Canadian Blair Adams (born Robert Dennis Blair Adams) was just 31 years old when he was found dead in the parking lot of an under-construction hotel just outside of Knoxville, Tennessee, off Interstate 40. He was naked from the waist down, surrounded by $4,000 cash in Canadian, US and German currency. Lying next to him was his untouched fanny pack full of gold bars, gold coins and jewellery.
A Different Person
Blair worked as a construction foreman in his hometown of Surrey, British Columbia. His friends, co-workers and family members thought of him as cheerful, friendly and full of optimism. In the weeks leading up to his murder, however, his usual demeanour changed drastically. Blair became plagued by paranoia and stress. He had frequent mood swings and was constantly sleep deprived. This was nothing like the Blair people knew and loved.
Unsurprisingly, the changes in Blair resulted in his mother becoming increasingly concerned for his welfare. When she asked Blair what was wrong, he simply told her that he could not tell her about ‘it’.
Despite the problems Blair was having, he had not been officially diagnosed with any kind of mental illness. This is not to say, however, that there was not an issue Blair was having that was undiagnosed.
Blair had had issues with abusing alcohol in the past, but he appeared to be doing much better. He had been attending AA meetings and had been sober for 2 years. Blair’s life appeared pretty good on the whole. However, at the start of the summer of 1996, his life appeared to crumble around him. Blair became careless at work and eventually quit, never collecting his paycheck. He gave no reason as to why he left. He was convinced that people were spreading rumours about him and that someone wanted him dead.
The Days Leading Up To The Murder
July 5th 1996.
Blair Adams went to his bank in Canada and withdrew all of his money. He had a safety deposit box also, from which he took everything out and stored in his fanny pack.
Two days later, Blair made his first failed attempt to enter the United States. He tried to board a ferry from Victoria, BC to Seattle, but was denied entry when border control officials became suspicious that he was involved with drugs, given the large amount of cash he was carrying.
Blair also lied to authorities, telling them he had no previous criminal convictions. He did, in fact, have a criminal record, on which there were charges for drugs and assault. When told he was not allowed to cross the border, Blair went to visit friends and then his mother back in Surrey.
July 8th 1996
Blair left his mother’s house in Surrey for the last time. From here, he went to purchase a plane ticket to Germany, supposedly to visit an old girlfriend he had met while working in Germany late the previous year. Blair used cash to pay for a round-trip flight to Frankfurt; however, later the same day he had the ticket refunded.
July 9th 1996
The next day, Blair once again attempted to cross the border and failed. It was very early in the morning, still dark, and this time Blair was on foot. However, authorities stopped him when they thought they recognised him as a suspect who had stolen a car earlier that night. The police did not have enough evidence that it was Blair who had stolen the car, so he was released.
On his third try at entering the US, Blair got lucky. He abandoned his car at the airport in Vancouver and rented a Nissan Altima, which he drove across the border to Seattle. From there, he bought a one-way plane ticket to Washington DC.
July 10th 1996
On arrival, he rented another car, this time a Toyota Camry, and began the drive to Knoxville at about 6:45AM. The drive took around 7 hours.
Blair’s first encounter in Knoxville was particularly strange. It occurred around 5:30pm in a gas station. Having driven all the way from Washington DC to Knoxville, Blair then claimed that his keys to his rented Camry were not working. The reason for this was that he was attempting to use the key for the Nissan he left in Seattle. Gerald Sapp, an Interstate Repair Service driver, came to help Blair. However, when Sapp told Blair to check his pockets for the correct keys, Blair refused to do so. Instead, the Camry was towed to an auto-shop and Sapp gave Blair a ride to the nearby Fairfield Inn.
Sapp recalled how strangely Blair had been acting, sure that there was something going on with him. The next day, authorities informed Sapp that Blair Adams had been murdered. Although never accused of the murder, Sapp came in for questioning and had hair samples taken.
