Documents: Fugitive Webb ordered wife to dig his grave shortly before fatal stroke

Lillian and Donald Eugene Webb. Source: FBI

NORTH DARTMOUTH, Mass. (WPRI) – After Donald Eugene Webb suffered his first stroke, he told his wife he was dying and she needed to start digging a hole in the backyard to bury him.

The revelation is contained in a newly unsealed search warrant involving the stunning case of Webb, a missing fugitive whose remains were unearthed behind a North Dartmouth home last week.

Investigators say Webb shot and killed Police Chief Gregory Adams of Saxonburg, Pennsylvania, during a routine traffic stop on Dec. 4, 1980. Webb – a prolific thief with ties to the New England mob – was believed to be in the area conducting and casing out robberies at the time.

The 48-page search warrant released at Boston Municipal Court on Tuesday was authored by Massachusetts and Pennsylvania detectives in order to secure a judge’s permission to search the North Dartmouth home, at 28 Maplecrest Drive, on two separate occasions.

The documents show that in 2016 FBI Special Agent Thomas MacDonald discovered a secret room inside the home, which is owned by Lillian Webb, the fugitive’s ex-wife. (She officially divorced her husband in 2005, according to separate court documents.)

Inside the room, MacDonald said he found a walking cane, three cardboard boxes of silver coins and 42 photographs of the fugitive.

Initially, Lillian Webb told the investigator the room was built so “if she was ever home and her residence was burglarized, she could hide in the hidden room.” Examining her short stature, however, MacDonald wasn’t buying it, because the lock for the room was at the top of the door.

“Given her height, it would have been difficult for her to reach up and fasten the lock,” detectives wrote in the warrant.

On June 26, investigators secured a search warrant in an effort to obtain any evidence from the secret room, including items that might contain DNA which would show Webb had been – or possibly was still using – the hideout. Soon thereafter Lillian Webb’s longtime attorney, Jack Cicilline of Providence, reached out to police and said the elderly woman was now willing to come forward with information.

The attorney for Chief Adams’ widow previously told Target 12 that Lillian Webb struck a deal with prosecutors to receive immunity in exchange for information.

The court documents state that in 1980, Webb was suffering from a gunshot wound to the leg that he sustained in his struggle with Chief Adams, so he was treated for four weeks at Toby Hospital in Wareham under an assumed name. He then hid out in a room built in the basement of the home the couple lived in at the time in New Bedford.

The search warrant states the FBI had Lillian Webb under video surveillance at the time, and they noticed “Lillian would always pull into her garage in a suspicious manner.”

“It was suspicious … that the garage door would be activated to come down just as Lillian’s vehicle cleared the driveway, almost striking the rear of Lillian’s vehicle every time she entered the garage,” detectives wrote.

They also noted that she was “known during this time period to routinely wear wigs, and change her hair color, in an attempt to evade law enforcement.”

Then in 1997, Lillian Webb purchased the home on Maplecrest Drive, where they built another secret room.

“During this time, Donald Webb became ill and suffered a stroke,” detectives wrote, adding that Webb was unable to care for himself. “Lillian stated that Donald Webb informed her that he was dying and instructed her to begin digging and prepping a hole in the backyard to bury him.”

Webb then suffered a second stroke and died, according to the court documents. The FBI said last week Webb died in 1999, which would have made him about 68 years old at his death.

Police say Lillian Webb used a large green Tupperware container to drag her husband’s body to the backyard and place him in the hole she dug – presumably due to fears that reporting his death would catch the attention of the authorities.

Last week detectives recovered Webb’s body as well as a .22 caliber handgun from the grave. They also were able to obtain the Tupperware container that Lillian Webb said she used to move the body.

WFXT-TV first reported on details from the search warrants.

The FBI has said Donald Eugene Webb had ties to organized crime in Rhode Island. They say he 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.

The FBI had previously posted a $100,000 reward for information leading to Webb’s arrest or remains. Kristen Setera, a spokesperson for the Boston office of the FBI, said last week that the reward will not be paid out “given that Mr. Webb’s location was determined through investigative efforts.”

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