Michella’s case– is there any movement on that one?
Lindsey: [00:27:26] No. And the two cases were worked simultaneously. Anybody that was looked at for one of the cases was looked out for the other case because they were so similar. There was a semen sample collected and a DNA profile developed in Michella’s case. Eventually, I think it was 1989, maybe, they sent it out to some private lab in California Forensic Science.
Paul: [00:27:49] Forensic Science Associates. Yes.
Lindsey: [00:27:50] Yeah. This is well before DNA databasing or anything. So, they had this DNA profile, but it was like, “Mm, great, what do we do with that?” So, they knew there was a sexual assault in Michella’s case, and they had this genetic profile from the suspect, but nobody really to compare it to. They did do some DNA testing on people that they thought were really good suspects back then and they were eliminated using that methodology.
[00:28:15] With Jennifer’s case, there was no DNA identified initially in her case. And so, because of the similarities between the two cases, it was just believed it was the same guy. If we identify who the DNA belongs to on Michella’s case, we’re going to solve Jennifer’s case. That was the thought process.
Paul: [00:28:30] Sure.
Yeardley: [00:28:30] And Lindsey, was Michella, was she murdered in the same way that Jennifer was? Was it with a cord?
Lindsey: [00:28:37] No. So, Michella was brutally sexually assaulted. Her throat was slit and her head was bashed in. It was complete overkill. With Jennifer, we couldn’t tell for sure if her throat had been cut or not because of the level of decomposition. There was a large wound, but that was also, because there was the cord there too, and how decomposition works. If there’s trauma, that’s where the decomp is going to be more prevalent.
[00:29:05] So, there was no clear definitive determination about that. Jennifer’s cause of death was listed as strangulation. She didn’t have any blunt force trauma injuries. One of her teeth was missing if I recall correctly. So, there could have been maybe a strike to the face or some blunt force trauma like that.
Dave: [00:29:23] Nothing fatal.
Lindsey: [00:29:24] Correct.
Paul: [00:29:25] Even though there is different violence being inflicted, it doesn’t mean it’s not the same guy, because these offenders will vary what they do to the victims from case to case. They’re not cookie cutters.
Lindsey: [00:29:37] Yeah. And unfortunately, there was no ability to determine what the exact mechanism was of the sexual assault or anything like that on Jennifer because of the decomposition. So, nothing really happened on these cases for many years. The lead detective on Michella’s case, he didn’t retire until 2008. He still kept things alive. He would periodically resubmit things to the crime lab as new technologies came on board and things like that, but there really wasn’t a whole lot going on with the cases until 2009.
[00:30:09] 2009, we created a cold case unit, and Jennifer’s case and Michella’s cases, they were really the inspiration for creating the cold case unit in our agency. And at that time, we had about 250 unsolved homicide cases going back to 1961. Ann Marie Burr is our oldest case in Tacoma, and she was an eight-year-old that was abducted right out of her home in the middle of the night. Many people think she’s Ted Bundy’s first victim. So, that’s the oldest one on the books in Tacoma. But Jennifer and Michella, their cases got a fresh look starting in 2009. My former partner, Gene Miller, was the cold case detective at the time. He was doing it full time and I was just assisting as a collateral duty in my spare time in between my other cases. [laughs]
Dave: [00:30:58] At least you weren’t on call for all that.[laughter]
Lindsey: [00:31:01] Oh, yeah. [crosstalk]
Dan: [00:31:02] Yeah, I know. It’s like it never stops.
Lindsey: [00:31:04] I had a real special interest in Jennifer and Michella’s cases, because again, they were cases that I clearly remembered, and they were cases that really terrified me as a kid.
Yeardley: [00:31:14] Lindsey, what year did you take over this case about Jennifer?
Lindsey: [00:31:18] So, I started working on the case intermittently, I would say assisting with it in 2013, and then I took it over as my own in 2015. So, anyway, Gene ended up resubmitting several items of evidence to the crime lab, including Jennifer’s swimsuit. And as I mentioned earlier, the swimsuit was down around her ankle at the time that she was located. Believe it or not, that swimsuit had never been tested at the crime lab. When Gene submitted the swimsuit to the crime lab, he submitted it and requested that they try to obtain Jennifer’s DNA profile from the swimsuit, because we did not have a reference sample for her at the time.
[00:31:58] So, he submits the swimsuit to the crime lab. The DNA analyst calls and says, “Are you interested in the male DNA that I found on the swimsuit?” Because the request was victim DNA. Well, it turns out there was quite a bit of semen found on the crotch of the swimsuit. And not only was there semen found, the semen, as it turned out, did not match the semen found in the Michella Welch case.
Yeardley: [00:32:25] Wow. Now you have two.
Dan: [00:32:27] Yeah.
Lindsey: [00:32:27] So, now 27 years after the fact, it’s back to square one.
Paul: [00:32:33] Yeah. In some ways, you’re fortunate that no testing was done back in 1986, 1987. It sounds like there’s a lot of semen on this. So, it wouldn’t necessarily have mattered, but it’s possible if there had been less evidence there that they could have consumed it doing the old technology and you would have struck out with this recent testing. But this underscores, you have to dig back and keep revisiting the evidence over and over again. There’s always something more that can be done. Keep going after the evidence.
[00:33:11] Also, DNA analysts, some are really good, some are not so good, some are thorough, some aren’t thorough. It’s also knowing, “Well, what did they actually test?” They made an assumption, “Okay, I’ve got a ligature, so I’m going to go after the knot.” And then they say, nothing found. And it’s like, “Well, hold on, but that offender possibly touched anywhere along the length of that binding. Always go back and do more.”
Lindsey: [00:33:36] Yes, absolutely.
