More than 1,000 people filled the Slavic Christian Center to overflowing to honor Zina Linnik, who was abducted July 4. Her body was found last week.
TACOMA — Zina Linnik was remembered Sunday as an exemplary student who loved swimming, the zoo, her family and God.
More than 1,000 people, representing a spectrum of the city’s civic and religious life, filled the Slavic Christian Center to overflowing for a memorial service of song, prayer, tears and a community’s effort to make sense of a tragedy.
Zina, 12, was abducted from the alley behind the home she shared with her parents and seven brothers and sisters on the night of July 4. Her body was found Thursday; the Pierce County Medical Examiner’s Office has said she died of “homicidal violence.”
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Police have identified 42-year-old Terapon Dang Adhahn as a suspect in her death. He is being held on an immigration violation, and Tacoma Police Chief Don Ramsdell has said charges in connection with her death are “anticipated.”
During Sunday’s service, Katherine Thaut, Zina’s fourth-grade reading teacher at McCarver Elementary School, said she and Zina’s sisters sat in the girls’ upstairs bedroom last week and listed things they remembered about her:
Her sweet smile and kind spirit. Her love of swimming and watching the animals at the Point Defiance Zoo. Her fondness for Fruit Roll-Ups, which they ate together in Thaut’s classroom during recess Tuesdays.
And above all, “She loved her family and she loved Jesus and was not shy about saying so,” Thaut said.
Former McCarver principal Mary Chapman described Zina, whose family immigrated to the U.S. from Ukraine 10 years ago, as an exemplary student who quickly learned a new language through diligent study.
“Zina spent over two hours each day learning how to read and write in English and also took all her subjects, such as mathematics and science, in English,” Chapman said.
Zina was also an “energetic” and “enthusiastic” tetherball player, Chapman said. Zina would routinely beat her opponents, then quietly smile and play some more, she added.
Aleksander Kalchik, a pastor with the Slavic Gospel Church, gave voice to the shock and horror that has gripped this community in recent days.
“We’ve heard wonderful testimonies of how beautiful she was, how good she was,” he said through a translator. “And I believe there are thousands of people who are asking this question, ‘Why did this happen?’ “
He said that God has determined such things and that “He makes choices that we don’t understand.”
Kalchik sought to offer solace to the Linnik family.
“Today, we are together with you. We are experiencing the pain. … I believe that your precious daughter, she’s in heaven and we are on our way,” Kalchik said.
Fedir Kylyukh was the pastor of the church the Linnik family attended in Kuznetsovsk, Ukraine. He recalled blessing the family on their departure for the United States, and two years before that, blessing an infant Zina.
“No one would ever think back then that she would not outlive us,” Kylyukh, who now lives in Mount Vernon, said through a translator.
He, too, offered the family hope that Zina’s death was not in vain.
“Maybe the reason she died was so that this will never happen again to other children,” he said.
Police Chief Ramsdell said the search for Zina “brought our community together toward a common goal.”
“Many people … worked very, very hard,” he said. “Even though they didn’t know Zina, they established an emotional connection with her.”
Ramsdell said police “may be able to find other crimes” committed by the suspect. “We will continue to work diligently to bring this person to justice,” he said.
The congregation said tearful prayers for Zina, her family, the law-enforcement officers and volunteer searchers, the city and the country. They invited all the guests in attendance to her burial, and then back to the church to share a meal.
Benjamin J. Romano: 206-464-2149 or firstname.lastname@example.org