Larry is a true crime fan and has several years of experience reporting on true crime cases and hosts a true-crime podcast.
In the true crime genre, there are many different types of crime. We have missing, murdered, serial killers, infamous crimes, and others. But there's one type of true crime that has the largest Reddit threads, where it's the most discussed and dissected. The type of case that brings out theory after theory and will never seem to stop intriguing people.
That type of true crime case is adults who mysteriously go missing under suspicious circumstances. Almost like they disappeared following erratic, unexplainable, strange behavior. Was it human trafficking, unsolved murder, alien abduction, or did they willingly disappear?
Either way, it's one of those things that can keep you up at night climbing deeper and deeper into the dark web and down a rabbit hole.
Setting the Scene
This case starts in Surrey, British Columbia, Canada. Surrey has the second largest population in Canada, following Vancouver, and is primarily a suburban city. The Robert Dennis Blair Adams is born on December 28, 1964. born. His mother's name is Sandra Adams, and he has a brother named Tom Welland. He also has a stepfather.
Robert, who ends up going by "Blair" as he grows up is 31 in 1995, when he finds himself working for his stepfather in Germany. Blair's stepfather owned a prefab construction company named SS Cedar Homes.
Blair is enjoying life in Germany, working for his stepfather, when in November of 1995, he meets a German woman at a party and they begin dating. Blair's new girlfriend describes him as a gentleman and a great boyfriend. But this isn't necessarily the reputation he has with others in his German life. Blair becomes known to become aggressive or confrontational.
He also had a history with alcohol and substance abuse. There were times that he expressed concern of people coming at him or spreading rumors about him. The issue is Blair's time as an adult up to this point was pretty secretive. Not much is known to help make sense of his paranoia, other than possible substance abuse.
There is talk of maybe an undiagnosed or unreported mental health crisis that led to this behavior. But whatever it is, we know that although his girlfriend was fond of him in Germany.
Blair Returning to Canada
By the summer of 1996, Blair had moved back to Canada and started a new job as a construction site foreman. We don't really know what happened in Germany, whether it was a peaceful move or it was just time to go back.
But Blair seemed to have it all in Canada, a normal life, friends and was doing well that summer. He even started actually attending Alcoholics Anonymous or AA, which friends credited to the upward direction Blair's life was going. He was really getting things in control, taking control of his life.
And according to Constable Wayne Rideout from the RCMP, Blair's new boss at his new job and the employees there liked his work and confirmed that he was really good at his job. He was a hard worker, and he did a good job, but as time went on, people began to notice that Blair was growing uncharacteristically careless at work. His work ethic was definitely sliding. On top of that, he stopped attending AA.
There are no reports that his absence from AA was because he had been drinking again. All we know is that he had stopped going around the same time that he began struggling at work, but none of this is really a huge deal.
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July 5th, 1996
On July 5th, 1996, Blair Adams withdrew all of his savings from his bank and emptied out his safe deposit box that had more than $6,000 in cash in it. Things are already getting suspicious. In the safe deposit box were thousands of dollars more in jewelry, gold, and platinum.
Blair then told his mother that something was bothering him. She didn't know what it was. He then took an unexpected trip to Courtenay, British Columbia to visit his uncle. But because of the short notice, Blair's uncle was not home.
At this point, Blair's not talking to a lot of people in his life, but most don't even know that something is off. He is the only person that knows he emptied out all of his money at this point.
July 7th, 1996
Two days after he empties all of his bank accounts, he tells his mom something's wrong and immediately just goes on this surprise trip on July 7th, 1996, Blair gets into his Chevrolet and drives it to the Canadian-American border in hopes of boarding a ferry from Victoria to Seattle.
Although his hope was to cross the U.S. border, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement denied Blair entry into the United States of America. They actually profiled him as a possible drug trafficker, because he was a single man with all of his cash, jewelry, and gold with him. They also noted that Blair was acting anxious upon arrival. On top of all of that, Blair had a prior conviction for drugs and assaults that were discovered while he was trying to cross the border.
Blair attempted multiple times to cross over to America. He even attempted to cross on foot once. During these attempts, Blair is still stuck in Canada and just doing odd unexplainable things.
