DNA evidence has linked a single suspect to two formerly cold cases, the earliest dating back more than 30 years.
When Theodore Milam, 54, was released from jail late last year in Spokane County, his DNA was uploaded to a nationwide law enforcement database. On Jan. 31, that database found two matches in cases more than 130 miles and 13 years apart.
One is from Spokane County, where in 1999 a woman reportedly was raped by a masked man at her house near Shadle Park. The other is a 1986 cold case killing in Pasco that left a 40-year-old man dead, his body discovered floating in the Columbia River
The Tri-City Herald reported bail of $500,000 was set by Franklin County Superior Court Judge Sam Swanberg. Milam faces a charge of first-degree murder.
But first he may have to answer for the DNA match in Spokane County. Milam was arrested Tuesday and had a preliminary court appearance in Spokane County District Court, where he stood accused of rape, kidnapping, robbery and burglary. His bond was set at $250,000.
Police say Milam beat and raped the woman on Jan. 10, 1999, in the 4700 block of North Cannon Street.
At about 7:15 p.m., while she was unloading groceries from her car, she noticed Milam standing in the doorway. He was “wearing a mask over his face and was large in stature,” according to court documents. The woman said the man “immediately punched her in the face” and pushed her backward into the kitchen and living room area.
Court documents written in 1999 say the attacker proceeded to punch and beat the woman several times in the face and head, at one point placing a bag over her head and “nearly causing her to suffocate and lose consciousness.” He then raped her, documents say, before leaving and taking cash from her purse.
The woman immediately reported the crime to police and friends. She was transported to Providence Sacred Heart Medical Center for her injuries.
During their investigation, police interviewed several witnesses, including the woman. They also employed a sexual assault kit and gathered DNA evidence from a pillowcase – the same DNA evidence that would point police to Milam 19 years later.
On Feb. 12, officers received a report from the Washington State Patrol crime laboratory that listed a match between the DNA collected in 1999 to that of the DNA uploaded in late 2017.
Milam, who was released from jail in September, was serving time on charges of theft and possession of a motor vehicle.
It is not yet known when Milam will make an appearance in a Franklin County courtroom.
Police claim he killed Robert J. McDonald on Feb. 25, 1986. The 40-year-old man’s body was pulled from a shallow bay of the Pasco Boat Basin.
McDonald was partially clothed, tied up and found floating face down in the Columbia River. The reported cause of death was drowning.
Two young boys playing with their father discovered the body below the small park at the south end of North Fourth Avenue, according to Tri-City Herald records.
Milam is accused of killing McDonald and dumping his bludgeoned body in the basin, according to the Herald.
In 2006, the Herald reported, the WSP crime lab extracted DNA from swabs taken from McDonald, who reportedly worked as a construction contractor at a tree-trimming business in the Tri-Cities.
Subscribe to the Morning Review newsletter
Get the day’s top headlines delivered to your inbox every morning by subscribing to our newsletter.