Man arrested in Spokane for 32-year-old Pasco murder

(Photo: victim Robert McDonald, from 1986, courtesy Pasco Police Department; story: KHQ.com)

A 32-year-old murder case is about to close with an arrest. Pasco Police Detectives have gone to Spokane to interview the suspect, a 50-year-old 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, Robert James McDonald Jr of Richland, was 40 years old on Feb. 25, 1986, when visitors to the park saw a body floating in the nearby lagoon. His pickup truck was 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 an intense investigation, over the course of several years, 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 Feb. 1, 2018, 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 where they had collected his DNA. The State Crime Lab confirmed the DNA match from Milam.

Pasco Detectives have interviewed Milam, in Spokane, where they developed probable cause for his arrest for murder. The Franklin County Prosecutors Office has 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.

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