Michael McAdams admitted to killing his wife and her boyfriend in a jealous rage, then led Pasco County detectives to where he'd buried the bodies. A jury in 2011 heard a tape of the confession and needed little time to convict McAdams of two counts of first-degree murder.
On Wednesday, an appeals court overturned the conviction and life sentence, ruling that detectives violated McAdams' right to due process by not telling him a lawyer hired by his family was outside the interrogation room waiting to talk to him.
The ruling means that all the evidence collected after McAdams was arrested — including the bodies of Lynda McAdams and William Ryan Andrews — would not be admissible in court should he have a new trial.
Assistant public defender Dillon Vizcarra, who represented McAdams during the trial, said he always felt like the case would come back on appeal.
"In this country, to deny access to a lawyer seeking to talk to his client, especially on a murder, it just gives you a bad feeling," Vizcarra said. "We always felt like the detectives went too far."
In October of 2009, McAdams was at a low point. He had relapsed into drugs and alcohol, and his finances were rapidly dwindling. Then, his wife of 24 years asked him for a divorce. He agreed, and they stayed friendly — they had two daughters together. He even slept at their home one night.
On Oct. 18, that's what he wanted to do. When he got to the house near Dade City, he found a strange truck in the driveway. He would later tell detectives that his wife opened the door naked. Andrews began taunting him, belittling him and his manhood. McAdams said he walked away, but saw the pair being intimate through a window, and lost it.
He told detectives he grabbed a gun hidden underneath a milk jug near 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.
He drove the bodies to a secluded place, weighed them down and buried them.
After the couple was reported missing, authorities searched the house and found blood spatters and a bullet in a wall. Then they went looking for McAdams. He agreed to talk.
He was interrogated for more than three hours. According to his lawyers, detectives ramped up the interrogation when they found out an attorney was in the lobby of the sheriff's station.
They argued that McAdams' confession should also be thrown out because he was in custody without having been read his rights. He had been taken to the station in the back of a patrol car and was escorted to the bathroom by uniformed deputies.
The appellate court agreed with Circuit Judge Susan Gardner's ruling that he wasn't in custody. But the appellate judges also posed a question of "great public importance" to the Florida Supreme Court. The question: whether an adult who is not in custody but voluntarily engages in a lengthy interview has the right to be informed that a lawyer is present.
That issue could have implications in the case of Edward Covington, a 35-year-old former state prison guard. After Mother's Day in 2008, Hillsborough sheriff's deputies found him in a mobile home, disoriented, with the mutilated bodies of his girlfriend and her two kids. He confessed to the killings.
Covington's lawyers say deputies sequestered him, going so far as to register him in a hospital under a different name, while claiming he was not technically in custody. A public defender who went to the hospital was barred from seeing him.
The Florida Attorney General's Office, which handled McAdams' appeal, said Wednesday it was reviewing the decision. It has 30 days to file a response.
Tampa criminal defense attorney Todd Foster said prosecutors could still get a new conviction without the suppressed evidence. Prosecutors found the victims' DNA on McAdams' clothes. "What will happen is they'll introduce the evidence of the bodies," he said, "but they won't be able to say he showed them the bodies."
A new trial, though likely, is not guaranteed, said defense attorney Joe Episcopo. Prosecutors could wait to see if the state's high court takes the case, which could take months or even years.
"It sounds like the kind of case the Supreme Court would take," he said.
McAdams, 52, will remain in prison while the case is pending.