Lindsey: [00:33:58] So, needless to say, everyone was in shock when these results come in that the DNA recovered from Jennifer’s body did not match the DNA recovered from Michella’s body. Not only do they not match, but just like in Michella’s case, there’s no matching CODIS.
Yeardley: [00:34:13] What’s CODIS?
Lindsey: [00:34:15] CODIS is the Combined DNA Index System, and that is the database for DNA profiles, both from convicted offenders and from crime scene evidence. So, now we’ve got these two unknown profiles, they’re completely separate people, and we don’t have a match in state or national CODIS.
Paul: [00:34:33] But you now have confidence. You have offender DNA and you know it’s a solvable case.
Lindsey: [00:34:37] Yes. It was exciting because there had been quite a few people eliminated during the original investigation, because they basically couldn’t have been responsible for one of the cases, like, “Oh, if he was in jail when Jennifer was killed, then he couldn’t have done Michella or vice versa.” So, we had a lot of people that we had to go back and look at again because of that. Needless to say, it was a difficult conversation to have with the parents of both families to have to let them know that, “Hey, this is what we’ve found. And by the way, everyone’s been wrong this whole time. We all thought it was the same guy and it’s not. So, we’re starting over.”
Dave: [00:35:11] I imagine there’s deflation They’re like, “Oh, shit, a lot was missed back then.”
Lindsey: [00:35:16] I don’t think that was their attitude. I think they looked at it more like, “Okay, well, now we’ve got something new to go on.” I don’t want to speak for them, but I know, like, for Jennifer’s mom, Patty Bastian, I think that she was just pleased that we were still working on the case and we were still trying to move forward. So, it was a hard conversation to have with her, especially because we had that one in person, I remember, and just having to lay that out on the table. But she was great through the whole thing and very supportive. Never had anything negative to say about the investigation or how things were handled.
[00:35:51] It was 2015 when we got those results. So, we sat on that and didn’t release it publicly until 2016, and that was because we had the 30-year anniversaries. And so, I was running our Child Abduction Response Team at that time. One of the things that we’re required to do for CART is do some kind of an activation of the team every year. And usually, it’s a mock child abduction exercise that you do.
Yeardley: [00:36:15] Lindsey, what’s CART? CART?
Lindsey: [00:36:17] Child Abduction Response Team.
Yeardley: [00:36:19] Oh, got it.
Lindsey: [00:36:20] So, I decided that year, since we had the 30-year anniversary, instead of using a mock case, let’s use these real cases. Let’s take these two cold cases and we’re going to exercise our Child Abduction Response Team. Instead of doing an AMBER Alert, we’re going to do a press conference, and we’re going to release this new information to the public about the fact that we’ve got two separate killers. We’re going to release timelines on both cases. We had worked with Parabon by that point and created those sketches that they did with the DNA. So, we released those.
[00:36:52] Parabon NanoLabs is a private lab that in 2015 was doing something with SNP DNA, and that’s a different type of DNA testing than what is conducted at crime labs for state and local law enforcement. This particular type of DNA testing was being used to generate sketches of what the suspect might look like based on their DNA. So, we had a tip line open. We had about 60 detectives and FBI agents assigned over a two-day period to follow up on tips that came in to go out and collect DNA samples from people that we had prioritized as high priority offenders in the case.
[00:37:37] So, we just took that opportunity to create this hybrid, but it was a great way to get this information out because the media and the community here was still very, very interested in these cases, and people were shocked, to say the least. But we’re hoping, maybe this will get somebody to come forward who never came forward before, because “Well, if Johnny was in jail when one of the girls was killed, I’m not going to call in a tip on him because he couldn’t have done it,” when in fact, we know now that that’s not necessarily the case.
[00:38:09] So, we were hoping that we might get some new tips. We weren’t really sure where it was going to take us. We knew we had a lot of DNA to collect though from named suspects in the case, a lot of reference samples. And so, that was really the goal of this card activation. We ended up collecting 80 DNA samples over the two days from people that were already in the case file and some new suspects that were called in. Multiple people called in a tip on the same guy, because he literally looked like a clone of one of those Parabon sketches, but [Yeardley laughs] he wasn’t the guy.[laughter]
Yeardley: [00:38:43] Oh, that guy. That ruined his day.
Dave and Lindsey: [00:38:47] Yeah. [laughs]
Dave: [00:38:47] It wasn’t me.
Dan: [00:38:48] So, these DNA samples that you’re collecting from these named people in the reports, you’re just asking for consensual DNA samples, right? You don’t have search warrant and you’re just hoping that they’re on board.
Lindsey: [00:39:01] Correct. So, we did it during the exercise. We had teams of people going out and collecting. And then after the exercise was over, I basically went and begged the US Marshals for money, and they gave me another $34,000 in overtime money for our detectives to continue to go out and collect DNA. And so, yeah, we would just knock on people’s doors or their vans or their tents or wherever they lived and go track these people down. We had a consent form and we would just tell them, “We’re investigating a couple of cold cases from 1986. We’d like to eliminate you. Would you give us your DNA?” I think we had 161 samples collected in total and we had about nine people refuse.
Paul: [00:39:39] And that’s my experience. It’s usually 90% will provide a sample and then you have the 10% that won’t, and that’s perfectly within their right. But of course, I will go back and do a little double check. “Okay. You refused. I just want to make sure that there’s not more that I need to look at you for.” If you have somebody that really is adding up as your offender and if you can even articulate probable cause, you can get a search warrant to serve on them in order to get that DNA sample. But just because they refuse, it doesn’t mean they’re, all of a sudden, a better suspect.
Lindsey: [00:40:11] Right.
Dan: [00:40:11] I’ve asked for consensual DNA samples, “Typically, I’ll get this. I don’t want the government to have my DNA.” You hear that a lot.
