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  Dogged Determination and DNA Technology    


Story by The Oregon Herald Staff
Published on Wednesday June 9, 2021 - 3:54 AM
 
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GRESHAM, Oregon - Using DNA technology not available to detectives in the 1980s, Gresham Police have identified a Troutdale man as the suspect in the city's oldest cold case homicide. Robert Plympton, 58, was arrested by detectives during a surveillance mission earlier today. Investigators allege Plympton is responsible for the murder of 19-year-old Barbara Mae Tucker, 41 years ago.

Tucker was a sophomore at Mt. Hood Community College at the time, studying business. Walking to an evening class on January 15, 1980, she was seen running onto Northeast Kane Dr. from the wooded area on the west edge of campus. At the time, multiple witnesses driving by recalled thinking the young woman was waiving at someone and trying to get people's attention, but did not stop. A witness saw a man emerge from the shrubs and led her back toward campus. A fellow student found Tucker's lifeless body in some nearby bushes the following morning. The medical examiner determined Tucker had been sexually assaulted and beaten to death.

For more than four decades, police were unable to clearly identify a suspect, make an arrest, or charge anyone for the gruesome act.

However, based on physical evidence from the original crime scene, modern advances in DNA technology, DNA ancestory databases and research and analysis by Parabon NanoLabs, LLC, they recently made a DNA profile match that furthered the case and led to Plympton's arrest.

"These "cold cases' are not lost or forgotten for our department," Chief Claudio Grandjean noted. "Each one represents a person to our officers, and their tragic stories are passed down through the generations in hopes of one day bringing honor to their names and a sense of justice and closure to their cases."

Although Barbara Tucker's case is not completely closed yet, Plympton's arrest marks the waypoint to clearing the oldest unsolved homicide from Gresham Police's cold case files.

"I'm proud of our detectives, especially Detective Aaron Turnage, and criminalist Deanna Grossi who have worked this case for so many years. And I'm hopeful this development will help Barbara's family and our community heal," Chief Grandjean added.

Anyone who has additional information about this case or other unsolved homicides is asked to call Detective Aaron Turnage at 503-618-3136.