thomas-d-adkins-for-iccCourtesy photo Kaylea Adkins
Thomas DeWayne Adkins

Thomas DeWayne Adkins

Undetermined (Likely Homicide)

Thomas DeWayne “Ernie” Adkins
29 YOA
Home Residence: Fairfield, Jefferson County
Crime Area:
Van Buren Wildlife Area
Douds, Iowa
Van Buren County
Jurisdiction: Van Buren County
September 14, 1985

 

There has never been a question as to who killed 29-year-old Thomas DeWayne Adkins of Fairfield, Iowa. His best friend, Robert Alan Tisor, 24, also of Fairfield, shot Adkins in the head at 7:30 a.m. Saturday, Sept. 14, 1985, after the two had gone to hunt squirrels at the Van Buren Wildlife Area — a 480-acre state-owned wilderness area 2-1/2 miles northwest of Douds, Iowa.

Van Buren County Sheriff Hugh HardinCourtesy photo Mort Gaines
Van Buren County Sheriff Hugh Hardin headed up the investigation in Thomas Adkins’ death.

Tisor allegedly fired his .22 caliber Ruger four separate times before the fifth shot hit Adkins in the head. Tisor said he’d mistaken Adkins — who had a long ponytail and wore a ball cap — for a squirrel.

The Van Buren County Sheriff’s Office and the Iowa Conservation Commission investigated the shooting, which Tisor told them was an “accident.”

Tisor provided conflicting accounts of what happened that morning and in the hours immediately after the shooting, including one version where he told Van Buren County Sheriff Hugh Hardin that after he’d shot Adkins, Adkins had “patted his pocket” to indicate where Tisor could find the keys to Adkins’ vehicle.

Van Buren County, Iowa

Van Buren County in Iowa

Tisor’s allegations proved inconsistent with a report filed by Johnson County Medical Examiner Dr. T.T. Bozek, who described in detail the craniocerebral trauma to Adkins’ brain and skull caused by the gunshot wound to Adkins’ head.

Adkins would be dead by early afternoon.

Thomas Adkins worked as a molder for Dexter Foundry in Dexter, Iowa, and lived in Fairfield at 608 W. Adams with his wife, Sherri, and the couple’s two children, 2-year-old daughter, Kaylea, and 6-year-old son, Christopher.

thomas-sherri-christopher-adkinsCourtesy photo Kaylea Adkins
Thomas Adkins with his wife, Sherri, and son, Christopher.

Family members still recall the shocking aftermath in the hours, days, and months following Adkins’ death.

In the hours following Saturday’s shooting, Adkins received emergency treatment from Douds First Responders and Van Buren County Memorial Hospital before being transferred by Air Care Helicopter to University Hospitals in Iowa City where he died.

Dr. Bozek lists Adkins’ actual time of death as 2:26 p.m.

thomas-adkins-familyCourtesy photo Kaylea Adkins
Thomas Adkins is shown here with his wife, Sherri, son Christopher, and newborn baby girl, Kaylea.

Immediately following Adkins’ transportation to Van Buren County Memorial Hospital, Tisor took off in Adkins’ car and stayed gone for several hours. During that time, he thoroughly cleaned out Adkins’ vehicle.

Adkins had kept a small amount of marijuana in his car, but when Tisor finally returned with the vehicle, both the marijuana and Adkins’ wallet were missing.

Des Moines Register date

Courtesy The Des Moines Register, Sept. 15, 1985

Sherri Adkins eventually began a relationship with her late husband’s co-worker.

A clear or present danger?

Adkins’ daughter, Kaylea Adkins, told Iowa Cold Cases she contacted the sheriff’s office for reports on her father’s death and was told the death had been ruled accidental and that the files had been thrown out since it had been longer than 10 years.

Kaylea Adkins obtained a copy of her father’s preliminary death certificate* (dated Sept. 25, 1985) and a 2-page autopsy report (dated Dec. 3, 1985), but said her brother, Christopher Adkins, told her he’d seen additional paperwork and photos accompanying the autopsy report. Kaylea told Iowa Cold Cases she’d recently spoken to the medical examiner’s office, who told her she couldn’t get “the rest of it” without a court subpoena.

NOTE: Under Iowa Code Sec. 22.7(41), “…autopsy reports shall be released to the decedent’s immediate next of kin upon the request of the decedent’s immediate next of kin unless disclosure to the decedent’s immediate next of kin would jeopardize an investigation or pose a clear and present danger to the public safety or the safety of an individual. Information regarding the cause and manner of death shall not be kept confidential under this subsection unless disclosure would jeopardize an investigation or pose a clear and present danger to the public safety or the safety of an individual.