At around 7pm, Blair bought a room for one night at the Fairfield Inn. However, the investigation later showed that he likely never entered the room. Surveillance cameras at the hotel recorded Blair entering the lobby of the hotel and then leaving around five times in the space of 40 minutes.
Hotel staff recalled Blair as being ‘agitated’ and ‘paranoid’. They described him as acting as if someone was after him. Around 12 hours later, Blair’s dead body would be found across the freeway in the parking lot of the under-construction hotel.
July 11th 1996. Workers discovered Blair on the construction site early, around 7am. At first, they thought it was a sleeping squatter, but as they approached, they realised it was a dead body. They also realised that he had too much cash and valuable items with him to be homeless. Also lying next to the body was the car key to the Camry that Blair had insisted was missing.
There were a number of cuts and scratches on Blair’s body; one in particular on his forehead was determined as having been caused by a club or crowbar. It appeared that Blair did attempt to defend himself against his attacker. The medical examiner in Tennessee listed Blair’s ultimate cause of death as a severe blow to his stomach, rupturing his abdomen and causing septic shock.
Blair had likely been sexually assaulted, however, no DNA evidence was discovered at the crime scene that allowed police to determine any information regarding the manner of the assault.
The police had next to no evidence to work with regarding the murder of Blair Adams. No murder weapon was found, and no signs of drugs or alcohol were found in Blair’s system. The only foreign DNA that was found at the scene was a long strand of hair found in Blair’s hand. Though when the hair was taken for forensic tests, from what I could tell, it did not bring the police any closer to the killer.
What Happened To Blair Adams?
What did Blair Adams do in those last 12 hours of his life? How did he end up in that parking lot anyway?
Blair ate somewhere, shown by the remains of food discovered in his stomach during the autopsy. There were reported sightings of Blair talking to other men, one at a truck stop and another at a nearby Cracker Barrel restaurant. These leads have not, however, helped authorities get any further in the investigation of what happened that night.
There are not a whole lot of theories I’ve come across. The most popular one I’ve found is some kind of sex act gone wrong. People have surmised that Blair hired a prostitute, who was accompanied by a pimp. They planned to rob him, but when this didn’t go to plan, they got scared and ended up killing him. It was reported that around 3:30AM a woman’s scream was heard coming from the direction of the parking lot. This may have been the scream of the prostitute when the pimp hit Blair.
There are theories that the sex act may have started in a car and when Blair resisted being robbed, he was hit in the head and pushed from the vehicle. The vehicle then struck him, causing the blow that ruptured his abdomen. The perpetrator then drove away, leaving him for dead…I’m not so sure about this; how would he have been pushed from the vehicle and then hit by it? Unless the vehicle turned around and went back and hit him.
I don’t buy it though. Why would they not have taken the money? Isn’t prostitution, which is a business for the pimp and prostitute, pretty much all about money? I just don’t see how they would have left the money and fanny pack lying there, especially when it was the middle of the night, no one else was around, and Blair was just lying there with it all scattered around him.
I’m pretty convinced it was not a robbery. If it were, it would have been so easy to take the money and items. I think since Blair was so paranoid, he felt threatened by someone who perhaps did not actually mean him any harm. However, he ended up getting into a fight with this individual, who punched him hard in the stomach and ran. They were not interested in Blair’s money or items, in fact, didn’t even know he had them. They just wanted to get away as fast as possible. But then again, why was he naked from the waist down?
The murder of Blair Adams is still very cold. Investigator Jimmy Jones described the case as “the most interesting and strange he’d ever come across” in his 38 years on the job. David Davenport, another investigator who was heavily involved in the case, believes there is no hope for solving the case unless someone comes forward and confesses. As it’s been over 22 year since Blair Adams was murdered, this seems like a long shot. I guess you can never really know what will happen though.
Les Hewitt, July 2017:
Blair Adams: One of the Most Bizarre Unsolved Mysteries.
Travis Dorman, September 2017:
Half-nude with fanny pack of gold, Canadian's killing a Knox County mystery decades later.
*Some details differ between sources.