On Jan. 15, 1980, several drivers witnessed 19-year-old Barbara Mae Tucker running into traffic near Mt. Hood Community College in Gresham, Oregon, where she was a sophomore taking business classes. She was trying to stop passing vehicles before a man emerged and began to lead her toward campus. No one stopped, thinking it may have just been a prank. The next morning, a student found the body of Barbara Mae Tucker in some bushes. Barbara had been on her way to evening classes at the college when someone brutally murdered her. Her belongings were found nearby, indicating robbery was not the motivation. A medical examiner confirmed the suspected, that this was a sexually motivated crime. Her family believes that because it was raining, she likely accepted a ride to her classes from someone, as she “wouldn’t have walked to class that cold, rainy night.”
Despite the amount of witnesses from that night, no description of the man was available. It had been too dark to make out any distinctive features. Instead, it took decades and several technological advancements to catch Barbara’s killer. DNA evidence left at the scene led investigators to a distant relative that shared less than 1% of DNA with the killer. From there, a Virginia-based genetic genealogist built a family tree that led to the arrest of the alleged murderer.
The believed killer has a criminal record including a conviction for second-degree kidnapping in Multnomah County in 1985. He also had 2 dui convictions in the late 90s. And in 1997, he was accused of attempted sodomy and assault in an attack on a woman. This was dismissed due to insufficient evidence. After entering a plea of not guilty, Barbara’s believed killer awaits trial. Authorities believe that Barbara was likely not his only victim.
Barbara’s father died in 1989, followed by her mother in 1995, having never received justice for their daughter’s death. Barbara Mae Tucker is survived by 2 sisters
Barbara was described by friends and families as a goofball. She was ambitious, and was the first in her family to attend college. She was artistic and loved sewing, knitting, and crocheting. She dreamed of opening her own craft supply store after finishing her degree. One sister recalled. “She loved to goof around and have fun, but she was serious about not getting in trouble.”