Linnik suspect's life holds troubling contrasts
Seattle Times staff reporters
Terapon Adhahn lived not on the fringes, but in mainstream society.
He was a former soldier, a Boeing employee, a father of two daughters and a son. Some remember him as a bright and pleasant man, which belied his criminal past and the fact that he has been estranged from his children for years.
To those who were once related to Adhahn through marriage, the 42-year-old's position at the center of an expanding investigation into the rapes of several girls and the slaying of at least two, including 12-year-old Zina Linnik, is difficult to comprehend. The recent allegations have prompted some to recall when his temper flared and wonder if something more lay behind the anger.
Pierce County prosecutors on Wednesday charged Adhahn with numerous criminal counts stemming from the May 2001 kidnapping and rape of an 11-year-old Tacoma girl and the repeated rape of a teenage family friend between 2001 and 2005. He was also booked for failing to register as a sex offender after a 1990 incest conviction.
Prosecutors say he will be arraigned on the charges today.
Adhahn is also the prime suspect in the kidnapping and slaying of Zina, who disappeared from her home in Tacoma's Hilltop neighborhood on July 4. Her body was found a week ago in eastern Pierce County.
He is also a person of interest in the December 2005 disappearance of a 10-year-old Tillicum, Pierce County, girl whose remains were discovered several months later.
Police and the FBI are also investigating whether Adhahn may be connected to several other rapes and missing-persons cases in the Tacoma area going back more than a decade.
To those who know him, Adhahn is clearly a man with flaws, some stemming from his difficult upbringing and underscored by his 1990 conviction for sexually assaulting a 16-year-old relative. But they have a hard time connecting the man they know with the chilling portrait of a serial child rapist being painted by prosecutors and police.
Adhahn, who goes by the first name Lee, was a soldier stationed at Fort Dix, N.J., in the mid-1980s when he met Barbara Harris, the girlfriend of one of his barracks mates, recalled Harris' sister, Diana Davis, of Winston, N.C. Harris worked in the commissary. The two began to date.
Adhahn visited Harris' family in Swanquarter, N.C., and stayed several weeks with her parents, Davis said. The family was impressed, and pleased when the couple announced their intent to marry.
On Aug. 6, 1986, Adhahn and Harris were married in a simple country wedding at her parents' home. "If ever you don't want her, you just bring her back," James Harris recalled joking with his new son-in-law.
Shortly afterward, Adhahn shipped out to Germany and his bride went with him. It was the beginning of five years of misery, say James Harris and Davis. The couple's difficulties continued after the couple moved back to the U.S. in the late 1980s, and as they eventually settled in Tacoma when he was stationed at Fort Lewis.
According to documents filed in Pierce County Superior Court in connection with the 1990 rape charge, the couple fought over little things, and Adhahn admitted he had a temper but claimed he never struck his wife. A former co-worker at Boeing's Auburn Fabrication Facility from about mid-1999 through 2001 remembers Adhahn as a "fun and entertaining person" who angered easily.
Court documents show that Harris told a psychologist that Adhahn was "very possessive, mentally abusive and over-controlling," and on several occasions he came close to striking her. "Instead he ran because he knew he was losing it," Barbara Harris told a counselor.
Harris also said they fought over parenting, with Adhahn complaining that she spoiled their daughter, who was then 13 months old, and over how much time he spent with his family.
The move to Tacoma seemed to add stress to the marriage, James Harris said: "It added to his problems." Adhahn later told a counselor he was drinking heavily and described himself as an alcoholic, documents show.
In 1990, Adhahn sexually assaulted a 16-year-old relative.
Pierce County prosecutors charged him with first-degree rape, but he agreed to a plea bargain, which led to an exceptional sentence reduction: no prison time, 60 days in jail and five years of sexual-deviation therapy in exchange for pleading guilty to the reduced charge of first-degree incest.
It ended his service career and landed him in treatment, court records show.
Michael Comte, a social worker who, along with a psychologist, evaluated Adhahn for psycho-sexual treatment, called him "an angry and poorly controlled man with a plethora of psychological emotional and behavioral problems." In the 1990 evaluation, Comte added that "long-term intensive psychotherapy and monitoring of his behavior will be necessary to ensure the safety of the community."