There is a twist of irony here: if a local jurisdiction (i.e. the city or county investigating agency) considers a death “accidental,” there is no ongoing investigation to “jeopardize” and no reason to believe the release of autopsy reports to the decedent’s immediate next of kin would pose a clear or present danger to the public safety or the safety of an individual.

*The “Certificate of Death” noted above clearly states the cause of death as a) Craniocerebral Trauma, b) Gun Shot wound to the head, but under manner of death (e.g. to specify ACCIDENT, SUICIDE, HOMICIDE, OR UNDETERMINED) the certificate states: Pending.

Furthermore, the short 2-page (12/3/85) autopsy report, while focusing on “Gross and Microscopic Findings” and “Postmortem Laboratory Results,” seems to subtly hint foul play may have played a role in Adkins’ death.

One possible explanation for the medical examiner office’s [legal] refusal to comply with Iowa Code Sec. 22.7 may be that the medical examiner’s official ruling on manner of death differed from how the local investigating agency chose to classify the death (e.g. Homicide vs. Accidental death).

The SPECIMENS section in Adkins’ autopsy report (listed under POSTMORTEM LABORATORY RESULTS) states that a temporal lobe bullet fragment was released to “Hugh Hardin from the Van Buren Sheriff Department.”

About Thomas “Ernie” Adkins
thomas-dewayne-adkinsCourtesy photo Kaylea Adkins
Thomas DeWayne Adkins

Thomas DeWayne “Ernie” Adkins was born March 2, 1956 in Fairfield, Iowa, to Lowell and Doris Medaris Adkins. Reared in Lockridge, he’d lived in Fairfield since graduating from Fairfield High School in 1975.

Ernie worked as a molder at the Dexter Foundry and belonged to the Free Methodist Church.

He married Sherri Shondel in Fairfield on Nov. 24, 1981.

He died at University Hospitals and Clinics in Iowa City on Saturday, Sept. 14, 1985, from a gunshot wound to the head sustained earlier that day.

Johnson County Medical Examiner Dr. T.T. Bozek ruled manner of death as “Pending.”

The Raymond Funeral Home in Fairfield handled arrangements.

Courtesy photo Richard K. Thompson
Thomas Adkins is buried in Evergreen Cemetery in Fairfield, Iowa

Services were held at 1:30 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 18, 1985 at Free Methodist Church with the Rev. Charles Kaufmann and the Rev. Andrew Daub officiating.

Visitation was held from 7 to 8 p.m. Tuesday at Raymond Funeral Home.

In addition to his wife, Tom’s survivors included two children, Kaylea, 2, and Christopher, 6; his parents of Phoenix, Ariz.; two brothers, Mike of Lockridge, Roger of Germanville; one sister, Linda Daub of Vinton, and his maternal grandparents, Stanley and Dorothy Medaris of Farmington. His maternal grandmother and paternal grandparents preceded him in death.

Tom Adkins is buried in Evergreen Cemetery in Fairfield in Jefferson County.

Information Needed

If you have any information about Thomas Adkins’ suspicious death, please contact the Van Buren County Sheriff’s Office at (319) 293-3426.

Sources and References:

25 Responses to Thomas Adkins

  1. How on earth did the police buy the story of him looking like a squirrel? The widow remarries in less than 2 months? His car was taken for a ‘few hours’ and his wallet was stolen? Good grief. This case needs to be reopened.

  2. Kathleen Peiffer says:

    I’d like to know if Tisor took the truck and immediately reported the shooting-the wording in this article doesn’t make that clear…How was he able to take Tom’s truck for a long period of time??

  3. Traci Adkins says:

    I am unsure where the thought that Sherri married his coworker came from, but they were never married, unless you consider common law.

  4. Art VanDelay says:

    Did some time with Rob recently, he confessed to killing his “Best friend”..after an argument. I thought it was just tough talk.

    • Kaylea Adkins says:

      Art, please contact Brad Hudson at the Van Buren County sheriff department! 319-293-3426. It would mean so much to me and my family!!

