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Gresham police arrest Troutdale man in 1980 cold case murder

Police arrested Robert Plympton, 58, for allegedly raping and killing a 19-year-old student near the Mt. Hood Community College campus in 1980.
Credit: Multnomah County Sheriff's Office
Robert Plympton

PORTLAND, Ore. — High-tech investigation methods helped Gresham police identify a Troutdale man suspected of raping and killing a young woman more than four decades ago near Mt. Hood Community College. 

Police arrested Robert Plympton, 58, on Tuesday for the murder of 19-year-old Barbara Mae Tucker.

Police said they identified the suspect using DNA technology that wasn't available back then. 

The victim was a sophomore at Mt. Hood Community College in Gresham when she was killed on Jan. 15, 1980. 

Police said she was seen running onto Northeast Kane Drive from a wooded area on the west edge of campus, waving to get people's attention. No one driving by stopped to help. 

One witness saw a man lead her back toward campus after emerging from some bushes, police said. 

A fellow student found Tucker’s body near campus the next morning. Police said she had been sexually assaulted. 

For 41 years, the killing remained unsolved. 

In a news release Tuesday, police said they recently used physical evidence from the original crime scene combined with modern advances in DNA technology, DNA ancestry databases and research and analysis by Virginia-based Parabon NanoLabs to link Plympton to the crime. 

“These ‘cold cases’ are not lost or forgotten for our department,” Gresham Police Chief Claudio Grandjean said. “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.”

If Plympton is convicted, police said it would clear the oldest unsolved homicide in the Gresham Police Department's cold case files.