Robert Plympton, 60, has been convicted of the murder of Barbara Mae Tucker, a 19-year-old student from Mt. Hood Community College in 1980, marking a significant breakthrough in a case that remained unsolved for decades. The conviction was largely due to DNA evidence obtained from gum Plympton discarded, which matched a DNA profile created from swabs taken from Tucker’s body. This case highlights the powerful role of DNA technology and genetic genealogy in solving long-standing cold cases.

Tucker was brutally murdered near her college campus, a crime that shocked and saddened the community. Despite the initial lack of leads, advances in DNA analysis provided the crucial evidence needed. In 2000, DNA swabs from Tucker’s autopsy were analyzed to create a profile, but it wasn’t until 2021 that a genealogist from Parabon Nanolabs identified Plympton as the likely perpetrator, leading to his surveillance and subsequent arrest.

Investigation and Trial

Oregon Man Convicted in Decades-Old College Student Murder Case
Barbara Mae Tucker, 19, was murdered in 1980

Upon being surveilled by the Gresham Police, Plympton was observed discarding a piece of chewing gum. This gum was collected and analyzed, with the DNA results confirming Plympton’s connection to the murder. Following his arrest in June 2021, Plympton pleaded not guilty to the charges. However, after a bench trial, Judge Amy Baggio found him guilty of first-degree murder and four counts of second-degree murder under different theories, as announced by the Multnomah County District Attorney’s Office.

The trial also revealed that there was no evidence Tucker and Plympton knew each other before the murder, adding a layer of randomness and tragedy to the case. Though Plympton was not convicted of rape or sexual abuse due to a lack of conclusive evidence that these acts occurred while Tucker was alive, his murder conviction brings a measure of closure to a case that lingered unsolved for over four decades.

Plympton now awaits sentencing, set for June 21, remaining in custody in Multnomah County. This case stands as a testament to the persistence of law enforcement and the evolving capabilities of forensic science, offering hope that justice may eventually be served, no matter how much time has passed.