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The Times' criminal justice team looks behind the scenes and behind the headlines.

April 19, 2011 at 9:30 PM

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Lawsuit: Officer's sleep delayed Amber Alert for Zina Linnik

Posted by Cathy McLain

BY ADAM LYNN / The News Tribune

An Amber Alert about the abduction of 12-year-old Zina Linnik in 2007 could have gone out six hours earlier had Tacoma’s police spokesman not fallen asleep after receiving an early-morning call asking him to issue the alert.

Recently filed court documents indicate a detective sergeant called spokesman Mark Fulghum at home about 4 a.m. on July 5, that year, and asked him to send out the alert.

Fulghum had taken the over-the-counter pain reliever/sleep aid Advil PM before going to bed about 1 a.m. and fell back to sleep before fulfilling Sgt. Tom Davidson’s request, the records show.

Under the Police Department’s unwritten policy at the time, Fulghum was the only member of the agency authorized to issue Amber Alerts.

The department since has adopted a formal written policy that allows officers with the rank of sergeant or above to issue the alerts without going through Fulghum.

The alert regarding Zina wasn’t issued until about 10 a.m. July 5 – about 12 hours after the girl was reported missing.

The alert contained information gathered shortly after her abduction, including descriptions of her and the van and driver seen leaving the alley behind her Hilltop home about 9:40 p.m. July 4.

Fulghum on Tuesday declined to comment for this story, referring questions to Jean Homan, the deputy city attorney. She, too, declined to comment, referring questions to City Attorney Elizabeth Pauli.

Efforts to reach Pauli for comment were unsuccessful. Terapon Adhahn, a convicted sex offender,confessed to abducting and killing the girl. He led investigators to her body in eastern Pierce County a few days later.

The Pierce County Medical Examiner’s Office determined that Zina died of blunt force trauma to the head. Adhahn subsequently pleaded guilty and is serving life in prison without the possibility of parole.

The circumstances surrounding Fulghum’s inaction are detailed for the first time publicly in court pleadings recently filed in the wrongful death lawsuit Zina’s family brought a year ago.

More on this story here.

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