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Uncovering the Truth: How a Piece of Gum Solved a 44-Year-Old Crime!

More than 40 years after the crime occurred, and thanks to DNA technology, the police arrested a suspect in a murder that occurred in 1980 in the American state of Oregon, according to what the American network “CNN” reported.

Robert Plimpton, 60, was convicted last week of first-degree murder and four counts of second-degree murder in the January 15, 1980, killing of Barbara Tucker, who was a student at Mount Hood Community College, according to a press release issued by Multnomah County District Attorney.

Prosecutors said that DNA found in a piece of gum that Plimpton spat out while under surveillance after being suspected more than three years ago contributed to his arrest.

The statement said that Tucker, who was 19 years old, was “kidnapped, sexually assaulted, and beaten to death.” Plimpton has pleaded not guilty, and his lawyers say they plan to appeal his conviction, according to CNN.

The District Attorney's Office said that Plimpton remains in custody in Multnomah County awaiting sentencing, with his sentencing hearing scheduled for next June.

The crime dates back to 1980, when Tucker's body was discovered near the parking lot by students who were on their way to class at the college. Witnesses said at the time that on January 15 of the same year, they saw a woman in “distress” around the time of the murder, according to documents from the Public Prosecutor’s Office.

One woman described seeing a female “waving her arms with her face covered in blood,” while another said she “saw a man peeping through the bushes next to the college parking lot.”

After years of investigating the crime, police asked DNA technology company Parabon NanoLabs to take a look at the victim's profile and try to identify possible matches. Swabs taken during Tucker's autopsy were used to create a DNA profile of the suspect.

According to CNN, a test to predict a person's physical traits based on DNA has helped genetic genealogists narrow the scope of potential suspects.

“This case ended up being solved,” said Parabon NanoLabs' chief genetic genealogist, CC Moore.

Moore added to CNN that while she was preparing family trees for people who shared DNA with the sample provided by the police, she discovered World War II registration cards for men with red hair.

"There was a very strong possibility that the person who killed and raped Barbara had red hair," Moore told the network. "That helped me focus on a specific family line and follow that red hair, which took us all the way back to Oregon."

CNN said that in March 2021, Moore was able to identify Robert Plimpton as a potential suspect.

Investigators used this information to begin surveillance of Plimpton, and were able to take a piece of gum that investigators had seen him spit out for later analysis, the district attorney's office said. Then, investigators discovered that the DNA taken from the gum matched the autopsy swabs, and he was arrested on June 8, 2021.

“These cases are not lost or forgotten,” then-Police Chief Claudio Grandjean said in a statement after Plimpton’s arrest in June 2021.

He added: "Each case represents a person to our officers, and their tragic stories are passed down through generations in the hope that one day it will bring honor to their names and a sense of justice and closure to their cases."

Tucker's sister, Susan Butters, expressed her happiness, saying: "It was amazing. It is good news after I had given up."

Source News : CNN - Published Date: March 25, 2024


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