Then on July 8th, the next day, Blair drives to his workplace and randomly quits. According to Unsolved Mysteries, he attempts to pick up his final paycheck, but for some reason, he doesn't get it. He's trying to get more money. On the same day, he tried to purchase a roundtrip ticket to Germany at a travel service for $1,700.
Strangely, he ends up buying the ticket but then immediately requests a refund on the same day. According to his old girlfriend, she had not been expecting him. So it doesn't seem like he was going there to see her.
After this, Blair drove to a friend's house and asked his friend to help take him to the border. But it was late at this time, so his friend turned him down. It was dawn the next day when Blair was spotted wandering around near the border on foot. This is when he actually attempted to cross the border on foot and was denied once more.
He Really Want to Cross the Border
Something is obviously going on. He hasn't told anybody. He's buying plane tickets, canceling them, driving to his friends, driving to relatives, trying to get the ferry and trying to cross multiple times even once on foot.
So the Pacific Highway Border Crossing authorities noted when they saw him trying to cross on foot, that Blair had scratches all over his hands and feet and they wrote that in the report. They ended up taking him into custody, because he matched the description of a suspect who had stolen a blue car in Vancouver, near where he was trying to cross earlier that day.
But Blair seemed confused when taken in and interrogated and was subsequently released from custody when there was no evidence that linked him to the theft. But later on in the case, one of Blair's friends would come forward and inform authorities that she had seen Blair driving a blue car that day and that it was stolen, which leaves speculation, about whether or not it was actually him.
They never found the real person. But no one will ever know. After being released from custody, Blair drives his own Chevrolet Chevette to the Vancouver International Airport and parks it. He then makes his way to the rental car counter and rents a Nissan Altima. He uses this Altima to drive to the border and once again, attempts to cross over into America.
It was during this final attempt that Blair Adams finally succeeded on July 9th.
Made it to America
He makes it through, he finally gains access into America and immediately
drives his rented Nissan to the Seattle Airport. He parks the Altima and enters the airport where he attempts to buy an overnight one-way ticket to Washington, DC for $800.
The airport ticket worker informs Blair that it's fine, he can purchase the one-way ticket, but if he buys a roundtrip ticket, it's only $400, so half the price of his one-way ticket. They tell him that even if he doesn't plan on taking the returning flight, it would still be cheaper.
Blair refuses and purchases the $800 one-way ticket to Washington, DC, immediately after crossing the border. I don't think it's that strange that he refused that.
Blair arrives at the Dulles International Airport at 5:00 a.m. on Wednesday, July 10th, 1996. He immediately makes his way to the rental car counter and rents a white Toyota Camry and begins a seven-hour drive to Knoxville, Tennessee around 6:45 AM. So it's been only five days since Blair initially emptied all of his savings and money out.
Arrival in Knoxville
Around 10:15 AM, while on his way to Knoxville, Tennessee, Blair backs his rental car into another man's vehicle near Zion Crossroads on U.S. Highway 250 in Troy, Virginia. The accident was small and caused minor damage. The man who Blair ran into ended up telling detectives that Blair was really nice during the whole thing, but he did seem in a hurry to get out of there, like he had somewhere to be.
Around 5:30 p.m. that day, Blair arrived in Knoxville, Tennessee, and stopped at a gas station on Strawberry Plains Pike. During this gas station stop, Blair portrayed some behavior that alerted the employees enough that they remembered it.
The gas station clerk actually ended up calling an interstate repair service driver named Gerald Sapp after Blair was claiming that once he got out of his car and got gas, he couldn't get his started again. Gerald made his way to the gas station when he investigated the issue.
The reason Blair couldn't get his wrecked and rented Toyota Camry to start was that he was using the key to his rented Nissan Altima that he left back at the Seattle Airport.
He explains to Blair that the reason the car won't start is because he is using the wrong car key, but Blair wouldn't listen to him. Blair insisted that the Nissan key was all he had and that this whole time he was using that Nissan key to drive this car.
Gerald kindly explains to Blair that that's not possible because he had already driven the Toyota Camry for almost seven hours. And in order to do that, he would've had to use the correct key. That is definitely here somewhere, the key somewhere at this gas station, or he wouldn't have been able to pull into the gas station in the first place.
Gerald noted that Blair was intent on dismissing anything he said and insisted that he did not have the key and noted that Blair was acting like, "He wasn't all there." The Knox County sheriff website states that Blair simply locked himself out of the car and that's why Gerald showed up.
