Recovery of remains behind N. Dartmouth home ends long-running mystery

NORTH DARTMOUTH, Mass. (WPRI) – The remains removed from behind a North Dartmouth home have been identified as those of Donald Eugene Webb, the man wanted for killing a police chief nearly 40 years ago.

Kristen Setera, a spokesperson for the FBI’s Boston office, said investigators learned “Webb passed away approximately 17 years ago in 1999.” That is 19 years after the Dec. 4, 1980, shooting death of Saxonburg, Pennsylvania, Police Chief Gregory Adams.

Lillian Webb, the ex-wife of Donald Eugene Webb, told authorities her former husband was buried behind a shed in her backyard, according to Thomas King, who is the lawyer for Mary Ann Jones, Adams’ widow.

King said Lillian Webb was granted immunity from criminal and civil prosecution in exchange for the information, but said he did not think that immunity extended to her son Stanley, who was named in a lawsuit by Adams’ widow for wrongful death.

1980 Crime scene photo of Chief Gregory Adams’ police car

Authorities have been trying to determine what happened to Donald Eugene Webb for nearly four decades. He was the prime suspect in Adams’ slaying during a routine traffic stop.

King said the FBI did not tell him how Webb died.

“Nor have we been told who buried him,” he said. “So I’m sure those are questions that remain in everyone’s mind.”

As Target 12 previously reported, a civil suit filed against Webb and her son claimed investigators had previously discovered a “secret room” inside the North Dartmouth home. Jones said an agent told her the room was hidden behind a closet, and they discovered a cane there. Investigators believe Chief Adams may have been able to shoot his killer before he was gunned down.

Authorities have declined to comment about the allegations in the civil suit.

The FBI posted a $100,000 reward for information leading to Webb’s arrest or remains. Setera said that reward will not be paid out “given that Mr. Webb’s location was determined through investigative efforts.”

The press release made no mention of the immunity deal.

Harold Shaw, the special agent in charge of the FBI in Boston, said the authorities are grateful they can put this long-running mystery to rest.

“For almost 37 years, the family of Chief Adams, and the citizens of Saxonburg have been awaiting news of Donald Eugene Webb’s whereabouts,” Shaw said in a news release. “Although it’s unfortunate Mr. Webb will never be brought to justice to pay for his crimes, we’re hopeful the family can find some closure in knowing that this alleged murderer has been located.”

As Target 12 previously reported, the FBI identified Webb as an associate of the Patriarca crime family who made a living robbing banks, jewelry stores and high-end hotels up and down the East Coast, then fenced the ill-gotten gains through the mob in Providence.

King said while Adams’ widow and her sons are sad to have to relive painful memories, they are relieved the mystery has come to a close.

“They’re elated that the long blue line has held true for 37 years and that the FBI, the state police in Massachusetts, the state police in Pennsylvania, local police officials, prosecutors in Massachusetts and Pennsylvania have all stuck together,” King said in a phone interview from Pennsylvania. “They didn’t forget him – they honored the chief and despite how many years it took, the final result that’s proven today that that’s Donald Eugene Webb is a result of a lot of unbelievable work by law enforcement.”

Authorities began searching the backyard of Maplecrest Drive in North Dartmouth Thursday around 11 a.m. Then shortly after 8 p.m., they announced they had found what Bristol County District Attorney Thomas Quinn III said “appear to be human remains.”

Records from the Bristol County Probate and Family Court show Lillian Webb divorced her husband in September 2005. The cause listed in the paperwork is “desertion.”

Tim White ( twhite@wpri.com ) is the Target 12 investigative reporter and host of Newsmakers for WPRI 12 and Fox Providence. Follow him on Twitter and on Facebook