FBI seeks leads in 1980 slaying of Pennsylvania police chief

FILE - This photo May 4, 1981, file booking photo combo provided by the FBI shows Donald Eugene Webb, wanted in connection with the Dec. 4, 1980 murder of police Chief Gregory Adams in Saxonburg, Pa. Webb’s rented car was found abandoned a week later in Warwick, R.I. The FBI recently began publicizing a $100,000 reward for information either leading to the whereabouts of Webb or the location of his remains. (Federal Bureau of Investigation via AP, File)

BOSTON (AP) — For more than two decades, Donald Eugene Webb was on the FBI’s Ten Most Wanted Fugitives list, suspected of fatally shooting the police chief in a small Pennsylvania town in 1980 before vanishing.

Webb has the dubious distinction of having one of the longest tenures on the list. The FBI, still dogged by the killing, recently stepped up publicity around its $100,000 reward to try to focus attention on the long-cold search for Webb.

So many years have passed now that the reward is payable not only to anyone who provides information leading to Webb’s arrest but also to anyone who can lead investigators to Webb’s remains.

If he is still alive, Webb would be 84.

When Webb and Police Chief Gregory Adams crossed paths, Webb was a 49-year-old career criminal with mob ties who specialized in jewelry store robberies along the East Coast. He lived in New Bedford, but investigators believe he was in Saxonburg to case a jewelry store.

Adams had moved from Washington, D.C., to escape the violence of a big city and raise his family in Saxonburg, a quiet borough outside Pittsburgh where the most serious crime was usually petty larceny.

On Dec. 4, 1980, Adams pulled Webb over after he ran a stop sign, said Gordon Mainhart, the town’s only other police officer at the time. Webb’s rental car and Adams’ cruiser were seen in the parking lot of an Agway store. A neighbor called 911 after her son heard gunshots.

Adams had been shot twice in the chest and was found lying in some bushes.

“It didn’t make any sense,” said Mainhart, who rode in the ambulance with Adams. He died on the way to the hospital.

“I was devastated — just a feeling of why? And how could this happen?” Mainhart said.

Webb left behind a fake driver’s license that helped authorities figure out his identity. The license was in the name of Stanley Portas, the late husband of Webb’s wife, Lillian. It was an alias Webb had been using.

Webb’s car was later found abandoned in the parking lot of a Howard Johnson’s restaurant in Warwick, Rhode Island. Authorities found Webb’s blood on the driver’s-side floorboard, confirming suspicion that he’d been wounded during the struggle with Adams.

About 18 months later, an informant told the FBI he’d seen Webb in Miami. After that, the trail went cold.

Over the years, authorities investigated several theories, including that Webb was killed by members of the Patriarca crime family. Webb was a member of a group of criminals in southeastern Massachusetts known as the Fall River Gang. Authorities believe the gang sold stolen jewelry through the Patriarca family.

Key investigators believe Webb is still alive.

“The guy is a career criminal. He knows how the system works. There’s a good possibility that he assumed another name and has hidden out there all these years,” said James Poydence, a retired detective with the Pennsylvania State Police.

FBI Special Agent Thomas MacDonald said he believes Webb shot Adams because he knew police would learn he was wanted for a burglary in New York and he’d end up back in prison.

Webb’s wife, who divorced him more than a decade ago, told a reporter she didn’t want to talk about him.

Adams’ widow, Mary Ann — left with two young sons to raise — remarried and rebuilt her life but still longs to know what happened in the moments before her husband’s death.

“If he’s dead, fine, then God will deal with him. But if he’s not dead, I would like to see him prosecuted,” she said.

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