Redmond police detective Brian Coats called the Arpana Jinaga murder case the “most challenging” of his career.
But despite an extensive cover-up effort by the alleged killer, no eyewitnesses to the brutal murder and many insulting cold case accusations, his investigative team never gave up.
Last Friday morning, King County prosecutors announced that they believe a convicted sex offender currently sitting behind bars was responsible for sexually assaulting and strangling Jinaga to death two years ago after a Halloween party — just days before her 24th birthday.
Emanuel Fair, 27, who in 2004 raped a 14-year-old girl in Burien, has been charged with first-degree murder of Jinaga, a beloved and talented techie from India.
“It’s the most challenging case I have had and will ever have,” said Coats, the murder case’s lead detective. “It’s very gratifying to get to the point where charges were filed. It had a lot of twists and turns … when it was all said and done, we are positive we have the right guy and no else is involved.”
Fair, who is currently incarcerated at the McNeil Island Corrections Center in Steilacoom, will be arraigned on Nov. 10 at the King County Courthouse.
If convicted of first-degree murder, Fair faces the standard sentence of 34-45 years, but the prosecution will more than likely seek a stiffer sentence due to the brutality of the crime and Fair’s excessive efforts to cover his tracks following the murder, according to King County Prosecutor Dan Satterberg.
DREAM CUT SHORT
People who knew Jinaga say that she was an outgoing woman with a bright smile and talented software designer with limitless potential.
“I hope her family and other friends can take some solace in his capture, but I find that I’m still more sad that she’s gone,” said Jinaga’s friend Chris Force, who rode motorcycles with Jinaga. “Rest in peace, Arpana. You’re greatly missed.”
As a teenager, Jinaga won a top prize in an international computer programming competition. At age 20, Jinaga moved from her native India to the United States and quickly found success. She earned a master’s degree in electrical and computer engineering from Rutgers University in New Jersey in October of 2007. Soon after graduating, she moved to Redmond and landed a job at EMC, a Bellevue software-development company, where she quickly became a “shooting star,” according to her supervisor Muhammad Ali. In fact, right before her murder, she had been promoted to a lead programmer position in the company.
She loved riding motorcycles and was a member of a local motorcycle group called PNW Riders. She also did martial arts and volunteered at several different community organizations, including the Redmond Fire Department.
“Arpana Jinaga loved life,” Satterberg said. “In her short 24 years, she touched many people on both sides of the globe.”
Redmond Police Chief Ron Gibson said, “We hope that the arrest of Mr. Fair can help bring some small amount of closure for the family and friends of Arpana Jinaga.”
It was well known that Jinaga was a social butterfly and loved to hang out with friends. She attended a Halloween party for residents of Valley View Apartments in the 8900 block of Redmond-Woodinville Road the night of Oct. 31, 2008. She left the party at around 3 a.m. the next morning and returned to her third-level, single-bedroom unit, where she lived alone. Her body was found two days later after her family and co-workers were unable to contact her.
Fair was staying with a friend at Jinaga’s apartment complex and attended the Halloween party the night she was murdered, according to charging papers.
Fair “pushed or kicked open” Jinaga’s deadbolted door, brutally killed her and then went to great lengths to cover up the crime, according to the charging papers.
“The killer had been savagely brutal,” Satterberg said in a statement, “breaking down the apartment door, stripping and gagging Arpana, sexually assaulting her, smashing her head numerous times with a blunt object, then strangling her.”
Fair used toilet bowl cleaner, motor oil, bleach and even fire to try and destroy the evidence in the apartment, according to charging papers. In addition, he wiped down all surfaces of the crime scene and put loads of clothing and bedding into the dumpster outside of her apartment, the charging papers said. Also missing and never recovered were Arpana’s cell phone and camera.
Redmond detectives questioned everyone at the party, including Fair, who said he attended the party but was asleep at his friend’s apartment unit by 2 or 2:30 a.m. Fair “denied that he had anything to do with her death,” the charging papers said.
Frustrated, but not defeated, investigators continued to find clues to the murder mystery. In fact, Coats said he “took it personally” because Jinaga was so beloved. To make matters worse, several people wrote on online Web Sites that they believed police were turning this investigation into a “cold case.”
However, that was the farthest from the truth, Coats said.
“It was frustrating it took so long, but I was confident there would be an end,” Coats said. “This was never a cold case.”
Investigators continued to search for possible forensic evidence, tracked down any possible witnesses and sent hundreds of pieces of evidence to the Washington State Crime Lab. And through it all, investigators stayed in touch with Jinaga’s family. Coats said he e-mailed Jinaga sister, Pavitra, every three weeks, assuring her that the case was the department’s No. 1 priority and that they would find the suspect.
Finally after tireless efforts, investigators were able to link Fair’s DNA to several key items at the crime scene, including the robe she wore when she was apparently attacked, Satterberg said.
“This is a huge relief,” Coats said of the charges. “We’ve been looking forward to this day for quite some time. It’s a huge relief for the department and a huge relief for the community.”
In March 2005, Fair pleaded guilty to two counts of third-degree child rape of a 14-year-old and was sentenced to four years in prison. He was released early in 2008 for good behavior. Prisoners can have up to a third of their sentence reduced if they stay out of trouble in prison, according to Department of Corrections spokesperson Chad Lewis.
Fair is currently in prison on his second felony conviction for failure to register as a sex offender and has a total of six prior felony convictions, Satterberg said.
“The people of Redmond should be proud of their police and really their whole city government,” Satterberg told the Reporter. “The police exhausted every lead, they gathered and tested hundreds of pieces of evidence and put together a compelling case. They never gave up.”