TACOMA – Believing that time was running out to find a missing 12-year-old girl, Pierce County Prosecutor Gerald Horne made a deal with the man suspected of taking her: Show us where she is, and we’ll spare your life.
With that, Horne said, Terapon Dang Adhahn directed detectives to a wooded area of rural Pierce County where Zina Linnik’s body lay in thick brush.
Adhahn, a 42-year-old Thai immigrant and convicted sex offender, was charged Monday with aggravated first-degree murder, rape and kidnapping in Pierce County Superior Court, where a judge entered a not guilty plea on his behalf. Horne then announced he would keep his end of the bargain by not seeking the death penalty.
The only other possible sentence for an aggravated first-degree murder conviction in Washington is life in prison without release.
“I have no regrets about taking the death penalty off the table in these circumstances,” Horne said. “We may never have found the body.”
Adhahn is being held on slightly more than $7 million bail in Linnik’s death as well as in the rapes of two other girls – one of whom survived after apparently being left for dead in a remote section of Fort Lewis. That girl’s case was also on Horne’s mind as he negotiated with Adhahn’s lawyers on July 12, as about 150 law enforcement agents were scrambling to find Zina Linnik.
Zina had been missing since twilight on July 4, when she was snatched from an alley behind her family’s home in Tacoma during a neighborhood fireworks display. Investigators said her father saw a gray van leaving the scene, and that his partial recollection of the license plate helped them track down Adhahn at a home south of Tacoma.
He was arrested July 8. Four days later, he rode in a police cruiser and directed investigators to the area near Silver Lake where he had dumped the body, said charging documents filed Monday.
FBI behavioral analysts believed that if Zina had survived until July 12, she would likely be at the point of dying from dehydration if she were not found immediately, Horne said.
The prosecutor said he believed time was so short that he did not even consult with the girl’s family before promising not to seek the death penalty.
During Horne’s news conference Monday, Anatoly Kalchik, Zina’s uncle, thanked Horne and the investigators for finding the body, and he thanked the community for its support. The Linniks, originally from Ukraine, attended Adhahn’s arraignment and listened to the proceedings through a Russian interpreter.
“We can bury her with dignity, and now we know she rest in peace,” Kalchik said.
The charging documents filed Monday said Adhahn’s DNA was found on Zina’s body. She died of a blow to the head, but apparently was killed at a different location.
Horne said Monday that detectives don’t know where she was killed, but that the blow caused internal bleeding and brain swelling.
When Adhahn showed up for work at a construction site July 5, his van had just been cleaned, a co-worker told detectives, according to the charging papers. He also began speaking of needing to leave the country for Thailand, the documents said.
Adhahn’s lawyers declined to comment following his court appearance Monday.
“No attorneys representing Mr. Adhahn will have any comment,” said one, Richard Whitehead.
Investigators said that as they were investigating Adhahn, they discovered his links to two other victims: an 11-year-old girl who was kidnapped on her way to school, brutally raped and left in a remote part of Fort Lewis in 2000; and another who lived with Adhahn as a teen and said he raped her as many as 200 times.
Adhahn is charged with rape and child rape in those cases, as well as failing to register as a sex offender. He pleaded not guilty to those counts last week.
He is also a person of interest in the late 2005 abduction and killing of Adre’Anna Jackson, a 10-year-old girl whose remains were found in a Pierce County field last year.
Adhahn came to the U.S. in the 1970s after his mother married a U.S. soldier. He was convicted of incest in 1990 for violently raping a 16-year-old female relative and sentenced to two months in jail, plus five years of counseling.
He told his counselors that he had been raped countless times by an older brother while growing up in Thailand, according to a mental evaluation filed in Pierce County Superior Court as part of that case.
Adhahn was being held in isolation at the Pierce County jail.
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