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Category Archives: Tacoma Homicides
Hey, I know it’s been kind of quiet here lately. This is both due to the lack of homicides in Tacoma lately (with any luck we’re done with them this year) and because I’ve been working on the upcoming release of my book. Don’t worry in the next few weeks I’ll be doing some more with this site. Regardless of how well my book does, I want to continue having a site that is mostly dedicated to Tacoma.
One of my favorite things about Tacoma is its rich history. Tacoma is like a city straight out of a crime novel full of corruption and heroes, victims and villains. The 1932 murder of Grace Stonequist is a good example of the kind of stories Tacoma’s history is full of. The Tacoma News Tribune’s Sena Robinson has a great article about this at the link below:
Twenty-year-old Dowell Thorn III and a friend dropped off a third person in 4300 block of South Cedar Street. Another man walked up and words were exchanged. The argument ended when the man pulled out a gun and shot Dowell in the torso and his friend in the leg. The man then got into a car and drove off.
The wounded Dowell got into his car and chased the gunman. He got about a half mile away before hitting a car and a utility pole. The friend and Dowell were both taken to area hospitals. Dowell was pronounced dead hours later.
Tacoma Police say they know who murderer is and it is likely only a matter of time before they catch him.
There are a few Tacoma lessons here. One is that most arguments are worth it. You’re probably not going to convince anyone and if the guy is a psycho, it can lead to bad things. Another lesson is that if you ever get shot, the thing to do is not chase down the guy who did it, get medical help. You are not Bruce Willis. You are not Mel Gibson. A gunshot wound is something that sends you to the hospital. Get patched up, then go get revenge. Or just do the smart thing and let the cops know who did it and let the wheels of justice slowly grind the sucker down.
This is homicide number 14 of 2007.
Last weekend in an apartment on South 93rd and Ash Street, twenty-four year old Ruben Doria and another man in his twenties were murdered. Police have yet to release the other man’s name. Reports say they were killed by ‘sharp force injuries’, but have declined to say more.
At this point, there’s not much the police are saying which likely means they have some leads they’re following. What is known is that a week ago Saturday night someone turned the stereo loud in the apartment. Loud enough that two people could be murdered without anyone hearing. And when it was over, the murderer(s) took a red SUV that belonged to one of the victims and ditched it at the Emerald Queen Casino.
Ruben was a graduate of Clover Park High School and had retired from the Air Force after getting a head injury. Friends planned to have a birthday party at The Loft, a trendy club in downtown Tacoma, last week.
A small amount of marijuana was found at the apartment, but it’s unlikely that it has anything to do with the murder. Go into the apartment of just about any given 20-something in Tacoma and you’ll find a small amount of pot, or at least the number of someone who can get some.
Police haven’t said if they know of any possible motive or any possible suspects, but again this can also be a good sign. Often when an investigation is going well, the public is left out of it until it is solved. After all, they are looking for someone who doesn’t want to be found. The last thing they want to do is broadcast what kind of car he might drive in time for him to get rid of it.
When and if the other victim is named, I will post an update with that information.
UPDATE: The second victim has been identified as 22-year-old Abraham Warren Abrazado. Friends say he went by Warren. No word on any further progress on the investigation. As always, if you knew either of the vicitims, feel free to leave comments about them.
Also what was originally reported as a small amount of marijuana was actually 80-100 plants. For those of you who don’t know that’s not actually that big of a marijuana grow operation. It is unknown at this time if this has anything to do with the deaths of Warren and Ruben.
The East Side of Tacoma has never been a nice part of town. Lately though it seems to be getting worse. The latest round of violence occurred on East 64th and McKinley. My aunt used to have a house about three blocks from there. I’d wander up to the convenience store on that corner when I was house-sitting, but never at night.
Kevin Carter wasn’t a gang member. He was a regular at Rudy’s Tavern on East 64th and McKinley. And after a fight broke out in the bar, early Saturday morning, he did what most people would do: He left. Unfortunately the loser of the fight also left and got a .22 rifle. He fired a handful of shots at a group of people outside the tavern then got in a Blazer with two others and drove off. Kevin Carter was in that group. Moments later, the Blazer came back and the same shooter fired more rounds, wounding three, including a bartender at Rudy’s and killing Kevin Carter, 34.
Police have arrested all three people who were in the Blazer inlcuding the shooter.
