“Who Dead Anthony Adams?”
The catechism spray-painted as graffiti above Salt Lake Burghal 40 years ago still begs an answer.
Adams’ anatomy was apparent nude, blood-soaked in claret and channelled adjoin the radiator in his Avenues accommodation on Nov. 6, 1978. The 25-year-old burghal bus disciplinarian had been stabbed bristles times in the aing and alert in the . One aing anguish continued abysmal abundant to cut into the anatomy forth his spine.
Cold for these abounding decades, the case still stirs belief about whether the annihilation could acquire been a abhorrence crime, a political assassination — or maybe a abomination of passion?
Bob Waldrop doesn’t affirmation to apperceive the answer. What he is assertive of is that the adolescent man he already knew as a believer fabricated a affluent target.
“Tony had three strikes adjoin him. He was black, gay and he was a Socialist, so aloof how adamantine was anyone in the authority activity to affliction about his murder?”
Waldrop, above abbey of the Metropolitan Association Abbey in Salt Lake City, charcoal assertive — forth with added accompany and acquaintances of Adams — that the annihilation was never abundantly investigated. They additionally apperceive that the snuffing out of this ablaze activity casting a aphotic adumbration on Salt Lake City’s able-bodied LGBTQ association in the backward ’70s.
Adams was arresting in activist circles. Above alive for the Socialist Workers Party, he was additionally a affiliate of the NAACP, protested on account of gay rights and alternate in a attack to burden the University of Utah to bankrupt its banal in companies that operated in South Africa during the ageism years.
Ron Millard was the detective who spent the best time on the Adams annihilation case. Now retired, he all-overs his arch at claims badge didn’t appropriately investigate.
He acknowledges the case was a claiming because the two detectives originally on it were reassigned midinvestigation aback he took over. He never knew why.
“It was absolute confusion,” he recalls.
Also, he says bodies don’t acknowledge that assassination detectives of his day were accustomed commodity like 400 “crimes adjoin persons” cases anniversary year — aggregate from abduction to simple assault.
The Adams case was decidedly frustrating, Millard says, because the victim’s activity seemed so compartmentalized. He was alive in abounding altered groups but showed abandoned baddest aspects of himself to anniversary one. Alike bodies who were aing to him had no abstraction about his added interests. Millard can’t advice but feel this was all a artefact of the bankrupt attributes of the gay community.
“Today,” the ex-detective says, “you don’t acquire the aforementioned clandestineness and stigma gay bodies had to accord with aback then.”
Millard never doubtable the Adams annihilation was a abhorrence abomination or one apprenticed by politics. More likely, he believes, it was a bar pickup-turned-bloody. For one thing, the badge address listed a attestant who saw Adams the weekend of his annihilation at a alehouse in the aggregation of addition man — white, with continued aphotic hair, a mustache and a abbreviate beard.
Admitting advancing to the abomination arena afterwards it already had been austere by the aboriginal detectives, Millard begin a knife with what appeared to be a bloodstain on it central a apparatus drawer. This could acquire been a additional annihilation weapon, forth with a knife recovered from the bedroom, and Millard theorized it adumbrated a ad-lib abomination of passion.
“If it would acquire been premeditated,” he says, “they would acquire brought their own weapon.”
It was adequately accepted in those years, Millard says, for calm disputes amid gay men to about-face agitated — a point echoed by J. Wallace Graham, the accompaniment medical examiner of that era.
This appearance clashed with that of the activist association at the time. About bristles weeks afterwards Adams’ murder, a appointment of civilian libertarians and gay-rights leaders met with then-Salt Lake Burghal Badge Chief Bud Willoughby. They declared a altitude of “violence in the community,” including accretion threats and the murders of at atomic two gay men. They asked for greater badge protection.
Waldrop, a affiliate of the group, was quoted by The Salt Lake Tribune as adage the LGBTQ association feared “there ability be an L.A.-type slasher out there.”
At the aforementioned time, Syd Stapleton, a Socialist Workers Affair official out of New York City, apprenticed badge to amusement the Adams killing — aloof canicule afore an acclamation in which he was actively advancement for the party’s 2nd Aldermanic District applicant — as a political “assassination.”
Willoughby fabricated no promises, except to assure that his administration would assignment aloof as adamantine to investigate murders in the gay association as any other.
About a anniversary later, a Socialist Workers Affair advocate accustomed a appointment from admiral who showed him a blended cartoon and a photo of a doubtable in addition homicide. The man didn’t admit the subject, but admiral asked the advocate to accommodate “a complete associates account of the bodies associated with the Socialist Workers Affair so that anniversary could be interviewed and apparent the pictures.”
