32-year-old cold case from Pasco wraps up in Spokane

SPOKANE, Wash. - A 32-year-old cold case is about to be closed after an arrest that occurred in Spokane.

Pasco Police Detectives traveled to Spokane to interview 50-year-old suspect and former Pasco resident Theodore Milam about the presence of his DNA at a 1986 murder scene at the Pasco Boat Basin (Schlagel Park).

The homicide victim (pictured), was 40-year-old Robert James McDonald Jr of Richland. 

Visitors to the park saw a body floating in the nearby lagoon and spotted Robert's pickup truck parked nearby. It appeared that McDonald had been in the water, unnoticed, for several hours.

An autopsy, and physical evidence at the scene indicated he had been bound and beaten. Ultimately, McDonald died from drowning.

After several years of intense investigation, the case went dormant. Fingerprint evidence did not lead anywhere. A profile of the case was entered into a national database. 

Any remotely similar case in the region was compared, but no viable leads were found.

As DNA testing became more refined, the Washington State Crime Lab started collecting DNA samples and in 2006 Pasco Detectives submitted DNA evidence from the McDonald homicide to add to their database. 

On February 1st Pasco Detectives were notified that a valid DNA profile matching the McDonald homicide had returned.

Spokane Police had arrested Milam on a separate investigation in Spokane and had collected his DNA. The State Crime Lab confirmed the DNA match from Milam.

Pasco Detectives interviewed Milam in Spokane where they developed probable cause for his arrest in relation to the murder. 

The Franklin County Prosecutors Office obtained a warrant for Milam’s arrest for 1st degree murder.

Detectives are continuing the investigation, including locating since retired Pasco Police Detectives, Officers and the Evidence Technician at the time, along with other witnesses.