DNA found after Pendleton assault linked to 2012 slaying

Tri-City HeraldAugust 20, 2013 

Police want to question this person, who goes by the name Danny Wu, in a recent assault and a 2012 murder case. Wu, 23, is a transient.

PENDLETON POLICE DEPARTMENT

— PENDLETON -- Police say DNA on a weapon used to brutally beat a Pendleton woman earlier this month matches DNA left at a 2012 murder scene.

The DNA match is a break in a cold case for the Pendleton Police Department and may help them link the murder of Amyjane Brandhagen, 19, to a suspect in the recent assault, said Chief Stuart Roberts.

Police have been searching for a transient who goes by the name Danny Wu since the Aug. 9 attack on Karen Lange, 53.

Wu should be considered extremely dangerous and is a person of interest in both cases, police said. It's unknown if he still is living in the Pendleton or Mid-Columbia regions.

"We don't even know if Danny Wu is his true name," Roberts said. "Ultimately this guy is living a nonexistent lifestyle."

There is a warrant out for his arrest on an unrelated charge. His picture and information have been sent out to law enforcement agencies across the country.

Authorities are asking other agencies to review their unsolved attacks on women for the possibility that Wu, 23, may have been involved.

"We have been working on (Brandhagen's) case for a year," Roberts said. "To have a break on a case like this, that has left a small community like this reeling, is significant."

Surveillance footage from Aug. 9 shows Wu apparently stalking Lange with what appears to be a pipe, Roberts said.

Lange was on a nighttime walk on a trail along the Umatilla River, Roberts said.

Police found her the following morning unconscious in a brushy area with a head wound. A pipe was found nearby.

Lange remains in critical condition at Oregon Health & Science University in Portland.

The Oregon State Police forensic team said it matched DNA found on the pipe to DNA recovered at a Pendleton motel where Brandhagen was found dead Aug. 14, 2012.

Brandhagen, who worked at the motel, was stabbed several times in the chest, Roberts said. Her body was found in a room she was cleaning.

Pendleton police have contacted Wu 27 times in the past year and he fits a description of a man seen hanging around the motel about the time Brandhagen was killed, Roberts said.

Now that the two attacks have been linked, investigators are trying to confirm if the DNA matches Wu's DNA, Roberts said. Police have personal items from Wu -- a toothbrush, nail clippers and deodorant -- that they will use for the tests, which could take a few weeks.

Similarities in the two attacks prompted police to test the DNA found on the pipe against the DNA found at the motel, Roberts said. Both victims were attacked in August, had the same build and both women were alone in isolated areas.

However, officials said, it doesn't appear robbery or sexual assault were motives in either case.

"These were both just violent acts that left the women for dead," Roberts said.

Police haven't been able to find Wu's fingerprints in a national database, he said.

Wu -- who Roberts described as a "loner" -- has never given police any form of identification.

Attempts to track down his family or where he went to school have been unsuccessful, he said.

Wu is 5-foot-7 and weighs 180 pounds. He has a tattoo on his left forearm that says Semper Fi.

Anyone with information on Wu's whereabouts is asked to contact the Pendleton Police Department at 541-276-4411 or the Umatilla Dispatch Center at 541-966-3651.

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