Gabrial Adams, a 38-year-old inmate serving life without parole for his role in a headline-grabbing double-murder committed when he was a teenager, was found dead in his cell on March 9. Although autopsy results have not yet been released and the Colorado Department of Corrections is offering little information about the death, Adams -- who had a history of suicide attempts -- reportedly hanged himself in the San Carlos Correctional Facility in Pueblo, which houses many of the prison system's most severely mentally ill inmates.
Adams was seventeen in 1992, when he joined fellow Woodland Park teen Jacob Ind in a bizarre plot to kill Ind's mother and stepfather. As detailed in our 1998 feature "The Killer and Mrs. Johnson," Ind claimed to have been physically and sexually abused by his parents for years and to have hired Adams, a purported martial arts expert, to carry out their murders.
The two co-defendants told somewhat different stories about who carried out what actions the night Kermode and Pamela Jordan were shot to death in their upscale home, but both were tried as adults and received life sentences.
Pendulum Foundation director Mary Ellen Johnson's book about the case, The Murder of Jacob, describes Adams as a short, slight, delusional adolescent who "believed himself to be a reincarnated Vietnam War vet" and preferred to be called "Major." As she wrote, "Major even claimed he knew how to levitate, ninja-style."
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Following a 2012 U.S. Supreme Court decision declaring mandatory life sentences unconstitutional for offenders who committed their crimes when they were juveniles, Colorado's 51 juvie lifers have been awaiting a chance to argue for reduced time at individual sentencing hearings. But those hearings didn't come soon enough for Adams, who has struggled with mental illness throughout his prison sentence.
Barb Stephenson, a board member of the Colorado chapter of the prison family-rights group CURE and the national chapter of an organization that seeks reforms in incarceration of the mentally ill, says that Adams was transferred to San Carlos in 2011 after a suicide attempt at the Arkansas Valley Correctional Facility. She corresponded with him and tried to serve as an advocate, she adds, but Adams imposed too many unreasonable conditions for her to even visit him.
"Gabrial did not talk about his diagnosis," Stephenson says. "He did not talk about his treatment. He was a very paranoid person. He refused visitors, and I could tell he was not in touch with reality."
The state prison system averages four to seven suicides a year. A DOC spokesman referred inquiries about the death to the Pueblo County coroner, stating only that "Mr. Adams was no longer in CDOC custody as of March 9, 2014." From our Colorado Crimes archives: Read Alan Prendergast's "Joe Arridy was the happiest man on death row."