Crime

8-year-old taken in 1961 Tacoma police's oldest case

Tacoma police detective Gene Miller has solved two 1986 Tacoma-area murders. The murderer was identified as Timothy Ray Burkhart, who committed suicide in 2001. Miller worked to create computer files and binders for each of the nearly 200 cold cases at the Tacoma Police Department. (File Photo)
Tacoma police detective Gene Miller has solved two 1986 Tacoma-area murders. The murderer was identified as Timothy Ray Burkhart, who committed suicide in 2001. Miller worked to create computer files and binders for each of the nearly 200 cold cases at the Tacoma Police Department. (File Photo) The Olympian

The white binders line floor-to-ceiling bookshelves along one wall of the small office at Tacoma police headquarters. A poster on another wall shows the faces of the victims whose cases have yet to be solved.

The “cold case” room is the base for homicide detective Gene Miller, who has created binders for the department’s 185 to 190 unsolved slayings.

The first binder belongs to Ann Marie Burr.

The 8-year-old girl was kidnapped from her North End Tacoma home during the early hours of Aug. 31, 1961. Her body has never been found.

There’s been speculation that serial killer Ted Bundy was responsible. He lived in Tacoma and was 14 at the time. He repeatedly denied any involvement in Burr’s disappearance before his execution in 1989.

Two other binders hold unsolved cases from the 1960s, 13 from the 1970s, 49 from the 1980s, nearly 80 from the 1990s and nearly 30 from the most recent decade.

There are no binders from recent years in the room because other detectives continue to work on the investigations. Plus, most recent homicides have been resolved. There are five unsolved homicides over the past five years in the city.

An investigation becomes a cold case when all leads have been pursued and no arrests can be made as a result of the investigation, Miller said.

“It’s been worked to its natural conclusion,” he said.

The department’s cold case homicides include gang-related, drive-by shootings, adults found slain in their homes or cars, and missing children who are believed to be the victims of foul play. Some have identified or likely suspects; others are complete “whoduits.”

“In some cases we are evaluating suspects,” Miller said. “In some cases we are evaluating evidence, and in some cases we are evaluating both suspects and evidence.”

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