21 years later, family faces murder suspect

21 years later, family faces murder suspect »Play Video
James Mitchell appears in a Tacoma courtroom on Aug. 27, 2014.

TACOMA, Wash -- Thanks to unrelenting relatives and a determined detective, a cold case murder suspect faced a judge Wednesday,  21 years after the crime.

Every day Linda Robinson's relatives have wondered who stabbed her 10 times and left her young daughter to be raised by a family friend. Now, they think they finally have their answers.

"This is a glorious day," said Linda's sister, Stephanie Robinson Stewart. "We've waited a long time for this."

James Mitchell pleaded not guilty Wednesday to stabbing the 37-year-old woman to death in her Spanaway apartment in 1993 as she babysat her young niece and nephew. Detectives found blood on the kitchen floor, and a vanity, and the case went cold.  But Robinson's dad never stopped pushing police.

"Every day, always wondering who did it to Linda," said James Robinson, Linda's brother. "He'd always call the detective, always be checking in."

Last spring, Robinson's father and niece again contacted the Pierce County Sheriff's Department. A detective reviewed the file and had DNA tests done on tiny splatters of blood found on Robinson's jeans and a cut telephone cord. And they got a hit on Mitchell, who lived in Florida.

"When we did a background on that man, it turns out he lived two blocks away when she was killed," said Det. Ed Troyer with the Pierce County Sheriff's Department. "That's too big of a coincidence."

Robinson's sister Sylvia says she went to school with the suspect.

"He knew all of us," Sylvia Robinson said. "He knew the whole family, he came to our house, he ate our food with us, he played in our back yard."

Mitchell has a long criminal record including sexual assault, armed robbery, larceny, and drugs. A judge set bail Wednesday at $2 million.

"Justice is knowing that he couldn't hide forever," Sylvia Robinson said.

Robinson's relatives never stopped praying.

"I knew this day would come; we never gave up hope," Sylvia Robinson said.

They only wish that Linda Robinson's dad had lived to see this day.

"The detective called him the week before he died," James Robinson said. "(He said) 'We're getting close Mr. Robinson, we're getting close.' "