Special Reports

Residency meant he could stay

South Sound residents outraged over the abduction and slaying of Zina Linnik have raised two key questions about Terapon Adhahn, named by Tacoma police as the suspect in the girl’s death.

Adhahn was an immigrant. Why wasn’t he deported after his 1990 conviction for incest?

Because federal law didn’t require it. Adhahn, 42, came to America in 1977. He became a legal permanent resident, but never filed for citizenship.

Under federal law, a single conviction for a “crime of moral turpitude” doesn’t warrant deportation for a legal permanent resident, Lori Haley, a spokeswoman for Immigration and Customs Enforcement, said Friday.

“One conviction wouldn’t render him deportable, because he was a legal permanent resident more than five years,” Haley said.

Haley added that immigration officials knew about Adhahn’s 1990 conviction at the time.

The same laws say a second conviction could have triggered deportation. Adhahn was convicted of intimidation with a weapon in 1992. The case was filed in Tacoma Municipal Court. Immigration officials didn’t know about that conviction.

“We weren’t aware of the 1992 conviction at the time,” Haley said. “That happened in Municipal Court, so we were unaware.”

After his 1990 conviction, Adhahn had to register as a sex offender. How did he avoid community supervision, and why wasn’t the public notified about him?

He didn’t avoid supervision, and he registered regularly. But the same 1992 conviction overlooked by immigration officials went unnoticed locally, and Adhahn was considered a low-level offender.

After the 1990 conviction, he was classified as a Level 1 offender – the category deemed least likely to re-offend. Counselors praised his efforts at rehabilitation, according to court records.

Such offenders are not the sort whose names and faces appear on lists and notification fliers sent to communities. Police typically reserve that process for Level 3 offenders – the category deemed most likely to offend.

Pierce County prosecutors charged Adhahn this week with failure to register as a sex offender. However, court records show legal authorities took no notice of the alleged failure until this week, when Adhahn was already deemed a person of interest in Linnik’s disappearance.

Adhahn’s 15-year offender registration requirement theoretically ended in 2005, records state. However, his 1992 conviction should have restarted the offender registration clock. Instead of ending in 2005, his registration obligations were to have ended in September 2007, prosecutors wrote this week.

Sean Robinson: 253-597-8486