In court documents, Adhahn described a difficult upbringing. He was born in Bangkok, Thailand. His father was alcoholic and abusive. His mother was seldom around. For years he was raped by an older brother.
His parents divorced and his mother later married John Bower, an Army Green Beret. The family moved to San Diego in 1977 and later to Germany. Adhahn became a legal U.S. resident, although never a U.S. citizen, and joined the Army.
Barbara Harris' family knew little about Adhahn's early life, with the exception of the 1990 assault.
Adhahn filed for a dissolution of the marriage in May 1998 in Lincoln County. The documents indicate the couple had been separated since Sept. 14, 1990, just days after he was sentenced on the incest charge. The divorce documents state the marriage was "irretrievably broken," but offer no details.
Adhahn agreed to pay $502 in monthly child support, nearly a third of his $1,794 net pay from his job at Boeing. Barbara Harris was pregnant with the couple's second daughter at the time.
About that time he was living with another woman and, according to Davis, had a son with her. Under the custody arrangements in the divorce, his daughters came to stay with him for a year in Tacoma.
They returned to their mother and have never gone back to, nor heard from, their father again. All attempts at contacting him failed, Davis said. Adhahn left Boeing in December 2001 and has been doing construction work ever since.
He lived for a while in Fort Worth, Texas, where his mother, Penn Bower, lives with her longtime boyfriend, Donald Bay.
Bower couldn't be reached, but Bay said Bower didn't trust her son because he was "too much like his father." But Bay said he found Adhahn to be "a good kid and a good mechanic. He helped me around the house. I don't know why she didn't get along with him."
Bay said his opinion changed when Adhahn became involved with an underage girl, a relationship that resulted in several of the charges filed Wednesday in Pierce County.
Adhahn met the girl -- then 12 -- through her mother's boyfriend, according to charging papers. The girl's mother was having trouble and could not care for her, so she allowed her daughter to move in with Adhahn.
While living with Adhahn at two different Spanaway addresses starting in 2001, the girl estimated she was raped twice weekly for several years, charging documents state.
Charging papers also allege that the last time he assaulted the girl, who is now 19 and living in Wichita, Kan., Adhahn held her at gunpoint when she tried to refuse him.
Adhahn was charged on Wednesday with one count of first-degree rape, three counts of second-degree rape and three counts of child rape in connection with the assaults on the girl.
Adhahn was also charged with first-degree kidnapping and three counts of first-degree rape in connection with the May 2000 rape of an 11-year-old girl near Fort Lewis.
According to charging documents, the girl was walking to school alone on May 31 when Adhahn grabbed her, covered her mouth with his hand and forced her to the floor of his truck.
He threatened the girl with a knife and duct-taped her hands, mouth and eyes, according to charging documents, and then drove to a remote training area in woods on the base. There, he raped the girl for more than an hour, charging documents allege.
The girl was left in the woods and eventually made her way to a highway where she was found by military personnel.
Police have also called Adhahn a person of interest in the disappearance and death of 10-year-old Adre'Anna Jackson, who was last seen in her Tillicum neighborhood in December 2005 and whose remains were found in an abandoned lot four months later.
Adhahn is in Pierce County Jail in lieu of $450,000 bail. Prosecutors say they are not likely to file charges against Adhahn in connection with the abduction and slaying of Zina this week.
"We wanted to get him into our jail and get these charges on him," said deputy prosecutor Ed Murphy. "But we're looking at him on a number of different things in Zina's case."
Nancy Bartley: 206-464-8522 or email@example.com
Seattle Times staff reporters Mike Carter, Jennifer Sullivan and news researcher Miyoko Wolf contributed to this report.
The information in this article, originally published July 19, 2007, was corrected August 2, 2007. Terapon Adhahn's military records show that he is not a former Army Ranger. Adhahn served in the Army from 1984 through 1990, when he was convicted of felony incest for the rape of a relative.
Copyright © 2007 The Seattle Times Company