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tv   Dateline  MSNBC  February 5, 2022 10:00pm-11:00pm PST

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>> i'm craig melvin. >> i'm natalie morales. >> and this is "dateline. " anytime a child goes missing, it's a scary thing. you know there is evil out there. >> first, michella. >> it was terrifying. >> then, jenni. >> bloodhounds came. police were there. >> this is a little girl that was doing nothing more than riding her bicycle in a park. >> two young girls taken. >> the similarities. blonde, blue-eyed, riding a bike. >> somebody who is targeting young girls. >> exactly. >> as a little kid, it definitely scared the heck out of me. >> she was a girl, then, too. solving these mysteries became her mission. >> so how many names did you have?
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>> about 2,300 names. >> could cutting-edge technology crack an ice-cold case? >> i was like, no way. >> i believe in the devil, and people that don't believe in the devil, i think, they're in for a big surprise. >> hello and welcome to "dateline. " michella and jenni were just like most kids their age. they loved riding bikes, and playing outdoors. the fun-loving girls didn't know each other. but they would be forever connected, through tragedy. decades later, a detective would leave no stone unturned, on a quest for justice. and in the process, uncovered a twist that left investigators speechless. here is keith morrison with "evil was watching. "
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>> again and again, she came here. stood under the ancient canopy. walked the damp, narrow paths, to the places the killer used to hide what he had done. as if looking, once more, after all these years would tell her something. as if the dense undergrowth would part and finally reveal a name. it's so peaceful here. it's not the kind of place you would associate with violent crime. that's for sure. >> no. no. and nothing like this has ever happened at this park before. >> lindsey wade was just 11 years old that terrible summer in tacoma, washington. >> i just remember that it was really scary, to me, as a young girl. it was really scary, not just for me but, for everybody.
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>> and the questions about that place and that summer followed her. up through the ranks of the tacoma police department. until, as detective lindsey wade, she came here to wrestle with something like an obsession. a mystery, that lay dormant for more than three decades. a story, that can finally be told. it was march, 1986. things were finally looking up for barbara leonard. hadn't been easy, she said, after her husband left her. to raise three girls alone. but here, in tacoma, barbara had, at last, found a good job, a home, and prospects. >> i was working in a real estate office, and had just bought a house in the north end of tacoma. scraped and saved money. >> even a little extra, to sign up her daughters for piano lessons. her youngest was
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nicole. there was angela, in the middle. and the eldest was michella. >> she was almost 13. she wasn't a rebellious child but kids that age want to be a little more independent. >> and it was bring break so she begged her mom. >> she wanted to go to the park with her sisters, and be there for the piano lesson. >> puget park, a patch of green on the north end of tacoma. just across the street from their lessons. a couple of miles from home. michella's sisters will never forget that day. >> we were -- >> for like half an hour or so. >> but we went, like, two and a half hours. >> freedom. they rode their bikes to the park, where they realized they'd forgotten their lunches at home. >> so, michella was just like -- oh, i will go grab them and then come back. >> and then, in the meantime, we had to go to the bathroom so -- >> there is no bathroom at the playground, back then.
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>> so where did you go? >> so we went down the street. >> it took a while. and when they finally got back, michella should have been there, too. but she wasn't. >> her bike was there, and it was locked. and we started looking. >> we have this family call. >> uh-huh. >> and it -- and it echoes, just far and wide. and so, we were -- >> what's the family call? >> whoo! >> yeah. and so, we yoo-hooed for her and didn't hear anything. >> that's when it happened, when the cold fear flooded their bodies. >> like, at that moment, i knew. >> knew what? >> i just knew something had happened. >> yeah. that it was -- there was -- it was wrong. it was very wrong. >> something was really wrong. >> i left work, i remember that day, and i was -- i was praying i wouldn't get a speeding ticket but i was probably doing 70 miles an hour on the little road. >> do you remember what that was like that. >> it was terrifying. >> you are hoping you are going to see the kid come walking around the corner.
