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Parkland sex offender linked to missing girl case

SEAN ROBINSON; The News Tribune Published: July 10th, 2007 01:25 PM

Peter Haley / The News TribuneBeth Cheshier and Ellie of the organization German Shepherd Seach Dogs joined with others from King and Pierce Counties' search and rescue teams in the search of evidence related to the July 4 kidnapping of Tacoma's Zina Linnik around Tiger Mountain summit on Highway 18 on July 10, 2007.

Updated 4:36 p.m. - A convicted sex offender whose home and van were searched Sunday and Monday hasn’t been eliminated as a suspect in the July 4 disappearance of 12-year-old Zina Linnik, Tacoma police said today.
“We can’t say that he’s the one,” said police spokesman Mark Fulghum. “But we still haven’t been able to eliminate him from any involvement.”

Fulghum would not say whether the man was connected to the tip that led police to the Tiger Mountain area in Issaquah today.

The search of the Parkland home where the 42-year-old man was staying yielded “girl’s undergarments” among other items, according to search warrant records.

An affidavit filed by police states that the license plate number of the van closely resembled the partial plate description Linnik’s father gave to police after her disappearance. When police found the van, it had a different license plate. The man admitted to police that he changed it, records say.

Federal authorities have detained the man for unspecified immigration violations, said Lorie Dankers, spokeswoman for U.S. Customs and Immigration Enforcement. Dankers said she could not disclose the nature of the violations.

Court documents filed today in Pierce County Superior Court charged the man with failure to register as a sex offender, noting his 1990 conviction for first-degree ****** in Pierce County.

The News Tribune is not naming the man because he has not been charged with a crime related to Linnik’s disappearance. When police questioned him, he denied any involvement, and said he was not in Tacoma’s Hilltop neighborhood on July 4.

Police spoke to two people who had dinner with the man on July 4 at a Parkland house. They said they were with him from about 7 to 9 p.m. He left after that, they said.

Linnik disappeared about 9:45 p.m., police say. She was last seen in an alley near her family’s home in the 2500 block of South J Street in Tacoma.

Linnik’s father, Mikhail, told police he saw an older gray van parked in the alley. He recalled seeing the numbers 677 or 667 in the license plate and possibly the letter B before the van drove away. A few minutes later, he found a flip-flop sandal on the pavement near where the van had been parked. The sandal was the same type his daughter had been wearing, court records say.

An unnamed neighbor who lived near the alley told police he also saw a gray van around the time Zina Linnik disappeared, according to the search warrant records. The neighbor heard “a scream of pain” from the alley, and looked out, but the van was gone.

Friday, a police detective conducted a computer search, seeking prior police reports linked to vans fitting the description given by Mikhail Linnik. The detective found one report from May 1 of this year that led to the Parkland house, the sex offender and his van.

Court records say the report was a vehicle prowl complaint, reported by someone who used to work for the van’s owner and sometimes drove the vehicle to work. The listed license plate of the van included the characters 667B. State vehicle registration records revealed the owner’s name, records state.

Detectives found the van and the owner Sunday, at the Parkland address, but the van had a different license plate. The man appeared to notice detectives watching him from an unmarked car, and walked away from the house, records state.

Detectives stopped the man. When they questioned him, he admitted switching the plates a few days earlier. He said the original plates had been stolen several months earlier and he couldn’t afford to buy new ones.

Police found no one else living in the home, according to the records. The man said the house belonged to his sister, and he had been living there while remodeling it. Detectives found few furnishing inside, and evidence of remodeling, including bags of concrete mix and fresh sheetrock.

Sean Robinson 253-597-8486
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Jul 13, 2007