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Time Line - continued (3)

Time-line Continues

Lifeguard of BarnstableThe Chronological Events of the First Few Months After Adam's Death That Led to the Investigation
By Barbara Prentice

After watching The Saint with Val Kilmer on Saturday, September 27, 1997, I went to bed at 12:30 a.m. and immediately fell asleep. The person who retired that night was a mother of three and a Program Director at The Woman's Body Shopp, a health club on Cape Cod, MA.

Around 4:30 a.m, I was awakened by the ring of the telephone. As the phone is on the night table next to my bed, I answered it. I expected that it was work-related. I was the “early morning person” and, whenever there was an a.m. problem, I was called.

For a fleeting second, the faces of my children flashed before me, but my 11 year old son and 9 year old daughter were sleeping peacefully, and my oldest son Adam, a junior at The University of Massachusetts in Amherst, MA, would also be asleep at his dormitory.

The voice on the telephone asked, “Is this the Prentice home? Is this the home of Adam Prentice, a student at the University of Massachusetts in Amherst?”

I answered yes, though I was confused. If something had happened to Adam, wouldn't I have been called hours ago? He was like me -- an early bird. He never stayed out late. Was he ill?

The person on the telephone went on to identify himself as Dr. Tehrani, a doctor from the emergency room at the Bay State Medical Center in Springfield, MA. Springfield is the largest city near Amherst with a trauma center. It is approximately 35 minutes from the University, and 3 hours from my home.

Dr. Tehrani asked if I was Adam’s mother. I answered yes. My heart was thumping, and a choking pressure began creeping up through my face and head, making my ears ring. He told me that he was very sorry, but he had awful news. There had been a tragic accident earlier in the evening, and Adam had fallen through a greenhouse roof. A large shard of glass had sliced into his back and evidently pierced internal organs in the fall. Unfortunately, emergency personnel responding had not initially realized how serious his condition was.

I kept interrupting Dr. Tehrani. I simply couldn’t comprehend what he was telling me. I was suspended in a moment of free-falling darkness where there is no hope, and no bottom. It is the moment when you know you are about to die, yet still live.

Adam climbing a greenhouse roof? He wouldn’t even climb a ladder--he was afraid of heights. And after all, Adam was asleep. This must be a prank call. He said he was a doctor, but he had an accent--maybe he was disguising his voice and playing a cruel trick on me.

I accused Dr. Tehrani of being a student playing a homecoming joke on me. He became quite excited, and assured me he was telling the truth.

He then proceeded to tell me the news every parent fears. The call in the middle of the night. Disbelief, shock and horror. The incomprehension, hysteria, confusion, despair--I reached out for something to hang onto so I wouldn't fall, but nothing was there.

A Mother's Worst Nightmare

“I’m so sorry, but by the time your son arrived here, he’d gone into cardiac arrest. He'd lost too much blood. We tried unsuccessfully to revive him, and he just passed away. This is a tragic, tragic accident. I don’t know the circumstances of the fall, but I’m sure the police can give you more detail. How quickly can you come here to the hospital?”

I will never forget this call. The astronomical grief, despondency, and helplessness of those moments. Does he mean my baby is dead? He said "passed away." Doesn't that mean dead? Surely, he must not mean dead. Adam is seriously injured, but he will pull through if I can just get to him. This person can't be telling me that Adam won’t be calling me as usual this Sunday night. That I’ll never see him, smell him, or hear his gentle, cheerful voice again. This person is a liar, and what did Adam ever do to have such a sadistic friend play such an evil joke on his mother?

"Is this a cruel joke? What kind of person are you?" I yelled into the telephone.

My hysteria awoke my other children. I threw the phone at my husband, Adam’s stepfather, telling him that some person was saying Adam was dead. He immediately took charge of the conversation while I wailed through the house with my two children following. The pain was agonizing and unbearable. Like a gigantic eagle claw digging into my juggler vein, it slowly, methodically, and with ever so much sadistic pleasure, moved down through my chest--tearing open flesh, muscle and bone until my very heart was exposed and bleeding, tortured by this most horrific reality.

My nine year old daughter kept screaming, "Mommy, Mommy, is Adam dead, Mommy, Mommy, Mommy no, is he?" I could bring her no comfort. I could not talk to her at all. I was near-death myself. I was broken.

My son is dead. My beloved first-born, my friend, my genius, my little man, earning his way through college. My writer. My musician. Lifeguard of Barnstable and swim instructor to thousands of Cape Cod children. Community fund-raiser with a love and compassion for life seldom found in anyone, let alone a child-- loved and admired by all. But most of all by me. My baby, this child was DEAD. DEAD. DEAD. How could this happen?

