Monthly Archives: July 2007

Tacoma's 10th Homicide of 2007 – Zina Linnik

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.


Ninth Homicide of 2007 – Paul Limstrom

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.


RIP Steven Chennells

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.