Brain of Phillip Adams, ex-NFL player accused of killing 5, to be studied for CTE

David K. Li and Juliette Arcodia
·2 min read

The brain of former football player Phillip Adams, who gunned down five people in South Carolina before dying by suicide, will be examined by researchers looking for possible CTE, officials said Friday.

While routine forensic autopsies "do not identify chronic traumatic encephalopathy," the York County Coroner's Office said it will work in tandem with Boston University researchers who have been at the forefront of studying the degenerative brain disease.

"We have contacted Boston University and they will be working with us to conduct a brain study to identify if Mr. Adams had CTE," according to a statement from the coroner's office. "We are unsure of the time frame for results at this time."

CTE has been closely associated with military veterans and athletes, particularly professional football players and others who have been repeatedly or violently struck in the head.

Image: Dr. Robert Lesslie (John D. Simmons / The Charlotte Observer via AP file)
Image: Dr. Robert Lesslie (John D. Simmons / The Charlotte Observer via AP file)

Adams fatally shot Dr. Robert Lesslie, 70; Barbara Lesslie, 69; their grandchildren Adah Lesslie, 9, and Noah Lesslie, 5; and air conditioning tech James Lewis, 38, on Wednesday in Rock Hill, South Carolina, sheriff's officials have said.

Phillips, 32, died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound on Thursday.

Investigators did not immediately pinpoint a possible motive in the slaying of the prominent doctor.

Adams suffered at least two concussions late in the 2012 season with the Oakland Raiders.

"I think the football messed him up," the former player's father, Alonzo Adams, told WCNC, the NBC affiliate in Charlotte, North Carolina.

He did not elaborate.

Adams played six seasons in the NFL with various teams, including the San Francisco 49ers, New England Patriots, Seattle Seahawks, New York Jets, Atlanta Falcons and the Raiders.

He might be best known for suffering a gruesome injury during a Dec. 26, 2010, game between his visiting 49ers and the St. Louis Rams. Troubling video and photos showed Adams' left ankle and foot appearing to be snapped and pointing in different directions while he was pinned under a Rams player.

The NFL journeyman attended South Carolina State University, a historically Black college in Orangeburg, where he was an all-Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference performer. He was a seventh-round selection by San Francisco in the 2010 NFL draft.

If you or someone you know is at risk of suicide, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255, text TALK to 741741 or visit SpeakingOfSuicide.com/resources for additional resources.