I can say that at that moment, the person I was ceased to exist.

The Events Preceding the Incident as Reported by Campus Police

The following statements list the events leading to my son’s death, as reported to me by campus police officials Chief Luippold, Sergeant LaBranch, and investigating officer Lieutenant Grabiec during several phone conversations and my visit to Amherst that week:

  • Around 1:15 a.m, Adam fell through a greenhouse roof in the center of campus, located adjacent to the Morrill Science building.
  • He left a trail of blood as he walked through the greenhouse. As the blood was short-spread, campus police estimate he wasn’t inside long before he tripped an alarm by opening a door to another section of the greenhouse. Only the doors were alarmed. The roof was not.
  • After entering this section, he kicked out a large panel of glass that was ground level and exited the building.
  • He collapsed on the grass in front of the main street that passes through the heart of the University.
  • He was found at 1:29 by the Campus Police, who responded because of the tripped alarm. They assessed him and called emergency personnel. I don’t know how long it took for them to arrive.
  • Adam was semi-conscious when questioned at the greenhouse. He said he was “Adam,” and mentioned “Rolling Green” several times, an apartment complex on the way into Amherst when entering from the south. His IDs were in his wallet, but no one had checked his pockets.
  • The rescue squad cut off his clothes because they were filled with blood, but couldn’t find the source of bleeding. Adam was resistant. Trauma packs were applied to his pelvic area, so I assume by this they realize he is in crisis.
  • The ambulance brings him to Cooley Dickinson, the closest hospital. He is not brought to the local trauma center, which isn’t much further.
  • My understanding is that he was X-rayed at Cooley Dickinson, which showed a shard of glass in his back. Before slipping into final unconsciousness, Adam identified his last name, and told them that he lived at Field dorm.
  • A second ambulance arrived at Cooley Dickinson at 3:35 AM to take him to the Bay State Medical Center in Springfield, which is the closest trauma center.
  • He went into cardiac arrest on the way to Bay State, and CPR was administered.
  • He arrived at Bay State at 4:00 a.m, where CPR was continued.
  • He was pronounced dead at 4:07 a.m.
  • I was called and notified by Dr. Tehrani at Bay State around 4:30 a.m. The coroner would have to do an autopsy, but the probable cause of deathwas loss of blood.
  • He had not been given a transfusion.

The Guilt is Overwhelming

As I’d lain sleeping peacefully that night, my son had just spent the last three hours of his life bleeding to death without his mother. No one had bothered to call me to report the incident, even though it had happened between 1 - 1:30 a.m.

I had entrusted my child to the custody of UMass on-campus housing. I had refused to let him live off-campus because he would be “safer” at the dorm. He lived on campus, at the dorm, where there were employees staffed to supervise his transition to young adulthood. How could this have happened? If one of his friends had spent the night at my home, and had suffered an injury leading to death, would it not be my responsibility to call his parents? Why, then, had I not been notified by someone at UMass? Why hadn’t I been given the opportunity to be with him as he lay dying? Had I been called initially, I may have had time to hold Adam’s hand and kiss his brow as he drew his final breath. I may have advocated successfully for him so he would have been brought to the trauma center immediately. I don’t understand. And I have never slept peacefully since.

The Facts of Planning a Death

We begin by calling those who must be notified. My boss, who tries to locate my sister and brother-in-law, vacationing on the West Coast. My cousin in Plymouth so he can notify other relatives in my sister’s absence. My three closest friends and my pastor. Dennis’s mother and brothers.

Then we begin the calls to Amherst. We started with the campus police. I called them personally, and told them I was the mother of Adam Prentice, the student who had just died. The dispatcher kept me on hold for 5-10 minutes. When he came back, he told me that the investigating officer was still at the scene, and I’d have to call back.

I requested to speak to the supervisor in charge. I was put on hold for several minutes again. This was between 6 - 7 a.m on the morning of September 27, 1997, hours after Adam had allegedly fallen. I couldn’t believe that it was so difficult to find someone to talk to. This was in relation to my child’s death as a result of an incident on UMass property, and no one would bother to tell his mother how it had happened?

Sergeant LaBranch answered the telephone, and told me that details were sketchy because Lieutenant Grabiec, the investigator, was out. He indicated that initial questioning of the individuals Adam was with last led them to believe they’d all been drinking, but it was unknown to them why Adam would have climbed onto the greenhouse.

During a later conversation with the campus police, I asked why they, or the dorm staff, hadn’t called me when the incident happened. I was told that it wasn’t “protocol--it was the hospital’s responsibility to contact me.”

