Missoula Sheriff Announces Closure of 1992 Cold Case Murder

Missoula County Sheriff TJ McDermott announced Friday morning that a 30-year-old cold case murder of a local transient has been solved.

Jeannette Smith, the Sheriff’s Office public information officer, provided details of the murder investigation that began in 1992.

“The known facts of the case are that on September 13, 1992, a partially buried body was discovered in an area then known as Orange Avenue Ranch or Peace Tree Camp,” Smith began. “Detectives at the time were able to determine that the victim, identified as William T. Adams, also known as the Cadillac Man, was staying at the Poverello Center on August 25, 1982. It was determined by an entomological report that he died on or about September 2nd or 3rd from complications from a knife wound to the chest and massive head trauma.

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Smith provided further details on the investigation of the cold case.

“The body of Mr. Adams, who was a well-known transient and also known to ride trains, was found face down in a shallow grave near the base of a hill with a broken knife in his chest,” she said. “He was wearing a sweat jacket and wool sweater that had been pulled over his head and looked like he had been dragged to this place. Several other items of clothing were found at the scene, including two ball caps and a bloodied shirt or jacket, which led to the suspect’s identity through DNA testing.”

Smith revealed the evidence that eventually led to the murder suspect.

“During the initial investigation, it was believed that the unknown suspect had suffered a cut to his hand at this point and may have been using the shirt or jacket found at the scene to cover and control the bleeding on his hand,” she said. “Through DNA testing, the Cold Case Unit was able to identify the suspect from this garment. His name was Leonard D, aka “Eight Ball,” and his last name was Owen. He was also a well-known transient who traveled by train.”

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The suspect had passed away, but cold case investigators were able to close the case thanks to an organization called the Season of Justice.

“Although Mr. Owen has passed away, we have had the cooperation of immediate family and the support and financial backing of Season of Justice,” she said. “The cold case unit was able to make a positive identification. Although a voluntary transient, Mr. Owen had family ties to Montana that most likely led him to the area.”

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Founded in 2019 by Sheriff McDermott, the Cold Case Unit has successfully solved multiple cases across the state.

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