More than ever, the Hilltop takes care

July 14, 2007 

Tacoma’s Hilltop residents used to keep their ears open for gunshots. Now they’re worried about sex offenders in their midst.

Neighborhood parents said Friday that they won’t treat their kids the same now that Zina Linnik, who was kidnapped July 4 from behind her home near South J Street and 25th Avenue, was found dead Thursday.

After Zina’s abduction, parents took additional precautions, said Rasheeda Dillingham, who lives a block away from Zina’s family on South J Street. But since hearing Thursday’s news, she won’t let her kids even ride their bikes up the block.

“They can stay between the end of that gate and those stairs,” she said, pointing. “That’s not even 30 feet.”

The loss is not something the community will soon forget, said her husband, Bubba Dillingham, a lifelong Hilltop resident. Before, he said, neighbors worried about drive-by shootings, not kidnappings.

“This is going to be here for the rest of our lives,” he said. “When we look at July 4, 2007, from this point on, it will the day the community changed. It will be the day when I couldn’t anymore look at my neighbor as my neighbor, but as a possible sex offender. I don’t think anyone is ever going to forget that.”

After hearing about Zina’s kidnapping, the Dillinghams looked on the Pierce County sheriff’s Web site and found 42 registered sex offenders living within a half-mile radius of their house.

And that doesn’t include convicted sex offenders who don’t have their addresses properly registered with the authorities, such as the man who led police to Zina’s body. Those are most frightening, Rasheeda Dillingham said.

“Why can’t they send the sex offenders something every three to six months to make sure they know where they are?” she asked.

Zina’s death pushed the Hilltop Action Coalition to petition the state to improve sex offender registration and treatment, said Jeannie Peterson, the group’s director of community initiatives.

The coalition produced about 3,000 fliers announcing Zina as missing and printed lists of policy goals on the back. Group members now will take them door-to-door to get their message heard, Peterson said.

“There’s nothing we can do for Zina anymore,” Peterson said. “But there certainly is a lot we can do to make sure this never happens again.”

Community members have also placed flowers, teddy bears and balloons in front of the Linnik home in memory of Zina, and a memorial service is in the works, Peterson said.

Until the end, people still held onto hope that Zina would return alive, said Charles Jones, who lives in the neighborhood.

“We didn’t expect it to end like this,” Jones said. “The community is hurting.”

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