Gary Hartman found guilty of rape, murder of Michella Welch

Michelle Welch

On Tuesday, Gary Hartman was found guilty of murdering Michella Welch (pictured above shortly before her death, provided by the Tacoma Police Department).

A judge found a Washington man committed crime in 1986 cold case killed a 12-year-old girl and sentenced to more than 26 years in prison at the end of Tuesday’s trial.

Gary Hartman70 years old, will serve 320 months in prison for the crime rape and killing belong to Michelle Welchwhose body was found dumped in a puddle near the playground, where she had watched over her sisters.

During a live stream of the proceedings, Superior Court Judge Pierce Stanley J. Rumbaugh told Hartman he would probably spend the rest of his life behind bars.

Judge Rumbaugh also allowed family members of the victim to read impact statements in court.

“I said lock him up and throw the keys away,” said the victim’s mother, Barbara Leonard.

In another statement put on file, Michelle’s aunt Linda Maguire Her murder was the worst and most devastating event in our family. There is a hole in our lives that no one can fill.”

Hartman, a divorced nurse with two children of her own, could be seen crying throughout the 90 minutes of proceedings and frequently wiping her face with tissues.

“I’m so sorry. God knows I’m so sorry, and that doesn’t help. I’m just sorry,” Hartman told the judge and gathered family members after the statement was read out in court.

Michelle went missing on March 26, 1986.

She went to the playground with her two sisters that day, according to the Hartman probable cause affidavit.

She then cycled home to prepare lunch for the group while her sisters searched for a nearby bathroom.

The affidavit said that the two young girls tried to call Michella after using the bathroom and returned to the playground when they received no response.

Michella didn’t come back for lunch when her sisters returned, so the two went out.

According to the affidavit, they returned to the playground just minutes later to find Michella’s bicycle, and their bread had been served, but there was no sign of their sister.

Finally, police arrived on the scene and after eight hours of searching, Michella’s body was identified. According to the affidavit possible causes:

At the time of discovery, the victim was lying down [sic] Lie on your back with your head turned to the left. Her arms are away from her body at approximately shoulder height. Her upper body is fully covered, but her shirt has been raised just above her rib cage. From the waist down, the victim is not clothed. Her pants and bra were pulled down and left around her right ankle.

The next day, an autopsy revealed that Michella had died of blunt force trauma to the head. According to the medical examiner, she also suffered a 7-inch laceration in her neck and evidence of trauma to both anus and vagina.

However, there were no witnesses to the crime. In the end, the case turned cold.

impact of victim michella Welch

Victim impact statement filed in court by Michella’s aunt, Linda Maguire (above)

Investigator with Tacoma Police Department got their first break in 2006 when they were able to collect semen collected by Washington State Patrol Crime Laboratory and developed the male DNA profile of Michella’s killer, as explained by Pierce . County Prosecutor’s Office back in 2018 after charging Hartman.

That profiling is then run through the Combined DNA Index System (CODIS), a tool developed by the FBI for matching DNA samples.

There were no matches in CODIS at the time.

Then, in 2018, Det. Steve Reopelle of the Tacoma Police Department began working with a genetic genealogist in Parabon Nanolabs.

Genetic pedigree has proven to be an important tool in closing cold case investigations. It is a science that uses DNA technology to identify an object by matching unknown records with family members. And with millions of Americans taking home DNA tests every year, the database these anonymous profiles can run through continues to grow.

In Michella’s case, genetic genealogy showed that DNA extracted from her semen belonged to one of two brothers in Washington state, according to the probable cause affidavit.

Upon receiving this news, Det. Reopelle began surveying Hartman for a DNA sample. After following the nurse to work one day, Det. Reopelle was able to do just that, according to the affidavit:

[Hartman] and a female colleague drove to a nearby restaurant and ordered breakfast. Detective Reopelle entered the restaurant and sat at a table about 10 feet from Hartman. Detective Reopelle observed him wiping his mouth several times with a brown tissue before crumpling it up and putting it in his pocket. He then crumpled the bag and set it aside as he continued to drink coffee and talk to colleagues. An employee was cleaning the hallway and collecting the bag, which Det. Reopelle took from her.

Law enforcement tracking down a suspect only to get his DNA removed and solving a cold case found precedent recently in the case of the Golden State Killer. The prolific rapist and serial killer, unaware of himself at the time, became mundane but decided fate to discard an item that will be used against him for maximum effect.

That napkin in the Hartman case was sent to the Washington State Patrol Crime Laboratory, and two weeks later news emerged that the DNA matched.

The COVID delay meant it took prosecutors nearly four years to secure Hartman’s conviction.

Saturday will mark 36 years since Michella was murdered, and the family hope this latest development can help them find some peace.

Is her sister Nicole EbyOne of the last people to see Michella alive, told the court on Tuesday: “Forgiveness is not forgetting, but remembering without pain.”

Hartman will return to court May 13 for a restitution hearing. His attorney did not return a request for comment.

Is there a trick we should know? [email protected] Gary Hartman found guilty of rape, murder of Michella Welch

James Brien

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