Inside The Bizarre Murder Of Blair Adams — And Why It Remains Unsolved Decades Later

Published March 7, 2023
Updated March 9, 2023

Blair Adams became convinced that someone was after him just before he fled his home in Canada in July 1996 — then he mysteriously turned up dead in a Tennessee parking lot just a few days later.

Blair Adams

Riddle-Me-This/TwitterBlair Adams was found dead just outside Knoxville, Tennessee, in 1996 — and his murder remains unsolved to this day.

Blair Adams’ trip to Tennessee made as much sense as the way he died – very little.

To his family and friends in British Columbia, Canada, Adams wasn’t himself, acting oddly, and displaying paranoid behavior. On Friday, July 5, 1996, Adams withdrew almost all the cash from his bank account and the entire contents of his safety deposit box. Believing someone wanted him dead, Adams fled to the United States.

Adams decided to enter the U.S. that day by attempting to drive onto a ferry from Victoria to Seattle, but he was denied entry by immigration officials for traveling with large amounts of cash and valuables, and for lying about his criminal history over drug and assault offenses.

Avoiding his own apartment, Adams left his mother’s home on July 8, and three days later, the premonitions of his own death came true on a construction site thousands of miles away.

This is the bizarre story of the unsolved murder of Blair Adams.

Blair Adams’ Unusual Behavior Sparks Concern

Robert Dennis Blair Adams was born on Dec. 28, 1964, and lived in Surrey, British Columbia. He worked as a foreman for his stepfather’s construction company, and in late 1995, he returned from a construction project in Frankfurt, Germany, where he had met his girlfriend.

Adams’ girlfriend described him as a gentleman, but another German colleague described him as abrasive and confrontational, who sometimes got into fights. By the summer of 1996, everyone could see something was wrong. Adams had battled alcoholism in the past, and was two years sober at this point, but had stopped attending his Alcoholics Anonymous meetings according to The Surrey Leader.

Exhibiting strange behavior, Adams started leaving his construction job site unlocked, then abruptly quit without collecting his paycheck. He told his German girlfriend that he feared violence from former colleagues who had recently returned from Germany and told his mother someone was spreading rumors about him — but never elaborated as to why. At any rate, by early July 1996, Blair Adams believed that someone wanted to kill him.

A Mysterious Trip To Tennessee

Having withdrawn his cash and valuables, Adams paid nearly $1,700 in Canadian cash to a travel agency for a round-trip flight to Frankfurt, but his German girlfriend wasn’t expecting a visit. In line then with his recent erratic behavior, Adams requested a refund the very same day, saying the person he was going to visit had gotten sick.

Just before dawn the following morning, Adams attempted to walk across the Pacific Highway point of entry connecting Surrey with Blaine, Washington. Immigration officials, however, saw small scratches on Adams’ hands and legs, and he matched the description of a suspected car thief. A blue car had been stolen from Vancouver and located near the point Adams was attempting to cross, but the police had no evidence to hold him, so Adams was released back into Canada according to Knox News.

Determined to flee, Adams drove his actual car to Vancouver airport, switching it out for a Nissan Altima rental, and finally made it across the border on his third attempt. Once at the airport in Seattle, Adams bought an overnight one-way flight to Washington, D.C., when a round-trip ticket would have cost half the price. Arriving in D.C. on July 10, Adams immediately rented a Toyota Camry, beginning a seven-hour drive to Knoxville, Tennessee.

Adams entered Tennessee around 5:30 p.m., stopping at a gas station in the area of Strawberry Plains Pike, where his car wouldn’t start because he was using the wrong key. Adams had used the key from his previous Nissan rental car, and not the current Toyota he was driving. And bizarrely, he refused to check his pockets for the correct key, despite a repair service driver telling him, “If you drove this thing up here, you gotta have another key in your pockets.”

The Bizarre Murder Of Blair Adams

Blair Adams On CCTV

YouTubeBlair Adams was captured on hotel surveillance camera just hours before his murder.

Dropping Adams off at The Fairfield Inn hotel, while his car was towed to an auto repair shop, the driver later told detectives that Adams “didn’t appear to be on drugs, but his mind wasn’t functioning correctly for some reason.”

In the hotel lobby, surveillance video showed Adams entering and exiting five times within 40 minutes, before paying $100 in cash for a room — then leaving without grabbing his change. Adams appeared particularly agitated and paranoid to the desk clerk — as if he was expecting someone who wasn’t there, and it was later discovered he never even entered his room.

Early the following morning, July 11, Adams’ body was discovered on the site of a hotel under construction across the highway from Adams’ hotel. At first, two construction workers thought Adams was a vagrant who had slept at the site, before seeing all the cash scattered around him. Thousands of dollars in Canadian, German, and American currency were lying around his body and in the pockets of his jeans. Further, a leather fanny pack lay unzipped nearby, containing nearly 5 ounces of gold bars, gold and platinum coins, and jewelry.

The key for his rented Toyota, which Adams previously claimed he couldn’t find, was also lying nearby, per The Tennessean, along with his hotel card, shoes, and socks. Adams’ pants had been removed “like somebody else pulled them down for him,” a lieutenant from the Major Crimes Unit said. One of Adams’ shoes lay “under his head like a pillow,” as if he pulled it there as he lay dying.

Why Blair Adams’ Death Remains An Unsolved Mystery

The autopsy found Adams was beaten to death, dying of septic shock from a stomach rupture according to The Toronto Sun, and tufts of his hair were missing. Investigators only discovered one piece of forensic evidence: one long strand of hair clutched in Adams’ hand.

Although certain injuries indicated Adams may have been sexually assaulted, there was no DNA evidence confirming it, and no murder weapon was ever found. With no witnesses, a security guard from another business came closest, reporting that he heard a scream at 3:30 a.m., but claiming it sounded like a woman.

The only theory investigators had to go on was a sex act turned deadly, as a truck stop near the crime scene and Adams’ hotel was a known location for prostitution at the time. Adams had eaten somewhere that night, as he died with lettuce, meat, and shrimp still in his stomach. He had no drugs or alcohol in his system, and although his behavior indicated otherwise, he was never diagnosed with any mental illness.

A duffel bag found near Adams’ body, containing a plane ticket, and rental car receipts allowed investigators to piece together his movements, which had come to a mysterious end thousands of miles from home. The reasons for Adams’ death are no clearer now than they were then.

The following year, Adams’ story appeared on an episode of Unsolved Mysteries, where a member of the Knox County Sheriff’s Cold Case Unit wryly remarked that cracking the case “will take somebody telling us about it.”

After learning about Blair Adams, read about the mysterious unsolved murder of Bob Crane. Then, learn about Sherry Rasmussen, whose murder went unsolved for decades until a detective was convicted.

Neil Patmore
A true crime specialist, Neil Patmore served as a police officer in the UK for nine years, and a private investigator for three years before becoming a writer.
Jaclyn Anglis
Jaclyn is the senior managing editor at All That's Interesting. She holds a Master's degree in journalism from the City University of New York and a Bachelor's degree in English writing and history (double major) from DePauw University. She is interested in American history, true crime, modern history, pop culture, and science.
Cite This Article
Patmore, Neil. "Inside The Bizarre Murder Of Blair Adams — And Why It Remains Unsolved Decades Later.", March 7, 2023, Accessed April 20, 2024.