Tacoma police used DNA, ancestry services to solve 1986 murder of Tacoma girl

TACOMA, Wash. — Gary Hartman, 66, of Lakewood, was charged Friday with raping and killing a 12-year-old girl in Tacoma over three decades ago.

Michella Welch was abducted from a Tacoma park in 1986 and found dead later that day.

Tacoma police and the Pierce County prosecutor say a genealogist used a DNA sample from the crime scene to build a family tree using public websites, then ran it through a database and received a significant match.

Police say that process led to Hartman and his brother and a DNA sample from Hartman obtained by detectives off a napkin at a restaurant matched the DNA found on Welch's body.

Hartman is being held in the Pierce County Jail in lieu of $5 million bail.


“The murders of Michella Welch and Jennifer Bastian stunned our community and were among the main reasons we formed a cold case team,” said Prosecutor Mark Lindquist. “DNA technology is rapidly advancing. If you’re a criminal who left DNA at a crime scene, you might as well turn yourself in now. We will eventually catch you.”

Hartman was arrested Wednesday in Lakewood and booked into the jail on investigation of first-degree murder.