Special Reports

First look at Zina suspect

Members of Zina Linnik’s family sat quietly in the front row of Pierce County Courtroom 560 on Thursday. Behind them and flanked by relatives and friends was a young woman who seven years ago endured a savage rape at the hands of a stranger who plucked her from the street as she walked to her Tacoma middle school.

Along the walls swarmed reporters and camera crews, detectives and curious attorneys.

They’d all come to catch a glimpse of Terapon Dang Adhahn.

Prosecutors have charged him with raping two school-age girls since 2000, and police have named him as the suspect in the death of 12-year-old Zina, who disappeared from behind her Hilltop home on July 4 and was found dead in East Pierce County eight days later.

Just after 1:30 p.m., Adhahn shuffled into court in an orange jail uniform and shackles to enter pleas in the three cases he’s been charged in so far.

Escorted by tall corrections officers, Adhahn looked smaller than his 5-foot-4 frame and sported a wispy beard and mustache.

The 42-year-old handyman and tow-truck driver spoke softly to his two court-appointed attorneys during his arraignment, but his words weren’t loud enough to be heard in the gallery.

Public defender Richard Whitehead asked Superior Court Judge John Hickman to enter not guilty pleas on Adhahn’s behalf to the following charges: four counts of first-degree rape, three counts of second-degree rape, three counts of third-degree child rape and one count each of kidnapping and failure to register as a sex offender.

Hickman accepted the pleas and set a pretrial conference for Aug. 7.

Deputy prosecutor Mary Robnett then asked Hickman to set high bail in each case: $1 million in the 2000 kidnapping and rape of the Gault Middle School then-11-year-old girl; $1 million more in the alleged repeated rapes of a school-age girl who lived with Adhahn for several years; and $25,000 more in the failure-to-register-as-a-sex-offender case.

“We do believe he poses a significant risk to the community and is a flight risk,” Robnett told Hickman.

Whitehead did not object to the bail amounts, so Hickman imposed them all: $2,025,000 in total. The judge also ordered Adhahn not to have unsupervised contact with children should he make bail.

Corrections officers then led him back to jail, where sheriff’s spokesman Ed Troyer said he was being held in isolation.

After court, the mother and two sisters of the Gault victim met with members of the news media in the first-floor lobby of the County-City Building in Tacoma.

Nancy Rasmussen described her daughter as “a really strong little girl.”

“She wanted to see him and she wants to address the court at trial,” Rasmussen said. “She’s mad more than anything, and she’s upset over Zina.”

The victim declined to meet with reporters.

Deputy prosecutor Ed Murphy reiterated Thursday that his office was still working on the Zina case and had no plans this week to charge Adhahn in her death.

Zina’s family left court without comment, as did two women thought to be relatives or friends of Adhahn.

But some people did speak on his behalf Thursday.

Candace Richmond and her father, Kenneth Richmond, contacted The News Tribune to talk about the man they knew for nearly six years, a man with whom they’d eaten Thanksgiving dinner, gone bowling and shared good times.

“He called me his brother. I called him my brother,” said Kenneth Richmond, 52.

The family met Adhahn and the girl he called his daughter – the girl who says he raped her as many as 200 times – when he worked as a tow-truck driver where Kenneth Richmond’s wife served as a dispatcher.

Richmond said he’d never seen the girl unhappy. About two years ago, Adhahn and the girl “dropped off the face of the Earth,” he said.

“In my wildest dreams, I wouldn’t have believed this,” said Richmond, who said he’s been cooperating with detectives since Adhahn’s arrest.