Lindsey: [00:40:19] Mm-hmm.
Yeardley: [00:40:19] Mm-hmm.
Dan: [00:40:20] “What if I told you I could eliminate you from a serial killer investigation?” “Oh, yeah, you want the left or the right?”[laughter]
Paul: [00:40:26] yeah.
Yeardley: [00:40:26] So, Lindsey, did you get search warrants for the nine or so people who refused to give you their DNA?
Lindsey: [00:40:33] No, I noted it. I had this big, huge whiteboard in my office, and so it was like, they went on the list of people that refused, but it was like, “I’m moving on. I got more people to collect from. I’ll come back to these people at some point.” But the case was so massive that one of the things I did prior to the exercise was I spent about three months just going through the case files and putting every single male name that appeared in both cases into a database. When I got done, I had over 2,300 names in my database and I had every guy listed. I would prioritize them by their criminal history or why they were in the case file. That was my way of prioritizing people for DNA collection.
[00:41:14] So, I would determine if they already had DNA collected either by us during the investigation or if they were already in CODIS, are they dead? Are they in prison? Are they out in the community? So, we had about 40 people that the FBI collected DNA samples for us that were out of state, because it’s been 30 years. They’re all over the place. That was really important though to get those people in some kind of a digital system, because as you know, these cases from 1986, a lot of them were handwritten reports or they were typewriter reports, and there was really no great way to catalog all this information. I knew that if we were going to do this cart activation and have people calling in tips, how am I going to determine if I even have this person’s DNA already by the way this case file is set up? Nothing’s in the computer. So, that was really critical for the organization of the case.
[00:42:04] So, we’re collecting all these DNA samples with the hopes that, “Hey, somebody that we collect from is of course going to hit to, hopefully, both of these cases.” I need to back up a little bit, because another thing that I did prior to 2016 was the Phoenix Canal Murders had been solved.
Yeardley: [00:42:23] I don’t know those.
Lindsey: [00:42:24] I think they happened in 1990 or 1991. They were these two unsolved homicides. They had the same DNA profile, but again, nobody matched in CODIS. And in 2015, they solved the cases with the help of Colleen Fitzpatrick, who is a genetic genealogist. And at that time, this is pre-Golden State. The best thing that they did for genealogy was surname searching. And so, Colleen Fitzpatrick had provided them with a potential surname for the suspect in those cases based on his Y-STR DNA, and that name was Miller. Sure enough, they found that they had one or two Millers in the case file and Bryan Patrick Miller ended up being the guy and that’s how they ended up solving those cases.
Yeardley: [00:43:05] Wow. Can you say what the Y-STR profile is?
Lindsey: [00:43:09] Yes. So, it’s the male DNA profile. Basically, it’s the DNA from the Y chromosome, which only males have. That DNA is passed down paternally. So, theoretically, a dad and a son, like a grandfather, they should all share that same DNA profile.
Paul: [00:43:25] Right. And there used to be a tool. Colleen Fitzpatrick and I go back to 2012, and so that’s when for Golden State, I was using this Y-STR surname searching. There used to be something called ysearch.org online. Periodically, I would just go in with GSK case Y-STR profile, put it into this ysearch.org and get the lists of the people in that database. It has utility. Like, in the Phoenix case, that really benefited them, but it is lacking relative to the new technology that we’re using in genealogy.
Lindsey: [00:43:58] Right. So, the detectives from Phoenix were up in Tacoma following up on him, because again, he was from Tacoma. I don’t know why all these people come from Tacoma.
Yeardley: [00:44:06] What’s going on there?
Lindsey: [00:44:08] [laughs]
Yeardley: [00:44:08] So, Miller was from Tacoma?
Lindsey: [00:44:10] Well, he had lived up in Washington, and he had committed attempted murder and sexual assault up in Washington. And so, the detectives were up here following up on that, and they told me about Colleen, and I’m like, “What now?”
Dave: [00:44:22] [laughs]
Lindsey: [00:44:22] Again, I knew nothing about genealogy at this time. And so, they’re telling me how she came up with this potential last name for their suspect based on his DNA and I’m like, “Well, I need her number. [Yeardley laughs] I don’t know what you’re talking about, but I need to call this woman.” So, I reached out to Colleen. Luckily, we had a lot of DNA in both cases. And so, I was able to have the lab generate Y-STR profiles in both cases.
[00:44:49] Basically, Colleen takes the Y profiles. She ends up giving me report back saying that she came up with three potential last names on Jennifer’s case, Smith, Holbrook, and Washburn. Now Smith, I’m like, “Are you kidding me? What am I supposed to do with that?”
Dave: [00:45:04] Yeah.
Yeardley: [00:45:05] Yeah. Hey.
Dan: [00:45:06] Smith, Jones and Johnson.
Lindsey: [00:45:08] [laughs] Yeah. So, not a lot I was able to do with Smith. Holbrook, there was nobody in my case file with that name, and I didn’t find anybody in our local database that really interested me that had that name. So, didn’t do anything with that. And then the name, Washburn, was a name that appeared in the case file. He was listed in the file as a witness. He had called in a tip, actually, on Michella’s case. It was a very benign tip. He had been interviewed by detectives and that was that.
[00:45:39] I ran the guy. He didn’t have any criminal history that was of interest at all. He had a couple of misdemeanor arrests back in the 1980s for trespassing and vehicle prowling or something. Nothing that got me excited at all. I thought, “Okay, well, this is interesting. I’m going to add him to my list of people to collect DNA from just because he has the name and he’s in the case file,” but I’m not really holding out a lot of hope on this because frankly, it just seems a little bit farfetched.[laughter]
Lindsey: [00:46:08] So, I just continued on with the DNA collections. We did our CART activation. We continued to collect DNA. Then in 2016, I hear about this woman named Barbara Rae-Venter. She had helped solve this case of this young gal in California who didn’t know who she was. They called her Lisa.
