My brother, John Michael Adams, was murdered in Council Bluffs, Iowa on Mother’s Day May 12, 2002. John was shot four times by his landlord, William Bloedel, as they argued over unpaid rent and utility bills. John was in the process of moving out of his apartment. He had been looking for work and was scheduled to start a new job in Texas that week.
Although John was unarmed, Bloedel claimed that he shot John in self-defense. The last shot was into the back of John’s head as he lay face down on the ground.
Nothing prepares you for the shock and disbelief when someone tells you a family member has been killed. John had had a rough life. He had had more than his share of scrapes, physically, mentally and emotionally. However, he always seemed to be on the verge of turning his life around. That was always our hope and our prayer.
John had been married and divorced. He and his ex-wife had two little girls together. But, John really considered himself a dad to three children. He also helped raise his ex-wife’s oldest daughter from a previous relationship.
John moved to the Omaha area to be closer to his three girls after his ex-wife settled in Nebraska upon re-marrying. John struggled with accepting the limitations of his re-defined relationship with his girls. Thankfully, he was able to celebrate one of his daughter’s birthdays with all of the girls a couple of days before he was killed.
John’s killer was convicted of second-degree murder and received a 50-year sentence. My parents and siblings all traveled to Iowa to attend the trial. Later, most of us returned to attend the sentencing. At first, the trial judge did not want to have any of our victim impact statements read in open court. We asked the prosecutor to appeal on our behalf and the judge reluctantly agreed to let one of us read excerpts from the group of statements. The judge did not want to drag out the proceeding, I guess, since the sentence was fairly well pre-determined by Iowa law. My family agreed to let me be the spokesperson.
While attending Survivor Resources sessions, my group had discussed victim impact statements. The experience I gained from the sharing in that group was invaluable in my preparation. The instructions the court gave us in our homicide. Survivors’ directions were succinct: address the statement to the court and not the perpetrator; do not introduce new facts or refer to the evidence in the trial; relate how the crime has affected you emotionally, physically, financially, etc.
In court, I read excerpts from statements written by one of my brothers, one of my sisters and most of my mother’s and my own statement. I stood in open court in front of the judge and next to the defense attorney, who was the only obstacle between the defendant and me. It was also in front of a group of prisoners awaiting their own sentencing for untold crimes. I tried very hard to focus on the written words and speak with enough emotion to do justice to the words written by all of us. I was told afterward that while John’s murderer had shown no emotion during the readings, several of the other criminals had looked visibly shaken with at least one young man openly weeping during my Mother’s stories of John’s youthful experiences fishing and playing ice hockey while growing up in Minnesota.
Last year, Margaret asked me to a participate in the restorative justice program where survivors share their stories in front of a group of prisoners in an effort to educate the prisoners that their crimes affect the lives of many more people than just their immediate victims. I decided the best way to illustrate the effects on me personally was to read my victim impact statement, after briefly detailing my brother’s murder.
VICTIM IMPACT STATEMENT
JOHN MICHAEL ADAMS
Because of the brutal slaying of my beloved brother, John Michael Adams, my life which includes my relationship with my wife and five children, parents, five remaining siblings, a very extended family, friends and co-workers has been completely turned inside out and upside down.
I am closest in age to John among our siblings, with less than 2 years and 9 months separation. Our relationship together more than anything else defines our childhood and teen years. This close brotherhood continued up to the day he was slain.
For 39 years, three months and four days John was my little brother, my childhood roommate, my playmate, my sibling rival, my camping and fishing partner, an adult roommate, my Best Man at my wedding, my alter ego and so much more. Simply put, he was my best friend.
In a lot of ways, we were complete opposites. Where I am normally shy, reserved, conservative and “bookish;” John was bold, outgoing, flamboyant and “hands on.” These differences caused friction between us at times, but also made us complimentary. We made each other complete by balancing our respective strengths and weaknesses. When we matured, John was a tremendous sounding board for me and I trust likewise I was the same for him. I find myself out of balance and I feel lost with John now gone.
When I first heard John had been murdered, I was devastated. I still am. The details of his death are so horrific that I fear I will never fully recover. In a way, I cannot hope to. A piece of who I am is missing. John is not here to help me deal with my loss and grief!
For the first two weeks after May 12th, I did not sleep. By that I do not mean I slept less than normal or that I slept fitfully. I mean I did not sleep at all! For two weeks! Since then, I have been seeing a grief counselor individually on a regular basis, attending support group meetings and leaning on my parents and siblings just to partially function.
My relationship with my immediate family has suffered. I am distant and disconnected from my wife and children. They are trying to understand, but it is hard on them—especially the younger children. My five children (ages three to 13) adored their Uncle John. For someone who lived at a distance they still saw him frequently, most recently when John was at our home for Easter Sunday. The most difficult thing I have ever had to do in my life was to sit down with my children and tell them their Uncle John had been killed. Their screams of horror and anguish are still bouncing around in my head.
Due to the emotional pain and the mental and physical exhaustion I have fallen hopelessly behind in my work. To date my employer has been tolerant, but I have been told that that cannot continue indefinitely. My career is in peril. I have considered resigning my position, which would be a financial catastrophe for my family.
I ask myself, why has all of this happened? It defies logic. Bloedel claims he was afraid of John. John’s last words included the plea to be left alone. The message he was sending was “don’t bother me and I won’t bother you.” Why could you not heed that message, Bloedel?!” That question will haunt me the rest of my life.
Bloedel claims he was upset because John owed him money for rent and utilities. All the money in the world is not worth one human life. At least that is what we were taught to believe. Sadly, in today’s world, that view is not shared by many others. Certainly not Bloedel!
I believe in Jesus Christ, life after death and heaven and hell. I know my brother John, despite his human failings, was at heart a good man who accepted Jesus as his Lord and Savior and that John is now at peace in Heaven. I so want to join him there someday.
I fear the hate now in my heart, put there because of Bloedel’s stupid senseless actions, may prevent the reunion with John I so crave. I know it is wrong to hate. I never thought it possible for me to hate another human being. But I do. I hate you William Bloedel!
Bloedel has never expressed any, nor do I expect him to ever feel remorse for his actions and their effects. I believe people who commit murder are missing something inside of them, something that is inside the rest of us. I believe that is what evil is, the absence of the sense that prevents you from taking another person’s life. You are supposed to value everyone’s life, not just your own (or your damn cats!), more than anything material.
With all due respect, whatever sentence this court imposes on Bloedel is by definition inadequate for the crime he has committed. He has taken John’s life!
I will never forgive Bloedel for robbing all of us who love John of his presence—John’s three beautiful children (Natalie, Jamaica and Carly), our parents, siblings, cousins, nieces, nephews, aunts, uncles and John’s friends. All of us whom deeply love John have now been sentenced to a life without John.
For myself, before May 12th, I was content and at peace. Although I knew I was far from perfect, I believed I was secure in my relationships and my place in this life. Now, I am consumed with hate. I do not like this prison of hate I am now forced to live in. I don’t want Bloedel to feel any remorse, because I want him to burn in hell for eternity!
This is how my life has been impacted. I do not like myself this way. May God have mercy on my soul, and none on Bloedel’s!
Joseph Dion Adams
Brother of Victim
I told the prisoners then (and I repeat for the reader’s benefit) that thanks to the support of my family members and my participation in the Survivor Resources and POMC programs, I am in a different place today than when I wrote my statement. I also thank God for that.