SAXONBURG (KDKA) — For 37 years, the murder of Saxonburg Police Chief Gregory Adams was shrouded in mystery until the body of fugitive Donald Eugene Webb was unearthed last week in the backyard of his wife’s home in Massachusetts.
And still new details have emerged.
“What we didn’t realize until this investigation really unfolded in the last few weeks is the hero that Chief Adams actually was,” said Butler County District Attorney Richard Goldinger. “He really fought for his life that day.”
KDKA’s Ralph Iannotti Reports:
It’s long been known that Adams and Webb struggled during a traffic stop, with Webb hitting the chief several times in the head with a blunt object. But, while the thought was that Adams may have shot Webb, now it’s been determined that Adams broke Webb’s leg and severely ripped his lip.
“Donald Webb, because of this, lived in seclusion the remainder of his life in permanent pain with permanent disfigurement. So, if there was any justice in 37 years, Chief Adams actually delivered the justice himself,” said Goldinger.
Webb was forced to live in his wife, Lillian’s, basement, and spent most of his time in a secret room the size of a shower stall.
“We don’t believe he ever left Massachusetts. He was pretty much confined to, at one point, to a garage, at one point a basement, and then, I’m sure you’ve heard of the hidden room where he would secret himself in,” said Trooper Chris Birckbichler, of Pennsylvania State Police. “He pretty much lived like a dog cowering in a basement as a coward for the rest of this life.”
Webb’s life as a wanted fugitive was more like that of a recluse, living under an alias.
“It’s my belief that every time there was a knock on door, he would secret himself in this room the size of a shower stall,” Trooper Birckbichler said, “and hide there until he thought he could come out of his hole.”
It’s now been determined that Webb died of a stroke in the late 1990s and that his wife buried him in her backyard.
Some controversy has arisen by the fact that Pennsylvania gave her immunity for revealing Webb’s location, but Goldinger said she is not shielded from federal prosecution.
“The reality of the situation is, we had an ace in our hands. We couldn’t charge her with anything here. Lillian Webb didn’t commit a crime in Pennsylvania. Anything that she did in harboring Donald Webb occurred in Massachusetts,” Goldinger said. “In exchange for that immunity, she was willing to tell us where Donald Webb was.”
When the immunity deal was ironed out, after several years of negotiations, Webb’s widow, who is now 82, told investigators that her husband lived under cover in several different locations, including the secret room in their Massachusetts’ home.
Now, after 37 years, it’s hoped that the identification of Webb’s body and word of Adams’ heroics will give solace to his family and help the Saxonburg community move on.