Yeardley: [00:46:30] Was this woman dead or alive?
Lindsey: [00:46:32] She was alive.
Yeardley: [00:46:33] Oh.
Paul: [00:46:33] Yeah. So, this is a case I was involved with.
Yeardley: [00:46:35] Yes, I do remember this.
Paul: [00:46:37] Right. I had a homicide back in 2002 of an Asian woman in my county. And her live-in boyfriend, who we only knew as Larry Vanner, basically pled guilty. But we didn’t know who Larry Vanner was. He had so many aliases and everything else. We just knew he was responsible for this case, but his criminal history had been linked up using fingerprints. And in 1986, he had been arrested for child abandonment of a six-year-old girl. This is Lisa. And he had said, “Well, I’m her dad. Her mom was killed in a car crash out in Texas.” Well, Lisa, as an adult gave a DNA sample, and my lab was able to show Larry Vanner is not her biological father. She is an abducted girl from somewhere and we didn’t know where.
[00:47:24] So, for 15 years, Roxane Gruenheid, who was the lead on the homicide, she was just dogged and trying to identify Lisa. I was helping Rox out, and then this is when I get the phone call that changed everything. When Peter Headley from San Bernardino Sheriff’s Office says, “We’ve identified Lisa.” I was like, “How did you do that?” And he said, “I used a website called dnaadoption.com and a genealogist by the name of Barbara Rae-Venter. And so, now, we see where Lindsey and I had these parallel tracks–
Dave: [00:47:55] To meet the same person.
Paul: [00:47:56] Yes.
Lindsey: [00:47:57] Yeah. So, August 2016, I’m in New Orleans at the International Homicide Investigators Conference. I’m presenting at the conference, and somebody that I’m there with, Ashley[?] Rodriguez from [unintelligible [00:48:08] is telling me about Lisa, about the Lisa case and how she had been identified. I’m like, “Oh, my gosh. Okay, if she can identify an unknown person’s parents, can she do the same thing with a suspect?” Like, “Could she identify an unknown suspect using the same methodology?” And so, I said, “Please give me this woman’s number. I need to call her when I get home.” I think Barbara was already working with you, Paul, when I contacted her.
Paul: [00:48:39] Yeah.
Lindsey: [00:48:39] So, I think Paul and I must have been like on the same– [giggles]
Paul: [00:48:43] We are like minded. [laughs] [laughter]
Lindsey: [00:48:44] So, I get home, I call Barbara and briefed her on the cases, and she agreed to work with me. She was probably already working with you at that point on Golden State. Unfortunately, with Jennifer’s case, the DNA was so badly degraded that she couldn’t really make any headway with building the tree for the suspect in Jennifer’s case. And so, it was like a dead end for a long period of time on Jennifer’s case.
[00:49:12] With Michella’s case though, she was able to start building the tree. Michella had been found the same day, so the DNA had been preserved well and was in good condition, and so she was able to actually start moving ahead with Michella’s case. So, basically, at that point, I’m in the hurry up and wait mode on both cases. I’ve got these DNA samples that we are collecting from known suspects and I’ve got multiple avenues of investigation happening at the same time, but I know that eventually, it’s going to come down to DNA somehow in solving both of these cases.
[00:49:46] So, as you well know, the crime lab isn’t really super happy about sending boatloads of evidence and reference samples to them at any given time. So, it was decided that they wanted me to send batches of 20 reference samples to them on the cases. Anybody we collected DNA from, we, of course, compared their DNA with the suspect samples in both cases.
Yeardley: [00:50:11] Lindsey, were you able to get a DNA sample from Washburn? He was on your list and you wanted to make sure that you did. Did he give it to you?
Lindsey: [00:50:18] Yeah, he was one of the people that voluntarily gave a DNA sample to the FBI, actually, because he was living out of state. And so, they had sent out agents all over the place to collect from people. So, yeah, he gave a sample. These batches of DNA are going out to the crime lab, and you know how long it takes to get DNA back. By the way, these were 30-year-old cold cases, so it’s not like they’re a high priority in that regard. So, I would say the average turnaround time was four months to six months for each batch, but I would get a report back basically saying, everybody had been eliminated, and then I would send out the next batch.
[00:50:52] So I really had, by that point in my mind, believed that the people that had already been eliminated were our best shot. I know you know what this was like, because you read the file and you’re like, “Are you kidding me?” And then you read the person’s criminal history and you’re like, “They did what now? [Dave laughs] Oh, this has got to be the guy.” And then they’re eliminated. “Well, okay, so it’s not him.” So, then I go to the next guy and I read history and it’s like, “Oh, no, he’s eliminated too.” Okay, well,-[laughter]
Lindsey: [00:51:22] -I guess, everything I thought is out the window.
Paul: [00:51:24] The number of strange men that are out there is shocking.
Lindsey: [00:51:29] Oh. Yeah. To be honest, I thought that the offenders were dead or they were sitting in prison somewhere and had never had their DNA collected. It was incomprehensible to me that these guys would be out walking around, and there wouldn’t be other crimes. Anyway, time is going by. I ended up getting an offer to go work at the Attorney General’s office on the Sexual Assault Kit Initiative. And at that point, it was a new grant. It was a statewide initiative.
Yeardley: [00:51:54] Lindsey, what’s the Sexual Assault Kit Initiative.