The nearby community is getting concerned about the downturn their neighborhood is taking. Local businesses are talking about packing up and going elsewhere. This will only destroy the neighborhood further. If you live in the area, please continue to frequent your local businesses. If you live nearby, maybe stop in. If you’re wondering what you can do, you can show the criminal element that you’re unafraid by having lunch in local diners and buying merchandise from local stores.
It’s unfortunate that a shooting of this magnitude is what it takes to get the attention of the media and possibly the police. Police have stepped up patrols on the East Side in recent months including the use of the Anti-Gang Task Force which is still under-funded.
The Tacoma police department, like most police departments is mostly reactionary. They throw money and manpower wherever the last bad thing happened. What is needed in Tacoma and so many other places is community policing. Community policing means having two or three officers who patrol the same area every night and day all over the city. Officers who not only know the neighborhood, but who are known in the neighborhood. How much safer would local residents and businesses on the East Side of Tacoma feel if they knew that not only could they call the police, but they could call Officer Smith?
Tacoma’s East Side has always been a bit worse than Tacoma’s South Side. I grew up on the South Side and my parents never liked it when I’d visit my East Side friends. The one and only time I was mugged it was on the East Side. It’d be easy to categorize the whole area as a crime-infested neighborhood where no one would want to live. But that’s not the truth. The truth is that Tacoma’s East Side is full of friendly, good people who only want what the rest of us want; to live happily and in peace and feel safe in our homes.
While crime is rampant on the East Side, so is development. New houses and communities are being built in areas that were once the worst in Tacoma. I’m hoping these new residents will branch out and help revitalize this community and not isolate themselves away from the rest of Tacoma’s East Side. They need the new residents’ help as much as they need the police.
For more on the East Side of Tacoma, check out ENACT at their website:
As always, anyone who knew the victim, Kevin Carter and wants to post anything about him, please feel free to post it in the comments below.
I was truly hoping I would not have to write about Zina Linnik. Zina was twelve years old. She was Russian. She was enjoying fireworks in an alley on the Fourth of July when a gray van pulled up and someone pulled her inside. She screamed and her parents heard her. By the time her father got out to the alley, the van was already leaving the alley. He got a brief look at the driver and got part of the license plate.
In the beginning, Police had difficulty communicating with Zina’s family because her parents did not speak English. Zina’s older brother did though. So he translated what his father knew.
In the days that followed, Tacoma police canvassed the neighborhood again and again. They posted fliers. They did press conferences. At one point, they set up a roadblock in the neighborhood and asked every car that passed if they had seen anything. Soon, they began to focus on a convicted sex offender from Thailand. He had a gray van and admitted to changing the plates. They held him on charges of not registering as a sex offender. Upon further investigation, they found he was supposed to have been deported. And the more they questioned him, the more this ‘person of interest’ was beginning to look like a suspect.
Following a tip, they searched Tiger Mountain by Highway 18, twenty miles or so from where she was taken. On days that reached into the mid-90s, people searched trails trying to find any clue to the disappearance of a pretty blonde girl named Zina.
Thursday evening, police announced the discovery of Zina’s body ‘somewhere in Pierce County’. They said they got the information from the sex offender already in custody. One of Tacoma’s more publicized homicide cases was solved.
One of the articles I read included a quote from a local saying, “How many sex offenders from other countries are molesting our kids?” This is arguably the dumbest thing that has been said about this case. As if it would have been better had it been an American sex offender.
When a tragedy like this occurs, it’s an easy thing to try to find someone to blame. However, the death of Zina Linnik is not due to an immigration problem. It is due to the actions of a clearly diseased mind. Personally I do not hold to the idea that someone is ‘not guilty by reason of insanity’. I truly believe that everyone is responsible for their own actions. No rational person would kill a twelve-year-old girl. Anyone knows that. Psychiatrists are not needed to tell us that this guy has something wrong upstairs. This is why he should be locked up for a very long time in a very bad place.
I’m currently in the middle of a custody battle for my son who turns ten this fall. I know that when it comes to custody battles, the State of Washington is not kind to fathers. Or in the words of a local attorney I once talked to, if you’re in a custody battle and you’re the father, ‘it’ll cost a lot of money, take a lot of time, and you’ll lose’. In case you’re not paying attention, being a dad in a custody dispute in this state sucks.
The father of ten-year-old Paul Limstrom knew this. He had been an attorney in Tacoma for many years. He was no stranger to the legal system and was well aware that given the fact he had Bipolar Disorder and was known to have fits of depression, he wasn’t likely to get more than occasional visitation of his son. His ex-wife had recently asked the Pierce County court commissioner to temporarily reduce his visitation due to his instability.
