Cold Case Solved: 7 Facts About the Murder of William Adams in Missoula County 1992.

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The murder of William Adams in 1992 remained unsolved for 30 years, until 2022, when the Missoula Cold Case Unit used old evidence to identify the killer and solve the crime. Here are seven facts about the case.

1. A broken knife was left sticking out of his chest.

On 13th September 1992, police were called to an area known as Orange Avenue Ranch or Peace Tree Camp, off Interstate 90.

A partially buried male body had been found in a shallow grave near a small hill with a broken knife in his chest.

The victim was a homeless man called William T. Adams. Not much is known of his life, but he had been known as a transient for quite some time. He was referred to as The Cadillac Man.

2. Blood-stained clothing and DNA testing confirmed his identity.

William’s decomposing body had his clothes pulled over his head, as if someone had dragged him to the location he was eventually found at.

Police found several items of blood-stained clothing nearby. Forensic testing on the body and clothing led to William being identified a week later.

But someone had murdered him and hadn’t tried to hide it. The shallow grave was mostly a badly dug surface-level pit, and the knife had been deliberately left sticking out of his chest.

3. Last seen alive at the Poverello shelter.

On 25th August 1992, William had spent the night at the Poverello Center in downtown Missoula. The Center is a shelter that provides food, beds, help, and hope to all who ask.

Volunteers at the shelter confirmed William had stayed with them that night and was never seen alive again.

They realised something was wrong when he failed to show up for the next few days, as he was prone to do.

William T. Adams mugshot from a previous arrest. Credit: Missoula County Cold Case Unit.

4. William had been dead for ten days.

An autopsy was carried out on the remains and showed that William had died from the knife wound to his chest along with massive head trauma.

The medical examiner concluded he had been killed sometime between 2nd and 3rd September. One week after staying in the shelter and ten days before his body was found.

Despite having the knife hilt and blood-stained clothing, the investigation came to a halt and the case quickly went cold.

5. The Missoula Cold Case Unit opened in January 2019.

Sheriff T.J. McDermott established the unit in January 2019 to investigate unsolved homicides within the jurisdiction of Missoula County.

The squad consisted of retired Federal Law enforcement officers from the FBI and Homeland Security. The main aim of the unit was to review old evidence using newer technology.

In early 2022, the Missoula Cold Case Unit got a break in the murder of William Adams.

6. DNA testing identified Leonard D. Owen as the killer.

The blood-stained clothing and knife had been kept in the evidence locker for 30 years. Through DNA testing, the cold case unit were able to identify the killer.

His name was Leonard D. Owen, known on the streets as ‘8 ball’. Leonard was also a transient and known associate of William. They had travelled the freight trains together.

Leonard had an extensive criminal history and had been arrested multiple times for violence.

7. Cold case closed 30 years later.

Unfortunately, the discovery of William’s killer came too late, as Leonard had died of natural causes many years earlier.

The murder of William Adams took 30 years to solve, proving that criminals will forever be looking over their shoulder.

At the time of writing, the Missoula Cold Case Unit have solved five previously unsolved homicides stretching back to 1974.

READ NEXT: 12 Unsolved Missing Persons Cases in North American National Parks.

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