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Tuesday, January 21, 2020  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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News >  Spokane

Man pleads guilty to 1999 rape after DNA match helps crack cold case

In Superior Court Judge Charnelle Bjelkengren’s courtroom, Theodore Milam waits to plead guilty on a 1st degree rape case from 1999. (Colin Mulvany / The Spokesman-Review)
In Superior Court Judge Charnelle Bjelkengren’s courtroom, Theodore Milam waits to plead guilty on a 1st degree rape case from 1999. (Colin Mulvany / The Spokesman-Review)

Over 20 years after he raped a woman in her home near Shadle Park, Theodore Milam, 56, pleaded guilty to the attack on Wednesday afternoon.

Milam’s plea to first-degree rape came a year after DNA evidence matched him to two long-time cold cases.

“It’s over,” his victim said with a sigh after the plea hearing on Wednesday. “It is what it is. … At least he won’t be able to hurt anyone else.”

Milam’s plea deal is related to another cold case apparently solved with DNA match. In that case, Milam has been connected to a 1986 killing in Pasco that left a 40-year-old man dead in the Pasco Boat Basin and that was unsolved for 32 years.

After pleading guilty in Spokane County, Milam plans to plead in Franklin County to one count of first degree manslaughter for that previous crime.

Until last year, Milam was not connected to the January 1999 rape at a house in the 4700 block of North Cannon Street .

The victim was unloading groceries when a man with a mask and gloves on approached her from behind, according to court documents.

Milam hit the victim in the face, knocking her to the floor just inside the back door, court documents say.

He then put a bag over the victim’s head, attempted to tie her hands behind her back, dragged her into her bedroom and sexually assaulted her.

Milam then demanded money from the victim, according to court documents. He took a $5bill and a $1bill from her wallet but dropped the $5 bill in the alley, court documents say.

DNA evidence was obtained from both a sexual assault kit and a pillow case from the scene of the crime.

While police continued to investigate, the case went cold.

That changed on Feb. 12, 2018, when the Washington State Patrol crime laboratory told police that DNA collected from Milam after a 2017 criminal conviction matched the DNA collected from the crime scene in 1999.

Milam’s DNA also linked him to the death of construction contractor Robert J. McDonald, whose body was found tied up and floating face down in the Columbia River in 1986.

Milam is accused of killing McDonald and dumping his body in the river, according to the Tri-City Herald.

Milam’s sentencing is scheduled for Dec. 18. He will face between 102 and 136 months in prison, with up to 36 months of community custody and up to a $50,000 fine.

His plea deal included a recommendation from prosecutors for 120 months for the rape charge and 102 months for the manslaughter charge to be served consecutively, according to the plea agreement read in Spokane County Superior Court on Wednesday.

If that sentence is handed down, Milam will spend about 18 1/2 years years in prison.

With Milam’s sentencing scheduled for next month, his Spokane victim said Wednesday she can see the end of what has been a decades long ordeal.

“It’s been a long road,” she said.

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