A man suspected of fatally stabbing a woman while she babysat two young children in her Spanaway apartment was arrested Thursday after DNA linked him to the 1993 slaying.
James Edward Mitchell, 60, was taken into custody by U.S. Marshals in Leesburg, Florida, where he’d been living. He is expected to soon be extradited to Pierce County, where prosecutors have charged him with first-degree murder in the death of Linda Robinson.
The night Robinson, 36, was killed she was looking after her 7-year-old niece and a 6-month-old nephew at her home at 127 162nd St. S. It was Feb. 6, 1993.
The children were asleep in the living room and Robinson was fixing soup in the kitchen. Her niece, Shawonika Elliott, awoke to a smoke detector set off by the pot burning on the stove.
The little girl found Robinson dead on the kitchen floor and ran to a neighbor’s home for help.
The Medical Examiner’s Office determined Robinson had been stabbed 10 times in the back and suffered cuts to her neck and chest.
Detectives found blood in the kitchen, on the vanity and on papers in the master bedroom and in the bathroom. They also found a telephone near Robinson’s body but the cord had been cut.
No arrest was made, and the case eventually grew cold.
In May 2013, Robinson’s father and niece, who is now 27, called the Sheriff’s Department to ask about the case.
“All I went on was a hope and prayer,” said Elliott, who decided to call after watching cold cases solved on popular television shows.
Detective Sgt. Tim Kobel reviewed the file and spotted in some photographs unusual droplets of blood he believed might belong to the killer. Kobel sent several pieces of evidence off for DNA testing.
Results came back in October, linking Mitchell to the homicide.
Further DNA tests on Robinson’s jeans, a child’s jacket found in the bedroom and the cut telephone cord showed blood from Robinson and Mitchell.
No motive for the killing has been disclosed.
Mitchell lived across the street from Robinson when they were children and attended school with one of her younger sisters, according to the Sheriff’s Department.
He has several felony convictions, including sexual assault, aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, armed robbery, motor vehicle theft, larceny and drugs.
Elliott said Thursday she has no recollection of Mitchell but remembers the night her aunt was killed. She prefers to think about the good times with her favorite aunt, who she described as a “great woman” and “the life of the party.”
She thinks about Robinson every time she eats an orange peel, which she hates, or Brussels sprouts, which she loves.
“My auntie was so cool, and she had a way of making me eat my vegetables,” Elliott said. “Brussels sprouts are a kid’s worst nightmare, but to this day I love Brussels sprouts because she made them for me.”
Robinson’s father died in March but detectives told him in November that the DNA had matched a suspect. Elliott said her grandfather seemed to be holding on at the end, hoping to be around for an arrest.
She urged other families not to lose hope in finding justice for murdered loved ones.
“However long it takes, don’t give up,” Elliott said. “You gotta keep the faith.”