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>> gene miller was a patrol officer, then. tacoma police. a special kind of horror or dread that goes with a little girl going missing like that. >> anytime a child goes missing, it's -- it's a scary thing. >> where was michella? the police looked, of course. but as the hours ticked by, my god. there's nothing. >> there's an emptiness there, you just -- time kind of stands still. >> yeah. >> and then -- then, it's, all of a sudden, it's gone. i mean, so it was dark. they said we're going to call in search and rescue because we haven't found her. >> it was late when they took search dogs into a nearby, overgrown gulch. and then -- >> i was in the one of the police cars, and they told me that -- that they had found her body. and, you know, when you say found her body, it's not
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the person. it's just -- it's terrible. sorry. >> they found her near a makeshift fire pit. she had been beaten and sexually assaulted. her throat, cut. >> it's this sickening feeling, that just overtakes you. and life is never going to be the same as you know it. >> and i think that it does one of two things to you. it's either going to eat you up or it's going to motivate you to find the bad guy. >> day after day, they searched for the killer. all that dismal spring. one of michella's classmates told police she saw a man in the park looking at the girls. they made a sketch, and tips flooded in. one of them seemed especially worrisome. a man out jogging reported seeing someone who looked like the sketch in a different park. a place called point defiance park. a few miles away. scouting his next
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victim? fear gripped the city. though, for barbara, it felt more like rage. she got a gun permit. kept a gun in her car. >> i'd go pull up at a stoplight, and i remember looking over and there is a man in the car and i was thinking could you have done this? did you do this? because they had no clues, for months, months, and months. and it was fog. you just living in a fog. >> then, it was summer. five months had passed. >> august, that year, was fabulous in the pacific northwest. and woke up a little late. jenni woke up a little late. >> just the two of them. pattie bastian and her 13-year-old, jenni. >> and we were sitting in the dining room, on the floor. in front of the patio doors, bathing ourselves in the sun. we were talking. all about upcoming camp. all about what she was going to do the rest of
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the day. we just visited. it's not something we regularly did. we just did it, that day. i think we needed to. >> a moment, in time, so treasured and so terribly fleeting. >> coming up -- >> there is a knock on the front door. it's somebody with the police department. >> another missing girl. another anguished family. another awful search. >> there were, literally, hundreds of people looking through the park for her. >> everybody wanted to find jenni. >> when "dateline" continues.
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that's right, diabetic retinopathy is a leading cause of blindness for adults in the u.s. but even though you can't see it, there is something you can do about it. remember this: now is the time to get your eyes checked. eye care is an incredibly important part of your long-term diabetes management. see a path forward with actions and treatments a retina specialist can provide that may help your eyes and protect against vision loss. just say to yourself, “now eye see.” then—go see an eye care specialist. visit to get the facts about diabetes, your eyes, and what you can do next— to take charge of your sight. brought to you by regeneron. >> it was summer, 1986. a
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sun-kissed morning. a few miles from the park, where they had found michella's body, pattie bastian was enjoying a morning at home with the younger of her two daughters, jenni. a blonde, blue-eyed dynamo. >> if there was a ball, she had it in her hand. if there was a bat, she had it in her hand. >> she had a brand new schwinn bicycle. >> she wanted to have the stamina to keep up. >> she had planned a training ride, with a friend. the friend backed out. and so, that sunny
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day, august 4th. >> jenni called her dad, and asked for permission to do the 5-mile drive around point defiance park by herself. >> and he said yes, but be home by 6:30. >> so she wrote a little note, and left it on the kitchen table. >> pd, on jenni's note to her mom stands for point defiance. tacoma's huge and loved urban-forest park. jenni's older sister, theresa, 15 at the time, worked at a day camp there. >> it's majestic. i mean, all these overdone, you know, words of the poets, don't begin to describe the -- just the primeval forest and it's beautiful. >> the five-mile drive around the park was paved, well marked, a popular hike. pattie left for her evening shift at a store, about 40 minutes away. >> and then, the day just becomes like any other day.