Lindsey: [00:51:58] Yeah. So, this is a grant. It’s a federal grant, and there are, I think, 82 grantees around the country now. So, different law enforcement agencies. Sometimes, they’re statewide agencies that get this grant. The money is used to test previously untested sexual assault kits. Like, in Washington, we had about 10,000 untested sexual assault kits. So, the money was used to test the kits, and then it can be used for investigation, prosecution. That grant has just now been expanded to include all cold cases. So, not just sexually motivated homicides or sexual assaults, but it can be any kind of a cold case. So, it’s a really great program. It offers a lot of support and monetary support. So, people can do genealogy, people can utilize private labs to do DNA testing and travel to go interview people, and a lot of things that, let’s face it, most agencies don’t have the money to pay for these days.
[00:52:50] So, basically, I ended up retiring. I retired on April 13th was my last day, 2018. Hardest thing, honestly, was telling Jennifer Bastian’s mom that I was retiring and the case was still open. She and I had become really close by then, but she was super supportive. So, I leave and I go and work for the Attorney General’s office. I think it was two weeks later, I get a phone call. The detective that called me had taken over from me in the cold case unit and he says, “Are you sitting down, Lindsey?”[laughter]
Lindsey: [00:53:28] And I’m like, “Oh, boy.” He tells me there’s a match on Jennifer Bastian.
Lindsey: [00:53:53] I can’t even begin to explain the level of emotion at that point, but I was able to ask, “Okay, who is it? What’s the name?” And he says it’s Robert Washburn. I knew immediately who it was. I’m like, “Oh, my God.” So, I’m scrambling around the house, I’m trying to get dressed, and I’m like, “Okay, I’ll be up there in a second because I’m going to help you find the books that he’s in.” And so, I race up to the department and it was just surreal. It was like, “I cannot believe this is actually happening that we actually have a name to go with this mystery that’s now, by that point, I think it was like 32 and a half years that the case had been unsolved.”
[00:54:31] So, interestingly enough, Robert Washburn, as I mentioned earlier, he had called in a tip on Michella’s case. So, Michella was killed in March of 1986. He called in a tip on Michella’s case in May of 1986 as a result of a newscast that came on TV in May with some kind of sketch that was put out about a potential suspect in Michella’s case. So, he calls in this tip to the Tacoma Police Department and says, “I jog at Point Defiance Park,” which is where Jennifer was killed. “Okay. I jog at Point Defiance Park. I saw a guy that looks like the guy in the sketch, and I saw him near the Rhododendron Garden. If I see him again, I’ll get the license plate number.” He gives a generic description of the guy. And so, he’s talking to like a call taker, just like a 911 call taker at this point. Now, keep in mind, Washburn calls him this tip in May. Jennifer’s not killed until August.
Paul: [00:55:30] Yeah. This is a very interesting sequence, because in essence, Washburn has inserted himself in Michella’s investigation, and he is making an admission, sort of, in the interviews to the geographic location where ultimately, he kills Jennifer. I’m thinking, Washburn, he had a fantasy about what happened to Michella and ultimately acts out on Jennifer, even though he’s not responsible for Michella’s case.
Lindsey: [00:56:03] Right.
Yeardley: [00:56:04] But it lit the fuse.
Lindsey: [00:56:05] Yeah. So, that’s just mind boggling in and of itself. I think people, sometimes, they don’t grasp the timing of that. It’s like, “Yeah, he called in a tip on Michella’s case before he actually killed Jennifer.”
Paul: [00:56:19] In some ways, it’s like a copycat.
Lindsey: [00:56:21] Mm-hmm.
Paul: [00:56:22] He’s inspired by Michella’s case, and he wants to live out whatever his inner fantasy is at this other location with Jennifer.
Lindsey: [00:56:30] Yes. So, at that point, it was like a mad scramble to figure out, “Okay, where is this guy?” Because looking back, I think it had been over a year since his DNA had been collected by the FBI in Illinois. And so, it’s like, “What did this guy do after he gave his DNA?” I mean, “Did he kill himself?”
Paul: [00:56:46] Yeah. Or, he’s down in Belize.”
Lindsey: [00:56:48] Yeah.
Dave: [00:56:48] Yeah, because he knows the clock’s ticking.
Paul: [00:56:50] Absolutely.
Lindsey: [00:56:51] So, they, in short order, contacted law enforcement in Illinois, where he was living. Got eyes on Washburn. This was May 8th, 2018, that this match came in. May 10th, the SWAT team in Eureka, Illinois, took him into custody. I think five of our detectives flew out there to go make the arrest. The two-day period between when the match came in and when they took him into custody were the two longest days of my life. I was not allowed to speak about this case with anybody. [Yeardley laughs] I was losing my mind. You want to talk about the range of emotions, I’m like, “What did I do? How did I walk away before getting to put the handcuffs on this guy?” This case is now going to be solved, and I’m not there, and I just like guilt, and just the range of emotions.
[00:57:40] Then the other part was that Mother’s Day was like two or three days after this. I had already invited Patty, Jennifer’s mom to have Mother’s Day brunch with me and my family. And I was like, “He’s got to be in custody before Mother’s Day, because I can’t sit across the table from this woman and keep this secret.” So, as soon as Washburn was taken into custody in Illinois, we received a phone call at the police department that he was arrested. And then at that point, I went to Patty Bastian’s home to let her know.
[00:58:12] So, it’s like 07:00, 07:30 in the morning, and I have this really tall assistant chief with me in a uniform that she’s never seen before, banging on her front door, wake her up out of bed, and she knows as soon as she opens the door that something’s going on, because this is very bizarre,-[laughter]
Lindsey: [00:58:31] -that I’m standing on her doorstep with this police officer that she’s never seen before. And on the way there, I had rehearsed what I was going to say and I was going to have this great speech and literally, I couldn’t remember a thing [Yeardley laughs] that I planned to say to her. All I could do was say, “We got him.” We both started crying. It was just a crazy emotional experience.
