Wife of slain chief: Discovery of fugitive’s body provides answers, not closure

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – The wife of a slain police chief said the shocking revelation that the body of the man accused of killing her husband was exhumed from the backyard of a North Dartmouth home has provided her family with answers, but not closure.

State and federal investigators have said Saxonburg, Pennsylvania, Police Chief Gregory Adams was murdered by New England mob associate Donald Eugene Webb during a traffic stop on December 4, 1980.

But for 37 years, no one knew what had happened to Webb, until the morning of July 13 when investigators said Webb’s wife, Lillian Webb, was granted immunity by state authorities in exchange for any information. The confession led to a court-authorized search warrant on Webb’s property.

That morning, Chief Adams’ widow, Mary Ann Jones, received a call from her lawyer with news that investigators were about to conduct a search at the North Dartmouth home.

“At which point I said, ‘OK, we know he’s dead, what did she do bury him in the walls or something?’” Jones said, adding the comment was tongue-in-cheek.

She wasn’t far off.

A team of state police detectives, FBI agents, and officials up from Pennsylvania, discovered the remains of Donald Eugene Webb buried behind a shed in the backyard. Lillian Webb confessed to burying her husband there in 1999. She told detectives that her husband had suffered two strokes, the second one fatal.

The 1980 murder of 31-year-old Gregory Adams left behind a widow and two young sons without a father. One of the police chief’s sons, Greg Adams, was just eight months-old at the time. In an interview via Skype with Target 12, he said growing up without his father was heartbreaking.

“I don’t even have a memory,” Adams said. “I have no recollection of anything about him.”

It was when he became a father himself that it “really kind of brought it home,” Adams said. “What I really missed in the last 37 years.”

During a search of Lillian Webb’s home in 2016, FBI Special Agent Thomas MacDonald discovered what was described as a small secret room in the basement of the house, according to search warrants obtained by Target 12. Inside the room, MacDonald found a cane.

A year later, Lillian Webb told investigators that during the struggle with Chief Adams, her husband sustained a severely broken leg and a torn lip.

“Closure is a hard word, but to have the knowledge that he lived like a rat and was buried in the backyard like a dog,” Adams said. “I hope he managed to have some remorse at the end of the day.”

Mary Ann Jones said the discovery of Webb’s body has put to rest a long and painful mystery for Adams’ family, but not closure.

“Resolution, there is a resolution to this,” she said. “Closure to me would mean Donald Eugene Webb was in a court of law being convicted of murder; that would have been closure.”

The family said that they are grateful to authorities for finding answers.

“Your family is taken care of and decades later you weren’t forgotten,” Adams said.

Lillian Webb was granted immunity from state prosecution in exchange for information that led to the remains of her husband, but the deal to not include any agreements with federal prosecutors. A spokesperson for the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Massachusetts has previously declined to comment on whether or not they are weighing potential charges.

Jones said she would like to see a criminal case pursued. She also expressed skepticism that Lillian Webb could have dug a hole and dragged her husband’s body into it by herself.

“She has no empathy for anybody,” Jones said. “She is on a self-preservation mode.”

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