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In November of 1988, 30-year-old Deborah Lee Atrops was reported missing by her husband, Robert Elmer Atrops, then 34 years old. Although still married, the two had separated in June of 1988, and Mr. Atrops was living in the couple's home on SW Conzelmann Road in Sherwood. Mrs. Atrops resided in an apartment in Salem with the couple's adopted daughter, then eight (8) months old.
While her parents were at work, the child was cared for by a babysitter in Newberg. During the evening of November 29, 1988, Mr. Atrops picked their child up from the babysitter while Mrs. Atrops was at a hair appointment in Tigard. She was expected to be at Mr. Atrops' home to pick up her daughter between 7:30 p.m. and 8:00 p.m. Mr. Atrops later told investigators that Mrs. Atrops never arrived at his house. He called Mrs. Atrops' acquaintances and family and asked about her whereabouts. Mr. Atrops later called the Tigard Police Department to make a missing person report when he could not locate Mrs. Atrops.
On the morning of November 30, 1988, the Washington County Sheriff's office took an official missing person report regarding Mrs. Atrops’ disappearance. Mr. Atrops said he still had not heard from Mrs. Atrops, and she never arrived to pick up their daughter. As part of the missing person investigation, Mrs. Atrops' car was entered into law enforcement databases as a vehicle involved in a missing person case.
On December 1, 1988, at about 9 a.m., Beaverton Police responded to a suspicious vehicle complaint at the dead end of SW Murray Rd near SW Scholls Ferry Road in Beaverton. A city public works employee reported a suspicious abandoned car parked at the location with the keys on the driver's seat. The car was described as a 1988 black Honda Accord two-door. Beaverton Officers arrived and observed the car parked with its driver's window down and without license plates. Officers determined the car belonged to Mrs. Atrops. Witnesses observed the vehicle parked there since the early morning on November 30, 1988.
Investigators from the Washington County Sheriff's Office were advised of the discovery and responded to the car's location. Mrs. Atrops' body was found inside the trunk of the car. Based on the positioning of her body, it appeared Mrs. Atrops had been placed in the trunk after her death.
On December 2, 1988, the autopsy revealed that Mrs. Atrops had been physically assaulted and strangled to death. The cause of death was deemed to be a homicide.
Investigators expended a significant amount of time and effort in their investigation; however, the murder of Mrs. Atrops remained unsolved, and eventually, the case turned cold.
In 2020 The Washington County District Attorney's Office secured a grant named "Prosecuting Cold Cases Using DNA," which allowed them to launch their Cold Case Unit. The Cold Case Unit focuses on investigating and prosecuting violent crime cold cases involving identified DNA associated with a possible suspect. The U.S. Department of Justice's Bureau of Justice Assistance funds the grant.
In May 2021, the Washington County District Attorney's Office Cold Case Unit partnered with the Washington County Sheriff's Office to continue the investigation into the death of Mrs. Atrops.
Over the next year and a half, detectives and investigators reinterviewed multiple witnesses and had forensic evidence reexamined. On Tuesday, February 28, 2023, details of the case were presented to a Washington County grand jury. After hearing all the evidence, the grand jury indicted Mr. Atrops for one count of murder in the second degree.
On the morning of March 2, 2023, a search warrant was served at Mr. Atrops' Newburg home, and he was taken into custody. Mr. Atrops was arrested without incident and lodged in the Washington County Jail.
Source: Washington County Sheriff's Office