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Troutdale's Robert Plympton, 58, connected to 40-year-old killing of MHCC student

CONTRIBUTED PHOTO: MULTNOMAH COUNTY SHERIFFS OFFICE - Robert Plympton A 58-year-old Troutdale man was arrested on suspicion of a 1980 Gresham murder, bringing detectives one step closer to solving the oldest unsolved homicide case in the city.

Robert Plympton was taken into custody Tuesday, June 8, in connection to the murder of 19-year-old Barbara Mae Tucker 41 years ago.

"These 'cold cases' are not lost or forgotten for our department," said Interim Chief Claudio Grandjean. "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."

Tucker was a sophomore at Mt. Hood Community College, working toward a business degree. While walking to an evening class on January 15, 1980, she was seen running onto Northeast Kane Drive from the wooded area on the western edge of campus. At the time, witnesses believed she was waving at someone and trying to get people's attention — but no one stopped.

A witness told police that a man emerged from the shrubs and led her back toward campus. A fellow student found Tucker's body in nearby bushes the following morning. The medical examiner determined she had been sexually assaulted and beaten to death.

Gresham police were unable to identify a suspect, make an arrest, or charge anyone for more than four decades.

But that changed after physical evidence from the original crime scene was tested using modern DNA technology. A DNA profile was created that led to Plympton's arrest.

Grandjean noted the work done by Detective Aaron Turnage and criminalist Deanna Grossi in working on the case for many years.

"I'm hopeful this development will help Barbara's family and our community heal," Grandjean said.

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