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Deserter gets 35 years for murder, attempted murder

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 Probzeb 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 as part of the plea bargain.

District Attorney Daniel Primus said he understood that some people in the community wanted to be guaranteed that Chang would never get out of prison, but the sentence was the maximum possible under the law. 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, but no evidence was ever developed to explain whether that was more than a coincidence, Primus said.

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 went 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.

Chang grew up in North Carolina, where he was homeschooled before joining the Marine Corps, Primus said. Chang never told investigators why he deserted, but a friend of his, a fellow Marine, had died about a month earlier.

Chang got on a bus, ran out of money in Pendleton and stayed a year.

"Unfortunately, this is the community where he landed," Primus said.