PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — When Wayne Yee Chinn died last month at St. Joseph’s Hospital in Tacoma, he ended a life largely built on lies. Lies that allowed him to drain some of his seven wives of their finances; lies that included the deaths of his children; lies about serving in the military in Iraq; and lies about who burned down the lumber mill he was hired to protect.
His manipulations were so intriguing he became the subject of a Discovery Channel episode of “Who the (Bleep) Did I Marry?”
Despite his manipulations of the heart and a criminal past, which included arson, bigamy, theft, forgery and bail jumping — KOIN 6 News also learned he was still able to get a job as a state-sanctioned security guard in the months right before his death — a death the women in his past found hard to believe.
“I’m kind of flummoxed because he has lied so much. We just assumed he was lying again,” said Cynthia Castile-Crowley of Eagle Creek, Oregon.
“At least four times I was told he passed away,” said former girlfriend Susan Terry. “Is he like a cat that has 9 lives? Does he come back anymore?”
“I was just relieved,” said his former fiancée, “Michelle” who does not want to be identified after he put her $65,000 in debt and forced her to declare bankruptcy.
“It’s humiliating,” Michelle explained. “I actually let myself to be led down this path and I’m an intelligent woman.”
Michelle met Wayne in 2006 while living in Boise, Idaho. She said he played on her sympathies with a tale about two of his children being killed in a car accident. She supported him financially when he was activated as a Naval Reserve officer to serve overseas in Iraq. From the war zone, he left messages on her answering machine.
“Just got done with a watch. Let you know it’s 61 degrees, clear. It’s wintertime here so it’s not as hot as it usually is. Just wanted to let you know, that I’m alive,” Wayne said in February 2007.
During one message, he interrupted himself to give military orders: “Hey you. Hold on just a minute. Roger that enterprise 6-7. Message confirmed. Be prepared for that. Secondary is on its way to you as I speak. Anyway, just calling you.”
Then Michelle got the news that Wayne was critically wounded in Iraq with a spinal cord injury. An army officer, identified as “Col. Christian,” e-mailed her about another terrible discovery: Wayne was also suffering from colon cancer.
Michelle was worried about the man she loved and urgently asked about his condition and his treatments like chemotherapy. By e-mail, Wayne informed her that doctors were seeing an “increase in cancer cells,” but he also berated her about her questions, claiming she was giving him “attitude”.
Michelle started saving voice mail messages when somebody began using her credit cards in Oregon while Wayne was overseas. She followed the trail of evidence to Reedsport, Oregon, where she found the man she was engaged to, Wayne, was opening a new restaurant at a golf course.
“He was sitting at the bar, having a cup of tea. I walked in and he just looked at me and I just looked at him. Staff had told me he was married, and I said ‘Married?'”
Michelle learned Wayne married wife number 7 in Seattle when she thought he was dying on foreign soil. She also learned his dead children were actually alive and well.
The Wives Begin
Wayne’s trail of wives started in Centralia, Washington in the late 1970s, where he married wife No. 1 and had two children. After a divorce, he married his second wife. When he got out of the Washington Corrections Center for the arson at the lumber mill (more on that later), Wayne lived with his third wife in Bellingham, Washington, and the couple had a child: Wayne’s third.
But his new family wasn’t enough. Court records reveal while he was still married to wife number three, he got married to a fourth woman.
When the double marriage was discovered, Wayne was forced to get an annulment, called a “decree of invalidity of marriage” from one wife, and a divorce from the other in order to escape prosecution for bigamy. Wayne’s third wife said that he left her in a “financial black hole.”
Then came Cynthia. She became wife number five. Their relationship began in 1999 when they worked together on a cruise ship on the Columbia River, where Wayne was a chef. Cynthia said Wayne “swept her off her feet,” but the honeymoon and marriage didn’t last. Wayne went to prison again in Washington state for bail jumping after he was convicted of victimizing someone else in a forgery crime. Cynthia said she spent about $14,000 defending her then-husband.
When Wayne got out of prison and was reunited with Cynthia in Tillamook, Oregon, he also got on the internet.
He went on a dating website, where he met Susan Terry and the pair hit it off. He drove nearly 300 miles from Tillamook to Pendleton, Oregon where she worked at a hotel. When she would ask to visit him he would come up with excuses, saying he didn’t want to burden her with his “crazy cousin” he lived with in Portland.
In 2002, Wayne told Susan he was leaving Cynthia and wanted her to move to Estes Park, Colorado with him to work in a hotel where he got a job as head chef. Her family warned her not to go.
“My heart got the better of me,” Susan said.
When she got to Colorado, Susan said co-workers treated her strangely. She soon realized Wayne already had another love in town — a woman who had moved from Idaho to be with him.
