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Summary of events

On September 27, 1997, Adam Prentice, a 4.0 Honors computer systems Engineering junior at the University of Massachusetts (UMASS), Amherst, died from loss of blood several hours after suffering a stab wound to the back while walking home to his dormitory.

Adam's last day of lifeguarding at Covell Beach Labor Day, 1997According to eye witness accounts, Adam had spent the evening with friends from his dorm; first, at the dorm itself and, later, at a party in Pufton Village--an apartment complex located twenty minutes from campus heavily populated by students.

The Testimony of Adam's Friends

Adam's friends state that, between 11:30 and 12:30 a.m., he told them he was tired, and wanted to walk home. The others weren't ready to leave yet, and advised him to wait for them; there had been two reported stabbings in the area during recent weeks, and they felt safer travelling as a group. It was also Homecoming weekend, and the campus was unusually busy. Adam reiterated that he was too tired to wait, and was last seen walking from Pufton Village in the direction of the public transportation bus stop.

At 1:30 a.m, the University of Massachusetts campus police (UMPD) found Adam collapsed, semi-conscious and bleeding profusely in the center of campus on the grass in front of the greenhouses adjacent to the Morrill Science Department.

Within minutes, the greenhouse was swarming with campus police and security officers, as well as police from the Town of Amherst and Massachusetts State Police. Reports state that they had responded to an intrusion alarm tripped from within the greenhouse when an inside door was opened that separated a wing of the unit from the storage corridor.

Conflicting Police Reports

Reports indicate that Adam was moaning and writhing on the grass. His speech was barely legible; consequently, police assumed he was intoxicated. It was noted that the greenhouse behind them had a hole smashed through the roof, which measured five feet in height. Another greenhouse wing further down had a side panel of glass smashed out.

Even though Adam was found on the ground semi-conscious, collapsed and moaning, police suspected that he had been attempting to break into the greenhouse with malicious intent, and he was restrained. Police reports describe Adam as semi-conscious; then contradict themselves by also stating that he was alert. Still, others claim that he was combative.

Combativeness is a classic reaction to shock from loss of blood. It is also a classic reaction to being accused of a crime when having just been victimized.

By the time rescue workers responded, Adam was so soaked with fresh blood that his clothes had to be cut off at the scene. Reports state that he said, "It wasn't my fault," but no mention is made that responding personnel asked whose fault it was.

Because no witnesses stepped forward out of the dark at the hour of Adam's injury, campus police determined that he was alone, and took the liberty of scouring the scene clean without preserving it within forty five minutes of finding him.

Questionable Medical Treatment

Though emergency reports state that Adam was impaled above the left kidney, he was not medevaced to the nearest trauma center per the written triage plan for soft tissue impalements. Instead, he was taken by ambulance to Cooley Dickinsen Hospital, not much closer than Baystate Medical Center, a state-of-the-art trauma facility. Here, he was kept waiting in the emergency room for forty five minutes. After seating him upright against the impalement for a portable X-ray, the doctor treating him noted a large opaque object in his abdominal cavity, and arranged to transport Adam to Baystate trauma center where he could have been taken initially. His vital signs were unstable at the time of departure and, during the twenty minute drive by ambulance to Baystate, he went into cardiac arrest.

At Baystate, the trauma team made a dramatic attempt to revive him by cracking his chest open to massage his heart. The attempt failed, and Adam was pronounced dead three hours after being discovered at the greenhouse.

The autopsy listed the cause of death as "massive loss of blood due to a stab wound of glass to the back."

Adam Prentice had never been given a blood transfusion, in spite of spending two of those hours in a hospital surrounded by doctors, nurses and emergency personnel. He was conscious until the last half hour. His family was never notified about the incident by officials of the University, the campus police department, or Cooley Dickinson Hospital; university officials said they hadn't positively identified Adam yet. However, they had already run a criminal records check (CORI) on him by 2:30 AM that morning, well before he had died, which requires the first and last name of the individual to complete, and listed his home address and mother's name as next of kin.

Within the next few days, the Daily Hampshire Gazette, a local newspaper in the Amherst community, received two anonymous calls stating that Adam had not been alone. Police did not contact the newspaper editor who had received the calls until weeks later, after pressure from Adam's mother and her lawyer.

