Ore. Police Detectives Use DNA from Piece of Gum to Solve 1980 Murder

March 20, 2024
To solve the 1980 murder of a community college student, Gresham police detectives used a piece of gum spit out by the killer to connect him to the DNA profile of the suspect in the case.

By Daniella Segura

Source The Charlotte Observer

A man was found guilty in a college student’s 1980 killing after DNA from a piece of chewing gum linked him to the crime, Oregon officials say.

In a bench trial, Robert Plympton, 60, was found guilty of first-degree murder, along with four counts of second-degree murder, in the death of Barbara Tucker, the Multnomah County District Attorney’s Office said in a March 18 news release.

In an email to McClatchy News, Stephen Houze and Jacob Houze, Plympton’s attorneys, said they plan to appeal the case.

“We are confident that his convictions will be overturned,” the attorneys wrote.

Tucker, a student at Mt. Hood Community College, was found dead “in a wooded area” in Gresham by students arriving for class the morning of Jan. 16, 1980, prosecutors said.

The night prior, Tucker “was kidnapped, sexually assaulted, and beaten to death near a campus parking lot,” according to prosecutors.

To solve the case, prosecutors said detectives turned their efforts to genetic genealogy in 2021.

Genetic genealogy uses DNA testing coupled with “traditional genealogical methods” to create “family history profiles,” according to the Library of Congress. With genealogical DNA testing, researchers can determine if and how people are biologically related.

Using a DNA profile created for a suspect in 2000, a Parabon Nanolabs genealogist identified Plympton as a suspect, according to prosecutors.

Gresham police detectives were surveying Plympton when they saw him “spit a piece of chewing gum onto the ground,” prosecutors said.

Detectives collected it and submitted it for DNA analysis, officials said.

The DNA profile from the gum was a match to the DNA profile for the suspect in Tucker’s case, according to prosecutors.

Plympton was arrested in June 2021, prosecutors said.

“The saddest part is that she will always be 19,” Alice Juan, Tucker’s sister, told Oregon Live after Plympton’s arrest. “We didn’t get to watch her grow up, we didn’t get to see her turn into a woman, who could’ve had her own business, get married and have children of her own.”

Until her death in 1995, Tucker’s mother, Louise Tucker, never gave up on solving her daughter’s case, KOIN reported.

“If it takes 10 years, I don’t care,” Louise Tucker wrote in a handwritten record, the outlet reported. “I just can’t let it rest.”

Plympton is expected to appear in court again in June for sentencing, prosecutors said.

Gresham is about a 15-mile drive east from Portland.


©2024 The Charlotte Observer.

Visit charlotteobserver.com.

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

Sponsored Recommendations

Build Your Real-Time Crime Center

March 19, 2024
A checklist for success

Whitepaper: A New Paradigm in Digital Investigations

July 28, 2023
Modernize your agency’s approach to get ahead of the digital evidence challenge

A New Paradigm in Digital Investigations

June 6, 2023
Modernize your agency’s approach to get ahead of the digital evidence challenge.

Listen to Real-Time Emergency 911 Calls in the Field

Feb. 8, 2023
Discover advanced technology that allows officers in the field to listen to emergency calls from their vehicles in real time and immediately identify the precise location of the...

Voice your opinion!

To join the conversation, and become an exclusive member of Officer, create an account today!