A Marine Corps deserter and son of Christian missionaries was sentenced Wednesday to at least 35 years in prison for fatally stabbing a motel maid in Pendleton and trying to beat a woman to death on a jogging path.
Lukah Chang, 23, pleaded guilty to murder and attempted murder in Umatilla County Circuit Court.
He acknowledged killing 19-year-old Amyjane Brandhagen on Aug. 14, 2012, and using a metal pipe to try to beat 53-year-old Karen Lange to death on Aug. 9, 2013, along a jogging path.
Judge Lynn Hampton sentenced Chang to life in prison with a minimum of 25 years, and added 10 more years for the attempted murder charge, according to court records.
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An assault charge was dropped at the request of District Attorney Daniel Primus.Neither Chang nor the families of his victims made any statements about the case in court.
The slaying at a downtown motel had stymied police for a year until DNA evidence from the room was linked to DNA evidence from the pipe used in the jogging path beating.
Officers reviewing a surveillance tape could see a man hiding a pipe behind his back sneaking up on the victim. They recognized him as a homeless man known as Danny Wu.
The attacks unnerved Pendleton, a town of 17,000 that is home to one of the nation’s oldest rodeos.
The two women attended the same church, and the attacks were almost exactly a year apart.
After weeks of reported sightings of Chang, police got a break when workers at a convention center saw him eating leftovers in the kitchen. They called 911, and officers with assault rifles surrounded the vast building.
A state trooper looking through a window spotted a leg hanging down from a ceiling in a stairwell. Confronted by officers and a police dog, Chang surrendered quietly.
He told investigators he was a Marine Corps meteorologist and had gotten on a bus at Camp Pendleton in California and never gone back. A Marine Corps spokesman confirmed a man by his name was wanted as a deserter.
The East Oregonian reported Chang was the son of Christian missionaries in Thailand.