Crime

Bastian, Linnik, Bundy: Detective takes us behind the scenes of Tacoma’s biggest cases

“When we were on a case, she was a dog with a bone. If she got a sniff of a lead, she wasn’t going to stop.”

Lindsey Wade has stories.

She worked some of Tacoma’s most well-known crimes during her 21 years with the Police Department, firstly as a sexual assaults investigator and lastly in the cold-case division.

In between those assignments Wade became the department’s third female homicide detective.

Her case file list includes names like Zina Linnik, Jennifer Bastian, Michella Welch, Anthony Dias and Ted Bundy.

Now, the 44-year-old is writing a book about the 12 cases that most impacted her.

“One day I thought I’d write a book about all this crazy stuff, but when I was still working at TPD, it was like, ‘When would the story end?” Wade told The News Tribune recently. “Then I retired and had more free time.”

Wade is still fine-tuning the book and speaking to agents, so there’s no release date yet, but it’s guaranteed to offer a glimpse into some cases that will forever haunt Tacoma.

All the cases included in the book have been adjudicated. All of the victims are female. And all but two happened in Tacoma (Bellevue and Kitsap County cases are included).

The beginning

Wade was a teenager attending Curtis High School when she picked up a copy of Ann Rule’s “The Stranger Beside Me,” a true crime book about serial killer Ted Bundy.

She knew then she wanted to be a homicide detective and work in her hometown.

Wade took criminal justice classes in college, went on ride-alongs and interned with a female police sergeant before being hired in March 1997. She quit her studies at Pierce College and started patrolling Hilltop on the graveyard shift. (She later went back and earned a bachelor of arts in law and justice.)

That lasted for five years until Wade moved to the narcotics division, staying barely a year before promoting to detective.

She was excited and nervous to be a woman in a male-dominated field.

Wade worried at first about what to wear and how she’d be received by her colleagues.

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Lindsey Wade photographed September 2006 when she was a detective with the Tacoma Police Department. Tacoma Police Department

“I definitely felt like I had to prove myself more as a woman,” Wade said. “My attitude was they’re not going to respect me based on being male or female, they would respect me based on my job. So I let my work speak for itself.”

And it did.

She spent three and a half years in the Special Assault Unit working sex crimes and child abuse.

“It takes a certain personality to work those crimes and stomach that kind of work and to be able to put it in perspective,” Wade said. “It’s day in and day out of the most horrendous cases you can imagine with people doing the worst possible things to other people.”

Her second call-out for that detail was a brutal rape in 2005.

It was the start of tracking serial rapist Anthony Dias, who eventually was charged with 20 counts of rape, kidnapping, burglary and robbery in Pierce County for a string of home-invasion attacks.

Wade was part of a task force trying to track Dias as he broke into homes across two counties, tying up his victims and beating them.

Federal Way police eventually shot and arrested Dias after he went through a window, tied up a woman with a dog leash and raped her two teenage daughters.

Every time a rapist was locked up, Wade rejoiced that he wouldn’t be able to hurt anyone else. It’s what drove her to never give up.

Her longtime police partner, Brad Graham, nicknamed her L-Dog.

“When we were on a case, she was a dog with a bone,” Graham said. “If she got a sniff of a lead, she wasn’t going to stop.”

That tenacity was evident when Wade discovered Ted Bundy’s DNA was not in a national database containing DNA of more than 10 million convicted felons.

She was working on the 1961 disappearance of 8-year-old Ann Marie Burr, who some believe was Ted Bundy’s first victim. The case is Tacoma’s oldest unsolved homicide.

Wade called Florida officials almost daily until they found a blood sample, created a DNA profile and uploaded it into the system.

“Lindsey had an unwillingness to accept what shouldn’t be,” said Gene Miller, a longtime detective who partnered with Wade and created the department’s cold-case unit. “When she sees something or hears about something that shouldn’t be, she’s going to do everything she can to get it to what it should be.”