“I said ‘Who is Kim?’ and he just stood there and looked at me,” Susan said. “He was all, ‘Well, I thought you would get here first.'”
Back in Tillamook, Cynthia needed to reach Wayne, who had gone ahead to Colorado to get established before her.
“His previous boss said, ‘He’s here in Estes Park with his wife.’ I said, ‘Well, I’m his wife’ and she said, ‘Well, he’s got two then doesn’t he?'”
That’s when Cynthia learned about Kim and the stunning news Wayne had married her. Cynthia pressed charges and Wayne was convicted of bigamy in Tillamook County in 2004.
The Sailor, The Arsonist and The Security Guard
Separating Wayne’s lies from the truth isn’t easy.
“If he were an artist, he would be Michelangelo,” Michelle said. “He reads people. He’s a chameleon of sorts.”
Wayne went to great lengths to cover his tracks. His go-to lie was his service in the military and made-up emails. Cynthia received messages from two admirals. One message said “Commander Chinn” was assigned to “Homeland Defense.”
Official Navy documents reveal Wayne was never an officer. He was only in the Navy as an enlisted man for two years, from 1976 to 1978. The highest rank he achieved was “Mess Management Specialist Seaman Apprentice” or cook. Still, he was able to fool women who wanted to be loved.
“There’s something, a hook he puts on people,” Susan said.
When Wayne died he had been living with his 7th wife in Olympia, Washington, and was working as a security guard. In the prior months, Wayne had texted at least four pictures of himself in uniform to Susan.
Even though a decade and a half had gone by since she caught Wayne in his lies, she allowed the contact to continue so she could keep track of what he was up to as an insurance policy of sorts.
What did not make sense to Susan, Cynthia and Michelle is why Wayne was able to work again as a licensed security guard.
“I just can’t figure out how in the world? Somebody must have just slipped up,” Michelle said. “I don’t know how he could have convinced anyone that he was worthy of being a security guard. It’s just like somebody give him another match.”
She’s talking about what Wayne did in 1981 while working as a security guard. An article in the Tenino Independent Newspaper described how investigators knew right away a fire at the Tenino Hardwoods plant was arson. Prosecutors said Wayne started the fire while trying to prove the company needed his services and should not lay him off.
Nearly four decades later, KOIN 6 News obtained records from the Washington State Department of Licensing showing Wayne got licensed again to be an unarmed security guard on January 31, 2018. He worked in the Olympia area for Advanced Security Incorporated based in Salem, Oregon until his current wife notified the company he died.
“He met state background standards,” said Marlin Otto, Regional Manager for Advanced Security, Inc. Otto said the Washington Department of Licensing is responsible for doing background checks.
KOIN 6 News asked if his company does its own background check. “I’m not at liberty to discuss who we called,” said Otto. “How we do background checks is proprietary.”
Washington State law says a security guard can “Not have been convicted of a crime in any jurisdiction”; however, there is also an asterisk to the rule.
“The guidelines recommend looking at a maximum 10 years of history for the most serious offenses,” said Rob Wieman with the Department of Licensing. “Depending on the nature of the conviction, some sanctioning guidelines are less.”
Wayne’s crimes were older than 10 years, meaning he was allowed to be a security guard again, despite his criminal past.
The Trail of Lies Come to an End
More than a decade ago, Wayne and his 7th wife left Oregon and moved from town to town across the Western United States. Wayne reached out to other women through Craigslist.com personals. In one ad he wrote he is a chef and naval reserve officer who was looking for “A Great Woman.”
The couple relocated to the mountains of Wyoming, where Wayne was hired to manage the restaurant at a ski resort. Later the couple spent several years in Alaska.
Wayne had lived there before and was convicted in that state of theft in 1997. Through the years, people in Alaska who crossed Wayne’s path would seek out this reporter, to ask about my previous story on Wayne’s history. Those people had become suspicious of Wayne’s actions.
Eventually, the couple returned to Washington and lived what turned out to be Wayne’s final years. The Thurston County Coroner provided KOIN 6 News a state death certificate showing he had a heart attack on June 20, 2019, at age 61.
Shortly after he died, someone posted an obituary which talked about his life growing up in Centralia and working in the family’s well-known restaurant, The Shanghai Cafe. The obituary talks about Wayne’s love of cooking, his passion for nature and his travels through the western states.
The summary of his life does not say anything about all the people he manipulated and drained financially, but there is a curious addition.
Whoever wrote his obituary noted that Wayne “graduated from The University of Washington with an MBA;” however, the University of Washington told KOIN 6 News it has no record of Wayne earning a Masters in Business Administration. It has no record of Wayne earning any degree at all. The claim is another Wayne Chinn lie, from beyond the grave.
“He’s not going to hurt anybody anymore,” Susan. “He’s not going to lie, he’s not going to cheat on anybody. It’s done.”