PITTSBURGH (AP) — The widow of a Pennsylvania police chief slain in 1980 is suing the wife of the FBI fugitive in the case, saying investigators recently found a hidden room in her Massachusetts home where the suspect may have hid from authorities a decade or more after the shooting, the widow and her attorney said Friday.
A writ of summons filed Thursday targets Lillian Webb and son Stanley Webb, both of North Dartmouth, Massachusetts. The filing signals an intention to file a detailed complaint on behalf of Mary Ann Jones, 64, the widow of Saxonburg police Chief Greg Adams, and their two sons on grounds of wrongful death-murder and two civil conspiracy claims — accessory after the fact and hindering apprehension of a murderer.
The basis of the lawsuit is recent information the FBI has shared with the family about the manhunt for Donald Eugene Webb, attorney Thomas King III said. Jones, who remarried in 1989, said FBI agents told her that Webb may have hidden out in the home in short stints in the 1990s.
"We were told about two weeks ago, by one of the (FBI) agents, that they had discovered a hidden room, a secret room, in Mrs. Webb's home," King said. "And in that room they found a cane."
The cane is significant because investigators have long believed Chief Adams shot Webb in the leg before he sped away from the deadly traffic stop on Dec. 4, 1980.
Webb is also named as a defendant, though it's unclear whether he's still alive. FBI records list his birthday as either July 14, 1928 or 1931, meaning he'd be 88 or 85.
Webb was a career criminal who specialized in jewelry store heists along the East Coast when authorities believe he came to Saxonburg, about 25 miles (40.2 kilometers) northeast of Pittsburgh, to case a store there. Adams pulled over Webb for running a stop sign and a neighbor called 911 after hearing gunshots before Adams was found shot twice in the chest.
Webb's rental car was found more than two weeks later at a motel in Warwick, Rhode Island. Blood in the car suggests he had been shot in the leg, King said, and the Pennsylvania State Police have recently been asked to do DNA tests on that blood to confirm it is Webb's. Webb was identified as a suspect because he left behind a fake driver's license in the name Stanley Portas — Lillian Webb's dead husband — one of several aliases Donald Webb was known to use.
Lillian and Stanley Webb didn't immediately return calls Friday to phone numbers listed to them in North Dartmouth. Public records indicate Lillian Webb, 82, has lived in the home since December 1989 and Stanley, 60, has listed it as his home though he now has a separate address in the same town. Neighbors told WFXT-TV on Thursday that FBI agents have repeatedly visited Lillian Webb's home.
FBI officials in Pittsburgh and Boston declined to comment on the lawsuit or King's claim that agents plan to release new details in the case later this month. Boston FBI spokeswoman Kristen Setera said there's still a $100,000 reward for information leading to Webb's arrest or his remains.
The family's lawsuit seeks more than $1 million, but King said, "The damage done to this family can never be compensated for. Two little boys grew up without their father and a wife had to go to bed every night and wake up without her husband."
Associated Press writer Denise Lavoie in Boston contributed to this story.