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until a phone call comes, in the evening. it's my husband, saying that i need to come home. >> jenni was hours late. pattie heard the fear in her husband's voice. she drove home, terrified. police were looking in the park. told her, stay home, and wait. >> and then, about 11-or-so at night, there is a knock on the front door. it's somebody, with the police department, with the bloodhounds. >> oh, boy. >> they want a piece of jennifer's clothing. something they can get a scent off of. >> they didn't find jenni, that night. or the next day. tacoma police closed point defiance park for three days. hundreds of people joined the search. nbc affiliate, king 5, covered it. jenni's sister, theresa, pleaded for help. >> just take time. just think back. just sit down, and remember. any, little bit would help. >> meanwhile, police worked the angles. was it a kidnapping? >> maybe, they were going to
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ask for ransom. we just didn't know. >> or maybe, jenni got lost or was badly hurt. >> there were, literally, hundreds of people looking through the park for her. >> everybody wanted to find jenni. >> gene miller helped run down hundreds of suspected sightings. >> there was a lot of good-faith effort, on the part of citizens, to call in. and say i think i saw her here or i think i saw her there. >> pattie waited. still, hoping her jenni would walk right in the door. she was at home, when she got a visit from another mother. barbara. michella's mom. there to offer support. >> just seemed like the thing to do. >> she was very, very sweet. very nice. i said, thank you. she left. and i said, to a friend who was sitting there, i'm not sure why she came. jennifer's not dead. >> you represented the outcome she kpraetly did not want to have happen.
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>> exactly. exactly. and she didn't want that to be her reality. >> but was it? it seemed like all of tacoma feared the worst. >> after about, i don't know, 20 days, i decided i needed to do something, beside hang out in the backyard drinking coffee. >> yeah. >> and i decided to paint the dining room. i don't know. >> and that's where she was when the detective arrived. >> took the brusher/roller out of my hand. sat -- helped me down the ladder, sat me on the chair in the dining room and said we found her. >> today's date is august 29th. >> this is police video from the next day. they had found jenni, in a thickly-wooded spot near a narrow footpath. she had been sexually assaulted, and strangled. and her killer had hidden her body and her new schwinn bicycle. and a second mother learned all about permanent heartbreak. have you let your mind go to what probably happened to her, that
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day? >> i have my fairy tale, i think. and i will just live with it. she was riding her bike. the monster came out of the woods and grabbed her. and killed her. more than that, i can't wrap my brain around. >> no. twice, in five months. and the victims, very similar. >> blonde, blue eyed, riding a bike, in a city park. >> and after? kids in tacoma lost the freedom to roam alone, just like that. turns on a dime, after jenni. >> yes, it did. it was immediate. >> we couldn't go down the street and play with friends anymore. >> chaperoned everywhere. >> yeah. >> because there was evil out there. a man, a monster, who needed to be found. everybody, it seemed, wanted to help the police. >> at one point, i think we were up to nine or ten binders
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full of just tips. and it was everything from i saw a strange person in the park, that day. to my neighbor has got issues. >> police released another sketch of a possible suspect. a man, in his 20s, wearing mirrored sunglasses. that tip led to the man who drove this van. >> he was familiar with point defiance. he was familiar with the five-mile drive. >> they took a good, hard look at him. but dead end. >> dead end. >> there were many dead ends, that year. and in the years that followed. the police collected all the evidence they could. but really, there was only so much they could do. the science of dna was in its infancy. and eventually, the murders of jenni and michella went cold. >> it changed the way people thought of other people. when the bad guy's still out there, and when you don't know who the bad guy is.
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>> the whole town kind of carries it around. >> absolutely. absolutely. >> miller carried it around, too. for two decades. and then, he met a young detective, who was just a kid, that summer of 1986. but, did she remember? yes, she did. coming up. >> it definitely scared the heck out of me. >> another detective joins the case, and after all these years, old evidence is about to yield a new clue. >> it was a shocker. >> when "dateline" continues. painful, blistering rash that could interrupt your life for weeks. forget social events and weekend getaways. if you've had chickenpox, the virus that causes shingles is already inside of you.
