KENNEWICK -- Jack Welch, charged last week in the 1982 murder of Rose Baugh, made his first appearance in a Benton County courtroom on Tuesday.
DNA evidence identified Welch as a suspect in the 29-year-old case. Baugh was found strangled in the bathtub of her Kennewick home.
Welch, 56, now lives in Lewiston, Idaho. His mother, Peggy Klein, has cared for him since he was disabled by a fall in 1996.
He is in a wheelchair, and his attorney told Benton County Superior Court Judge Craig Matheson that Welch is barely able to speak or write. He has had a stroke and suffers from seizures, diabetes and other health problems, according to Idaho jail officials.
The judge ordered an evaluation at Eastern Washington State Hospital to determine if Welch is competent to stand trial.
Baugh's family was in the courtroom Tuesday, as was a group of Welch's supporters, including his mother.
Baugh was 25 when her father found her dead in the bathtub of her home at 1711 W. First Ave., on March 7, 1982.
The case went unsolved until Kennewick Police Detective Rick Runge began working on it in 2005. A test on DNA found in Baugh's underwear was conducted, and it was found to match Welch, according to police.
He had been interviewed in 1982 and told police the two had sex several days before she died. Witnesses told police Welch and Baugh had a history of domestic violence, although they were not dating at the time of her death.
He was arrested Dec. 7 in Lewiston and booked into the Nez Perce County jail, then released on his own recognizance because of his medical condition. He requires 24-hour care.
Benton County Prosecutor Andy Miller said the state is not asking for bail in the case. Miller said he has been impressed by the Baugh family's acceptance that Welch may not be competent to stand trial in the case, and the murder charge could be dismissed.
"The family certainly wants to see justice," Miller said after the hearing. "But they realize justice may come from a different source."
* Cathy Kessinger: 509-582-1535; email@example.com