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Lindsey Wade photographed along Five Mile Drive in Tacoma on Monday, Sept. 30, 2019. Wade is only the third female homicide detective for the Tacoma Police Department. She worked sexual assaults, then homicides, then cold cases before she left the department in 2018. Wade is writing a book about 12 stand-out cases she worked on during her career. Joshua Bessex joshua.bessex@gateline.com

Homicide tales

Her first homicide call-out couldn’t have been more horrible.

Zina Linnik, 12, was abducted from an alley while watching fireworks July 4, 2007. The girl’s father heard a scream, saw a van speeding away and found his daughter’s flip-flop sandal on the pavement.

“It was trial by fire,” Wade said. “We literally felt like we had the world on our shoulders. The stress level and the amount of pressure was immense.”

Detectives worked around the clock for nine days until a partial license plate number led them to a registered sex offender who eventually directed police to an area near Silver Lake in East Pierce County, where he’d hidden Zina’s body.

Wade and Graham were there when the girl was pulled from the brush. Afterward, they sat together and cried.

“Lindsey was such a safe person to work with because she had compassion, she had emotion, she had grit, she had perseverance,” Graham said. “She had what I needed to work with her.”

Zina’s death was one neither detective got over.

Another was the still-unsolved death of Tyliah Young, a mother of two shot several times in the head. Her body literally froze over by the time someone found her Jan. 13, 2013.

Wade continued working the homicide for years, and her heart broke a little every time Young’s father called to ask if there was any progress in the case.

“It’s hard when you have family members wanting to know if there’s any progress and you have to tell them no,” she said. “It got to be a little depressing. You can only say, ‘I don’t have good news for you,’ in so many ways.”

Experiences like that helped prepare Wade to take over the cold-case unit in 2015 when Miller retired.

The duo worked side by side for about a decade, breathing new life into a handful of cold cases.

They gave extra attention to the 1986 disappearances of Michella Welch and Jennifer Bastian, two young girls taken months apart from North End parks.

The detectives’ persistence led to a bombshell in 2016: although investigators had for three decades believed the same man killed Bastian and Welch, new DNA testing showed otherwise.

Composites of the suspects made from DNA were released to the public. A new tip line was created. The department’s Child Abduction Response Team was activated to investigate the girls’ deaths as if they just happened.

Wade spent three months making a list of every man mentioned in the voluminous case files of Bastian and Welch. There were more than 2,300 names on that list. With the FBI’s help, she collected 160 new DNA samples.

“She’s always been able to find things nobody else was able to find,” Miller said about his former partner. “She put them together in a way that was unique.”

In her final months on the job, Wade sent the DNA samples to be tested in batches of 20. She had them analyzed in alphabetical order.

The state lab got a hit 25 days after Wade retired from the Tacoma Police Department. Jennifer Bastian’s killer at long last had a name.

A month later, DNA helped identify the man suspected of killing Welch.

“I couldn’t even believe it,” said Wade, who wasn’t sure the cases would ever be solved.

Why she left

Wade’s decision to retire early was a tough one.

She loved working cases, giving answers to families who lost a loved one to violence, locking up bad guys.

“I kind of burned out,” Wade said. “I didn’t lose passion for the work, but I was tired.”

She didn’t want to promote and work behind a desk, but she couldn’t handle being called out at all hours of the night. She wanted personal time, uninterrupted time with her 9-year-old daughter and husband, who is an assistant police chief.

Then the state Attorney General’s Office recruited her to be a senior investigator/analyst and help local law enforcement agencies learn the process for testing every rape kit in their evidence rooms.

“It sounded like an interesting project, and DNA is my passion,” she said. “I decided to go for it.”

Wade left her post with Tacoma police in April 2018 and started writing.

Writing about the women she brought justice. Writing about how hard it was to handle those tragedies as a woman and mother. Writing about how important police work is.

“Writing the book is my opportunity to share my unique experiences as a woman in law enforcement, including what led me to becoming a cop,” Wade said. “I hope it also gives hope to victims and their families still waiting for justice.”

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Stacia Glenn covers crime and breaking news in Pierce County. She started with The News Tribune in 2010. Before that, she spent six years writing about crime in Southern California for another newspaper.
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