MISSOULA - It's a crime that's gone unsolved for 30 years, but there is now a suspect in the murder of a Missoula man thanks to an investigation by Missoula County's Cold Case unit.
A partially buried body was found in an area known as “Orange Avenue Ranch” or “Peace Tree Camp” off I-90 on Sept. 13, 1992. Detectives identified the victim as William Adams, also known as “Cadillac Man.”
Adams — who was a known transient in the area — was stabbed in the chest and suffered massive head trauma and was left in a shallow grave at the base of a hill.
He still had a broken knife in his chest when found.
Adams was wearing a sweat jacket and wool sweater that had been pulled up over his head as if he’d been dragged to the location. Several other items of clothing were found at the scene including two ball caps and a bloody shirt or jacket.
Detectives at the time believed the suspect cut his hand and used the clothing found at the scene to stop the bleeding.
Through recent DNA testing, that blood evidence led detectives to a suspect, identified as Leonard Owen, also known as "8 ball." Owen was also a transient with an extensive criminal history which included violent crimes. He has since died. With cooperation from his immediate family and an organization called Season of Justice, detectives made a positive identification.
Missoula County Sheriff TJ McDermott established the Cold Case Unit in January 2019 and says it's been successful in solving cold cases for Missoula County Sheriff’s Office and multiple law enforcement jurisdictions across Montana.
“Our Cold Case Unit has proven invaluable,” Sheriff T.J. McDermott stated on Friday. “Their dedication and perseverance to seek the truth and close these cases is appreciated by many, including law enforcement, past and present, and family members that experience closure.”
On its website, Season of Justice (SOJ) states it is a nonprofit dedicated to providing funding to law enforcement agencies and families to help solve cold cases. SOJ provides grants to law enforcement for advanced DNA analysis solutions, such as forensic genealogy and next-generation sequencing.