Man convicted of 1986 murder in Pasco sentenced to 18.5 years in prison

Victim of cold case Robert James McDonald

PASCO, Wash. — A 56-year-old man has pleaded guilty to first-degree manslaughter for the 1986 killing of Robert McDonald.

Theodore Milam changed his plea in a Franklin County courtroom on Tuesday afternoon. On Feb. 25, 1986, Pasco Police got a call about a body at what was then called the Pasco Boat Basin, now known as Schlagel Park. That’s where McDonald was found facing down near the shore.

According to court documents, he was found naked from the ankles up. He only had on a necklace and his jeans were around his knees. McDonald had a cut above his eye and his hands were bound together with a shirt.

His truck was found in the dirt parking lot facing the water. McDonald’s wallet was found inside, tucked between the cab and canopy of the truck. According to witnesses, this was a habit when confronted with a situation with which he was uncomfortable, documents said.

Officers found evidence of struggle nearby. An autopsy concluded that McDonald had suffered a blow to the head, causing a brain bleed. His cause of death was “acute respiratory failure” due to drowning. A sexual assault kit was also done.

In 1994, the assault kit was sent to Washington State Patrol’s Crime Lab.

“An analysis was performed however the current methods for DNA analysis were insufficient to develop a suspect,” documents said.

On July 10, 2006, an unidentified suspect was found linking the DNA to a 1999 Spokane sexual assault case.

On Feb. 1, 2018, the crime lab said the DNA matched to Theodore Milam, attributing the match to DNA technology improvements. It was linked to a February 2018 felony theft conviction.

About three weeks later, Milam was interviewed. He denied having been at the boat basin since he was 12-years-old. Milam was 22 when the crime occurred. He also denied knowing McDonald or any relationship with a man.

The Franklin County and Spokane County prosecutors have been in contact with the victim’s families in both the murder and rape cases.

With the plea, Milam accepted a sentence of 18.5 years in prison. 10 years will be spent in Spokane County and run consecutively to the 8 1/2 year sentence in Franklin County.

“Part of the consideration in sentencing was the defendant’s age and current health conditions,” the Franklin County Prosecutor’s Office said in a media release. “We appreciate the victims from the Spokane County case traveling to our county for today’s sentencing hearing.”