News Tribune readers following the Zina Linnik case have raised several questions about police procedure, the subsequent search for Zina and Terapon Dang Adhahn, the man charged with causing her death. Adhahn is also charged with multiple rapes involving two other adolescent victims. Many of these questions have been answered in news stories, but readers who haven’t followed daily coverage will find them here as well. We’ll try to respond to additional questions through on this blog as they arise. (Go here for an archive of our news coverage.)
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Q: Why did police wait 12 hours to issue the Amber Alert for Zina Linnik?
A: Because they thought they’d captured the kidnapping suspect in the first few hours after Linnik disappeared.
During a news conference July 13, after Linnik’s body was discovered, Tacoma Police Chief Don Ramsdell explained that police were following "a very hot lead" on July 4, the night of Zina’s abduction.
The suspect detained by police that night drove a van similar to the one described by Zina’s father. Police questioned the suspect for several hours, and subjected him to a polygraph test, Ramsdell said. Eventually, police realized they had the wrong man, and issued the Amber Alert.
Q: Why did it take several days for police to locate the suspect van? Couldn‚t they just punch it up on a computer?
A: More than once during the Linnik investigation, Tacoma police have said, "This isn‚t ‘CSI.’"
Zina’s father, Mikhail Linnik, caught a quick glimpse of the van July 4. He gave its color and a partial license plate number. Police ran computer searches based on that partial description. Dozens of hits came back.
An investigator then tried cross-referencing those hits, looking to see whether any appeared in a separate database of Tacoma police reports. Matching the databases was a time-consuming process that took many hours, according to Ramsdell.
The cross-referencing yielded a hit that dated to May 1 of this year. Police found the man mentioned in the police report, who said he had borrowed the van temporarily from its owner, Terapon Dang Adhahn.
Q: Adhahn was a registered sex offender. Why weren’t authorities monitoring his whereabouts more closely?
A: Because Adhahn was a Level 1 offender, the type deemed least likely to re-offend. Level 2 and Level 3 offenders get more scrutiny from law enforcement.
Adhahn had an incest conviction dated to 1990, and he had completed court-ordered treatment in 1997. He was required to register for the next 15 years.
A 1992 misdemeanor conviction on a weapons charge in Tacoma Municipal Court extended the registration period to September 2007. When Adhahn was detained in connection with Linnik’s disappearance, authorities noticed he had moved without notifying them. At that point, prosecutors charged Adhahn with failure to register as a sex offender.
Q: Adhahn was not a U.S. citizen. Why wasn’t he deported after his 1990 felony conviction?
A: Because one conviction isn’t enough to trigger deportation under federal law. Adhahn was classified as a legal permanent resident, according to immigration authorities. That meant he had a right to be in the United States.
Citing federal statutes, immigration officials say legal permanent residents can face deportation if they are convicted of two "crimes of moral turpitude," a vague definition that depends on the discretion of an immigration judge.
Q: Adhahn was convicted a second crime in 1992. Shouldn’t this have triggered deportation?
A: Yes, according to immigration officials. It didn’t happen because they didn’t know about the second conviction in municipal court, though they say they knew about the 1990 conviction. It remains unclear whether any formal process existed in 1992 that would require the sharing of such information between federal and local authorities.
For legal junkies, the law that references crimes of moral turpitude is in Title 8 of the U.S. Code, 1227 (a)(2)(A)(ii).
Q: Aren’t there also laws governing immigrants convicted of weapons charges?
A: Yes. The same law referenced above includes a section on firearm offenses. The reference is Title 8, 1227(a)(2)(C):
"Any alien who at any time after admission is convicted under any law of purchasing, selling, offering for sale, exchanging, using, owning, possessing, or carrying, or of attempting or conspiring to purchase, sell, offer for sale, exchange, use, own, possess, or carry, any weapon, part, or accessory which is a firearm or destructive device (as defined in section 921(a) of Title 18) in violation of any law is deportable."
Q: News reports say Adhahn served in the U.S. Army. How can this be true if he was a non-citizen?
A: Legal permanent residents of the United States are allowed to enlist in the military. Adhahn, a Thai native, came to America in 1977 at the age of 13, according to court records. His mother married a U.S. airman, and the family lived at various military installations here and abroad in the years that followed. Adhahn enlisted in the Army in 1983, when he was living in Germany.
Q: Was Adhahn married?
A: Yes. Records show he and his wife married in 1986. They separated in 1990, and divorced in 1998. The couple had two children.
Q: When did Adhahn come to Pierce County?
A: No earlier than December 1989, according to court records from his 1990 incest conviction. In those documents, filed in March 1990, authorities asked Adhahn to provide his current and previous addresses. He listed "Germany" as his previous address, and said he settled in Pierce County 3 1/2 months earlier.
Q: Is it possible that Adhahn was in Pierce County before 1989?
A: His mother and stepfather lived in Pierce County as early as 1985, according to public records, suggesting Adhahn could have visited his family here. FBI investigators have told Tacoma police they have seen indications that Adhahn was assigned to Fort Lewis in 1986, but to date, no records have appeared to support that date. Tacoma police continue to say their best information supports a 1989 arrival date.
Q: Adhahn has been mentioned as a potential suspect in other cases of missing and slain children. Have police found any evidence to support it?
A: Not that they’ve announced. Lakewood police have called Adhahn a person of interest in the 2005 disappearance and death of 10-year-old Adre’anna Jackson. Authorities have not specifically linked Adhahn to any cases other than those he’s been charged with.
Another potential victim emerged this week, though formal charges are unlikely due to statutes of limitations. Connie Shaffer, a former Tacoma resident and convenience store clerk, was abducted, assaulted, shot and left for dead in 1995. The case was never solved, but after seeing Adhahn’s face in recent news reports, Shaffer said Adhahn resembled her attacker. Police have asked her to view mug shots, and they are looking at possible links between Adhahn and the attack on Shaffer.