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with michella or jenni. but she certainly could have been. >> i definitely -- i guess, identified with a little girl out riding her bicycle. >> oh, sure. >> she was 11 years old back
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then, in the summer of 1986. and because she had lived in tacoma, of course, she had heard about those girls, just like her. how they had been snatched, in broad daylight and murdered. >> it definitely scared the heck out of me. >> yeah. >> there would be certain times, where if i was out riding my bike. or if i was walking, it would be something that i would think about. >> a layer of that glossy childhood varnish, forever, stripped away. >> probably, for the first time, made us recognize that there's really bad people out there. >> takes away a little innocence, doesn't it? >> yeah. >> yeah. >> definitely. >> she got to thinking about bad people. in high school, she read a book about the notorious serial killer, ted bundy. who was from here. >> he was from tacoma, yes. and i was fascinated by the book. and terrified, at the same
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time. and i just decided that that's what i wanted to do for a living. i wanted to catch people, like him. >> but, even after she joined the tacoma police department, and earned her way through patrol and narcotics and sex crimes. she never forgot about jenni and michella. and the summer of'86. >> i would have a suspect, that i was working, and i would wonder, okay. could this guy be responsible? >> the mystery kept its grip on gene miller, too. inspired him to start a cold-case unit, here. >> i mean, things have changed, dramatically, in -- in how cases are investigated. there's so much more that can be done. >> eventually, in 2013, detective wade joined him. eager to dig into the case of michella and jenni. binders and binders of police reports, and interviews and leads. 27 years of dead ends. and point
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defiance. like a giant, ever-present question. >> so, her bicycle was back here, in this area. and it was lying on its side. the suspect had taken some of these fern frauns and ripped'em out. and then, laid them across the top of the bike, to camouflage it. >> and further down the path, deeper into the woods, where they found jenni. >> hidden from view? >> very hidden. >> they discovered her body in a shelter, of sorts. >> one of the original detectives actually described it as something like an igloo, almost. so, like a cave. >> hmm. >> that was made out of the vegetation. >> what do you get out of being at the place where she was found? >> for me, as an investigator, it was important for me to come out here, and actually see it. to try to understand a little bit better, what happened. and try to get myself into the
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mindset of the killer. i mean, there were days when i would get frustrated sitting in my office working on the case. and i would just drive down here, and park my car and sit down here. hoping that something would come to mind. >> one thing that did come to mind? assembling a list of all the names in those binders. persons of interest. witnesses. any male, who had intersected with the original investigation. so, how many names did you have? >> about 2,300 names. >> it's a lot of names. >> yes. my working theory, at that time, was this guy's got to be somebody who's been convicted of a sex crime or another murder. and somehow, he slipped through the cracks. >> back, in 1986, investigators had recovered semen from michella's body. but when that semen was tested years later, it didn't match anyone in the fbi's national-dna database, known as codis. they didn't have any dna from jenni's body, though they did still have the
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swimsuit she had been wearing that day. >> when the crime lab looked at the swimsuit, they found semen in the crotch of her swimsuit. >> for decades, everyone believed the same man murder both girls. and now, finally, they had a way to prove it. but when they compared the two dna samples? >> it was a shocker. coming up -- >> i was absolutely dumbfounded. >> a revelation is about to change the case. >> all this time, you are looking for one thing and it's actually something else? >> uh-huh. now, we had a new lead. >> they'd also get a cutting-edge, new clue. >> i thought, well, i'm going to give it a shot. >> when "dateline" continues. and it's my job to test the product.
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i'm natalie morales. lindsey wade was just 11 years old when two young girls in her hometown were murdered within a matter of months. as the years passed, wade's obsession with the cases grew. now, she was a detective, and hoped advances in dna technology would help her unmask the killer. but what she was about to learn would completely transform the investigation. here, again, is keith morrison with "evil was watching. " >> michella was so fierce. there really wasn't anything that intimidated her at all. she just took life, head on. >> it never left them. the spirit that was their sister followed them all around their growing-up years, and when they had families of their own. and they knew, always did, that their mom had lost a piece of herself. >> be all together, in this family environment. and then, just this closing would come down over her. >> yeah and she'd just bawl.
