Missoula County Sheriff T.J. McDermott announced on Friday morning that a 30-year-old cold case murder of a local transient has been solved.

Sheriff’s Office Public Information Officer Jeannette Smith provided details of the murder investigation that began in 1992.

“The known facts of the case are on September 13, 1992, a partially buried body was discovered in an area known at that time as Orange Avenue Ranch or Peace Tree camp,” began Smith. “Detectives at the time were able to determine that the victim who was identified as William T. Adams, also known as Cadillac man, spent the night at the Poverello Center on August 25, 1982. Through an entomology report, it was determined that he died as a result of a knife wound to the chest and massive head trauma on or about September second or third.”

Smith provided more details of the cold case investigation.

“The body of Mr. Adams, who was a known transient and also was known to ride by train, was found facedown in a shallow grave, near the base of a hillside with a broken knife in his chest,” she said. “He was wearing a sweat jacket and wool sweater that had been pulled up over his head, appearing as though he had been dragged to that location. Several other items of clothing were found at the scene including two ball caps and a bloody shirt or jacket that through DNA testing led to the identity of the suspect.”

Smith revealed the evidence that eventually led to the suspect in the murder.

“During the initial investigation, it was believed that the unknown suspect at that time had sustained a cut on their hand and possibly used the shirt or jacket that was found at the scene to cover and help control the bleeding on the hand,” she said. “Through DNA testing, the cold case unit was able to identify the suspect from that piece of clothing. His name was Leonard D, also known as ‘eight ball’ and his last name was Owen. He was also a known transient who traveled by train.”

The suspect was deceased, but the cold case investigators were able to wrap up the case thanks to an organization called ‘Season of Justice’.

“Although Mr. Owen is deceased, we had cooperation from immediate family and the support and financial assistance of Season of Justice,” she said. “The cold case unit was able to make a positive identification. Although a transient by choice, Mr. Owen had family ties to Montana that most likely brought him to the area.”

The Cold Case Unit was established by Sheriff McDermott in 2019 and has had success in solving several cases throughout the state.

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