Cooley Dickinson never called. And Bay State called -- to tell me he was dead.

As the police were unable to tell me what had happened, I called Adam’s dormitory room out of frustration to see if Mark, his room mate, knew. They had been friends since childhood, and must have been together. When he answered the phone, I heard other people in the room. Mark said he didn’t know where Adam was. I could tell by his voice that he probably didn’t know Adam had died.

Mark explained that he’d been on a date earlier and hadn’t been with Adam the night before. He’d heard from others that Adam had been with new dorm friends and that they’d been drinking in one of the dorm rooms before leaving for a party off campus. He didn’t know where the party had been. Mark also said that the campus police had just left his room, and they’d been looking for Adam’s ID. (It had been on his person, but no one had checked his pockets ). Mark also said that the police had questioned other dorm residents, but most had been too frightened to talk with them without knowing why they were asking, so they all pretended to be "hung over."

The police had not told Mark his childhood friend was dead. In my shock and grieving, I had to tell him. He told the others in the room with him. I heard noise and commotion. Mark told me he was so sorry, but he was too upset to talk more, and had to go. He hung up the phone. Emptiness. Disbelief. Hopes and dreams for my firstborn shattered. He could have been president, found a cure for cancer. He was dead.

Lieutenant Grabiec had not called back, so I called the campus police and was again put on hold. The dispatcher returned and said that Lt. Grabiec had just come in. He will pick up the phone momentarily.

Initial Response by Investigating Detective

The lieutenant answers the phone, and gives me the results of his preliminary investigation:

  • Adam is studying in his dormitory room.
  • Between 7-8 p.m, he joins some other students in the dorm for drinks. (I don’t know if he is asked to join, or joins voluntarily.)
  • The students interviewed say that all of them began drinking in the dorm.
  • At some point in the evening, Adam mentioned that he wasn’t feeling well.
  • No one questioned remembers what time because they had all been drinking.
  • Kim, a girl from his dorm, went out for a walk with him. I don’t know if anyone else was with them. He said he felt better, and they re-entered the dorm.
  • On their way in, they were met by a crowd of kids going to an off-campus party. The kids asked if the two wanted to join them, and they followed along.
  • No one remembers where the party was. Perhaps at Pufton Village, or the apartment complex across from it. Both are in North Amherst, and are approximately 30 minutes walking distance from the dorm.
  • No one remembers what time they arrived, at whose home the party was at, or at what time Adam left.
  • I am told that Kim and David, Adam’s new dorm friends, were “keeping an eye on him because he wasn’t acting like his regular self.” When Kim went to the bathroom, Adam allegedly left the party alone. They estimate that it must have been around 12:30 a.m, the same time I retired to bed, but no one could remember for sure.
  • The next account of Adam is at the greenhouse, when he was discovered by campus police.

Even in Grief, so many Questions

The police seemed to be comfortable with this chain of reported events. I had many questions, and found it difficult to believe they were satisfied with such sketchy details as told by so many students. As it turned out, the students were not comfortable giving the police any details because Adam had never returned home, and they didn't know why the police were questioning them about him.

In the meantime, my son was dead; yet these students didn’t seem to remember anything, nor did the police wish to press them for details, or whatever investigating was needed to make sense out of an accident that didn’t add up. Someone must remember something. Who are they protecting?

Adam was not a risk taker. He hated heights, and was visually impaired. If he was disoriented from a night of drinking, then how would he have had the balance and coordination to climb up to the roof? How could he have found his way out of the greenhouse in the dark so quickly? Wouldn’t he have collapsed on the floor where he landed, and then passed out, or tried to get out the same way he fell in? How could anyone have not seen or heard anything? If he was intoxicated, wouldn't he be falling down, not climbing up?

How could so many students who were with Adam not remember anything? It is Homecoming weekend; a beautiful, warm evening. As a graduate of UMass myself, I remember how crowded Homecoming weekend is. The bars close at 1 a.m. Everyone is walking or driving home at the time the incident occurred.

Adam was found collapsed in the center of campus, surrounded by dorms to the east and fraternity houses along the street. Surely someone must have seen him walking home, or at least heard the breaking glass.

Someone was probably even with him. I am grieving and exhausted. I must talk to these students who call themselves Adam's friends to put some semblance of closure to these unbelievable circumstances. I have no focus, and lay down on the couch.

