Details of Disappearance Rebecca was last seen at a service station in Spokane, Washington on October 21, 1991. She was accompanied by her 11-year-old friend and elementary school classmate, Iryll N. "Nicki" Wood, at the time. A photo of Wood is posted below with case summary. Neither girl returned to their homes that evening.
Searchers discovered Wood's body under a pile of burning pine needles only two hours after the girls' disappearances were reported to authorities. She had been strangled. Her remains were located in the Seven Mile area near Riverside State Park, north of Spokane. There was no evidence of Rebecca's whereabouts at the scene.
Michael W. Tarbert resided in a cabin near the location of Wood's body in 1991, and he knew Wood's mother. He was an admitted alcoholic and drug addict and had been in trouble with the law several times before. He said he'd given the girls a ride home from a neighborhood store on the day they were abducted, but he dropped them off safe a block from Wood's home and had nothing to do with their disappearances.
Bloodhounds tracked Tarbert's scent from his cabin to where Wood's body was found, and they also smelled the two girls' scents at his cabin. Authorities discovered he was wanted on unrelated charges; his middle-aged former landlady said he had sexually assaulted her in a secluded area not far from where Wood's body was later found, and also stolen $400 from her purse.
He was arrested the day after the two girls' disappearances, but authorities lacked the evidence to file charges against him in their cases. Tarbert was convicted of first-degree rape and theft in his landlady's case in 1992 and sentenced to eleven years in prison.
Tarbert was charged with both of the girls' murders in March 1996. The prosecution had a witness who saw Rebecca and Wood get into Tarbert's car on the afternoon they were abducted, and two prison inmates who stated Tarbert told them he'd killed the girls while under the influence of drugs. DNA technology, which wasn't available at the time the girls went missing, later showed that blood found on Tarbert's pants had probably come from Wood.
Tarbert entered a no contest plea to two counts of first-degree manslaughter in May 1998, four days before his trial was scheduled to begin. He maintains his innocence and said he only took the plea deal to avoid a possible first-degree murder conviction and life sentence. Tarbert was sentenced to 20 years in prison for the girls' homicides.
Rebecca's remains have never been located.
- Spokane County Sheriff's Office
Updated 6 times since October 12, 2004. Last updated January 8, 2011; age-progression updated.