Gerald Sapp arranged for a two truck to come pick up the Camry, because they can't get it started, because they don't have the key. So the tow truck comes to pick up the Camry to take it to an auto shop. And then Gerald drives Blair to a Fairfield Inn to stay the night.
Checking In to the Fairfield Inn
Once Blair and Gerald arrive at the nearby Fairfield Inn, Blair realized that he had
actually left his bag behind at the gas station. And so, Gerald dropped him off, drove back to the gas station to retrieve the bag and then dropped the bag back off to Blair at the Fairfield Inn.
Now during the 40 minutes that this took, Blair can be seen on surveillance camera at the Fairfield Inn pacing in and out of the hotel lobby five times. So he is definitely not just going in, plopping in a seat, and waiting, he's displaying anxious behavior.
The hotel front desk worker named Tika Hartsfield noted that during the whole check-in process, Blair was "paranoid that he was very nervous, agitated and looking around like someone was coming for him, even though nobody else was in the hotel."
After Tika handed Blair the key to his hotel room, Blair grabbed it, put it in his pocket, and instead of walking to the elevators, he walked out the front doors of the hotel and never came back inside. And Blair Adams was never seen alive again that we know of.
Blair Adams CCTV
Day After His Disappearance
The next day, July 11th, 1996, around 7:00 a.m., two construction workers stopped at their work site of the under-construction hotel at 7471 Crosswood Boulevard. Their construction site was off the Strawberry Plains Pike exit for Interstate 40 near the gas station and Fairfield Inn.
Today the address to this place is labeled as a travel lodge by Wyndham, Knoxville East. It was previously a Country Inn.
The two workers were combing through the site when they noticed something on the ground in the abandoned parking lot. They walked over and immediately called 911. Blair Adams was discovered dead laying in the middle of the parking lot with his belongings scattered around him.
When Knox County sheriff, Jimmy JJ Jones responded to the scene back in 1996, he was lieutenant over the major crimes unit at that point. He noted that the victim had his pants pulled down around his ankles. But according to JJ, it looked like somebody else had pulled them down.
It's Not Adding Up
Blair's shoes were off and laying near him and his socks were stuffed inside of his shoes. They're laying in the parking lot by him. Also laying next to him was his Fairfield Hotel room key that he had just gotten the night before and the missing Camry car key that landed him at the Fairfield Hotel in the first place because he stated that he couldn't find it.
So the missing car key was laying next to him in the parking lot. There was also a duffle bag next to Blair's body that contained maps and travel receipts on the ground, and scattered all around him was the cash that Blair had been carrying.
Police also discovered a fanny pack with nearly five ounces of gold bars, gold and platinum, along with coins, jewelry, more keys, and a pair of sunglasses. The fanny pack was laying on the ground, unzipped and untouched along with all of the cash.
The medical examiner estimated the time of death was around 3:30 a.m., roughly four hours before his body was discovered. This time of death matches a nearby worker who was either a security guard or a construction worker. And this worker claimed to have heard a scream around that time in the middle of the night,
but thought that it belonged to a woman.
Cause of Death
The autopsy performed by the University of Tennessee Medical Center revealed that Blair had many cuts and abrasions on his body. The Knox County Sheriff's Department speculated immediately that some of the wounds came from fighting off an attack.
They said the position of the wounds looked like it was in a defensive manner. Blair Adam's cause of death was ruled as sepsis. That was a result of a perforation in his stomach from a violent blow or repeated hitting that caused a rupture in the stomach lining.
They said maybe it was just continued punching to his stomach or one really, really hard kick. But there was a wound to his forehead, blunt force, that police determined was caused by a crowbar or a club. Now neither weapon was found near the scene, but because it was a construction area, police are like, "Well, a weapon like that might have been on-site and easy to grab or find."
Blair was also believed to have been sexually assaulted, although no DNA evidence was found to corroborate that, and the only evidence that supported this theory was that he was found with his pants pulled down according to them, by someone else.
In fact, the only physical evidence at the scene that didn't belong to Blair
was a strand of someone else's hair found in his hand, which is the worst type of DNA evidence you can have at a crime scene because it's not very reliable.