It is 9 p.m. My friend Andrea and Dennis are with me. Also, other friends. I mourn in quiet despair, praying for answers and waiting for Adam’s body to be sent home the next day. I am drifting off from a sedative used to quiet my earlier hysteria. I ask Andrea to tape the news reports. I am ashamed that I graduated from this institution, and am feeling so guilty for sending my son there. He had wanted to go to California, but I told him it would be too dangerous.

Sunday, 9/28/97. The phone rings constantly. News has spread through town. Adam was well-known, respected and loved by his community. There is an outpouring of grief and support. Friends, my co-workers, family, Adam’s friends, his co-workers, his supervisors, and neighbors. Former teachers and coaches.

Everyone questions the incident. Nothing adds up. They look to me for answers. I tell them that the campus police say it was evidently due to drinking, and it was a one-in-one million freak accident. Still, resistance. This just wasn’t characteristic of Adam. I am asked how anyone alcohol-impaired could have the coordination to climb up onto a glass roof, and the misfortune to fall 5 short feet down at such force that a shard of glass could enter his back and make him bleed to death. Wouldn’t he fall straight down if the fall was only 5 feet?

I only know my son is dead. I am too distraught to listen to reason; too overwhelmed to believe there might be something more.

I watch the news footage with friends and family that Andrea had taped the evening before. It was the channel 8, 10 o’clock news with Tom Ellis. We all see the greenhouse. There are claw-like marks on the roof above the spot where Adam fell, as if he were reaching forward to pull himself away from something, but slipped and plummeted instead. My guests noted that it looked suspicious. I reiterated what the police had said. That was all I had to go by. At the end of the footage, a passerby student was interviewed. He also commented that he thought it, “strange Adam was on campus alone at that time of night. Generally, you’d only do something like that on a dare.” (Adam was afraid of heights.)

I need my sister. She is the only survivor left in my immediate family, and we haven’t been able to find her yet. Thankfully, my brother-in-law calls that night to check in, and is requested to contact me. I tell my sister of Adam’s death. She had been my Lamaze coach at his birth. They arrive home Monday, 9/29/97. Now that she is home, I can make arrangements to bury my baby.

The Trip to Amherst

On Tuesday, 9/30/97, I get out of bed and go to Amherst in search of the many answers to my questions. I am accompanied by Dennis, my sister and brother-in-law, my friend Andrea, and her oldest daughter.

Chief Luippold meets us, and gives us a tour of the greenhouse area. It was inconceivable to me how Adam could have fallen such a short distance and land on his back. Even if disoriented, why would he climb the roof? How could he have climbed the roof, with impaired balance? How would he have landed on his back within 5 ft? Wouldn’t he land face down? The police offered no other explanation aside from the drinking assumption. They also mentioned that they were under-staffed.

Next, we went to Field 301 to pick up Adam’s belongings. I discuss the incident with the residential peer. I ask why Adam hadn’t been supervised when he had mentioned being ill, and why so much drinking was allowed in the dorm--on University property that I had entrusted his safety to. She referred me to her supervisor, who said that she was confident everyone working that night had done their job. I requested a copy of the job descriptions for these two positions, and she referred me to JoAnne Vanin, Dean of Students, who I would be meeting next.

We proceed to Whitmore Building to meet with JoAnne. I also requested that Kay Scanlon, Director of Student Affairs, join us because she had been the spokesperson on the news footage I had at home. Investigating officer Grabiec was present.

I asked JoAnne for the job descriptions. She said she’d mail them to me by the end of the week (10/3/97, Adam’s funeral.)

I asked for a meeting with the students he’d been with that evening, and I was told they’d arrange a time and get back to me.

I asked why so much drinking was allowed on campus, in the dorms, and I was told that the police, and residential peers/assistants, couldn’t enter dorm rooms without permission. I asked why they had been permitted to drink publicly in the student lounge, and wasn't answered.

Given the fact that most dorm residents are under 21 and not even of legal age to drink, I asked how this could be possible, on state property? Again, no response.

I then asked who could answer this question, and was told that Dawn, the Director of Student Housing, would call me early the following week to answer any questions regarding dormitory rules.

Kay Scanlon joined the group. I asked about her interview with Channel 8 that Saturday night, and about the student bystander who had been interviewed. She hadn’t been present when that portion had been filmed. I told the campus police about it, and they said they’d look into getting a copy.

Everyone appeared sympathetic, but no one could imagine what happened. Adam must have been so impaired that he was unaware of what he was doing. Just like the other students he'd been with. No one had heard anything. No one had seen anything. The busiest weekend of the year. 26,000 students, plus visitors. The busiest time of the evening. Unbelievable.

