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The San Diego Union (CA)
April 18, 1991
Author: Michael Bunch and Jim Trotter; Staff Writers
Christina Adams learned from her dad how to put her mind to something, how to dedicate herself to excellence.
“My dad is my No. 1 driving force,” the Granite Hills High School basketball star and national record-holder told a reporter last November.
But Tuesday afternoon, Christina watched her dad, former San Diego County sheriff’s deputy Henry “Hank” Adams, invade their home, and kill her mother, Theresa, shooting her twice in the head with a .38-caliber revolver, and then turning the gun on himself.
Adams, 36, died yesterday afternoon of his self-inflicted gunshot wound.
Now Christina, 18, has told her grandfather that she wants to forgo her athletic scholarship to UC Irvine this fall and get a job to support her four sisters, who range in age from 3 to 14.
“She saw the whole thing, and she has been traumatized by this,” said John Q. Adams, who said he hopes to persuade Christina to continue her education.
People who knew Hank Adams say the murder-suicide at the estranged couple’s modest northeast El Cajon home was completely out of character for the mild-mannered, soft-spoken ex-law enforcement officer.
“This comes as much of a surprise as anything I have ever heard of,” said Loren Mandel, Adams’ supervisor at the county public defender’s office, where the former sheriff’s deputy and police officer was hired last month as an investigator.
John Adams said his son had been taking the anti-depressant drug Prozac, which critics nationwide allege causes abnormal behavior in some users.
“What Hank did was not Hank,” his father said.
“I want it on the record that he was a nice, nice man, but he just flipped out. He went totally off the deep end,” said Adams, who had allowed his son to move in with him in La Mesa a few months ago when the younger man separated from his wife.
Christina said in that November interview that her dad had instilled her motivation.
“He talked a lot about the mental approach to things,” she said. “He said you have to work as hard as you can, no matter what you’re doing….
“I guess all parents want their kids to do well in sports, but they don’t take as much interest or put as much time into it as my dad did. His whole life is — or was — definitely dedicated to me and doing what was best for me.”
Hank Adams had been on the phone with his wife, arguing about him seeing the children, just before the shootings took place, John Adams said.
“I was with him 10 minutes before he did it, and things weren’t right. Normally he didn’t raise his voice, and he was raising his voice,” he said.
Hank Adams died at 12:29 p.m. at Sharp Memorial Hospital from a gunshot wound to the head. He had been in critical condition in the intensive care unit ever since he was taken to the hospital Tuesday afternoon.
Family members said they allowed doctors to disconnect the life-support machines sustaining him.
Theresa Adams, 34, died instantly in the living room of her Delight Street home after the shooting, which occurred shortly after 4 p.m.
At least three of the other four daughters, including twins, were also at home during the shootings, but apparently did not witness them. The children spent Tuesday night and yesterday with their grandparents.
Neither friends nor relatives could say what was at the heart of the estrangement between Theresa and Hank Adams, childhood sweethearts who had married early.
“I knew there were problems (in the marriage), but he had never shown a violent side,” said neighbor Debby Crippen, a friend of Theresa’s.
“The whole neighborhood is still mourning,” she added. “Everyone is really upset.”
Theresa Adams was taking community college classes to earn a teaching credential and sometimes required Crippen’s daughter to baby-sit, Crippen said.
Mandel, like several others, said he knew Hank Adams as warm, friendly and professional. But he added that Adams lately had seemed preoccupied with his marital problems.
“He talked pretty regularly about how unhappy he was that his wife wanted to be separated. It was constantly on his mind,” Mandel said. “As a matter of fact, the second day he was working for me, he was served with his divorce papers.”
El Cajon police Lt. Bob Lein said: “This is a real straightforward situation, …one of those crimes of passion that is not, unfortunately, infrequent in this society.”
Lein said police had also responded to an emergency call from Theresa Adams at her home on March 5. She told officers that her estranged husband had been there and threatened her with a gun, but she declined to file charges, the lieutenant said.
Adams was a San Diego County sheriff’s deputy for eight years, from 1974 to 1982. He then left the area to take a job with the Huntington Beach Police Department in Orange County 1983, but left that agency in 1988 on medical disability because of lingering back problems from an on-the-job injury.
Capt. Don Jenkins, of the Huntington Beach Police Department, said Adams had been a good officer, garnering four commendations during his five-year tenure in Orange County.
“He was …well-liked. He wasn’t a boisterous type,” Jenkins said. “There wasn’t any kind of violence associated with him at all. He didn’t have that kind of demeanor.”
Funeral plans for the Adams couple are pending.
It was a happier time for the Adams family when this photograph was made last November to accompany a sports story on Christina’s basketball feats. Seated, from left, are Kelly; Erin; Theresa, the mother; Ashley; Christina. Standing: Katie; Hank Adams. (B-12:5,6; B-1:1,2,3,4)
Copyright 1991, 2007 Union-Tribune Publishing Co.
Record Number: UTS0885544