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Testimony ends after 3 days in Adams trial

Closing arguments Tuesday, then case to jury

Published: Saturday, Oct. 6, 2012 1:15 a.m. CST

(Continued from Page 2)

DIXON – One hour and 19 minutes.

That’s how long Byron Adams was in Dixon the day prosecutors say he suffocated Margaret Atherton in her West First Street home on Sept. 11, 2009.

Police tracked his path from Chicago to Dixon through iPass records and surveillance video taken from two local stores, Dixon Police Lt. Clay Whelan testified Friday.

That path, along with other evidence, is what led police to identify Adams as the prime suspect in Atherton’s death, Whelan testified.

Adams, 54, of Chicago, is charged with three counts of first-degree murder. Prosecutors say he shoved two rolled up socks in Atherton’s mouth, bound her hands with a black necktie, and put a pillowcase over her head.

He then took her purse, wrapped it in a towel, and tossed it in a trash bin behind the Dollar Tree. An employee called police when she found purse while taking out the trash.

Police found Atherton dead in an upstairs bedroom in her home about an hour later. Adams later told police he was having an affair with Atherton and that things quickly escalated that day when he told her he was seeing another woman.

Whelan testified Friday that there was no evidence that Adams and Atherton were having an affair.

After 3 days of testimony, the case soon will be in the hands of the jury.

Both Lee County Assistant State’s Attorney Peter Buh and Adams’ attorney, David Mandrgoc, rested their cases Friday.

Adams did not testify.

Closing arguments will begin Tuesday morning. If convicted, Adams faces 20 to 60 years in prison.

Whelan, the lead investigator in the case, was the last witness to testify for the prosecution Friday.

An Atherton neighbor testified Wednesday that he noticed a white car parked on the street the morning Atherton was killed.

The neighbor told police that he had seen Adams, who delivered newspapers in the neighborhood, driving that car. He said he recognized the “H20” prefix on the license place.

Dixon Police Chief Danny Langloss testified Friday that police ran the partial number and it immediately hit on a white 2000 Pontiac Grand Am that was reported stolen by Adams’ ex-girlfriend a month before.

Adams was arrested in the car on Sept. 13, 2009, in Chicago.

Whelan testified that iPass records showed that a car with the same license plate was driven west on Interstate 88 from Chicago to Dixon and passed through four tollway plazas.

The car was clocked in the westbound lanes of the Dixon tollway about 11:30 a.m. At 12:49 a.m., the car was back at the tollway, heading east to Chicago, Whelen testified.

Whelan presented to jurors a slide show of pictures taken by police after Adams’ arrest and surveillance shots taken from several toll booths between Dixon and Chicago.

In each of the photos, there were distinct features or imperfections on the car, Whelan said. There was a dent near the passenger side back light, a rectangular piece of adhesive residue, and a blue Cubs baseball cap on the ledge of the back seat.

Police also pulled surveillance video from the Dollar Tree and Walmart stores in Dixon. Though fuzzy, a white car, which Whelan said resembled the shape of the Grand Am, is seen driving behind the Walmart.

The car then was driven back around and to the back of the Dollar Tree next door before pulling back into the Walmart parking lot.

On the video, a black man wearing a distinctive black Oakland Raiders outfit with white stripes is seen walking into the Walmart, then walking out after using the bathroom.

Those clothes, Whelan testified, were found in the trunk of Adams’ car after his arrest.

After Buh rested his case Friday, Mandrgoc argued that Adams should be acquitted because prosecutors had no evidence, other than Adams’ “alleged” confession, that linked him to Atherton’s house on the day of her death. 

Mandrgoc argued that police did not find Adams’ fingerprints inside the home, nor did they recover any shoe or tire imprints that linked Adams to the scene.

He also said police recovered only a “minuscule” amount of DNA.

A forensic biologist testified Thursday that she found a mixture of DNA from two men on the knot of the pillowcase and on the necktie. 

Atherton’s husband, Ryan, was the major DNA contributor, while Adams was the minor DNA contributor, she testified.

Mandrgoc also argued that Adams’ confession to police on Sept. 17, 2009, was “based on promises by the police to get a lower sentence” that would allow probation.

Associate Judge Charles Beckman denied his request.

Mandrgoc asked police Friday about the possibility of other suspects in the case.

Whelan was asked about the notation “Sterling burglary ring” that he had made in his field notes during the homicide investigation.

Whelan testified that police were following up on all leads in the case.

Mandrgoc called two Atherton neighbors to the stand Friday. They testified that 3 weeks before Atherton was killed, they saw a black man talking on his cellphone staring at their houses.

The man, the women said, looked to be in his 20s or 30 and was muscular. One of the women testified that the man apparently got into the passenger side of a white car after a while.

Neither woman reported the incident to police until after Atherton’s murder.

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