UPDATE: Terapon Adhahn, left, was sentenced Friday to life in prison without possibility of parole. He was convicted of the following crimes:
• One count each of aggravated first-degree murder, first-degree kidnapping and first-degree rape in the July 2007 death of 12-year-old Zina Linnik.
• Three counts of first-degree rape and one count of first-degree kidnapping in the rape of an 11-year-old Tacoma girl abducted on her way to school in May 2000.
• One count of first-degree rape, three counts of second-degree rape and three counts of third-degree rape of a child for repeated sexual assaults of a teenage girl who lived with him from 2003 to 2005.
• One count of failing to register as a sex offender, for not abiding by the conditions of his sentence for a 1990 incest conviction.
The man in chains in the photo, Terapon Adhahn, 42, was arrested a few days ago, after he told police where he left the body of Zina Linnek, 12, one of eight children whose family lives in Tacoma, Washington, where I was born and grew up, within a few miles of where three of my adult children now make their homes. Adhahn left Zina’s body at a rest stop in an area of personal importance to me, at the entrance to Silver Lake on the Mountain Highway not far from Tacoma, where my grandparents built a cabin when I was a tiny girl, a cabin my parents still own which lies just below the home in which they now reside, and where our family regularly gathers. Whenever we drove up to “the lake” when I was a girl, my dad would joke in a kindhearted way about people picnicking in the rest area, saying they likely believed they were out “in the wilderness.” To my dad, only remote, nearly inaccessible, “rugged” areas qualified as “wilderness.” We’d smile at my dad, the harried attorney become quasi-swagger-y like a mountain man, and we’d drive around the bend just moments away from my grandparents’ rustic cabin, complete with outhouse in those days, full of family memories and memorabilia, as it still is.
The days of reminiscing as we drive past that “rest area” are history now; that place will forever be shadowed and haunted by the brutal murder of a little girl, whose body was discarded as so much rubbish there.
Adhahn stalked Zina, like any predator stalks its prey. She had been in the alley behind her house at 9:45 p.m. on 4th of July, a hot night, as it turned out. It is still a bit light out here at that time, not quite dark, and lots of people were outside watching the city-sponsored fireworks displays. She’d been playing with her siblings and friends, who had run off to do something else momentarily, leaving her alone in the alley. That’s when she was seized and drug into a gray van. She screamed. Her father heard and ran outside, just in time to see the van drive off, just in time to find one of her red flip flops, left behind. He was able to remember a few of the numbers on the license plate.
Police were able to track Adhahn down by way of these few numbers. Adhahn lived maybe 10 miles away, in a part of the city near where I grew up. Police searched his home and found girls’ underwear and other items. Adhahn then told his attorneys where he left her body.
A Rapist, Not a “Sexual Offender”
As it turns out, Adhahn is a rapist. I will not call him a “sex offender,” the description which is officially used for his acts, because that would place him in the same category as, for example, prostituted women in some jurisdictions. He was no “sex offender,” he was a brutal rapist. In 1990 he violently raped his 16-year-old half sister. Since it was his “first offense,” he did only 60 days of jail time. Charges against him were reduced to “incest,” and he completed 60 months of “treatment” for sexual deviance, then was adjudged a Level 1 sex offender, meaning those who evaluated him did not believe he was at high risk to reoffend.
They were wrong, of course. Adhahn has continued to reoffend and reoffend and reoffend. He is small, 5’4″, and slight of build. He was quiet, kept to himself, paid his bills on time, kept a clean house, and was hardworking. He did handyman work and drove a tow truck. He had served honorably in the military as an Army Ranger.
But in private, behind closed doors, in his bedroom and on the streets, he terrorized and raped and murdered little girls. He took in one young girl he met through a friend, whose mother was having difficulties raising her. She was 12 and called him “dad.” But, she says, he raped her — at least 150 times, maybe 300 times, before she could run away at age 16. Sometimes he raped her at gunpoint. Sometimes he bound her, then raped her.
In another instance, he kidnapped an 11-year-old girl as she was walking alone to school, forced her into his truck, bound her with duct tape, then violently raped her, severely injuring her. She managed to get free after he’d left her bleeding in the woods, and she was found dazed and bloody, walking alongside the highway. She is 18 now and has identified him as the man who raped and terrorized her.