This past weekend was Paul’s last visitation with his father. Sometime during this visit, Paul’s father took him an apartment in the 500 block of South Seventh Street. He then took out a semiautomatic pistol and shot and killed Paul. Then he shot himself. They were both found dead Tuesday after Paul’s mother asked the police to check on them because Paul had missed an appointment and his father had not returned him when he was supposed to.
Paul Limstrom became the ninth homicide this year in Tacoma and one of the most tragic. It may seem that I’m sympathizing with Paul’s killer, but I want to be clear that I am not. I can understand his pain. I can understand his hatred for his ex-wife. Given my life experience, I think I know more than most people what he was going through. However, it’s because of that insight that I can say there is absolutely no excuse for his actions. Like any other child, Paul Limstrom deserved every chance in the world to live a full life without having it cut short. And the two people who should champion this right more than anyone else are his parents.
Bipolar disorder can be a crippling mental illness. I’ve known people who were bi-polar. And when they go off of their medication, they can be extremely unstable. The thing of it is, anyone who has been diagnosed as bipolar knows that they can’t go off of their medication. They also know that the desire to go off the medication is part of the disorder. So regardless of his mental illness, Paul’s father is still responsible for his actions. Unfortunately there are people who will look at this and just think that bi-polar people are unstable. This is not true. There are 2.3 million people in the United States with bipolar disorder and the vast majority of them responsibly control it with medication.
This murder isn’t only a tragedy for Paul’s family, but for parents in post-break-up situations everywhere. It is the last thing any loving parent wants to happen. In any custody battle, a responsible parent looks at what is best for the child before they take into account anything else. This murder saddens and angers me. If the combination of the custody battle and his mental illness were too much for him, Paul’s father should have checked himself in to get treatment or checked himself out with pistol. (I’ve always been a firm believer that you have the right to take your own life.) He had absolutely no right to take his son with him.
Note: You may have noticed I have not mentioned Paul’s killer’s name. Whenever possible I try to avoid naming the murderer. This is because I believe those who commit murder should not be mentioned. Not only to avoid giving them any fame, but also because murderers have families too and while most view a victim’s family with sympathy, there are those who view a killer’s family with unnecessary and undeserved scorn.
I just received this email regarding Steven Chennells. This is what this blog is all about; putting a life to the names of people who should still be with us. I’ll post word when I hear any updates on this or any other homicide this year.
Here’s the email:
Steven, was born on Dec.19,1955 in Englewood NJ. Lived in Howell NJ until 1973 at which time he went into the US Navy where he spent the next 21 yrs serving his country, he is a father of 3 one son & two daughts who live in PA. His son Steven Jr has just gone in the Navy to fellow in his father’s steps. Steven’s Mother and two brothers still live in Howell NJ. Please find the sick f*cker who did this,my brother didn’t deserve to die this way.
Sorry this one took so long to post, I had to do a little research to find it:
On the evening of May 9th, two people were walking on South 12th Street under the Highway 16 overpass when they noticed a body in a sleeping bag. It had been there for at least two weeks. Initially detectives thought he died of natural causes, but the autopsy revealed evidence of homicidal violence.
The man has been identified as a local homeless man in his mid-50s. His name is currently unavailable.
Personally I find these deaths to be among the worst. There’s little to no media coverage and the likelihood of the murder being solved isn’t good. It’s what has been called a ‘misdemeanor homicide’. An anonymous nobody dies as anonymously as he lived with no one even noticing for two weeks.
If his name is released, you’ll read it here, but few other places.
Update: His name was Steven Christopher Chennells. He was 51. When found, he was wearing a dark blue sweatshirt with an American flag on it. The last time anyone was known to have seen him was early April. Crime Stoppers is offering $1,000 reward for information in this case. To provide information, call 253-591-5959
Also if you have any information about Steven, who he was and that sort of thing, feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or leave the information in the comments below.
On the evening of May 24th, seventeen year old Fernando Sandoval was walking through South Tacoma’s Manitou Park with his girlfriend. Also at the park were three other boys and one of their girlfriends. Two of the boys were also seventeen. One was fifteen. The fifteen year old had a gun.
