Oregon man found guilty of murder in 1980 cold case of college student after DNA link

An Oregon man has been found guilty of murder in a 1980s cold case involving a college student

ByThe Associated Press
March 18, 2024, 8:43 PM

PORTLAND, Ore. -- A man living in the suburbs of Portland, Oregon, has been found guilty in the 1980 cold case murder of a 19-year-old college student.

Multnomah County Circuit Judge Amy Baggio on Friday found Robert Plympton, 60, guilty of first-degree murder in the death of Barbara Mae Tucker, the Multnomah County District Attorney's Office said in a news release on Monday.

Plympton was not convicted of rape or sexual abuse because prosecutors failed to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that it happened while she was still alive, the judge said. A medical examiner determined Tucker had been sexually assaulted and beaten to death.

In 2021, a genealogist with Parabon Nanolabs using DNA technology identified Plympton as likely linked to the DNA in the case. Detectives with the Gresham Police Department who found Plympton living in Troutdale, began conducting surveillance and collected a piece of chewing gum he had spit onto the ground, according to prosecutors.

Police arrested Plympton after the Oregon State Police Crime Lab determined the DNA profile developed from the gum matched the DNA profile developed from swabs taken from Tucker's body, which had been preserved.

Tucker was expected at a night class at Mt. Hood Community College in Gresham on Jan. 15, 1980. Witnesses said she had been seen running out of a bushy, wooded area on campus and that a man came out of the area and led her back to campus. A student found Tucker’s body the next day near a campus parking lot.

Multnomah County Chief Deputy District Attorney Kirsten Snowden said there was no evidence that Tucker and Plympton knew each other, The Oregonian/OregonLive reported.

Plympton said he was innocent and that he didn’t match the description of a man seen pulling her into the bushes.

He is scheduled to be sentenced in June.

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