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Community News: Southwest

REGION : Friends Seek Clues in Retiree's Death

November 06, 1994|ERIN J. AUBRY

It's an urban tragedy repeated too often in news stories: A longtime resident who invests time and concern in the community becomes a victim of the very violence he or she deplored.

But friends and family of Neile Adams, who suffered a fatal heart attack when thieves broke into his home in September, are determined that the 75-year-old retiree's death will not end up just another unsolved crime.

Last week a group of about 30 set out from the Police Department's Southwest Division station on King Boulevard to distribute flyers advertising a $25,000 reward for information leading to the prosecution of those responsible for Adams' death.

"We really need the community's help on this one," said Capt. Norman Rouillier. "We just don't have a lot to go on, and we need to bring these individuals to justice as soon as possible."

Thieves entered Adams' home on Rolland Curtis Place at 2:45 p.m. Sept. 26. They bound and gagged Adams and made off with some cash and jewelry, including a diamond ring on Adams' finger. Adams died of a heart attack the next morning. A neighbor gave a description of one man, but police said others may have been involved.

Adams, a retired postal worker, was also a minister and community fixture and was active in several groups, including the Southwest Division Police Clergy Council. A resident of his Southwest area neighborhood for 53 years, the genial Adams was a stalwart churchgoer and an avid believer in making positive changes happen, friends say.

"They called him 'Mr. Westminster,' " said Oliver Brown, pastor of Westminster Presbyterian Church in Jefferson Park, where Adams was a member for more than 50 years.

"He wasn't just a parishioner. . . . He was our clerk, our historian. He was just a gentleman's gentleman, a real good guy. We all have to join forces to end this awesome violence."

Brown and others hit the streets, accompanied by police officers, to pass out flyers door-to-door and urge residents to come forward with any information. Although the group canvassed blocks only within a one-mile radius of the police station at King and Denker Avenue, some said they hope the information will travel as far as necessary to catch the perpetrators.

"He was a great man. He didn't deserve this," said Timothy Adams, one of Adams' four children. "He was very caring, very engaging. It's sad that society's come to this, where a person can't live safely in their own home."

The City Council approved a $25,000 reward in the case at the urging of Councilman Mark Ridley-Thomas, who joined in the canvassing.

"Mr. Adams struck me as a very conscientious, concerned citizen," said Ridley-Thomas, who knew Adams through community meetings and also saw him at council meetings. "I was struck by his tenacity and diplomacy."

Police urge anyone with information about the suspects to call (213) 237-1310 Monday through Friday, 7 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. After hours, call (213) 485-2504.

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