Emotional reunion for mom, daughter

2nd suspect sought in girl’s 10-year captivity

Sunday, March 26, 2006
By Bill Schackner, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Police continued to search yesterday for the second suspect in the
disappearance and reappearance of a teenage runaway from McKeesport whose
family hadn’t seen her for a decade.

A warrant was issued Friday for hairdresser Judith Sokol, 57, who is
accused of aiding the man accused of hiding Tanya Kach, then 14, in a
home on Soles Street in McKeesport that he shared with his parents and
son.

Miss Kach was reunited with her family last week.

When police interviewed her Wednesday, Ms. Sokol told them she cut and
dyed Miss Kach’s hair and allowed her home to be used for sex between the
teen and Thomas John Hose, 48. Mr. Hose is a middle school security guard
already jailed in the case.

Allegheny County police detectives could not be reached yesterday for
comment on the search.

Until 1998, Judy Sokol was married to former McKeesport police officer
and unsuccessful mayoral candidate Robert Sokol.

Mr. Sokol retired from the police department in 1989, ending a 23-year
career, after he was accused of raping a woman at a park. He was tried in
1990, but a jury was unable to reach a verdict in the case. Instead of
facing another trial, Mr. Sokol later pleaded no contest to a reduced
charge of indecent assault and was placed on probation.

He lost the Democratic nomination for McKeesport mayor in the 1987
primary election, getting trounced by the incumbent, Louis M. Washowich.

Municipal officials had suspended Mr. Sokol from the police department
for violating policy by running for office. Mr. Sokol said at the time
that the letter informing him of the suspension was from Mayor Washowich.

Mr. Sokol, interviewed briefly outside his McKeesport home Friday, said
he knew nothing about Tanya Kach.

Yesterday, Miss Kach’s parents, Jerry Kach and Sherri Koehnke, said the
hairdresser was a mystery to them.

Mrs. Koehnke, 44, however, recounted the emotional reunion she had Friday
with her daughter that spanned nearly three hours in a secret office
location.

She had a decade’s worth of catching up to do, but first had to reconcile
the image burned into her memory of an adolescent child with that of the
adult whose height was the same as hers.

“She was a little girl. Now she’s all grown up,” Mrs. Koehnke said. “It
was like staring into a mirror. I really looked a lot like her at that
age. The change from 14 to 24 is immense.

“My emotions were just everywhere. You’re happy. You’re crying. You’re
sad, too,” Mrs. Koehnke said. “She sat on me most of the time — on my
lap.

“She wants to go shopping. She wants me to teach her how to cook,” her
mother said. “She wants to get a GED and her dad, Jerry, to teach her how
to drive.”

For Mrs. Koehnke, the meeting culminated a surreal week that began
Tuesday with a phone call from her ex-husband, who said someone wanted to
talk with her. Seconds later, Mrs. Koehnke was on the phone with a caller
whose voice she had not heard since 1996 yet knew instantly.

“She said, ‘Hi, Mom. How are you?’ ” Mrs. Koehnke said. “I said ‘Where
were you?’ She said, ‘McKeesport.’ ”

Miss Kach had run away from home previously and was believed to have been
distraught over her parents’ pending breakup when she disappeared on Feb.
10, 1996.

Police now say she had spent the past decade with Mr. Hose, who works as
a guard at Cornell Middle School. Miss Kach was a student there in the
1990s. Mr. Hose has been suspended with pay from his job.

Police say that after moving in with him, Miss Kach was brainwashed by
Mr. Hose and kept hidden from neighbors. Investigators say she took a new
name — Nikki Allen.

Ms. Sokol told police she cut off ties with Mr. Hose and Miss Kach after
being contacted by the county Office of Children, Youth and Family,
according to an affidavit filed in the case. She is charged with
statutory sexual assault and three counts of involuntary deviate sexual
assault — the same charges filed Wednesday against Mr. Hose.

Copyright ©1997-2006 PG Publishing Co., Inc.

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