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>> yep. you want mom back. >> the mystery of who killed michella and jenni haunted two families for nearly-30 years. all they knew, or thought they knew, was that some, unknown man, assaulted and killed those little girls. this man, who had killed once, had killed again. >> absolutely. there couldn't be two monsters in tacoma. >> but they were wrong. dna doesn't lie. and the male dna found on jenni's swimsuit. did it match the other case? >> no. >> there wasn't just one killer. there were two. >> i was absolutely dumbfounded. >> yeah. >> i don't think i could speak. >> i was like, no way. >> i think we were all just -- we had to kind of take a moment. >> sure. >> to regroup. >> yeah. because all this time, you're looking for one thing. and it's actually something else. >> uh-huh. but it was exciting, at the same time, because now
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we had a new lead. >> the dna from jenni's swimsuit. a brand new piece of evidence. it might lead them to her killer. but when they entered that into the national database, no match. once again, they seemed to be right back where they started. >> you're just in the hurry-up-and-wait mode. you're waiting for your offender to get their dna in the database, because of a conviction or whatever. and that could be a long wait. >> in 2014, gene miller retired. leaving detective wade in charge of the cold-case unit. and she had a new helper. jenni's mom, pattie. 29 years after her daughter's murder. >> my career was winding down. i thought i should probably do something. and so, i volunteered to help. >> pattie wasn't allowed to touch the two girls'murder files, but she could help in other ways.
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>> and we just hit it off. she was so supportive and so positive. and just volunteered for anything she could do to help us make our jobs easier. >> around then, detective wade decided to try something new. with the crime-scene dna. she consulted this woman. dr. colleen fitzpatrick. an expert in something called forensic genealogy. >> an informal sense, it's been referred as csi meets roots. >> maybe you have taken a home dna test. a lot of people have. you can sometimes track down distant relatives by uploading your dna profile to public genealogy websites. dr. fitzpatrick searches all that dna data, to find, not necessarily matches, but telling similarities. >> it's really the first big development in human identification, i think, in
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years, in 20 years. >> her method can link an unknown dna profile to possible relatives and, therefore, possible, last names. detective wade was skeptical, at first. >> it kind of sounded like smoke and mirrors, to me. but i thought, well, i'm going to give it a shot. i mean, i want to solve this case. >> yeah. >> she sent dr. fitzpatrick the two dna profiles from michella and jenni's crime scenes. >> and she did her magic. she entered into her genealogy databases. >> there were no exact matches, but there were some possible family names. >> i certainly dug into the names and there wasn't anybody who jumped off the page. >> the only name that seemed remotely interesting was washburn, because there was a guy, by that name, in the case file. but he wasn't a suspect. he was a witness. he was the jogger who told police he saw someone in point defiance park who resembled the sketch of
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michella's killer. but even more confusing, dr. fitzpatrick's genealogy research had linked the name washburn to the dna in jenni's murder. which detective wade new happened months after washburn phoned in that tip about michella. so, it was all just a fluke, probably. >> and so, it was something that i kept in the back of my mind, as we continued on with the investigation. >> she also went to a company called parabon, that turned dna profiles into computer generated images. showing what the suspects probably looked like. in 2016, armed with those snapshots. >> these two are solvable. >> the tacoma police department told the public they were searching for two killers, and needed help to find them. jenni's sister theresa was hopeful. >> i didn't know, exactly, where it was going to end up. but i knew it was a big step in the case. >> we had a tip line open. and
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we got multiple tips on the same person, because he actually looked so much like the sketch. >> but when they checked him out, they eliminated him as a suspect. so much for new approaches. detective wade, once again, looked at the huge lists she'd made. 2,300 men, connected to the two cases. she couldn't test all of them against the crime scene dna. but -- >> there were several hundred that really did stand out because they did have documented history for violence and sexual assault. >> so, she set out to collect the dna of those men. she called them high-priority suspects. she also, included one guy who wasn't a suspect at all. the witness, washburn. and though they were scattered all over the country, with the fbi's help, one by one, she tracked them down.
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>> we asked people. knocked on their door. literally, told them we were investigating a cold case and we'd like to eliminate you as a potential suspect. would you give us your dna? we had, in total, about 160 people that we got dna samples from. >> 160 samples. they all needed to be compared with the dna samples from the two crime scenes. easier said than done. isn't like the movies. this would take months. no idea if any of it would pay off. >> coming up -- so, first batch goes out there. none of these guys were a match. then, i send the next batch out and it's the same thing. >> weeks. months. a year of dead ends. then, came the phone call. >> i was like, no way. >> when "dateline" continues.
