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Adams makes new confession in Dixon murder, police say

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DIXON – A haggard and beaten down Byron Adams apparently wanted to come clean shortly after he was convicted Tuesday of killing a 35-year-old Dixon woman in 2009.

Adams, in an interview he requested with Lee County Assistant State's Attorney Peter Buh and Dixon Police Lt. Clay Whelan, claimed he had intended to rob, not kill, Margaret Atherton in her Dixon home on Sept. 11, 2009.

He recanted his initial statement that he had been having an affair with Atherton and had gone to her house that day to break things off when things quickly escalated.

Police aren't buying his new story, though.

Dixon Police Chief Danny Langloss said Wednesday that he believes Adams, a twice-convicted rapist, went to Atherton's home to rape her.

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"This is not the first time he's done something to force his way into a house," Langloss said during a news conference. "Based on his MO and his prior crimes, we think he went there with the intention of raping her."

Adams, 54, of Chicago, was convicted Tuesday of three counts of first-degree murder in Atherton's death.

He faces 20 to 60 years in prison at his sentencing hearing Nov. 16. Buh has said he will ask for the maximum sentence.

Whelan said Wednesday that regardless of Adams' latest confession, what happened in Atherton's home was "first-degree murder no matter what."

"Now, what I think he's thinking of is the sentence, and he's trying to minimize that if at all possible," Whelan said. "Hopefully, it will be in the fair hands of Judge [Charles] Beckman and I think there's going to be a right and a fair sentence."

Langloss said the new confession won't result in any new charges.

According to Langloss:

After the verdict was read Tuesday, Adams' attorney, David Mandrgoc, slipped Buh and Whelan a note saying Adams wanted to talk with them.

Adams told Buh and Whelan that he had come to Dixon on Sept. 11 to return a white 2000 Pontiac Grand Am to his ex-girlfriend, who had reported the car stolen a month earlier.

He couldn't find her, though, and did not have enough money to get back to Chicago, where he was looking for work and a place to live.

He knew Atherton, who he said he had limited contact with, from delivering newspapers in her neighborhood.

Adams told Buh and Whelan that he felt Atherton would be an easy target to rob, although he did not say why.

Adams said he stuck a BB gun in Atherton's face when she opened the door, forced her upstairs into the bedroom, and demanded money. 

She didn't have any and the two struggled, Adams said. That's when he shoved two rolled up socks in her mouth, bound her hands with a black necktie, and put the pillowcase over her head and twisted it to keep her from yelling.

Adams told Buh and Whelan he did not intend to kill Atherton. He then took her purse and a red, white and blue towel and threw them in a dumpster behind Dollar Tree.

An employee found the purse a short time later and called police. There was $25 in the purse, Langloss said.

Langloss said he didn't know if there was any money taken from Atherton's purse.

There was no evidence that Atherton was raped, Langloss said. Police say that two of Adams' ex-girlfriends told them that Adams suffered from erectile dysfunction.

Mandrgoc said Wednesday that he was present in the room when Adams spoke with Buh and Whelan, but said he did not know what Adams wanted to talk to them about. 

He declined further comment. 

Whelan said Adams seemed haggard and beaten down and started to cry a little during the interview Tuesday.

"That was some of the first emotion we saw from him," Whelan said.

Whelan said Adams said he wanted Atherton's family to know there was no affair. Buh told the family members who were outside the courtroom Tuesday.

Buh said he thought it was "good of [Adams] to do that," but Atherton family members were unmoved.

"It's always out there for her image to be tarnished," Buh said.

Langloss said "our hearts go out to the Atherton family."

"We all have families of our own. ... It's a small community, and we're not used to these type of things happenings. This was completely senseless and we're outraged."

Adams has two rape convictions in Cook County.

One of those rapes was similar to Atherton's murder, prosecutors say.

Both women’s hands were bound, both were forced to lie face down on a bed, and police found no evidence of forced entry into either home. Adams tried to suffocate the rape victim with a pillow.

Buh told Judge Beckman on Tuesday that he intends to present evidence of the rapes at Adams' sentencing hearing.

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