I left angry, discouraged and frustrated. My son was dead. I’d invested the last 21 years into nourishing, protecting, and preparing him for this world. So much hard work. So much potential. So much pain. But no one heard or saw anything.

I spent the next three days preparing for his funeral. Shopping for caskets, flowers, clothes to wear to his burial. Clothes to bury him in that he’d like.

Observing his body before he was prepped. I was advised against this by the funeral director, but I insisted. I would see him bloody and naked out of this world as I had seen him bloody and naked into this world.

Upon arriving at the funeral home, I noticed that Adam had a large, pale yellow bruise on the left side of his face . I asked the director about it but she said he must have gotten it in the fall. After he was prepared for burial, I still noticed it, and Andrea had noted a bruise on the left side of his forehead.

Nothing added up. Adam wasn’t a risk taker. He hated heights. He loved life. He was a 4.0 honors engineering student, putting himself through school. He was a great musician, and had just completed his first demo in August. He loved people, and they loved him. He had earned more respect and recognition in his 21 years than most earn in a lifetime. He was a gifted young man with a wise old soul. He did not gamble or take risks; most especially, with his life.

On the Monday after the funeral, I started calling Amherst daily. Chief Luippold, JoAnne Vanin, Kay Scanlon, the coroner. Nancy Hellman, Dean of Engineering. Everyone wished they could help me. No one had any news. I again requested the meeting with the students and copies of the job descriptions. I asked Chief Luippold if he had seen the news footage, and was told that he was still trying to track it down.

On Tuesday, Dawn from Student Housing called. I asked my questions regarding drinking in the dorms, and was told that the students were 17++, and young adults. It was important for them to “exercise their free will.”

I asked if she was saying that my son’s “free will” was more important than his safety and life? She didn’t answer. I asked if she was comfortable in a leadership role that encouraged the breaking of state laws by allowing underaged drinking in a facility she supervised. She didn't answer.

I asked for the job descriptions within three days. (Today is 10/13. No job descriptions).

If Only...

Columbus Day Weekend. Adam should be leaving home soon to return to Amherst. He was to have come home for Columbus Day weekend. I have not see him since Labor Day, and will never see him again. I have not talked to him since 9/24, and will never talk to him again. I was supposed to be taking him shopping for winter boots and a coat. I will never take him shopping again.

Instead, I have spent the weekend planting flowers at his grave, crying, praying for comfort and direction, and experiencing the roller coaster wave of emotions only the unexplainable death of a child can bring.

My other children are scared and aching. I wish I could play with them as I used to, but it’s so hard to laugh and be tender-hearted when I’m dead inside.

Weds., 10/14. Frustrated beyond despair, I have contacted my lawyer, Attorney Jane Davis. I receive the preliminary results from Adam’s blood levels. They are low, only .12. Certainly too low to ever account for an accident of this magnitude. I receive the levels at 2:45 p.m.

At 3 p.m, I turn on the TV. It is set to Channel 7, and the Geraldo show is just beginning. I have not watched TV since Adam's death because he has received so much publicity regarding alcohol abuse; he has been linked to Scot Kreuger, who died the same day at MIT from alcohol poisoning after being force-fed alcohol during fraternity hazing.

I have only seen the Geraldo show twice before. Amazingly, it is on violence on college campuses today -- Geraldo says, "We entrust our kids to colleges and universities to complete their education, and they come home in caskets."

I watch the show, and call the contact numbers listed at the end. The woman I talked with was very familiar with UMass, and had already heard about Adam. I suddenly realize why nothing adds up. The story is just that -- a story, and terribly wrong.

So Many Other Possibilities

Adam was not a risk taker. He hated heights. According to the news footage I had, he fell with his arms outstretched and dragging downward across the roof. His long finger scratches were clearly visible.

He had fallen through at the furthermost corner of the greenhouse. There was only one reason to account for how he could have fallen so forcefully that he flipped backward within a 5-6 ft. drop when his arms were outstretched forward. He would have fallen forward, or feet first.

Unless he had been chased and cornered. Most probably, by a group of individuals with intent to assault or rob him. He was running for his life, right into the corner of the greenhouse, and the only way he could go to get away from them was up. His intent was to get away. Now that he was cornered, he’d try to crawl over the roof and on up to his dorm, at the top of the hill behind the greenhouse. Instead, he was caught, probably pulled by his leg, and as the glass broke, he fell back in.

This explains the force of his fall. He’d been running for his life. That’s why he didn’t attempt to come out the same way--because he was afraid the perpetrators were still there. He groped through the dark instead, looking for another exit--an exit he never would have thought to find had he been impaired.

