Lukah Pobzeb Chang is put into a patrol car Aug. 28 by Pendleton Police in Pendleton, Ore. The Marine Corps deserter pleaded guilty Wednesday to murdering a motel maid in 2012 and trying to beat to death a woman on a jogging path in 2013. He was sentenced to serve at least 35 years in prison. (E.J. Harris / AP)
GRANTS PASS, ORE. — 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.
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.
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 high-desert 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.