Tacoma PD announced the arrest of a man in his 60s in connection with the unsolved 1986 kidnapping and slaying.
A man suspected of killing 12-year-old Michella Welch more than three decades ago was arrested Wednesday, Tacoma police said.
The suspect is believed to be in his late 60s and was taken into custody in Pierce County. He has not been identified.
Prosecutors are expected to charge the man Thursday.
Police declined to talk about the arrest or how they linked the man to Welch’s death. A news conference set for Thursday is expected to provide answers.
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This is the second cold case Tacoma detectives have made an arrest in over the last two months.
Welch was abducted March 26, 1986, from Puget Park.
She disappeared after she went to look for one of her younger sisters who’d gone to use the restroom at a nearby business.
Welch took her two siblings to the park about 10 a.m. and rode her bicycle home an hour later to make lunch for them.
When she returned, she chained her bike next to her sister’s bike, put lunch on the table and went looking for the two younger girls.
Welch’s sisters returned to Puget Park about 1:15 p.m. and didn’t see her, so they went to play near a cave under the bridge for another half an hour. The girls later found the brown paper bag with their lunches and got worried about Welch.
They called her name from the edge of the gulch and started down a trail looking for her but their baby-sitter called them back.
Police began searching for Welch at 3:10 p.m. A tracking dog found her body late that night in a makeshift fire-pit area in a gulch near the park.
Welch died of a cut to the neck. She’d been sexually assaulted.
Five months later, another Tacoma girl went missing.
Jennifer Bastian, 13, disappeared Aug. 4, 1986, while riding her bicycle in Point Defiance Park. Her body was found weeks later in a wooded area off Five Mile Drive.
She’d been sexually assaulted and strangled.
Detectives long believed the two murders were linked since the girls were similar in age and appearance and both killings happened in North End parks.
Tips flooded in but no arrests were made.
The Welch and Bastian cases haunted the community, becoming two of the most heart-wrenching cold cases in the city’s history.
In 2016, police announced that DNA tests showed different men had killed Welch and Bastian.
Investigators made a list of suspects in both girls’ deaths and asked them to provide voluntary DNA samples.
In May, a hit came in Bastian’s murder. DNA linked her death to 60-year-old Robert D. Washburn, who lived near Point Defiance Park at the time the girl went missing.
He was arrested at his home in Eureka, Illinois, and brought back to Pierce County. He has pleaded not guilty to first-degree murder.
Stacia Glenn; 253-597-8653