Gary Hartman sentenced for 1986 Pierce County rape and murder

Gary Hartman, the man who sexually assaulted and murdered 12-year-old Michella Welch in 1986, was sentenced on Tuesday to 26 years and six months in prison.

In court, Hartman apologized to Welch’s family, who said they forgive him.

Welch was 12 years old when she disappeared after she and her younger sisters visited Tacoma’s Puget Park on March 26, 1986.

Her body was found in a gulch after police conducted a search.

In 2016, using technology called DNA phenotyping, Tacoma police and the Virginia-based company Parabon NanoLabs produced computer-generated composites using evidence found after the murders of Welch and 13-year-old Jennifer Bastian.

Welch was found in Tacoma’s Puget Park in March 1986, and Bastian five months later in Point Defiance Park. Both had been raped and murdered.

At first, police thought both murders were the work of the same man until 2013, when a re-examination of evidence proved there were actually two different killers.

In 2018, Jennifer Bastian’s suspected killer was also arrested.