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Deputies arrest Newberg man for 1988 murder of wife

Robert Atrops is accused of killing Deborah Atrops in November 1988. Deputies found her body inside the trunk of her vehicle, which was abandoned in Beaverton.
Credit: Washington County Sheriff's Office
Deputies found Deborah Atrop's body inside the trunk of her car in Beaverton on Dec. 1, 1988.

PORTLAND, Ore. — A Newberg man was arrested for the 1988 murder of his then-30-year-old wife, according to the Washington County Sheriff's Office (WCS).

Deputies took Robert Elmer Atrops, now 68, into custody on March 2.

In November 1988, Robert Atrops, who was 34 years old at the time, reported to police that his wife, Deborah Lee Atrops, had gone missing. The two had separated in June 1988 and had different living arrangements, but were still married.

Deborah Atrops was supposed to pick up their then-8-month-old daughter at Robert Atrops' home on the evening of Nov. 29, but never showed up, WCSO said. The sheriff's office received an official missing person report on Nov. 30.

On Dec. 1, Beaverton police responded to a report of a suspicious, abandoned vehicle parked at the dead end of Southwest Murry Road near Southwest Scholls Ferry. The caller said the keys were on the driver's seat. Witnesses reported seeing the vehicle had been parked there since the early morning of Nov. 30. Beaverton police determined the vehicle, described as a black Honda Accord, belonged to Deborah Atrops. 

Investigators with the WCSO were notified about the vehicle and also responded. They found Deborah Atrops' body inside the trunk. 

On Dec. 2, an autopsy showed that she had been physically assaulted and strangled to death, and her death was ruled a homicide.

"Investigators expended a significant amount of time and effort in their investigation; however, the murder of Mrs. Atrops remained unsolved, and eventually, the case turned cold," WCSO said in a news release.

In May 2021, the Washington County District Attorney's Office Cold Case Unit worked with the WCSO and reopened the case. Detectives interviewed previous witnesses and reexamined forensic evidence.

On Feb. 28, a Washington Grand Jury indicted Robert Atrops for one count of murder in the second degree.

This week, deputies served a search warrant at Robert Atrops' home in Newberg and arrested him. He was taken to the Washington County Jail and was scheduled to be arraigned at the Washington County Law Enforcement Center. 

Correction: A previous version of this story said the black Honda Accord belong to Robert Atrops.

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