Phillip Adams is a former NFL defensive back who is accused of murdering five people, including a well-known doctor who was also a faith-based author, before dying by suicide in South Carolina on April 7, 2021.
The suspect was named by officials in a news conference. The brain of Adams, who suffered concussions as a professional football player, will be studied for chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE).
The sheriff said in the April 8, 2021, news conference that Adams, 32, whose parents live near the scene, shot six people but five of them died. The sheriff described Dr. Robert Lesslie, one of the victims, as a “pillar of the community,” who was helpful to law enforcement over the years. He had even treated the sheriff. “He knew everyone, and he treated everyone with respect,” said the sheriff, adding that the doctor raised his family to be the same.
Dr. Lesslie wrote about moments of faith that he observed as an emergency room doctor. His family cited their Christian faith in a statement thanking the community for an outpouring of support after the deaths.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Authorities Say the Doctor, His Wife & 2 of Their Grandchildren Were Murdered
The other victims from the doctor’s family were named as Dr. Lesslie’s wife, Barbara Lesslie, 69, and their grandchildren Adah Lesslie, 9, and Noah Lesslie, 5. In addition, a man who was working at the home, James Lewis, was murdered, authorities said.
The victims’ surviving family remembers released a lengthy statement through the doctor’s Facebook page.
The four Lesslie siblings wrote this statement: On behalf of the Lesslie, Alexander, and Kulbok clans, we would like to address the outpouring of heartbreak, shock, grief, and support from our family, friends, and community.
We are truly in the midst of the unimaginable. The losses we are suffering cannot be uttered at this time.
While we know there are no answers that will satisfy the question “why,” we are sure of one thing: we do not grieve as those without hope. Our hope is found in the promise of Jesus Christ, and we are enveloped by peace that surpasses all understanding. To that end, our hearts are bent toward forgiveness and peace. Toward love and connectedness. Toward celebration and unity. We honor all of those involved in this story with prayers and compassion specifically for the Shook family, the Lewis family, and the Adams family.
As Robert Lesslie would say, when peace like a river attendeth my way, when sorrows like sea billows roll, it is well with my soul.
If you would like to do something for the family, Adah and Noah would want you to stock the free pantries and libraries in your community. Barbara and Robert would want you to be good stewards of what you are given, leaving every place better than it was before you got there.
Adah, Noah, Barbara, Robert, and the rest of the family would ask any memorials or gifts to be sent to Camp Joy North Carolina (918 South Pleasantburg Dr., Greenville, SC 29607) in honor of hope and the promise of eternity.
Police said the five victims were shot to death inside the home of the doctor and his wife.
“Sadly 5 people have died as a result of the shooting. Dr. Robert Lesslie & his wife, Barbara Lesslie were both found in the home & died as a result of gunshot wounds, as well as their 2 grandchildren. James Lewis of Gastonia, was working at the home & died from gunshot wounds,” the York County Sheriff’s Department said in a news release.
2. Adams Was Found Deceased in a Nearby House Where He Lived With His Parents, Authorities Said
Adams grew up in Rock Hill, dubbed “Football City USA,” according to The Charlotte Observer. The New York Times called the town an “incubator of football talent.” He took his high school football and basketball teams to state championships, the Observed noted.
Officials said they had “IDed the person we feel is responsible for the shooting on Marshall Rd. We found him in a nearby house. There is no active threat to the community. Detectives are still in the area serving a search warrant & investigating this tragic event.”
Authorities said they contacted Adams’ father who lived with the suspect. They were able to remove the parents from the home.
They had a search warrant for the home and then confirmed that Phillip Adams was “deceased in a bedroom in the home.”
The first deputies arrived on the scene eight minutes after receiving 911 calls and began to assist the first two victims they encountered. “We immediately began to assemble a team to clear the house,” the York County sheriff said.
The Sheriff’s Department initially wrote, “At 4:45 PM deputies were sent to a home near 4400 Marshall Rd. reference a report of a shooting involving multiple individuals. We’re searching for a young black male wearing a hoodie & camo pants. This is a very active investigation.”
Authorities found the doctor, his wife and some grandchildren in the back of the house. A living victim was also discovered. Authorities requested a drone and canine unit to respond. They were able to identify the suspect in this incident.
