KENNEWICK — DNA evidence has helped identify a suspect in the nearly 29-year-old case of a Kennewick woman found strangled in her bathtub.
Jack Welch, 56, was arrested Tuesday on suspicion of first-degree murder in the 1982 death of Rose Baugh, said Kennewick police Sgt. Ken Lattin.
A $500,000 warrant for his arrest was signed Tuesday, and Kennewick police detectives took Welch into custody in Lewiston, Idaho.
"It's been a very challenging case, but we're happy to bring it to a close," said Kennewick Police Chief Ken Hohenberg.
Baugh was 25 when she died. The case went cold until 2005, when Kennewick police Detective Rick Runge was assigned to the case and began working it "very, very extensively," Hohenberg said.
Witnesses were re-interviewed, although some have died in the past three decades, he said. But, the chief noted, police never stop investigating homicide cases -- no matter how old.
"I don't know that we ever come to a complete closure on these cases, but certainly bringing it to a resolution is a big relief," Hohenberg said, adding that it helps answer questions and gives the family relief.
Baugh's family attended the brief news conference Tuesday at the Kennewick police station but declined to make any statements.
Benton County Prosecutor Andy Miller said Welch was booked into the Nez Perce County jail and will have an extradition hearing within 20 days before he will face charges in Benton County Superior Court.
However, Welch was expected to be released on his own recognizance while waiting for the hearing because of his medical condition, Miller said.
Welch had to be transferred from a wheelchair to a gurney to be taken to the jail, Miller said, and Runge and Detective Sgt. Jack Simington indicated they didn't think Welch was a flight risk.
Curt Waring, a registered nurse for the Nez Perce County jail, also indicated that the jail cannot safely care for Welch because of his medical condition.
Welch has had a stroke, hypertension, pneumonia, seizures and diabetes, and doesn't appear to have enough strength and coordination to feed himself, Waring wrote in a letter. He said Welch can't speak or walk and is incontinent. His mental capacity also appears limited.
Waring said Welch needs 24-hour medical care and the jail can't provide that.
Miller said Welch likely will have his physical and mental competence evaluated to determine if he's competent to stand trial. If a judge determines Welch is not competent and it's unlikely he will become competent, the murder charges would be dismissed, Miller said.
Welch, who would have been 27 at the time of Baugh's death, was a suspect in 1982. Welch and Baugh had a prior dating relationship, but were not living together or romantically involved when she was killed, Miller said.
According to Herald archives, Baugh's body was found March 7, 1982, at her home at 1711 W. First Ave., where she lived alone.
Baugh's father went to her home around 8:40 p.m., found the back door open, heard water running in the bathroom and discovered his daughter face down in her tub.
She had apparently been dead for some time, and when her father tried to call police, he discovered the phone was dead.
Kennewick police detectives found the phone had been yanked out of the wall and suspected a struggle might have occurred because the living room was in disarray.
Days later, Baugh's aunt told the Herald her niece was afraid of one young man she knew and asked her parents if she could move home the day before she was found dead.
Autopsy results showed Baugh had been strangled. She also had cuts and scrapes on her left hand and face, and puncture wounds to her frontal scalp, court documents said.
A Kennewick officer who also attended the autopsy said it appeared Baugh had had sexual intercourse before being killed, documents said.
Semen was found and tested in 1982 at the Washington State Patrol Crime Lab. DNA testing wasn't being used yet, and a suspect couldn't be identified from the blood tests conducted.
New testing of the sample in 2008 did not reveal DNA. Crime lab officials said it may have degraded in the 26 years since it was collected, documents said.
Tests were recommended on DNA found in panties Baugh was wearing when she was found dead, and in August, that testing found a DNA match to Welch, documents said.
Welch and Baugh apparently had a history of domestic violence, documents said.
Becky Edmundson, a friend of Baugh's, told police that on Thanksgiving 1981 she saw bruises all over Baugh's body. Welch admitted he had beaten Baugh, she said.
Tom Scott also told investigators he saw Baugh and Welch at a party in June 1981. He said Welch severely beat Baugh and threatened to "choke her little head off."
Scott also said that after the Fourth of July 1981, he went to Baugh's house and saw she had a black eye and swollen cheeks. She told him Welch had held her down by the throat and punched her, document said.
Baugh was last seen or spoken to on Friday, March 5, 1982, or early Saturday, March 6. Joe Cherry said he talked to Baugh at around midnight that Friday, but she didn't answer when he called the next day.
Gerald Harris reported seeing Baugh at her home for an hour or two Friday night but left around 11:30 to 11:45 p.m.
Leslie Pancake said she talked to Baugh around 1:30 a.m. Saturday, and two other women, Mary Fournier and Shelly Belt, said they were at Baugh's home around 1 a.m. Saturday and stayed until 2:30 a.m.
On March 8, then-Kennewick police Detective Doug Fearing questioned Welch about his whereabouts on that Saturday. Welch said he was at Mary Burkhead's home from 6 to 9:30 a.m., then went to the Brite Spot Tavern, staying until noon or 1 p.m.
He said he went home and slept until 4:30 to 5:30 p.m., then went back to the tavern until about 10:30 p.m. before going home for the night.
Welch said the last time he saw Baugh was March 2, when he said he spent the night at her home and had sex with her, documents said.
Burkhead was interviewed three days later and confirmed Welch had been at her house at 6 a.m. that Saturday. She said they hung out for a while, she went to work at Guadalahara's restaurant and he returned home at 10 p.m. and spent the night, documents said.
She said she saw Welch at his aunt's house after she worked Friday, documents said.
After the DNA tests identified Welch as a suspect, Detective Runge re-interview Burkhead. She then said she remembered getting off work at 11 p.m. and went home to find Welch waiting for her as planned so they could go out, documents said.
She said Welch got mad when said she couldn't go out because she had to go to her mother's house.
"Well, you can imagine. It's Friday or Saturday night, you know, he's waiting for me to get home with tip money, and so we can go party," documents said she told Runge. "And all of a sudden I rained on his parade that wasn't gonna happen."
Burkhead said Welch got angry and they "had a little spat" and he said, "Well, f--- you then. I'll just go see Rose," documents said.
Burkhead also told Runge she didn't remember talking to police after Baugh was killed, but that she would have said as little as possible. She noted, however, that she stopped seeing Welch because "it just didn't fit right in my mind that that's what he had said."
-- Paula Horton: 509-582-1556; email@example.com