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Killer's fate rests with jury in Pasco murder trial

DADE CITY — Michael McAdams fatally shot his estranged wife, then turned the gun on her lover.

McAdams' attorneys and prosecutors agree on that much.

But as his first-degree murder trial winds down today, some details in McAdams' own account could determine whether the deaths of Lynda McAdams and William Ryan Andrews were cold, premeditated murders or a spontaneous crime of passion.

Were the victims naked when they were fatally shot? Was the murder weapon hidden under an old milk jug, just within reach of a crazed McAdams?

The defendant says one thing. The physical evidence may say something else.

• • •

McAdams, 49, gave a taped confession to detectives in which he described the killings like this:

He and his wife of 24 years had separated under the strains of financial worries and substance abuse. McAdams, a longtime carpenter for Pinellas County schools, was a recovering alcoholic who had recently fallen off the wagon.

But he and Lynda, 46, shared two daughters and remained friendly. The night of Oct. 18, 2009, McAdams drove to their home on Palamino Lake Drive in Darby to spend the night with her and feel that familiar comfort. When he knocked, he said, she answered the door naked. And she didn't welcome him warmly but demanded, "What the f--- are you doing here?"

Her new boyfriend, Andrews, was there too and became immediately hostile. He insulted McAdams' manhood and his sexual prowess. He wanted to fight.

It wasn't clear from the confession tape if McAdams said Andrews was undressed, too. But he told detectives that he turned and walked out, defeated, and as he passed by a bedroom window he looked in and saw his wife and Andrews "back in the sack, going at it again."

"I can't deal with this. I just can't deal with this," he said.

Instead of leaving, he retrieved a handgun he said he had hidden underneath an old milk jug by the front door.

He shot at Andrews, who started running. His wife screamed and tried to call 911. He shot her in the face, then put another bullet in Andrews' head.

• • •

Two things stand out.

One, the bodies of Lynda McAdams and Andrews were found, buried in the woods in Hernando County, fully clothed.

Did McAdams dress them before he buried them?

Not, at least, in Andrews' case. A forensics technician showed jurors the T-shirt he was wearing with two apparent bullet holes in the back.

Two, the milk jug. Another forensics technician said there was a coffee mug and pair of gardening gloves sitting on top of the jug when she photographed the crime scene.

Assistant State Attorney Stacey Sumner asked about the bottom of it.

"Was it capable of putting anything under it?" Sumner asked.

"No," the technician said.

"It was flush to the ground?" Sumner asked.

"Yes it was."

• • •

After the state rested its case against McAdams on Thursday morning, his attorneys moved for a judgment of acquittal. It's a pro forma legal maneuver that all defense attorneys ask for. It is almost always denied.

Circuit Judge Susan Gardner, in considering the motion, noted the problems in McAdams' story.

"Absolutely no doubt in my mind they were not naked," she said regarding the victims' state of undress. "To imagine that he confronted his wife and her new boyfriend at the front door naked, I'm just not — I don't find that to be the case."

Likewise about the milk jug, she said.

"The physical evidence clearly indicates that it would not be physically possible to have hidden a gun under the milk jug effectively. I don't think the milk jug could have stood up."

Motion denied.

• • •

The 12-member jury will decide McAdams' fate today.

His lawyers are asking them to find him guilty of the lesser crime of manslaughter. That's defined in the law as "the killing of a human being by the act, procurement, or culpable negligence of another, without lawful justification."

It would mean he didn't intend to kill his wife and Andrews, he just snapped. He killed them — but he didn't plan to.

To convict McAdams of first-degree murder, as prosecutors charge, the jury would have to determine that he acted with a "premeditated design to effect the death of the person killed," according to the statute.

They would have to find that he acted not like a man who lost his mind when he found his wife with another man, but like someone who had a gun and a plan all along.

Molly Moorhead can be reached at moorhead@sptimes.com or on Twitter at mmoorheadtimes.

A 'stand your ground' case?

The defense argued Thursday that the judge should acquit Michael McAdams of double murder under Florida's so-called "stand your ground" law. Defense attorney Dillon Vizcarra said McAdams was being taunted and attacked in the moments before he shot his estranged wife, Lynda McAdams, and her new boyfriend, William Ryan Andrews. McAdams told detectives that Andrews challenged him to a fight, and that Lynda McAdams was screaming and punching him. The stand your ground law says people can meet force with force — including deadly force — when they feel threatened. "Provocation was done that could lead the court to believe Mr. McAdams was in fear for his well-being," Vizcarra said. Circuit Judge Susan Gardner quickly denied the claim, calling it a "creative application" of the law.

Killer's fate rests with jury in Pasco murder trial 06/16/11 [Last modified: Thursday, June 16, 2011 8:28pm]
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