Yeardley: [00:59:00] Incredible. Washburn, what was his connection at all to Jennifer? Anything? It was really, as Paul was saying earlier, he heard about Michella, developed this fantasy very likely, and then decided, “I’m just going to get a girl when the opportunity presents itself.”
Lindsey: [00:59:18] Yeah, he never gave an interview, so we don’t really know a lot about what his thought process was. He made some interesting statements when he was arrested. One thing he said was something along the lines of, “When did I go from being a witness to a suspect?” So, I think in his mind, because he called in the tip on Michella, he thought maybe the DNA was only going to be tested against Michella. Maybe he didn’t know we had DNA in Jennifer’s case. I’m not really sure what his thought process was there, but that was an interesting thing. He also said something like, “My DNA was all over that park,” which is really disgusting. Like, “What-
Yeardley: [00:59:54] Gross.
Lindsey: [00:59:55] -are you talking about?”
Dan: [00:59:56] We have an idea, don’t we?[laughter]
Lindsey: [00:59:59] But it turns out that Washburn was a jogger. When he was interviewed by the detectives back in 1986– And then this is also interesting because he called in the tip in May of 1986. The detectives made several attempts to contact him and could never reach him, and finally, they reached him in December of 1986, so now, well after he’s killed Jennifer is when he’s finally interviewed. During that interview, he did say that he was laid off from his job at the time and that he was at Point Defiance almost every day jogging, sometimes more than once a day. So, jogging may have a different meaning to him than what you and I think of as jogging.
Dave: [01:00:41] He’s trolling.
Paul: [01:00:42] Yeah.
Lindsey: [01:00:42] Yeah.
Paul: [01:00:43] he’s out there doing surveillance. he’s waiting for that right opportunity.
Dave: [01:00:47] Yeah. Lindsey, I wanted to ask you, when they send this team of detectives out to Illinois, how badly did you want to be on that plane with them?[laughter]
Lindsey: [01:00:56] Oh, my gosh. So, we had initially discussed me going with them, but then it was decided I would stay back and be the one to notify Patty, and ultimately, I think that was best. But, yeah, I definitely wanted to be there. [laughs]
Paul: [01:01:10] Yeah.
Dave: [01:01:10] I want to meet this asshole.
Paul: [01:01:12] Now, at this point in time, Lindsey, would you say Washburn appears to be one of these one-off offenders?
Lindsey: [01:01:18] It’s interesting because I find that hard to believe. I do believe he’s got other victims out there, whether they’re sexual assault victims or homicide victims. I don’t know, but I find it hard to believe that Jennifer is Washburn’s only victim. But he has not been tied to any other cases as of yet.
Paul: [01:01:36] That’s one of the things that we are seeing now that we’re seeing a lot of these cases that aren’t being solved in CODIS, which is predicated on the repeat offender. But genealogy is solving these cases. A lot of these guys that are being arrested and convicted, they don’t have other cases. Whereas going into it, you’d look at it like Jennifer’s case and you go, “This appears to be something that a serial predator is doing. He’s either done this before, he’s done it since.” But there are some of these one-off offenders where they truly just do something like this case once. And for some reason, they don’t do it again. That’s where there has to be like this Mindhunter style study of these types of offenders, so we understand that when we’re looking at these cases.
Lindsey: [01:02:20] Right. I relied heavily on the child abduction murder study out of Washington State. That’s really the only study of its kind. When you read that study and you look at what the offender profile looks like, it looks nothing like these guys. Nothing like Washburn, nothing like the guy that was ultimately identified in Michella’s case. Just like you said, these one-off guys, they just flew under the radar. And so, I do think it would be really valuable for somebody that’s working on their PhD to go and update the child abduction murder study and include these genealogy cases that have been solved, because yeah, you’re going to see a whole different kind of offender in there.
Paul: [01:02:55] Yeah. And can you just give a brief overview on Michella’s killer?
Lindsey: [01:02:59] Yes. So, with Michella’s case, that one was resolved about a month later. So, June of 2018 and also, with genealogy and so, Barbara Rae-Venter had gotten to the point where she narrowed it down to these two brothers. She provided that information to our detective at Tacoma PD, who had taken over for me. And then Parabon also reached out and offered to do the genealogy, because once Golden State happened, the floodgates opened, and Parabon reached out to all of their former clients that they already had SNP profiles developed for and said, “We’ll do the genealogy on your case.”
[01:03:35] So, they also did the genealogy and came up with the same information from my understanding that Barbara came up with, which was these two brothers, and they collected surreptitious samples of discarded DNA from both brothers, and one of them ended up being a match to the crime scene evidence, and his name is Gary Hartman. He’s currently in prison. He actually just was convicted in February. So, he was in jail for a long time before the case was finally resolved. And no criminal history, he was a nurse at a local mental hospital, married, with kids, just, again, somebody that we never would have looked at.
Paul: [01:04:11] Yeah. And obviously, no relationship with Michella at all.
Lindsey: [01:04:15] No. No relationship to Michella, no relationship to Washburn other than, believe it or not, they lived on the same street about 10 blocks from each other back in 1986.
Dave: [01:04:26] Wow.
Yeardley: [01:04:26] Wow. Lindsey, Washburn, what sentence did he get? Did he plead guilty?
Lindsey: [01:04:32] He did. He ended up pleading guilty, and he was sentenced to 26 and a half years in prison, which was the maximum that he could get because he was sentenced based on the sentencing guidelines from 1986. You got to remember he had no criminal history either.
Paul: [01:04:46] Was he charged with any specific sexual acts?
