Remains found in Mass. belonged to man accused of killing Saxonburg police chief
For more than 17 years, the fugitive Donald Eugene Webb's body laid in a shallow grave behind a shed at his wife's home in North Dartmouth, Mass.
Lillian Webb kept the dark secret even as investigators continued to wonder where the man accused of killing former Saxonburg police Chief Gregory Adams in 1980 had gone and as Adams' family continued to seek closure.
The truth was revealed Friday as authorities confirmed that human remains found Thursday in a four-foot grave in Lillian Webb's backyard were those of Donald Eugene Webb.
The Office of the Chief Medical Examiner in Massachusetts positively identified the remains, which were dug up as part of a joint investigation by the FBI and state police from Massachusetts and Pennsylvania.
FBI spokeswoman Kristen Setera said it appears Webb died in 1999.
"This all seems unfathomable to me. How could (Lillian Webb) hide it and bury him?" Adams' widow, Mary Ann Adams Jones of Butler County's Penn Township, said in an interview with the Tribune-Review.
"She never gave a thought to me and my family. We have been trying to get closure. She's guilty of that," Jones said.
It appears Lillian Webb won't be found guilty of anything, at least not on criminal charges.
The Butler County District Attorney's office granted immunity to her in exchange for information about the whereabouts of her husband's body.
Thomas King III, an attorney for Mary Ann Adams Jones and Adams' two sons, had filed a civil lawsuit against Lillian Webb last month after learning that Webb had a hidden room inside her house and the room, accessible through a closet, still had a cane in it and evidence that someone who was injured had stayed there. The fugitive is believed to have been hurt during his altercation with Adams in 1980.
King said Jones and her sons agreed to drop the lawsuit so the Butler County District Attorney's office could work out the immunity deal. Webb also received a similar immunity deal in Massachusetts, King said.
"The lawsuit was dropped so they could get her to talk. We did that reluctantly," Jones said.
Butler County DA Richard Goldinger said he negotiated the immunity deal about 10 days ago.
"I don't know if putting an 80-year-old woman in jail is going to give justice to the family of Greg Adams ... The deal was struck to achieve what we achieved. We found Donald Webb and it was absolutely worth it," Goldinger said.
Webb, who would have been 86 on Friday, is accused of beating and fatally shooting Saxonburg police Chief Gregory Adams during a Dec. 4, 1980, fight in the Butler County borough. He was never seen by law enforcement after that, despite an intense manhunt for him.
Webb became one of the longest-appearing fugitives on the FBI's Ten Most Wanted list. He was added to the list on May 4, 1981, and remained on it until March 31, 2007.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation has announced that the remains of long-time fugitive Donald Eugene Webb have been recovered. pic.twitter.com/LSITK3mdEE— FBI Pittsburgh (@FBIPittsburgh) July 14, 2017
Saxonburg police Chief Joe Beachem and Mayor Bill Gillespie were driving back to Saxonburg from Lillian Webb's home in Massachusetts as the news of the remains being identified came in. They had been in Massachusetts when authorities began digging for the remains. State police in Massachusetts and Pennsylvania also were on hand for the dig.
"It's good to have an answer," said Beachem, who was 12 when Adams was murdered.
"The biggest question in the history of Saxonburg has been answered," Beachem said. "Our thoughts are with the family, and we hope this eases their minds, if even only slightly."
Chuck Biedka is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 724-226-4711, firstname.lastname@example.org on Twitter @ChuckBiedka. Tribune-Review staff writer Mary Ann Thomas contributed.