Adam was only 5’3” and 135 lb. He was the perfect target for a robbery, or a rowdy homecoming crowd. He was also a sprinter who had once set track records at Barnstable High School. He never would have initiated a fight, or fought back. But he certainly would have run, as fast as possible, and he would have attempted to hurdle over any object in front of him if threatened.

At the end of the week, I share my concerns about Adam being attacked with the Chief. He says he doesn’t know what to say. He says that Adam was alone and intoxicated.

I ask that he keep the investigation open and active, and he says he will. I am nauseous with fear for my son, and the terror he must have experienced before he died.

Possible Perpetrators

  1. An individual, or crowd of individuals, returning from a party who attempted to assault or burglarize Adam.
  2. The kids he was with turned on him. This certainly explains why they “can’t remember” anything, and why they refuse to talk to me!
  3. Rolling Green - He was trying to communicate something about Rolling Green, yet, to my knowledge, no one has ever investigated the Rolling Green connection. Perhaps the kids had been there, instead of Pufton. It is on the opposite side of town, and would throw the police off their trail.
  4. His new "lady interest" may have had a jealous ex-boyfriend who stalked him.
  5. His drink may have been spiked as a joke. He was a conservative kid who worked out two hours a day, studied hard, worked hard, believed in God, and lectured frequently about not taking drugs. He was the perfect kid to try to “freak out.”
  6. He may have accidentally picked up a spiked drink that was meant for one of the ladies in his group.
  7. Rumors have spread that the fall was a result of hazing. He had not mentioned pledging to me.
  8. Perhaps he had agitated someone at the party--talked to the wrong girl, or had an argument with someone who later assaulted him. Why was there a bruise on the left side of his face?

I can’t recover until I know the truth. If I don’t recover, my family will disintegrate. This is all-consuming, and unbearable.

12/2/97 Update since journal notes above, going back to mid-October:

10/20/97 - It is almost a month since my beautiful child died. I have still not received anything I’d asked for from the campus police: police report, Adam’s clothes worn that fateful night, the crime statistics catagorized for the last five years at UMass, answers to the questions listed later in this update, identified by my attorney and I, and the police log of activities/incidents on the night of 9/26 and early morning of 9/27.

I have also asked that the campus police furnish me with the names and numbers of the individuals who had been with Adam preceding his tragic incident. I have obtained their names, but through the students themselves, who approached me at Adam’s Memorial Service at their dorm. The campus police had always maintained that they didn’t have last names, numbers or addresses. Not only had they withheld their names from me, but they had lied about being able to identify them. These students had wanted to talk to me all along, but were advised against it by the police themselves.

On 10/10/97, my attorney requested that the District Attorney’s office for the Amherst area review Adam’s case, and they accepted, putting Assistant DA Michael Goggins in charge. Mr. Goggins stated that initial inquiries were made at the time Adam died, but he would open and review the case again, and would mediate in getting answers to the questions later listed. A meeting was set for 10/23 at the UMass campus police offices.

The meeting was chaired by Assistant DA Goggins, and included Chief Luippold, detectives Grabiec and Flanders, my attorney Jane Davis, Dennis and myself. The meeting lasted 3 hours, during which time we were able to speak candidly about the probability that Adam was a victim of campus crime, that he died from loss of blood, not alcohol, and that he was by no means, according to the kids who were with him and his low blood levels of .12, intoxicated to the point of physical impairment at the time the inccident occured. These levels were only slightly above the legal limit to drive in this state, which is 1-2 drinks for an individual Adam’s size (5”3”, 130 lbs.)

Questions Presented to Assistant DA Goggins Needing Answers Now...

We again asked for the crime statistics for the last 5 years, the police report, the crime log for 9/26 and 27, and the first set of questions as listed below:

