EUREKA — Neighbors of a Eureka man accused of killing a 13-year-old girl decades ago are shocked at the allegations, saying the man they knew was compassionate and kind.
And while all are creeped out by the allegations, one woman, Jennifer Hailey, says she’s completely “shaken.” Her daughter, 12, would go over to Robert Washburn’s apartment and hang out with his disabled daughter several times each week.
“I’m kind of freaked out right now,” she said Friday morning, less than 24 hours after federal, state and local agents descended upon the complex to arrest Washburn, 60, in connection with a 1986 murder of Jennifer Bastian, who disappeared Aug. 4, 1986, in Washington state after she went for a bike ride.
Her body was found weeks later in a nearby wooded area.
Washburn appeared in Woodford County Circuit Court on Friday morning and waived extradition to the state of Washington where an arrest warrant for murder in the first degree had been issued earlier this week. He will be held without bond pending his return to that state.
Looking back on things, others said there were signs from Washburn, who lived in the Woodridge apartments for about 13 years, that they didn’t catch.
Nicole Brown, who lived above his first-floor apartment, said he always kept to himself. He’d come out occasionally to talk with neighbors at a nearby picnic table but spent most of his time in his apartment with his daughter who is in her early 20s.
Neighbors said Washburn would routinely give candy to children.
He also had camera equipment, Brown said, in his front room that was trained on the parking lot. That was a red flag to her and she had approached the former complex manager about it.
“But she told me that he was doing it to protect the cars in the lot. I talked to a neighbor and they said they never heard anything of having a car broken into, so yeah, that was weird,” she said.
Brown was home when the agents arrived.
“I heard a loud bang, followed by another loud bang. I looked outside and saw every police car you could see,” she said. “Then I looked out again and saw him being led away in handcuffs.”
“I knew then it was for murder. What else could it be, as they wouldn’t have come all this way to get someone for a robbery or something,” Brown said.
Justin Boertlein, who lived across the hall from Washburn for a year, said he was surprised. The Washburn he knew was, “Bob,” a nice guy who would help him work on his jeep when needed and with whom he had a few small conversations. Nothing seemed out of the norm.
Same went for Tracy Reese-Sturgeon, who described Washburn as a “compassionate” man who took care of his daughter and stayed by himself.
She too was alarmed at the cameras in his window, but being a country person and living in the complex where everyone was friends, she didn’t think much of it until now.
Looking back now, she sees more red flags. He kept his windows closed. His black SUV was covered with a tarp most days. After 4 p.m., he didn’t want visitors. That was odd for people who lived in the “country,” she said.
So what now? Neighbors here say they will be a bit more cautious but say the people who live in their complex, which is for the disabled and the lower-income, are all good people who care about each other. Does this ruin the neighborhood?
Reese-Sturgeon said no.
“One bad apple doesn’t ruin things,” she said.