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Ore. Man Convicted of 1980 Cold Case Murder After DNA Found on Chewing Gum Linked Him to Crime

Robert Plympton was convicted of killing 19-year-old Barbara Mae Tucker

<p>Getty Images</p>

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An Oregon man who was linked to a 1980 cold case murder after his DNA was found on a piece of chewing gum was convicted of murder.

Barbara Mae Tucker, a 19-year-old college student, was kidnapped and killed on Jan. 15, 1980, in Gresham, Ore., the Multnomah District Attorney’s Office said in a press release. Her body was found the next day near the campus of Mount Hood Community College.

Authorities said Tucker was sexually assaulted and beaten to death. But her murder remained unsolved for decades, though in 2000, a DNA profile was developed from vaginal swabs done during her autopsy, according to prosecutors.

In 2021, a genealogist identified Robert Plympton, now 60, as a “likely contributor” to the DNA profile, and Gresham police detectives began surveilling him, according to the district attorney’s office.

The detectives surveilling Plympton saw him spit gum on the sidewalk, collected it and sent it into a lab for testing, prosecutors said. Plympton was arrested in June 2021 after authorities said the DNA sample from the gum matched the 2000 DNA sample.

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Plympton was found guilty of first-degree murder by a judge at the conclusion of his bench trial on Friday, prosecutors said. He will be sentenced in June.

The AP reported that Plympton was not convicted of rape or sexual abuse, with court ruling that prosecutors failed to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the abuse occurred before Tucker's death.

If you or someone you know has been sexually assaulted, please contact the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 1-800-656-HOPE (4673) or go to rainn.org.

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