Special Reports

Familiar face brings back old nightmare

The image is almost 12 years old: a frozen frame of video from a convenience store security camera. In the left corner stands a small, dark-haired man, looking off-screen. Perhaps he was looking at Connie Shaffer, the 21-year-old clerk he abducted, assaulted, shot and left for dead near Fort Lewis Golf Course.

The crime was never solved, her attacker never captured – but last week, Shaffer thought she saw him again on the news. The face was familiar enough to give her nightmares that haven’t stopped since.

The face on the news belonged to Terapon Dang Adhahn, charged with kidnapping, rape and murder in the killing of 12-year-old Zina Linnik, and multiple rapes in two other cases.

“Just add 10 years to his face,” Shaffer said Wednesday.

The attack on Shaffer is one of the cases Tacoma police are examining for possible links to Adhahn, spokesman Mark Fulghum said Wednesday. In the next few days, Shaffer will visit police and look at mug shots.

At the time of the attack, Adhahn was in Pierce County. Court records from his 1990 conviction for incest show he attended a group therapy session for sex offenders on Nov. 7, 1995, in Tacoma – hours before Shaffer’s late-night abduction.

The same records show Adhahn living seven blocks away on South 45th Street within months of the incident.

Whether Shaffer identifies Adhahn or someone else, chances for prosecution are remote. She was left to die on military property, creating the slim chance of a federal case. State law says the statute of limitations has passed, largely because Shaffer survived. There is no statute of limitations on murder.

Police say Shaffer’s evidence still has potential value, even without prosecution. It could help establish a pattern of behavior, Fulghum said.

“If another crime comes up with similarities to this one, it’ll be something else we can look at,” he said. “It would raise an eyebrow and point toward other incidents we have that maybe aren’t being looked at. It’ll still tie into other things that happened in the area at the time.”

In November 1995, Shaffer had just turned 21. She was petite, less than 5 feet tall, with long blonde hair.

“Looked like she was going on 15,” said Denise Miller, Shaffer’s mother.

She was working the night shift at the convenience store in the 2600 block of South 38th Street when the man came in. According to the description she gave police at the time, he was 5 feet 5, Asian, wearing a dark jacket.

He had been in twice before, Shaffer remembered. This time, he had a gun. He robbed the place – $243 was the take – and forced her out the back door and into his car, a cream-colored Mazda RX-7 or a similar model.

The News Tribune published Shaffer’s account in 1996, relying on her statements and police reports. According to those accounts, the man drove for 30 minutes, found an open area, pushed Shaffer out of the car, hit her in the head with the butt of the gun and tried to rape her, stopping when he realized she was menstruating.

He forced her back into the car, binding her hands, forcing her head down. He asked her questions and hit her with the gun again when he didn’t like the answers. The ride lasted another two hours. The man drove to an area near Fort Lewis Golf Course.

He shot her, in the leg and then the head, and left. Shaffer struggled to the freeway and flagged down a driver.

Her hair saved her. A surgeon at Madigan Army Medical Center told her the bullet – possibly from a .38-caliber revolver – took a shock of hair with it, twisting the path just enough, though she suffered brain damage.

Shaffer, now a mother of two with a third child on the way, wishes the statute of limitations hadn’t passed, but she also sees the worth of helping other potential victims.

“My life has changed so dramatically in the past 12 years,” she said. “I just couldn’t imagine another woman going through this.”

Sean Robinson: 253-597-8486; sean.robinson@thenewstribune.com

ADHAHN'S HOME SEARCHED FOR THIRD TIME

Tacoma police have returned to the Parkland home where murder suspect Terapon Dang Adhahn was detained July 8.

Tuesday's search, the third investigators have conducted, yielded possible blood spatters and adult paraphernalia tossed into a garbage bag.

"It's just to make sure that they've got everything covered," police spokesman Mark Fulghum said Wednesday. "We don't know that we've got everything, and he's not talking with us. Evidence of any kind, things that may have been overlooked, may help with the case."

Adhahn, 42, has been charged with kidnapping, rape and murder in the death of 12-year-old Zina Linnik, as well as multiple charges of rape linked to two other adolescent girls.

Search warrant documents filed Wednesday in Pierce County Superior Court show police wanted to make sure that possible blood spatters noticed during a second search July 18 were recorded and analyzed.

They removed a section of wall where the spatters were seen, and the adult item, which had been wrapped in cloth and left in a garbage bag.

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Sean Robinson, The News Tribune

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