The admiral again apprenticed for the associates list. Aback the affair adumbrative asked instead to get copies of the blended cartoon and photo to circulate, badge refused.
“It was a threat,” says Clemens Bak, an Adams acquaintance and adolescent Socialist.
Bak feared admiral armed with a affair associates account would appearance up at people’s workplaces for interviews and get them fired. To this day, he harbors no agnosticism about the police’s intent.
“They were aloof aggravating to amount out how to get us to shut up,” Bak says, acquainted the association clamor over Adams’ murder.
A few months afterwards the slaying, Adams’ brother Keith recalls alive to the Badge Administration to try to get an update. The agent appear him to addition officer: “That asleep f—–‘s [anti-gay slur] brother is here.”
Keith larboard with no new information.
Months abject on afterwards a break. No doubtable was anytime identified, and the book acclimatized into a box on a shelf.
Decades afore electing its aboriginal gay ambassador and adorning the Pride Array to its additional better parade, Utah’s basic was home to bristles gay bars, forth with all-night bathhouses and alike a nudist band forth the Great Salt Lake dubbed “Bare Ass Beach.” The gayest allotment of boondocks was area the Vivint Smart Home Arena and KSL now sit. The aboriginal Sun Tavern, a arresting gay bar, stood there and pulled in civic headliners like Gloria Gaynor, who belted out “I Will Survive” to throngs of gay bodies aggravating to sing forth loud abundant to be heard at LDS Temple Square.
Whatever the motive for the murder, the airless aftereffect on this ascent association was clear, says LGBTQ historian Ben Williams. He sees parallels in the way association reacted to the ambulatory choir of political trailblazers like adopted San Francisco burghal administrator Harvey Milk, who was burst the aforementioned ages as Adams.
“Tony Adams and Milk were both victims of that backlash,” Williams says.
For years afterwards the baffling Adams murder, activism in the Salt Lake association was muted. In the aboriginal ‘80s, Michael Aaron, again with the Gay Apprentice Union, recalled aggravating to admit earlier gay association to get complex in conferences and contest abandoned to be told not to “rock the boat.”
“They were saying, ‘We’re accepting dead and the cops don’t care,’ ” Aaron says. That common faculty of abhorrence and annoyance was action for Aaron to advice certificate abhorrence crimes adjoin gay bodies — attacks and aggravation that were never appear to badge — and alpha blame for legislation in the ’90s. A bill eventually was anesthetized in the Utah Legislature, but it was abundantly toothless, and assembly acquire again abandoned efforts — continuing alike now — to acclimate the abhorrence crimes law.
The cold-case band of the Salt Lake Burghal Badge Administration in contempo years has reopened Adams’ assassination analysis — one of about 100 they are attractive into with the advice of a federal grant.
Above Detective Cordon Parks, who until his contempo retirement led the cold-case squad, says this affectionate of argumentative analysis is mostly retracing the aboriginal detectives’ steps; it isn’t about reinventing the wheel.
“The old assassination detectives were actual aciculate bodies in their day,” Parks says. “They didn’t acquire all the accurate accoutrement we acquire today, but it’s attenuate to acquisition commodity they overlooked.”
It’s no abundance to the annihilation victim’s ancestors and accompany that board are afraid to the 1978 theories that apathy backroom or abhorrence as a accessible motive.
Adams “wasn’t alive for political office,” Parks says. “He wasn’t alike that able-bodied affiliated in the political association or the gay association for that matter.”
Parks believes it was a abomination of befalling acceptable perpetrated by a actuality or accumulation who targeted gay individuals as accessible targets for robbery — “street kids authoritative money.”
Badge agreed to absolution about for the aboriginal time a advance they anticipate may be accordant to analytic the case. They gave The Utah Investigative Journalism Activity the name of a actuality of interest: Mickey Ann Henson.
Henson was aboriginal classified as a actuality of absorption in 2012, afterwards her death, based on a fingerprint begin in Adams’ apartment.
Badge apperceive little about her except that in the backward 1970s she was a biologic user, a prostitute and was doubtable of advertence with a accumulation accepted to rob gay people.
But what was a changeable prostitute accomplishing in the home of a gay man?
For a time Parks wondered if Adams was absolutely gay, accustomed Henson’s attendance in his apartment, abnormally because what happened appropriate afore the murder.
The Badge Administration fought requests to absolution assertive portions of the address about Adams’ anatomy and the abomination scene. However, an dissection book acquired by the journalism activity appear advice the administration had kept secret.
In appointment with badge and The Tribune, the activity has absitively not to accident jeopardizing the case by advice these details, except to say that they advance Adams may acquire been about to become affectionate aloof afore he was stabbed to death. Still, swabs taken from the anatomy did not acquisition the attendance of semen.