Rumors circulated in Amherst that Adam had been the victim of foul play--that he'd been chased and pushed. One witness stated that she'd seen a young man being chased at the greenhouse by university police officers while driving home from work that night.

Why Wasn't Adam's Family Notified?

At approximately the same time as Baystate Medical Center called Adam's mother to inform her of his death, the UMPD was busy preparing a statement to be released that morning urging that anyone who had witnessed the incident, or who had information about the incident, come forward for questioning. In the same release, they stated that they believed Adam had been alone. They further stated that they would not know if Adam had been under the influence of alcohol or drugs until toxicology reports were finalized.

This statement was released within a few short hours of the incident and Adam's death--hardly enough time to determine that no witnesses were present, especially when they themselves had already destroyed all the evidence that would have proven their own speculations.

Why the UMPD was so eager to convince the public that Adam had been alone, and therefore "responsible" for his own injuries, is a question that has plagued and haunted those who love him.  How can a sworn police department, paid by Massachusetts taxpayers to protect the students and campus community, be so certain that there were no witnesses just because no one had jumped out at them from the dark to say, "I was with Adam," "We chased him," "We pushed him," "We stabbed him," "We dared him..."

Equality Between Sworn Police Departments?

UMPD is touted as being a "sworn police department." Shouldn't the department then be accountable to the same standards that a municipal police department is held up to?

It appears not. It appears that they can actually determine that Adam was alone without fact or probable cause simply because they, "say so..." After all, "they" happens to be the State of Massachusetts, and "I" am only Adam's mother...

As time hurdles forward, I am propelled backward; frozen infinitely on September 27, 1997.  Here I stay, locked into the past, forever torn and without closure until I know why my son was at the greenhouse, whom he was with, what happened, and why it was allowed to happen.

For All Appearances

Yet, each morning I rise and complete the facade. I brush my teeth, drive kids to school, go to work and take classes. I do all the things most everyone else does, but I do them fictitiously by pretending that I am a character called "normal" in a play. Only at the end of the day, as soon as I get into my car to drive home, do I take "normal" off and end the dress rehearsal for the day, allowing myself to cry. In the real world as "normal," I function so well that those who don't know me are amazed when they hear about Adam's story.

Life can go on after the death of a beloved child, but it is never the same; nor does a day, or even an hour, pass where that child isn't thought of in earnest.  The death of a child is a gaping, festering wound that never heals. If the parent is to function, the wound must be quarantined. This is the only way to survive, and it is worse when there is no closure. What I know is that my son died when he didn't have to, and I'm not sure why. I can't say that he was in an automobile accident, or that he died of pneumonia, a sports injury, or leukemia.

According to the autopsy report, Adam died from loss of blood due to a stab wound of glass to the back.

According to the UMPD, Adam climbed onto a 5 foot high greenhouse roof in the center of the University of Massachusetts Amherst campus, lost his footing, and crashed through it backward onto an 8 inch shard of glass, coincidentally laying upright on its 1/8 in. width, awaiting the impact of his fall,in spite of having broken at the same moment of his fall. This shard allegedly entered his back at the time of impact, impaling him at the left kidney.

The UMPD further alleges that, at this point, Adam walked back and forth through the first two chambers of the greenhouse, tracking the blood they washed away, until hurdling himself on top of a 4 ft. high table. Here, he busted through another glass wall face-front, then crawled to the spot on the grass outside where he was found.

Furthermore, the UMPD states that, after having crashed violently through two panes of glass, Adam miraculously escaped being cut on any other part of his entire body other than the eight inch stab wound.  Not a single scratch was found on his face, hands, or legs, though abrasions resembling rug burns and black and blue marks were found on his legs, face, arms, and wrists.

Adam's Mother Speaks Out

This is a horrific tragedy; yet, I have been portrayed as a "hysterical mother" for questioning it, and a callous mother for being able to write about it. How can any loving parent not question it? How can any loving mother not write about it?

You can help us fight for truth and justice for Adam by signing our grass roots petition. Please print it out and circulate it amongst those interested in supporting us. Make as many copies as you'll need to:

Barbara Prentice
PO Box 177
Hyannis, MA. 02601
Fax: 508.362.7978

You can also send us an e-mail including the information designated on the petition and return it by e-mail.

To sign or view the Adam G. Prentice grass roots petition, please click on "Please Sign our Petition" below. You will need Adobe Acrobat Reader to sign our Petition, and you can download it here:

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