One of the seventeen year olds recognized Fernando because his cousin had been in a fight with him. He started yelling at Fernando. Fernando ran. The three boys chased after him and the lead boy told the fifteen year old to shoot. The fifteen year old instead handed him the gun. There were several gunshots and then Fernando Sandoval was dead. The three boys ran off yelling gang taunts.
The three boys have been arrested and are being charged as adults.
You may have noticed I haven’t mentioned the names of the three boys. This is intentional. Whenever possible, I avoid mentioning the names of people involved in a murder if only because I don’t think they should get any credit. Especially when it comes to gang-related crime, a good part of the reason these murders happen is to build ‘street-cred’. I’m a firm believer that criminals should not profit from their crimes. Not with money or fame. Not to mention, I may not be able to do anything about the fact that another citizen of Tacoma has been murdered, but I can at the very least respect the victim by denying their killer any notoriety.
Gang killings like this used to be almost a weekly occurrence in Tacoma. Living in South Tacoma in the early 90’s, I went to bed regularly to the sound of gunshots and police sirens. I had a collection of shell casings from nearby drive-by shootings.
By the late 90’s, gang crime had gone down in Tacoma. This was due to a lot of factors, but one of the major ones was Tacoma’s Anti-Gang Unit which was disbanded in the late 90’s. In May 2006, it became clear that gangs were once again becoming a significant issue in Tacoma, especially on the East Side and South End. A new Anti-Gang Unit was formed.
During the past year, the Anti-Gang Unit has lost two officers to the undercover narcotics squad and lost its funding when the 2007/08 budget did not include additional money for the Unit. However, Tacoma Police Chief Don Ramsdell has managed to the keep the unit operating.
Really though, anyone who knows Tacoma, should know that an Anti-Gang Unit should be a permanent addition to the Tacoma Police. Just look at what they’ve done in the past year. Over 995 arrests, 65 guns confiscated, and the award for the Northwest Gang Investigators Association’s 2006 gang unit of the year. It is because of units like this that there aren’t more murders like that of Fernando Sandoval. It’s also because of units like this that when a murder like this happens, it is solved and solved quickly.
In other gang-related news, the killer of Rhaczio “RhaRha” Simms was sentenced to 60 years in prison for his involvement in the shooting last year outside of Club Friday which left Simms dead, and an innocent bystander paralyzed.
It was this killing that actually caused the Tacoma Police Department to respond by creating the Anti-Gang Unit.
Sixty years is a lot longer than most killers get in cases like this, but the killer had a lot going against him. He started shooting on a crowded street. He killed someone. He hit a bystander. He was in a gang. Each of these factors has a sentence and added up, it equals about sixty years.
Not that he’ll actually do that amount of time. He’s already talking about appeals. He called the sentence “B.S.”. But really, what’s B.S. is the fact that after being convicted, this killer gets another chance for a lesser sentence. This is a chance his victims never had.
Twenty-one year old Kyle Grinnell was using a pressure washer on the triplex he lived in on South Tyler Street around 4:00pm on Wednesday. A dark sedan pulled up and fired a few shots at Kyle. He died the next day from his wounds. Police say it was not gang related and that they were following up on some leads.
Drive-bys are nothing new in Tacoma. One year in the early 90’s we had more drive-by shootings than Los Angeles. Not per capita. We actually had more shootings than a city ten times bigger. The problem is even now, when a news outlet outside of Tacoma hears that someone got killed in a drive-by in Tacoma, their immediate response is, "Where’s the news in that?"
The same can be said of the shooting that occurred yesterday on Hilltop. Two cars with two people in them parked near each other. One man got out to talk to the driver of the other car. They began to argue. The man’s passenger also got out of the car and then pulled out a gun and fired several times at the driver.
The driver’s car went down a hill and hit a parked car on South G Street. Police say that the driver was acquainted with the shooters. No arrests have been made as of this writing.
Two homicides in two days is something that doesn’t happen often in Tacoma. The Associated Press wrote a quick article about it can be found posted on Most of the time if someone gets shot on the east side or the south side or in a drive-by, it barely rates news coverage at all.
The major exception about this is The News Tribune and especially the News Tribune blog Lights & Sirens: http://blogs.thenewstribune.com/crime/ Of course according to my stats, half of you found this page from Lights & Sirens so I’m not telling you anything new.
This constitutes the fifth and sixth homicides for Tacoma in 2007 if you include the police involved shooting of Berry Milsap. The Milsap shooting was obviously justified, but justifiable homicides are still homicides.