Oregon Man Convicted in 1980 Cold Case Murder of College Student

Oregon Man Convicted in 1980 Cold Case Murder of College Student

In a significant breakthrough in a cold case dating back to 1980, Robert Plympton, 60, has been found guilty of first-degree murder in the death of 19-year-old college student Barbara Mae Tucker. The Multnomah County District Attorney’s Office announced the conviction following a decision by Multnomah County Circuit Judge Amy Baggio on Friday.

Barbara Mae Tucker, a student at Mt. Hood Community College in Gresham, Oregon, was expected to attend a night class on January 15, 1980. Disturbingly, she never made it. Witnesses reported seeing her emerge from a bushy, wooded area on campus, appearing to be running before a man emerged and led her back toward the area. Tucker’s body was discovered near a campus parking lot the following day, sparking an investigation that would remain unresolved for decades. A medical examiner determined that Tucker had been sexually assaulted and beaten to death.

The case saw a significant development in 2021 when Parabon Nanolabs, employing advanced DNA technology, linked Plympton to DNA evidence preserved from the crime scene. Gresham Police Department detectives, after locating Plympton living in Troutdale, a suburb of Portland, conducted surveillance and collected a piece of chewing gum he discarded. This piece of evidence proved to be crucial, as the Oregon State Police Crime Lab confirmed that the DNA from the gum matched the profile obtained from Tucker’s remains.

While Plympton has been convicted of murder, the judge did not convict him of rape or sexual abuse, citing a lack of conclusive evidence to prove these acts occurred while Tucker was still alive. Throughout the trial, Plympton maintained his innocence, asserting that he did not match the description of the man seen leading Tucker into the bushes on the night of her murder.

The Multnomah County Chief Deputy District Attorney Kirsten Snowden highlighted the lack of evidence suggesting any prior acquaintance between Tucker and Plympton, adding layer of mystery and tragedy to the case.

Plympton’s sentencing is scheduled for June, bringing a long-awaited closure to a case that has haunted the Gresham community and Tucker’s family for over four decades. This conviction underscores the profound impact of DNA technology in solving crimes and delivering justice in cases long thought unsolvable.

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