Lindsey: [01:04:49] No. He was charged with murder, first degree, I believe. No sex component to his charging or his conviction.
Yeardley: [01:04:56] Why?
Lindsey: [01:04:57] Because they couldn’t prove a sexual assault.
Yeardley: [01:04:59] But wasn’t there semen on her bathing suit?
Lindsey: [01:05:02] But how could you say that he didn’t ejaculate on her swimsuit standing over the top of her?
Yeardley: [01:05:06] Oh, man. So, you’re saying, because you can’t prove when Washburn’s semen got onto Jennifer’s swimsuit, it could have been after she was dead, and therefore, you can’t charge Washburn with rape.
Lindsey: [01:05:20] Yes. There’s no evidence on her body per se because of the level of decomposition.
Dave: [01:05:25] And there are issues with statutes of limitations before we got into this DNA realm, where in my state, you have until your 30th birthday to report child abuse. If those statutes weren’t in place, you might have a case where you have the murder never expires, the statute of limitations never expires. But on the sexual components, after six years, it could have expired. So, you lose the ability to charge those?
Lindsey: [01:05:52] Yeah. With Michella’s case, Gary Hartman was charged with the rape and the murder.
Dave: [01:05:58] They had the findings to support that charge.
Lindsey: [01:06:00] Mm-hmm.
Yeardley: [01:06:01] Did he plead guilty as well?
Lindsey: [01:06:03] No, he didn’t plead guilty. He was found guilty.
Dave: [01:06:06] Did Hartman or Washburn give any statement after they were sentenced?
Lindsey: [01:06:10] Washburn wrote somebody. I don’t know if he wrote it or his attorney wrote it. Just a very brief statement. He didn’t read it. He had the judge read it. It was very vanilla. It was like, “I was at Point Defiance on this day. I saw JB. I led her down a trail, and I strangled her to death.”
Yeardley: [01:06:31] So, he’s actually admitted to doing it, I mean, he pled guilty?
Lindsey: [01:06:35] Yeah, he did admit it. There was also a cellmate that came forward while he was in custody. You can take that with a grain of salt, but this person was a registered sex offender who apparently was appalled by what Washburn had to say and what he was telling him while they were in jail together. And so, he did report some interesting things that Washburn had said. Again, it’s according to this cellmate, but it’s interesting because it would lead you to believe that, yeah, it was preplanned, that he didn’t know Jennifer. Wasn’t looking for Jennifer per se, he was looking for a victim. He was trolling for a victim and she happened to come across his path.
Paul: [01:07:13] I liken this type offender like Washburn, who lies in wait for the right victim of opportunity. It’s like a trapdoor spider. You’re able to hide as an offender in the vegetation, and you can just sit there and watch these potential victims cross in front of you, and then you see one, and you go, “Okay, that works.” And now, Washburn is likely looking to see, “Is there anybody else around?”
Dave: [01:07:38] Starts paralleling the victim in the brush.
Paul: [01:07:40] Mm-hmm. And then at the right moment, boom, snatches her.
Lindsey: [01:07:43] Right. And does he use a ruse? I mean, did he tell her that, “I lost my dog. Can you come help me find him, or, my dog is injured, or my bike broke down?” Who knows?
Dan: [01:07:52] And earlier, Lindsey, you talked about this ligature that it was control device also, and you wonder if he got up close to her with this slipknot cord and just put it over her head, and now he’s got control over. It’s like a leash.
Lindsey: [01:08:06] Right.
Yeardley: [01:08:07] Lindsey, how old Washburn by the time he was arrested?
Lindsey: [01:08:10] He was in his 60s, early to mid-60s. And same with Hartman. I think he was in his mid-60s.
Paul: [01:08:16] So, they were in their thirty s at the time of these homicides.
Lindsey: [01:08:18] Mm-hmm.
Yeardley: [01:08:19] And did Washburn have a family as well, because Hartman had a family, yes?
Lindsey: [01:08:23] Yeah. He was divorced and he had an adult daughter who lived with him.
Dave: [01:08:27] Can you imagine the stress of living with that, as a suspect, just looking over your shoulder all the time?
Paul: [01:08:33] We are in a very interesting time, because prior to genealogy, a suspect who knew he left his DNA behind, he was like, “I’m in control of my own DNA. As long as I don’t get arrested for committing another crime, I’m gold. They’ll never find me.” But now, these offenders, they can’t count on their third cousins loading their DNA up, and now law enforcement is dropping down on them. They got to be so paranoid.
Dave: [01:09:02] Like, Christmas, when you get gifted the 23andMe stuff.[laughter]
Dave: [01:09:06] And you got the creepy uncle in the corner who’s like, “Don’t send that in. The government shouldn’t have your DNA.”
Paul: [01:09:12] Well, and this is a point that I want to make, because of course, people do have some concerns about privacy and the genealogy databases in law enforcement using it. In a traditional investigation, like, what Lindsey was going through, going out and getting all these voluntary samples, that is how a homicide investigation has historically been done. And now, Lindsey or myself or you guys, as an agent of the government, I now possess your DNA. Genealogy, today, allows us to be able to go out there and get that investigative lead that points us in the right direction without having to contact all these men who look like the composite sketch.
Dave: [01:09:53] Right. The amount of guys that didn’t have to go through the stress of having a cop in their face, asking them if they broke into a house and raped or murdered somebody, you saved them that kind of stress, it’s a big deal. That kind of elimination of a suspect without them ever having the government at their door.
Lindsey: [01:10:09] Right.
Paul: [01:10:10] Lindsey, obviously, these cases are very personal for you.
Yeardley: [01:10:14] Do you have kids of your own?
Lindsey: [01:10:15] I do.