Left to right, Adre’anna Jackson, Teekah Lewis, Lenoria Jones, Misty Copsey
Adhahn is now a suspect in other unsolved rapes and murders of little girls here in the Tacoma area: Adre’Anna Jackson, who was 10 years old when she went missing one snowy December morning between her house and her school three blocks away, and whose body was found four months later in a vacant lot not far from where Adhahn lived. Teekah Lewis, who was just a baby, 2 years old, when she went missing from a crowded bowling alley, again, not far from where Adhahn lived. Lenoria Jones, who was 3 when she went missing from a Tacoma Target store. Misty Copsey — whom I knew, and whose dad, Buck Copsey, I knew; they were members of my old church in my old world — who was 14 when she went missing after having left the Western Washington Fairgrounds in Puyallup, Washington, again, not far from where Adhahn lived.
Who is Adhahn?
Adhahn had a horrible childhood. He was one of five children supported by a single mother who left her children with her own mother, a cruel woman by all accounts, while she worked doing whatever she could to earn money to support her children. Adhahn blamed her for everything, really, including abandoning him; while he was living with his grandmother, he was raped by his older brother. Later his mother married an American serviceman and the family moved from Thailand to the United States, where things were better for the family for a while.
Not About Immigration
Much coverage of this story has focused on the fact that Adhahn is an immigrant and should have been deported when he raped his relative. I think Adhahn and his mother and family deserved a chance at a new life, having suffered in Thailand during the Vietnam War era, and I think the U.S. was hugely culpable in, and shared responsibility for, that suffering. Adhahn was, like most rapists, of whatever race or citizenship, a taxpaying, otherwise-law-abiding citizen, a veteran, and trained, as an Army Ranger, to kill. How convenient for American men (mostly) to focus on the fact of his having been an immigrant, rather than on his rape of little girls. How convenient for white American men (mostly) to do whatever they can to other someone who doesn’t look like most of them, someone who, in fact, reminds some of them of their own culpabilities. And beyond that, as a female person and a member of the category of persons colonized by men internationally, I have to stand in solidarity with all of the little girls everywhere who might have been raped by Adhahn, whether they lived in the United States or in Thailand, had Adhahn been deported. Making discussions of the brutal rapes and murders of little girls all about how the murderer or rapist should have been deported devalues and diminishes the lives of little girls and women everywhere, throughout the world. What, we should have deported Adhahn so he could have raped and murdered little Thai girls instead of little American girls? Somehow that would be preferable?
Zina was also an immigrant. If wishes were horses and beggars could ride, my wish would be that her family had not immigrated from the Ukraine to this country, where it is war on little girls, where they are relentlessly objectified, sexualized and fetishized, where violent rapists walk free and unhindered among them, photographing them, creating websites catering to pedophiles, all completely legal, and where, when little girls fight back, they are the ones to go to prison, sometimes up to 11 years. If wishes were horses, I’d rather see Zina and her mom and dad and sisters and brothers, aunties and uncles, in the Ukraine, than in this poor, erstwhile “ghetto,” currently-being-gentrified, neighborhood in my hometown, speaking little English, in a city long and well-known for police misconduct, and corruption. Eh, she was just an immigrant girl, poor as a churchmouse, and you know those immigrants with all those kids, why can’t they figure out what causes that, ha ha. Meanwhile little girls go missing, little girls go raped, go tortured, go brutalized, are found dead, months later, maybe, or maybe their bodies are never found at all, as with Teekah Lewis, and as mothers and grandmothers and sisters and lovers we grieve and weep and mourn and long for a safe place to live and to be in the world.
Adhahn may become a suspect in the death of Amber Hagerman, in whose memory the Amber Alert legislation was originally conceived and passed. Adhahn’s mother and other family members live in Keller and Fort Worth, Texas, near where Amber Hagerman lived in Arlington.
If he is convicted of all of the charges against him and imprisoned for the rest of his life, or executed, that will be one less predator, girl-rapist, girl-murderer. But just one. What about all of the rest? When will our daughters be safe?