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went in tacoma, washington. as ever so methodically, in batches of 20, detective lindsey wade sent her collected samples of dna to the lab. dna taken from 160 men looking for two killers. >> first batch goes out there. i wait months, months, and months. and then, you know, get a report back that none of these guys are a match. and then, i send the next batch out. and it's the same thing. it was really frustrating because there were some people that looked like fantastic
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suspects, up until the point that they were eliminated. >> a year of dna tests and not a single match. it was enough to wear any detective down, even one as passionate as lindsey wade. she had given her best. but now, she'd made a tough decision. >> it was time for me to move on. >> in the spring of 2018, lindsey wade retired from the tacoma pd. >> working on cold cases is, typically, more frustrating than rewarding. because you can work and work and work and work, and do a ton of investigation. and come up with zero. >> and then, walk away? >> yeah. >> she had investigated both jenni and michella's cases for years. and saying good-bye wasn't easy. especially, to jenni's mom. by that time, had you grown pretty close to pattie? >> uh-huh. yeah. >> she is a very special gal. i told her mother, i'm going to
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adopt her. >> before she left, wade sent one last, small batch of samples to the dna lab. no point, really, in waiting for the results. >> we are down to the last 18. i'm doubtful that we're going to get a match. >> so, she said good-bye and went on with her life. and 25 days later. >> my phone buzzed, and i looked down. >> it was her replacement on the cold-case unit. >> i answer the phone, and he said, there's a match on jennifer bastian. i asked, who -- who is it? what's the name? and he said, robert washburn? and i was like, no way. i knew exactly who it was. but i just couldn't believe it. >> robert washburn. he was the guy who phoned in a tip about michella's murder. he was never a suspect. on her short list, only because of that genealogy
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analysis. why did washburn's name end up on the list to be tested for dna? >> because of his last name. >> just the last name? >> yes. >> because he was in that list that was sent to you? >> correct. >> at the time, it seemed like a coincidence. a fluke. but now, here it was. no doubt. robert washburn's dna on jenni bastian's swimsuit. it was head spinning. zblfr and the funny thing is he was not a high-priority suspect. >> he certainly hadn't abouted like one. they learned in the years after the murder/rape of jenni bastian, robert washburn blended into middle america. literally. stayed out of trouble. in fact, when investigators came knocking at his door? he voluntarily gave them a dna sample. >> now, more than three decade after that terrible day in the park. washburn was arrested, at
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home. and then, the new cold-case detective spoke with him. how did he react? >> he was scared. he was very nervous. he was sweating. he asked me, is this about that swab i gave the fbi a year ago? and then, he told me, i didn't kill that little girl. >> with washburn in handcuffs, it was time to let jenni's mom know. and that job went to retired detective wade. >> so, of course, i had rehearsed what i was going to say. and -- and it all went out the window by the time i got there. couldn't remember what i was going to say. >> and she walked in. i could tell she had been crying. and she said -- >> we got him. and that's really all i could say. >> the next thing we were doing is crying and hugging each other. >> yeah. >> after 32 years, jenni's alleged killer was finally in
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custody. but what about michella's murderer? his identity was, still, a mystery. of the 160 men, whose dna was tested, none matched. did you get to the point where you thought this is just -- we're -- just live with this? never going to be solved? >> yeah. >> oh, yeah. >> whether it was solved or not, was never going to bring her back. but i did not ever want that to happen to other children. so in my mind, it would be a great idea to find this guy. >> remember, back in 2016, parabon made a sketch based on the suspect's d in a but it didn't lead to a suspect. so, in 2018, the company decided to try a newer, more advanced version of forensic genealogy. and what do ya know? coming up -- >> how could you find somebody,
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how could somebody still be out there? >> one mother, still, seeking answers. and one more phone call, from out of the blue. >> i believe in the devil. and people that don't believe in the devil, i think, they're in for a big surprise. >> when "dateline" continues. anything to make you smile. book today at, walk in, or call 1-800-aspendental.
