EATON: I met a man years ago and had no idea he was a serial killer
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It was the fall of 2009. I was a television reporter in Virginia and was working on an undercover story about panhandling in Richmond.
My photographer and I asked three people to act as panhandlers for an hour in different parts of the city. We watched with hidden cameras to see how much money they could bring in with the agreement that it would be donated to charity.
We decided to interview real panhandlers but this was a challenge as most didn’t want to speak on camera.
But then we met a guy who was more than willing to share his story.
His name was Mike Adams and he proudly proclaimed that he had been hopping trains and traveling the country as a professional panhandler for 20 years.
“What do you say when people tell you to get a real job?” I asked him.
“I got one. I’m a traveler,” was his response.
“Would you want to do anything else?” I inquired.
“F*** no,” he replied.
Adams claimed he could make up to $700 a week and people were generous with their hard-earned money.
“There’s been beggars since Christ’s day,” he told me. “As long as you’ve got people willing to give, you’ll have beggars.”
Watch Nate’s panhandling story:
We spent a few hours with Adams and he insisted we visit his “hobo camp” near the train tracks that night. We declined and went on our way.
The story aired and I never thought about Mike again – until a few days ago.
One of the best reporters in Richmond, Mark Holmberg, posted a story on WTVR.com featuring an exclusive jailhouse interview with a man known as “The Train Killer.”
I watched the piece and realized the self-proclaimed murderer looked and sounded very familiar.
It was Mike Adams.
The same Mike Adams who had spoken with me nearly seven years ago.
He was behind bars in Virginia and bragged to Holmberg that he had murdered between 16 to 30 people.
“I’m proud of what I did,” he said, claiming he provided a public service by killing some of the dregs of society. “I’m a necessary part of life.”
Adams admitted to murdering a Richmond homeless man in 2006 in a “hobo camp” near train tracks – likely the same camp he wanted my photographer and I to visit.
Adams has been found guilty of killing a man in California and is a suspect in murder cases in Washington and Texas.
Not only that, but he claims to be behind other homicides across the country – including here in Idaho.
“They’re gonna hit me with capital murder – Texas, Arizona, Idaho and California are all supposed to get on board,” Adams told Holmberg.
A check of the Idaho Repository shows no record of Adams – but his statement made me wonder if he is responsible for unsolved murders in our state.
So I called the Henrico County jail in Virginia and asked to interview Adams.
Listen to Nate’s conversation with Mike Adams:
He agreed to talk with me and the conversation went like this:
Adams: “Is this Mr. Eaton?”
Eaton: “Yes, how are you?”
Adams: “All right. Who do you represent?”
Eaton: “I’m with East Idaho News. I don’t know if you remember a few years ago but I interviewed you while you were out panhandling in Richmond.”
Adams: “Yeah, I do remember who you are…I drank and you talked.”
Eaton: “At that time, you were currently on the run from the law, right?”
Adams: “To be honest, I’d rather do this through my attorney because of things going on here but I do remember who you are. No, I was not on the run at that time.”
Eaton: “Ok, so you had been out?”
Adams: “No, I was just out and free. I was actually handling business in Richmond. Let’s do this through my attorney though because he wants to talk with you.”
I contacted William Linka, Adams court-appointed attorney. He told me the Virginia murder case should be wrapped up within a few weeks and Adams is expected to receive life in prison without parole.
Linka was unaware of Idaho murder cases linked to his client but said states with pending homicide charges against Adams are on board with the Virginia life prison sentence.
We’ll likely never know how many people Adams really killed.
We’ll never know what would have happened had my photographer and I gone back to Adams “hobo” camp that fall evening.
What we do know is this man has deep psychiatric issues, according to jail staff, and he claims he’s looking forward to “retirement” in prison.
“Three hots, a cot – you can still high ball in prison,” Adams told Holmberg. “You can still have a good time.”
Adams seems to have spent his life “having a good time” and, as he told me in 2009, he enjoy taking advantage of people – whether it means taking their money or, sadly, taking their lives.
“I’m a beggar of life,” Adams said during our interview. “I beg everything I can get out of life. Whatever they can give me, I’m gonna get it. That’s why I have a smile on my face.”