  1. Please investigate the meaing of “Rolling Green,” which Chief Luippold said Adam mentioned several times to the officers who found him initially. Chief had said this to myself and 5 other family members/friends when we went to Amherst that first week for Adam’s belongings. At the meeting, however, the Chief changed this story and stated that a nurse at Cooley Dickinson Hospital had thought Adam said Rolling Green when being questioned for his address. Rolling Green is the name of an apartment complex in Amherst, and could have significance regarding the events leading to the greenhouse fall. The campus police have never investigated this lead further.
  2. At the scene of the accident, are there photographs and reports, and why have they not been provided to us? Also, why did UMass clean and repair the site so quickly if the investigation is ongoing? (The scene was cleaned within two hours, and repaired within 24 hrs.)
  3. Please identify through the Medical Examiner the possible causes of the bruises on Adam’s left forehead and left side of his face. (She does not recall bruises to the head/face, but I saw them, as did others at Adam’s wake.) She did, however, state that there were abrasions and scrapes to other parts of his body. I don’t believe abrasions and scrapes would be indicative of a 5 ft fall through glass. Abrasions and scrapes are caused by friction against a hard surface, rug burns, or fights. After many requests, the medical examiner has yet to send the autopsy report, and it’s almost 10 weeks.
  4. Rumors have been spread on campus that Adam’s death was due to hazing. The scene is close to the fraternities. Could he have run into the wrong persons/been at the wrong place at the wrong time?--He was not interested in pledging a fraternity personally, but it was 1 AM on a mild Sept. night which happened to be Homecoming Weekend, one of the busiest events of the year, and always a time bomb waiting to explode.
  5. Can Criminalists from the DA’s office go over the photographs, tapes, reports and evidence gathered at the accident scene and try to reconstruct what happened?--To date, Mr. Goggins has requested no further follow up by his office, although he still states that he will provide us the answers we’ve requested. No one has investigated Adam’s death except the campus police--not the Amherst police, not the state police. I have consulted with a private investigator, but he has not become actively involved as yet. The campus police did not take film of the scene, and photographs were not taken until the next day. As the roof was repaired within 24 hours, no fingerprints were taken off the glass, Adam’s clothes were never sent out for blood typing or hair samples. As no blood was typed from the greenhouse floor, Adam, or his clothes, I don’t know how anyone could investigate independently. Mr. Goggins did say that he would have the state police crime lab check the clothes, but now it’s 5 weeks after the fact, and the clothes had been stored “in a pile somewhere.”
  6. Please provide the names of any persons, students or otherwise, who have been interviewed or questioned about Adam’s death. (None provided so far.)
  7. Please provide the name of the alarm company which alarmed the greenhouse where the accident occurred. (We have the alarm report, but not the company. 4 alarms were tripped at the time of Adam’s accident.
  8. Were there any incidents of violent crime on the night of 9/26, or the morning of 9/27, at UMass or near by? (The police log reports many suspicious incidents, and one is actually confirmed in Adam’s individual report. Yet, now the police say these incidents are unfounded. 20 minutes after Adam was found, another man from John Adams dorm was reported to be bleeding profusely from the arm and hand. This report was received from an anonymous caller. This caller stated that the man needed an ambulance to the hospital. (The same hospital Adam had just been brought to.)
  9. The police state that this man was unconnected to Adam because “someone had heard” the glass breaking on the window he’d punched out. My question is, did anyone see him? If he’d just been involved in Adam’s fall, he’d need an alibi to explain his cuts, and could have intentionally punched or kicked the window out if no witnesses. If there were witnesses, I want to know who; if there weren’t, I want to know where he’d been at 12:30-1:30, and who can confirm he’d been there? I find it suspicious that two students can be cut by glass seriously enough to warrant hospitalization at the same time of the night from the same location! I also find it suspicious that the caller wished to remain anonymous.
  10. Were there any persons treated for cuts, bruises, or abrasions as if from an attack or fight at University health services, Cooley Dickinson, or any other nearby services on the night of 9/26, or morning of 9/27?
  11. Why was Adam Prentice described as being resistant and combative throughout the evening? This is a normal reaction to shock and loss of blood.

Broken Promises

During the meeting, Mr. Goggins stated that these answers would be forwarded to us (to date, they have not). He requested that my lawyer receive a copy of the police report and activity log for 9/26-27, and she in turn made me a copy. We were given dorm policies, rules and regulations, and requested to contact him after reviewing the report with additional questions. We left the meeting more frustrated than ever because it was obvious that Mr. Goggins felt the campus police were handling the investigation acceptably.

For the next week, both Jane and I reviewed the police reports, and were shocked by the inconsistencies, subjective style of reporting, and discriminatory treatment directed toward Adam as he slowly lay dying in front of them. It was obvious that the police believed him to be a drunk kid doing something stupid and malicious over homecoming weekend. The report continually states that he was combative. They attribute his combativeness to being “loaded.” Even I, with limited first aid training as a Personal Trainer and fitness professional, know that one of the first signs of trauma and blood loss is deprivation of blood to the brain, which causes delirium and thrashing/combativeness. How can the police and emergency personnel responding to the scene overlook this?

They themselves state that he is so soaked in blood they cut his clothes off, leaving him naked in the center of campus with so much vehicular and pedestrian traffic that two cruisers need to direct it? I want to know why my son was treated as a suspect first, rather than an a victim with an obvious life-threatening injury? I want to know why the campus police didn’t ensure that one of their students who lived on campus, and who was injured on campus, was not immediately rushed to the trauma center?

