Investigators are focusing on a man — held on immigration violations — in connection with the July 4 disappearance...
Investigators are focusing on a man, being held for immigration violations, in connection with the July 4 disappearance of a 12-year-old Tacoma girl.
The man, who is not being identified because he has not been arrested or charged in connection with the disappearance of Zina Linnik, is a Level 1 registered sex offender who was convicted of first-degree incest in Pierce County in 1990, according to FBI Special Agent Fred Gutt.
Though the 43-year-old Pierce County man was arrested Monday on immigration violations, Gutt and Tacoma police spokesman Mark Fulghum said he remains a potential suspect.
Gutt said the man drives a gray van that matches the description of a van spotted leaving the area where Zina was last seen. He said the van has been searched and possible evidence is being processed. Authorities searched the man’s home Sunday and Monday looking for clues in Zina’s disappearance.
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Police were led to the man after tracking down the van he has been seen driving, police said.
Zina was last seen in an alley behind her Tacoma home on the Fourth of July, according to police. Witnesses said they heard a girl scream and saw an older gray van, driven by an Asian male, speed away. The man who police are investigating is Asian.
Zina is described as 4-foot-10 and weighing 80 pounds. She was wearing a pink T-shirt, capri pants and flip-flop sandals.
Police and FBI agents spent Tuesday scouring locations in three counties in search of tips in the girl’s disappearance. A tip led police to the Tiger Mountain State Forest in East King County, where police and tracking dogs hunted for clues. Authorities also searched locations in Pierce and Snohomish counties on Tuesday, Gutt said.
“Tiger Mountain is a significant lead that’s being pursued,” Gutt said. “The one in Snohomish County appears to have not panned out.”
Fulghum did not say specifically what sent authorities to Tiger Mountain State Forest but noted the lead was “significant” enough to send searchers out.
“This [lead] has not been able to be eliminated. This one keeps moving forward,” Fulghum said. “Hopefully, something would indicate maybe that she was here.”
At the base parking lot on Tiger summit, search-and-rescue volunteers from King and Pierce counties pored over maps of the terrain. At least 40 people and several dogs headed out in the heat, which hit the high 80s by mid-afternoon.
Searchers, clad in thick boots and stopping to rehydrate under tents, appeared to be focusing on a specific region in the large forest.
Police believe Zina was abducted by a stranger, but they don’t believe her disappearance is related to the high-profile stranger abductions involving two Tacoma-area girls.
Ten-year-old Adre’anna Jackson disappeared on the morning of Dec. 2, 2005, when she went on a walk to see whether her school, Tillicum Elementary, was closed because of snow. The Tillicum girl’s remains were found in a vacant lot April 4.
Teekah Lewis, 2, disappeared from a bowling alley in Tacoma around 10:30 p.m. on Jan. 23, 1999. Despite an intensive search, no sign of the girl was ever found.
No one has been arrested in either case.
An Amber Alert was issued for Zina a day after she disappeared, bringing in numerous tips. Many of the more than 200 tips police had received as of Monday afternoon were not substantiated, and Fulghum said it has been frustrating dealing with so many empty leads.
“You get these leads, and then most don’t go anywhere. But some of them go forward, and you keep working until you get something,” he said.
Jennifer Sullivan: 206-464-8294 or email@example.com