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Could Testing Old Rape Kits Catch Their Killer?

Pattie Bastian, left, and cold case detective Lindsey Wade. Bastian's daughter's rape and murder in 1986 was never solved. Wade believes testing old rape kits could help lead to the killer.
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Jennifer Bastian, left, went missing after going on a bike ride in Tacoma in 1986. Michella Welsh, right, went missing four months earlier in Tacoma.

On August 4, 1986, 13-year-old Jennifer Bastian went for a bike ride through Point Defiance Park in Tacoma.

Several weeks later, her body was found in the park. She had been raped and murdered.

Detectives have DNA evidence from Bastian's killer, but 30 years later they still don't know who he is.

Jennifer's mother, Pattie Bastian, wants police to go into Washington state's backlog of nearly 6,000 untested DNA evidence from unsolved rape cases, test all that evidence and enter it into the federal database, CODIS.

It may help find her daughter’s killer.

“I just want this person to be off of the street so I know in my heart there is not going to be another little girl and another family that will face what we have faced,” Bastian said.

Tacoma cold case detective Lindsey Wade was a couple years younger than Jennifer when she was murdered. Wade said the crime stuck with her as a case that she never forgot.

She agrees that going through the backlog could yield a breakthrough in this case and others.

[asset-images[{"caption": "Pattie Bastion, left, wants police to go into Washington state's backlog of nearly 6,000 untested DNA evidence from unsolved rape cases, test all that evidence and enter it into the federal database. Tacoma cold case detective Lindsey Wade agrees that going through the backlog could yield a breakthrough in this case and others.", "fid": "125224", "style": "placed_wide", "uri": "public://201603/cold-case_0.jpg", "attribution": "Credit KUOW Photo/Jenna Montgomery"}]]“To me it’s one of the most horrific cases that I have investigated and it bothers me that it’s unsolved. And it bothers me that I feel like the offender is right under our nose,” Wade said.

Wade said police already know that Jennifer’s case is not in the national database, but the evidence could be linked to another crime, which would give them an investigative lead.

“Sexual offenders are serial offenders and typically they don’t just have one victim; they have multiple victims,” she said.

Some offenders commit crimes in different jurisdictions understanding that it would make them less likely to get caught, Wade explained. DNA evidence in CODIS could connect cases across the country.

It would cost millions of dollars to test all the kits sitting on evidence shelves in the state, but Bastian said the real value would be in assuring public safety.

Washington is poised to become the first in the nation to create a state-wide tracking system for rape kits. Rape survivors will be able to track this evidence from the hospital, to the laboratory, to the police station. 

Advocates are hopeful this tracking system could lead to more testing of old rape kits.

“Having all that evidence and not being able to put it where it can be useful – that’s a waste to me,” Bastian said.

Produced for the Web by Kara McDermott.

Year started with KUOW: 2006
Year started with KUOW: 1985 – 1986, 1991 – 2004, 2012