July 12th, 1996
So after July 12th, the day after he was found in 1996, more was learned about Blair's life once they made the connection that the victim was him. Blair's mother Sandra originally speculated that Blair was going to the United States to watch the 1996 Summer Olympics that were happening in Atlanta.
But that was before he turned up dead. Plus this is where I think the fact that Blair had lived overseas and internationally, already comes into play. Because once you've traveled that far, it's not that alarming to people in your life that you're going to go again.
He's lived overseas before. It might not be that weird that he's going to the United States to watch the Olympics if that's what she thought. But after his death, Sandra was the one who reported that Blair had been acting strangely before he was leaving and had stopped attending AA. She also told police that Blair had told her people were spreading rumors about him.
But whenever she tried to get more information, he told her that he shouldn't tell her. So she said, "He was acting super closed off talking about how other people are coming for him, but I can never get more information out of him."
Police Continue the Investigation
Police don't think this is a suicide, because of the cause of death. So what happened between the time of Blair leaving the Fairfield Inn at 7:37 PM and then
him dying around 3:30 AM, we don't know.
But here is what investigators figure out while trying to answer that exact question. They noted during an interview much later in 2010, that a composite sketch of a man had actually been made in Blair's case in the beginning. The sketch came about from two women who claimed to have witnessed Blair speaking to this man outside of the Cracker Barrel restaurant in Knoxville.
So these two women come forward and they tell the police, "We saw Blair at Cracker Barrel talking to this man," and then they created a sketch of that man. According to Google Maps, if using actual streets, the walk from the Fairfield Inn to the parking lot where Blair was found, would take roughly 19 minutes, so they are very close.
They're just on opposite sides of the freeway. And then, one would pass the Cracker Barrel on the way if making that walk. So the Cracker Barrel was actually right next to the Fairfield Inn and you would pass it on the street that you would take to make your way to the parking lot.
The assumption is maybe Blair walked out of the hotel to go and find dinner and ended up at the Cracker Barrel down the street where two women saw him talking to a man.
During his autopsy, I told you that they didn't find any drugs or alcohol in his system, but they had found in his stomach contents, some lettuce, some meat, and some shrimp. So his stomach contents did indicate that he had eaten something before he died.
Had this been the man that Blair was originally running from that these two women had seen him talking to, or did he by chance run into new problems at Cracker Barrel and this had nothing to do with his paranoia? Or maybe the witnesses had the wrong man and it wasn't even Blair talking to a man outside Cracker Barrel.
Another option police had to consider was that the area off the highway where Blair was found also served as a truck stop and attracted individuals with a transient lifestyle. It was also known as a hotbed of illegal activity.
So maybe something had gone wrong with some type of boss from said legal activity ranging from sexual to drug-related. My only personal issue with this theory is this so much cash and gold was left at the scene and the way it was scattered and dumped around him almost feels personal.
I feel like if this was random, something that just happened that night, the cash would've been taken. Even if it's personal, you take the cash. Someone takes it.
It's just such a personal reason that it has nothing to do with this. And there's also something to be said about killing someone and then laying the cash around
The Mystery Continues
Blair's actions of changing flights and travel plans last minute, changing cars multiple times and checking into a hotel that he wasn't actually staying at, definitely could imply that he believed someone was after him and that he was trying to throw them off his trail.
And to me, that's my number one theory. I think that the back and forth, trying to go to Germany and then trying to get to the U.S., implies that he felt like someone was following him. Friends admit that he did say this often and witnesses report him acting paranoid, but there was never any corroborating evidence found to support this theory.
There were no threats, there were no messages, there was no trace of Blair involved in any illegal activity that could land him here. He wasn't in trouble with any drug-related incidents, nothing. The prior history with the drug and assault conviction was not mentioned publicly in the investigation into Blair's death.
So I can't tell you that the police have looked into whether Blair's past was coming back to haunt him or not, or if this had anything to do with his death, but they totally could have looked into that.
I'm also unsure if Knoxville County police and Surrey police in British Columbia have compared notes or have been in contact for this investigation. So I don't know if they've talked and said, "This is his history here. What do you have?" I have no idea. Blair's cremated remains lay in Victory Memorial Park in British Columbia, Canada.
This content reflects the personal opinions of the author. It is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and should not be substituted for impartial fact or advice in legal, political, or personal matters.
© 2022 Lawrence Lease