Yeardley: [01:10:16] I’m always curious as a civilian at the table, like, as you’re investigating these cold cases of these girls, at some point, your children were also that age.
Lindsey: [01:10:28] My daughter is 13 right now. So– [crosstalk]
Yeardley: [01:10:30] Oh, man. You just want to hug her and like, “Listen, I can’t let you out of the house for about 10 more years.”
Lindsey: [01:10:35] It’s hard. It’s hard. My husband is also a retired police officer, so she’s got it from both sides. We try to somehow strike that balance between not making her super paranoid and terrified to walk down the street, but also trying to educate her about the fact that there really are bad people out there.
Dave: [01:10:56] I imagine your daughter has a degree of situational awareness that her friends probably don’t.
Lindsey: [01:11:02] Yeah, she does.
Paul: [01:11:03] And that really is the hard thing as a parent is you want to say, “No, there’s no such thing as monsters, but there are monsters.”
Yeardley: [01:11:09] Yeah.
Paul: [01:11:10] Lindsey’s experience, where she’s working, the sexual assault, the homicides, she’s got this legitimate experience expertise. In addition, she also has seen the worst of the worst.
Yeardley and Dave: [01:11:25] Yeah.
Yeardley: [01:11:26] Where do you put that? I always want to know, where’s the little box that you put all that stuff in?
Lindsey: [01:11:32] For me, for the longest time, it was really just relying on a few close friends that were also in the business that knew what I was going through– They were going through the same things, so being able to decompress with them and talk to them. But eventually, I actually found a psychologist and started seeing him on a regular basis, and that was honestly the best thing I ever did for myself, because it’s like, I got to have somebody to tell these things to. I’m not going to tell my family about it. Even though my husband’s in law enforcement, he was not a detective, and he was on a completely different path than me, and he didn’t want to hear about this stuff.
[01:12:10] So, yeah, I just think that there was such a stigma for law enforcement for so many years. I never told anybody that I was going to counseling. It was shameful. It wasn’t until, I think, 2016 in my agency that one of our officers was murdered in the line of duty. And finally, the department actually hired a psychologist and set up a contract with him, so that any of the officers on the department could go see him. They didn’t have to go through insurance or EAP or anything like that. It was normalized and it was encouraged. The tides are finally changing in law enforcement that it’s not seen as this weakness if you go talk to somebody.
Dan: [01:12:50] The sad thing is that it takes a tragedy like an officer being murdered for command staff to actually make a change like that. And hopefully, like you said, the tides are changing. I think we’re on a better path than we were even five years ago.
Lindsey: [01:13:03] Right.
Dan: [01:13:04] So, it’s good. It’s encouraging.
Yeardley: [01:13:05] Good for you for taking care of yourself.
Dave: [01:13:09] You’ve written a book and I want to give you the opportunity to walk us through your book.
Lindsey: [01:13:14] Yeah. So, this has been about a five-year process in the making, but it’s finally here. The book is called In My DNA: My Career Investigating Your Worst Nightmares. And it’s a collection of cases that I investigated over my career. Jennifer’s case really arcs throughout the book, starting from when I was a child and my recollection of that up until the case being solved.
[01:13:37] It wasn’t until after I had Jennifer’s sister and her mother read it that I was like, “[sighs] Okay. Sigh of relief, like, they approved.” It was very important to me that I don’t want anybody that reads the book to feel like they’re being retraumatized or I don’t want anyone to read it and feel worse, if that makes sense and they’re horrible cases. It’s not easy subject matter to read, but I think there’s an overarching message of hope throughout the book, and there’s some humor sprinkled in there, and I hope that people take from it whatever they choose to take from it. But that number one for cases that are long unsolved that there really is hope and that they can be solved no matter how long it takes.
Yeardley: [01:14:20] Has your daughter read it?
Lindsey: [01:14:22] No.[laughter]
Yeardley: [01:14:23] Do you not want her to read it? [laughs]
Lindsey: [01:14:25] No, I do not. I actually let her read chapter one, because it’s more about my childhood. And so, she got to read chapter one and she got to read the Acknowledgments, [Yeardley laughs] and then the rest I said, she can’t read until she’s 40.
Yeardley: [01:14:37] There you go.[laughter]
Dave: [01:14:39] I don’t want to contribute to any childhood issues. You read it when you’re 40. That way it’s not my fault.
Lindsey: [01:14:44] Exactly. [laughs]
Yeardley: [01:14:46] It’s a job really well done, Lindsey, and I always say, should something horrific like this ever happen to a family member, you hope that you have dedicated law enforcement, like, the guys at this table and you who just won’t let it go. Thank you for that. Thank you so much for spending time with us. We really enjoyed it.
Lindsey: [01:15:08] Oh, well, this is great.
Yeardley: [01:15:09] The detectives always say, there’s not really any such thing as closure, but to at least be able to provide answers to the victim’s families has to be extraordinarily meaningful.
Lindsey: [01:15:18] Absolutely. The most meaningful thing about my job were those moments when I got to notify a family member or a victim that the case had been resolved.
Paul: [01:15:26] Lindsey, it’s been great seeing you again and thank you for sharing that story.
Dave: [01:15:31] Yeah.
Dan: [01:15:32] Yeah. Great job.
Lindsey: [01:15:33] Oh, thank you.[music]
Yeardley: [01:15:42] Small Town Dicks is produced by Gary Scott and me, Yeardley Smith, and coproduced by Detectives Dan and Dave. Our production manager is Logan Heftel. Our senior editor is Soren Begin, and our editor is Christina Bracamontes. Our associate producers are Erin Gaynor and the Real Nick Smitty. Our social media is run by the one and only, Monika Scott. Our music is composed by John Forest, and our books are cooked and cats wrangled by Ben Cornwell.
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