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30 years the tacoma police worked every angle to solve the murders of two little girls,
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horrific crimes that shook the city to its core and yet jenni and michella's case files passed through three generations of detectives before forensics gave them their first big break. now jenni's suspected killer was behind bars and investigators were determined that michella's would be next. here's keith morrison with the conclusion of "evil was watching. " it's a hole, big hole that nothing else can fill, no amount of comfort. >> the loss of her daughter michella hit barbara leonard and the grief -- >> there's never an end to it and there won't be, i don't think, until i see her and i have that hope and promise. the bible is true. the bible says the dead are sleeping. they will be resurrected. >> that's where you find your comfort? >> of course it is. that's how i've been able to maintain a relationship and understand other people's pain.
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>> of course, barbara was glad when she heard there was an arrest in jenni's case in may of 2018 but she knew it wouldn't shed any light on michella's case. >> two different distinct persons. >> maybe they solved the other case but they'd never solve yours. >> yeah. >> so it seemed, 40 days, 40 nights until june 20th, 2018, when barbara's phone rang. >> police chief calls and says, we've got the man we feel is responsible for your daughter's murder. >> after 32 years the breakthrough was once again gene neological dna. >> through this process two brothers were identified as possible suspects. >> the chief's press conference, detective steve riofelt told where he got lucky. >> i observed him using a napkin multiple times and i was
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able to collect it and get that submitted to the lab. >> and it was a match. >> surreal because after all of this time, how could you find somebody? how could somebody still be out there? >> michella's alleged killer was a nurse of all things in a psychiatric hospital. a working class guy with no history of violent crime just like robert washburn. >> i believe in the devil, i believe fully in the devil. people that don't believe in the devil, i think they're in for a big surprise. >> barbara leonard and her daughters were in court the day he was charged with her murder. >> i was looking at him and i thought, who is this person? how could someone that looks so normal do something like this? >> he pleaded not guilty to first degree murder and his trial is still pending. his attorney sent us a letter which
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reads in part, the defense is pursuing various investigative means. i ask the public accord mr. hartman the presumption of innocence to which he is entight zblld robert washburn was back in court. this was the final step of a plea deal. >> how do you plead? >> guilty. >> washburn pleaded guilty to first degree murder. he was sentenced to 27 years in prison. >> i had prayed that he would not go to trial. i just want it to be over. >> as part of the plea agreement washburn had to tell the court about the murder. in a statement read by the judge he said he grabbed jenni by the arm, brought her into the woods and strangled her and that was it. which that was not enough at all. >> i will always have the question in my head, so you woke up on august 4th. it was a beautiful sunday. you went to
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the park. did you intend to kill a little girl? why? why did you do this? did you know what you did? do you know how many birthdays she missed? how many christmass? how many smiles? how many laughs? >> do you have any expectation that he's going to answer that why question or any hope that he will? >> yes. yes. and the reason for that is not for me, the reason is for future, to help psychologists, parents, detectives understand what can be in a human being. what -- what -- what make him this person? >> and also why did washburn call in a tip about michella's murder months before he killed jenni. >> that's another question we'd
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like an answer to. >> had he been planning it all that time? >> i don't know. >> watching for somebody? >> certainly possible. >> after 32 years jenni's case had finally ended but the bastian wade partnership had not. the two joined forces 20 get a bill that expands dna collection and make sure it gets into a national registry right away. it's called jennifer and michella's law. >> what would it mean to you to have such a law named after your daughter? >> it would be great. it would be terrific. to memorialize these two girls that did not deserve this. >> in may 2019 washington governor jay inslee signed that law into effect. two little girls, two innocence riding their bikes through a park on a sunny day. that's all for this edition of "dateline. " i'm natalie morales. thank you for
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watching. >> i'm craig melvin. >> and i'm natalie morales. >> and this is "dateline." >> did you shoot your parents? >> no. >> either one of them? >> no. >> you're not a murderer? >> i'm not a murderer. >> madison holton, high school senior, accused killer. >> i literally got chills. this is a huge deal. >> the father had come home and found a lot of drug paraphernalia. >> they were having issues with him. it was hurting her heart to have this happen. >> distraught parents, a rebellious teen. a family meeting explodes into violence. >> that situation goes from calm to murder in 11 minutes? >> i mean it's homicide. >> i didn't hurt either of my


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