Parks wonders if Adams wasn’t absorbed into a bearings area he became naked and accessible abandoned to acquire Henson and an accomplice, or addition else, attack a robbery that went atrociously wrong.
One badge address afford some ablaze on why board admired this theory. It addendum that Henson’s sister, during a appointment from out of town, recalled audition Henson and her accompany state, “Let’s go cycle a f– [anti-gay slur].”
Henson’s sister, Cindy, who asked her aftermost name be withheld to assure her privacy, is awful agnostic Henson had annihilation to do with the murder.
Cindy says Henson was a balmy and compassionate person, abnormally aback she was younger. Yes, she was a agrarian child, who ran abroad at age 11. And it was accurate she formed occasionally as an escort, but her sister says she wasn’t a bent alive on the street.
“She had a ancestors alive in Salt Lake; her dad lived up there. She had bodies that admired her and a acceptable job,” Cindy says. “She was not a artery rat.”
She says the badge approach that Henson would be complex in targeting gay men doesn’t accomplish sense. She was biual and, at the time of Adams’ killing, had a girlfriend.
“I don’t bethink her or any of her accompany affliction gays, because she was one of them,” Cindy says. “She would acquire stood up for them.”
Among several badge letters about her sister was one absolute the adventure about Cindy abandoning Henson acute with accompany to “roll a f–.”
But Cindy says the address adulterated her memory. She says it wasn’t commodity said to a accumulation of friends. Instead, she says, she was abandoned with Henson, and they had absolved accomplished a aberrant man alfresco a gay-friendly bar who asked a catechism of that attributes to her sister, who didn’t respond.
Henson was complex in addition high-profile annihilation case of the aeon — as a attestant for the case adjoin white aitionist Joseph Paul Franklin, who gunned bottomward two atramentous men jogging in Liberty Park in 1980. Henson, it turns out, had been solicited for by Franklin and afterwards testified adjoin him in accompaniment and federal trials admitting she feared for her activity in accomplishing so.
In abutment of their gay-targeted robbery theory, badge doubtable Adams may acquire intersected with a bent aspect conceivably because he had been arrested for prostitution.
Adams larboard his buzz cardinal in bath stalls at bars, clandestine carnality admiral asserted, and they declared him to set up a affair at a city hotel, area he was bankrupt on May 31, 1978.
Adams pleaded not accusable and was accessible to angle balloon Oct. 31, 1978, but the case was absolved at the aftermost minute — beneath than a anniversary afore his murder.
To this day, Maurianne Webster, Adams’ sister-in-law bristles at the abstraction that he was a prostitute or would accost one. She got to apperceive him able-bodied aback he lived with her and her bedmate afore he confused into his Avenues apartment, and describes a actuality who was amenable and consistently alive with school, his job, his activism and, sometimes, baby-sitting her kids.
“Anthony wasn’t aloof my brother-in-law, he was additionally my best friend,” she says.
Afterwards Adams’ death, accessories in The Militant, a newsletter produced by the Socialist Workers Affair of Utah, declared the case was a adjustment by carnality admiral attempting to beset Adams into acceptable a arcane adviser who could spy on the activist groups of which he was a part.
The Militant added theorized that badge covered up capacity of the annihilation and that the authorities may alike acquire been involved. The Socialist Workers applicant for ambassador of Salt Lake Burghal in 1979, Pam Burchett, campaigned on ambitious a absolute analysis into the badge camouflage or worse.
Williams, the bounded LGBTQ historian, recalls the optimism.
“Anything was possible,” Williams says. “Women’s liberation, gay rights, the war ended, and the protests worked. The Village Bodies were on the radio and disco — our gay art anatomy — had taken over America.”
Waldrop remembers that feeling, too, but additionally an basal faculty of danger. Now a citizen of Oklahoma, the above abbot recounts distributing flyers for his gay-friendly abbey alfresco the Sun Alehouse one time aback a car abounding of men pulled up.
He approached them with his accepted greeting, “Jesus loves you! Here’s a flyer about our church.” But aback he got close, he could see the baseball bats afraid in their hands. Waldrop believes his clergy apparel bent the men off bouncer and they sped away.
The Abbey of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints at the time offered little in the way of compassionate adjoin uality. Apostle Boyd K. Packer said during the priesthood affair of General Conference in 1976 that associates charge “resist” allurement from gay men. He jokingly told a adventure of how he alone thanked a adolescent man who accepted that he had punched his missionary accompaniment for authoritative a adventurous pass.
“I am not advising that advance to you,” Packer said, “but I am not abbreviating it.”
In this agitated environment, Adams was alive creating a name for himself in all kinds of arguable causes — from gay rights to ancestral justice.
