WASHINGTON COUNTY, Ore. (TCD) — A 68-year-old man was recently arrested after allegedly fatally strangling his wife several months after their separation in 1988.
According to a news release from the Washington County Sheriff’s Office, in June 1988, Deborah Atrops and her husband, Robert Atrops, separated, and Deborah lived in a Salem apartment with their 8-month-old adopted daughter at the time.
On Nov. 29, 1988, Robert Atrops went to pick up the couple’s daughter from the babysitter while Deborah Atrops was at a hair appointment, the Sheriff’s Office said. Deborah was reportedly supposed to pick up the couple’s daughter from Robert’s home that evening, but she never showed up.
Robert Atrops then called the Tigard Police Department and reported his estranged wife missing.
The next day, Nov. 30, 1988, authorities reportedly found Deborah Atrops’ vehicle on SW Murray Road near SW Schools Ferry Road with the keys on the driver’s seat, the driver’s window down, and no license plates on the vehicle.
The Sheriff’s Office said Deborah Atrops’ body was found in the trunk of the car, and based on the positioning of her body, “It appeared Mrs. Atrops had been placed in the trunk after her death.”
An autopsy report determined the victim was physically assaulted and fatally strangled, and her death was ruled a homicide.
Despite investigators’ “significant” work at the time, the case turned cold.
In 2021, the Sheriff’s Office said the Cold Case Unit reopened the case and multiple witnesses were reinterviewed, and forensic evidence was reexamined.
On Tuesday, Feb. 28, the gathered evidence was presented to a Washington County grand jury, and as a result, Robert Atrops was indicted for one count of second-degree murder. He was reportedly booked into the Washington County Jail and was scheduled to be arraigned on Thursday, March 2.