I had entrusted my child’s safety and transition from teen to young adulthood to the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. Yet, they never bothered to call me to report Adam’s injury. I wasn’t even given the opportunity to say goodbye to my beloved son. Instead, Bay State Medical Center called to tell me he’d just passed away, and I’d need to get details from UMass campus police.

Yet, when I called them, no one would offer any information. I was told I’d “have to call back.” My son is dead, and I’d have to call back! I did call back 1/2 hr. later, and was given the same information.

I had to call Mark Pratt, Adam’s room mate and childhood friend, who didn’t know Adam had died, but was able to tell me about Adam the night before.

When I asked to know why I hadn't been called, the police told me that it “wasn’t protocol - that they left that sort of thing up to the hospitals.” They also said they didn’t find out Adam’s full identity until he was at Cooley Dickinson (still 2 hrs. before his death.) Yet, his picture ID was in his back pocket. And they'd completed the CORI check based on information Adam himself had provided.

Other Concerns

  1. Barbara Hannifan, mother of Tom Hannifan, a friend and soccer team mate of Adam’s, told me on 11/28/97 that Dr. Neil Ringler, dentist and father of Mark Ringler, another soccer team mate, heard from Amherst that first week that Adam had been chased and pushed. Barbara said she’d get confirmation, and call me.
  2. Mark Pratt and Jill Martins’ character testimonies re: Adam were lengthy, and encompassed the real Adam profile from childhood up. Yet, the police chose to manipulate wording down to a few paragraphs of drinking instead. Nothing was mentioned about their character statements. Jill had stated that Adam would never have gone onto that roof by himself, for any reason, in any state. She’d spent 45-60 min. with them, but in the report, their only statement about this interview says that “Jill Martins says that Adam was a weekend partier.”
  3. A statement pleading for the anonymous callers to come forward needs to be made. If people realize that the investigation is open, and that the investigators want info. on possibilities regarding the accident aside from “drunk and alone,” they might choose to call again. They’d obviously wanted to relay their info. before, but campus police never bothered to follow up until DA’s office asked. Now they need to follow up further to get those leads back. If they won’t immediately, then I would like to. This week! School will be out in 2 weeks, and these witnesses might be leaving the area. My phone can be publicized. I will offer a reward, and the individuals can remain anonymous to the public. Please address this now, it is most urgent!
  4. Meg Guimond spent the entire summer with Adam--almost every night. She never saw him drink!
  5. Kim’s handwritten statement doesn’t mention certain things that the police summary of her statement mentions. Why weren’t any of these interviews taped? Especially those interviewed who did not hand write their statements (like Mark and Jill)?
  6. I want Adam’s clothes tested for hair samples, blood, etc, then I want them back. Do not dispose of them.
  7. Can we set up interviews with Pat Johnson now (Springfield Union?) Also, Cape Cod Times, Barnstable Patriot (Adam has a friend there who is an intern), and perhaps Jack Sullivan from the Herald? Perhaps the Collegian, too--especially for the reward/info.
  8. I want the police written protocol of how accidents are reported regarding students living on campus. I want the dates and Board of Director’s approval/sign off of when these policies were instituted. I’d appreciate this immediately, as it was requested a month ago.
  9. Review web site.
  10. I believe that the students who were with Adam that night, as based on the statement by one of the anonymous callers to the Gazette, need to be questioned separately, and in detail. They may have been there.
  11. Mark Pratt told me at Thanksgiving that the kids who were with Adam that night have been avoiding him ever since it happened. He wasn’t even told about the Memorial on 10/18, nor was anyone else aside from the students with him that night themselves. Mark found out the night before. I’d been informed 2 weeks before by JoAnne Vanin, Dean of Students. It was never publicized in the student newspaper. How could anyone attend if no one knew?
  12. I’d always wondered why none of Adam’s Cape Cod friends were there, and why there was such a small turnout. Why was the Chancellor informed and present, who’d never even bothered to send me a sympathy card? (Nor did President Bulger). None of Adam’s Cape Cod friends who go to UMass were informed. The Collegian never announced it. Mark went to their office to ask why, and was told that they had never been informed! WHY was there so much secrecy regarding Adam’s memorial? To the point of being disrespectful!
  13. I want copies of all radio transmissions regarding Adam’s accident:
    • Alarm to police.
    • Police to Amherst Fire Dept. and back to police department.
    • Amherst Fire Dept. to supervisor, and back and forth to CDH.