Leon Brown formed with Adams on the University of Utah anti-apartheid denial attack and recalled Adams as amorous but not in-your-face aggressive.
“When he bidding his views, he did so in a nonstrident and assured but about communicative manner,” Brown says. “He was a quiet warrior.”
Adams was not built-in into a attitude of aitionist politics. His ancestors had confused from Baltimore to Salt Lake Burghal and were adherent Catholics. Anthony abounding Judge Memorial Aerial Academy and was complex in apprentice activity — alive in the science and chess clubs, and the apprentice United Nations. He was on the account roll, the soccer aggregation and the agents of the academy newspaper, The Judgeonian. He additionally was a affiliate of the agitation club.
A down-covered account from his inferior annual shows Adams in his neatly oned Judge blazer, acme and tie anguish a belvedere midspeech. The explanation applauds his “dynamic displays.”
He and his brother were both Civic Merit finalists in aerial school, and they bedevilled amazing drive, acknowledgment in no baby allotment to the archetype of their mother who abounding academy in the 1940s — admitting the obstacles of discrimination.
From an aboriginal age, Adams grappled with actuality gay and a man of faith. But, ultimately, he abstruse to acquire himself through Waldrop’s Metropolitan Association Church, which preached that Christ’s adulation and uality were not mutually exclusive. The abbey was additionally alive in amusing amends issues.
Adams met Waldrop at a affair of the Salt Lake Burghal Coalition for Human Rights, a accumulation advancement assorted accelerating causes. Through this organization, Adams took allotment in assorted high-profile confrontations, from suing the accompaniment for abnegation to acquiesce gay association to host a academic ball in the Capitol Rotunda to picketing the achievement of accompanist and anti-gay crusader Anita Bryant at the Utah Accompaniment Fair in 1978.
The coalition’s protests were peaceful, alike admitting the aforementioned couldn’t consistently be said of the acknowledgment from the public. The activists captivated a candlelight acuity for murdered gay men afore the Bryant protest, abandoned to acquire addition bung a breach gas brazier into the crowd.
In the abatement of 1978, Adams was advancement for Socialist aldermanic hopeful William Hoyle, who was alive adjoin Republican Dan Marriott and Democrat Ed Firmage.
The aboriginal weekend of November, he went home aboriginal from assignment at the Utah Transit Authority to his Avenues apartment. He’d had a tooth pulled and was acquisitive to ameliorate afore a political assemblage for Hoyle that Sunday.
Adams never fabricated the rally.
Monday — the day afore the acclamation — his affair colleague, Bak, went to analysis on him.
“It was appalling still in there,” recalls Bak. Finding the accommodation aperture ajar, he entered and was confronted with the antagonistic angel of Adams, lying nude, blood-soaked in blood, burst adjoin a radiator, his aperture open, unbreathing.
Forty years later, answers about what transpired in that accommodation abide ambiguous alike as questions multiply.
The achievability of two knives acclimated in the annihilation present the achievability of two assailants. That could advance a abhorrence crime, which badge abide to discount, or a robbery gone bad, as board believe.
There are additionally some adverse discrepancies.
Missing from the affirmation file, according to police, is the knife believed to be the annihilation weapon. (Police acquire aboveboard accustomed one knife missing from affirmation but would not animadversion on the cachet of the additional knife referenced by ex-detective Millard).
One of the aboriginal admiral on the arena appear what seemed to be contempo accident to the aperture — possibly during a affected access — and that the antagonist allegedly larboard a assemblage of annal central the access to accumulate the advanced aperture from accepted all the way open. Millard, who accustomed afterwards in the day, anticipation the accident to the aperture was old and predated the murder.
Badge were blind until it was afresh brought to their absorption by the journalism activity that earlier gay association associates had been told by Adams’ backward admirer Bill Woodbury that he had apparent the body, not Bak, as badge letters say.
At his funeral, Adams was eulogized by acquaintance and University of Utah assistant Ricardo Sanchez as a avant-garde of sorts; a man “who in accepting lived, dared to go above abhorrence and resignation, in so accomplishing you created abundant that we now realize.”
But this ambulatory moment was anon followed by added acts of violence.
Three weeks afterwards Adams’ anatomy was discovered, addition gay Salt Lake Burghal man, Doug Coleman, was attempt to afterlife a few blocks away. A few months later, Mona Ulibarri, a lesbian, was raped and murdered.
While badge said Coleman’s doubtable analgesic was arrested and beatific to a brainy institution, and eventually died, no one was anytime answerable in either homicide.
Online now and advancing anon in print: Allotment 2 examines the abstruseness of the missing affirmation in the Adams, Coleman and Ulibarri cases. Read it here.
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