Special Reports

Police renew appeals for help

After six days, 200 tips and a lengthy overnight search at a Parkland home, Tacoma police and the FBI are still searching for missing 12-year-old Zina Linnik.

Monday, investigators hosted a brief news conference. A promised “announcement” turned out to be an echo of earlier pleas for aid from the public.

“We need our community’s help,” Police Chief Don Ramsdell said. “We need people to come forward and seek us out.”

Zina has been missing since about 9:45 p.m. July 4. Police say she was kidnapped from an alley behind her family’s home in the 2500 block of South J Street. The girl’s father said he heard a scream from the alley, and saw what he described as an older-model gray van with the numbers 677 or 667 on a Washington license plate.

About the time the news conference started, FBI and Tacoma police investigators appeared to wrap up what neighbors said was an 18-hour search at a small gray house in Parkland, prompted by a tip.

A gray Chevy van missing a front license plate had been parked in a carport next to the house in the 1200 block of 117th Street. Police towed the van away early Monday afternoon, said Tacoma police spokesman Mark Fulghum.

No one was arrested, but Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials detained an Asian male who had been questioned by police, Fulghum said.

“Right now he’s just somebody we’re talking to and we’ve not been able to eliminate him,” Fulghum said.

Ramsdell said the man’s possible ties to Zina’s disappearance are unclear and still being checked. Other statements from the news conference made it clear police are still looking for suspects.

“We haven’t ruled anything out,” Ramsdell said.

In Parkland, neighbors Jacob Ault and Jack Shipton said the gray house had been occupied by about three generations of an Asian family, including a man in his 30s or 40s. An elderly neighbor who lives across the street from the house said its occupants were quiet people who didn’t attract attention to themselves.

Late Monday morning, about 15 FBI searchers passed in and out of the house and small yard. Some carried boxes from the house and loaded them into a white truck. The agents also walked in and out of what looked like a mobile office: a long, black windowless trailer lined with filing cabinets.

Ault and an elderly neighbor said police had arrived early Sunday evening and worked through the night. In the morning, they went door-to-door, questioning neighbors, residents said.

At the news conference, Ramsdell and FBI Special Agent Laura Laughlin said investigators have received many leads, some more promising than others.

Ramsdell said investigators have seen no evidence to suggest Zina’s disappearance was a domestic matter. Police haven’t found two possible witnesses who were seen at a bus stop the day Zina disappeared. Investigators have spoken to registered sex offenders who live in the area – one of their first steps, Ramsdell said.

Ramsdell said people might know the suspect without realizing it. He urged them to watch for the following signs:

 • Possible attempts to conceal the van or change its appearance.

 • Missing work suddenly or unexpectedly, with or without an excuse.

 • Missing appointments or commitments.

 • Abruptly leaving town.

 • Claiming the vehicle has mechanical problems.

 • Selling, loaning or giving away the vehicle.

 • Abrupt, uncharacteristic use of public transportation.

 • Asking for rides.

A $16,000 reward has been established for information leading to Zina’s return or the suspect’s capture. Ramsdell asked people to call the Tacoma-Pierce County Crimestoppers hotline with tips. The number is 253-830-6508.