WITH VIDEO: Officials unearth human remains connected to 1980 killing of Saxonburg police chief
Digging Thursday behind a shed at a North Dartmouth home, federal and state officials have uncovered a body connected with the 1980 slaying of a Pennsylvania police chief.
The FBI, along with both state and local authorities from both Pennsylvania and Massachusetts, converged Thursday at 28 Maplecrest Drive, the home of suspected killer Donald Eugene Webb's family.
Webb, a career criminal with ties to organized crime in Providence, has been a fugitive since the day Saxonburg Police Chief Gregory Adams was killed during what authorities believe started as a traffic stop in Saxonburg on December 4, 1980. If he is still alive, Webb would turn 86 years old on Friday.
Bristol County District Attorney Tom Quinn said that officials have uncovered "what appears to be human remains" in the backyard of the home, owned by Lillian Webb, the former wife of the long-time fugitive, and her son, Stanley, on Thursday afternoon.
Quinn did not confirm that the remains were that of Webb, nor did he say how long the remains have been there. An autopsy will be conducted, through which the body will be identified, Quinn said.
Quinn said the search began after officials obtained a search warrant, and that the investigation is ongoing.
Kristen Setera of the FBI's Boston office confirmed that the FBI, Pennsylvania State Police, and Massachusetts State Police were conducting an evidentiary search as part of the ongoing efforts to locate Webb.
The FBI described Webb as a career criminal, and believes he was in Pennsylvania that day casing a jewelry store to rob. It is believed that he returned to New England after the murder. His getaway car was discovered in a Rhode Island hotel parking lot later that month.
It was revealed in June that a secret room in the house, where Webb's wife Lillian has lived for two decades, was discovered by the FBI as much as a year ago. It is believed that Lillian had hidden her husband in the secret room, found off of the closet.
The information was made public when the chief’s widow, Mary Ann Jones, filed a lawsuit against Lillian, Stanley, and Donald Eugene Webb, if he still is alive.
The room contained a cane – a significant discovery because it is believed Donald Webb was believed to be shot in the leg during the altercation that claimed Adams’ life.
Webb was 49 at the time of the Adams' killing. The chief was 31 years old.
Jones' attorney, Thomas W. King III of Butler, Pennsylvania, said Thursday that he could not comment on the search in Massachusetts. The wrongful death lawsuit filed against the Webbs in Butler County has been sealed by Butler County Common Pleas Judge Michael Yeager.
A source indicated to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette that Thursday’s search was sparked by information given to authorities by Lillian Webb, who has been granted immunity from prosecution.
Saxonburg Police Chief Joe Beachem was at the scene Thursday. Although he wouldn't comment on his role in the investigation, Chief Beachem said it was important for him to be part of the case involving his predecessor.
“I am here because obviously there’s some hope in the case and to support the efforts of the FBI, Massachusetts State Police, and the Pennsylvania State Police,” he said. “I know that it’s been an open question for so long that it’s on a lot of people’s minds, including everybody in our department.”
Digging could be heard at the home for hours, beginning in the early afternoon. Police activity continued into the early evening, even in thunder, lightning, and rain. A tarp was later stretched above the dig site and work lights illuminated the area.
Observed at the home on Thursday were the FBI, Massachusetts State Police, Saxonburg Police, Dartmouth Police, Bristol County District Attorney Thomas Quinn, and a police dog.
Bristol County District Attorney Tom Quinn comments on the investigation. Video by: Douglas McCulloch