3. Dr. Lesslie Was an Author of ‘Angels in the ER’ & Wrote About His Christian Faith
Dr. Robert Lesslie wrote on Facebook that he was the “author of Angels in the ER, Angels on Call, Angels and Heroes, Angels on the Night Shift & Notes from a Doctor’s Pocket.”
He added, “I am an author and an actively practicing physician in upstate South Carolina. My posts mostly consist of quotations; particularly ones that I find inspiring, encouraging, or simply amusing.” He was department medical director at Rock Hill General Hospital for years. According to ABC News, “He founded two urgent care centers in the area and wrote a weekly medical column for The Charlotte Observer.”
Lesslie was interviewed about his books and ER experiences by the Charlotte Observer newspaper in 2008. The story says, “Rock Hill physician Robert Lesslie has taken care of thousands of patients in the York County area during his 25 years in practice. Lesslie has spent most of his career caring for folks in nearby emergency rooms.”
“I never left my faith in the parking lot or at home. In the ER, you’re dealing with significant diseases and life-altering circumstances. Dealing with those and being able to minister to (patients) when you can is an issue of faith,” he explained.
“The difficult part is loving the unlovable and those that are angry at you for whatever reason. And maintaining that attitude no matter who you come across. We are all God’s children. If you lose that belief in the ER, you can become cynical, disenchanted and mean-spirited. For me, that’s where faith comes in.”
A post on his Facebook page now reads:
As many of you know, Dr. Lesslie passed into glory yesterday. Here are words that he recently wrote:
‘One day, when I depart this body and find myself in the presence of the Lord, my time, however it will be measured, will be filled with the praises and the wonder of Jesus. I know that I will once again be able to hug my mother and walk and talk with my father. There are a lot of people I want to see as well—family and friends, grandparents, some of whom I never met on this side. And I will seek out Peter and John and the Apostle Paul, as well as other giants of the faith—men and women whose words and deeds have guided and molded my journey and my heart.
We have no idea what Heaven will look like, only that it will be perfect. And because of that I know that one day, when I’ve experienced the presence and joy of that surrounding host of saints, I will find myself walking with Barbara in a field of lush, green grass, surrounded by gently rising conifer-cloaked hills. The words of Jesus will echo through that glade—“Behold, I make all things new.” And there will come Dox, charging towards us, his ears flapping in the breeze, his golden hair and majestic tail waving in the wind, and both of his laughing, dancing eyes meeting ours.
Praise God from whom all blessings flow.
Praise him all creatures here below.
Praise Him above ye heavenly hosts.
Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.’
4. The Motive Remains Unclear, but Adams’ Father Told a Local News Station, ‘I Think the Football Messed Him Up’
The motive is under investigation. “There’s nothing about this that makes sense to any of us,” the sheriff said.
It wasn’t clear whether Adams was ever a patient of the doctor, authorities said. However, ABC News cited sources as saying that Lesslie had treated Adams.
Authorities say that Adams left evidence at the scene that allowed them to connect him to the mass murder. They didn’t specify what it was.
“He forced entry,” the sheriff said.
There were two air conditioning techs outside at the time of the mass murder. The Sheriff said that authorities have no information the weapons were illegally obtained. Authorities said there were past traffic citations against Adams.
Adams’ father, Alonzo Adams, told WCNC-TV, “I can say he’s a good kid. I think the football messed him up.” Alonzo Adams told the news station he knew the family. He added, “I don’t think he ever did anybody any harm. All I can say is we pray for the family. He used to be my doctor a long time ago. I know they were good folks down there. We’re gonna keep them in our prayers.”
The Charlotte Observer noted that Adams had other trouble with the law; he was acquitted of simple assault and battery in 2009, and a charge of carrying a concealed gun was dismissed in 2016.
5. Adams Was a Defensive Back for Teams Including the San Francisco 49ers & Atlanta Falcons
Adams played for multiple NFL teams. He was a defensive back and punt returner for the Atlanta Falcons, New York Jets, Oakland Raiders, Seattle Seahawks and San Francisco 49ers from 2010 to 2015, according to his NFL.com profile. He as also briefly signed by the New England Patriots in 2011, but did not play in a game for the team.
He finished his career with the Falcons.
Adams, originally from Rock Hill, South Carolina, played football at Rock Hill High School and South Carolina State University. He was drafted in the seventh round of the NFL Draft in 2010. He had multiple concussions and a left ankle injury in the NFL, WSOC reported.