    • Sherri adkins says:

      What was the arguement over .. I know rob was high on dope the nught before and linda said rob killed a cat…and. Saw fear in her face…rob always acted funny when me and kids saw him. Nervous and wouldnt look at us in face. He took my LIFE… I want to confront him so bad i have words i wanta say to him in person

  5. Sherri adkins says:

    I like to say i am toms wife … And. Whoever put stuff on here about me needs to be removed ..you put things on here that wasnt true with out hard facts.. Exspeacily tom having weed in car to me getting with co work 2 months after his death i think before things get printed that you should get hard facts not bye others telling you lies this could. End up in a law suit… I even had you remove where someone said i had my husband killed .. I think you should get facts instead of hear say thank you

  6. Sherri adkins says:

    Oh and another thing i kept my mouth shut due to toms brother is married to rob tisors sister… So this can cause big problems as well not just for me toms kids and grandkids

  7. Art VanDelay says:

    I don’t know what the argument was about or that his best friend was Ernie!! I wasn’t living in town when all this went down. I didn’t move back till 04. I decided to look up some of my old party buddies last week….that’s how I found this site

    • Kaylea Adkins says:

      Again, please contact the Van Buren County sheriff department. If you want to help the family, I would rather you contact the authorities so that justice can be served! It’s heartbreaking to know that someone may have information but would rather comment anonymously instead of going to authorities. PLEASE!!!

      • Art VanDelay says:

        I don’t talk to Cops….EVER

        • Sherri adkins says:

          Then your. Helping rob tisor get away with murder

        • Sherri adkins says:

          Art my kuds were 2 and 5years old when rob took their dads lufe.. Think if theses were your kids dont you think they deserve a closer.. Missing their father and grow up with out you… Then they have grandkids that dont even know you. Were your kids have no MEMORY of you…im sure your a father yourself so look your kids in the face and say. You dont deserve it…..could you actually turn the other cheek. Or have A FRIEND HOLD INFORMATION THAT COULD LEAD TO THE MURDER OF YOU…ROB DONT HAVE TO KNOW YOU CAN CALL THE POLICE MY DAUGHTER GAVE YOU THE NUMBER… ROB TOOK ALOT AWAY FROM ME AND MY CHILDREN ..THEIR. FATHER WAS MURDERED YOU KNOW IT I KNOW IT… PLEASE BE THE GRACE OF GOD. FIND THAT SPOT IN YOUR HEART AND GAVE MY CHILDREN THIS BLESSING ON PUTTING ROB WHERE HE BELONGS I KNOW IT WONT BRING THEIR DAD BACK BUT IM SURE IT BRING PEACE TO THEM…PLEASE I BEG YOU IN THE NAME OF GOD HIS SON PLEASE MAKE THAT CALL…IF YOUR ANY MAN AT ALL YOU DO RIGHT THING .. THANK YOU ART FOR ATLEAST READING THIS ITS UP TO YOU. OK BUT I PRAY YOU DO WHAT GOD LEADS YOU TO…MAKE THE CHOICE .. ITS UP TO YOU BUT DONT LET YOUR HANDS BECOME JUST AS DIRTY. AS ROB TISORS

          • Traci says:

            Sherri, do you not realize that this person is most likely a liar? Art Vandelay is an alias. It is a name from the Seinfeld show. This person is most likely taking this tragedy and messing with everyone’s emotions. :(

            • Sherri adkins says:

              I hope whoever it is traci ..either steps up who info ..and if he kieing gets what whoever it is. GOD PUNISHES FOR THIS .. I WANT ROB CAUGHT MORE THEN MY KIDS DO ITS ASHAME THIS IDIOT IS PLAYING WITH REAL LIFES… I PRAY TOM GOD. LEADS. THE RIGHT. INFO TO POLICE TOM DESERVES THIS WE DESERVE THIS

  8. Art VanDelay says:

    Ok..that’s enough! I don’t trust the law for good reason. I put an alias up for that very same reason. I liked your old man, he was always good people to me. I thought you had a right to know what Rob had said. I will call, But let me do it on my time. I need no more legal troubles!!

    • Sherri adkins says:

      Every one loved. TOM….art. As you know if you was his friends. You got the chance to know him where my kuds and grandkids didnt my son may have a few memorys but toms daughter dont. They miss him you know.. We all miss him… Please if tom meant anything to you DO IT FOR HIM OK.. PLEASE DONT HURT MY KIDS AND MAKE THEM WAIT ANY LONGER…OR LONG…WHAT A BLESSING YOU WOULD BRING THEM .. I KNOW TOM LOOKS OVER THEM… I CAN UNDERSTAND .. YOU USING ANOTHER NAME .. AND YOU DONT GOT TO SAY WHO U ARE BUT. WHOEVER YOU ARE I THANK YOU MY KUDS THANK YOU AND MOST OF ALL TOM THANKS YOU…I HAVE PRAYED. FOR THIS DAY TO COME ART…AND I THINK TOM PUT YOU ..THERE FOR A REASON..GOD BROUGHT YOU FOR A REASON..TO BRING JUSTICE. TO US …30 SOME YEARS CARRYING. THIS HURT IN OUR HEARTS. AND NO CLOSER I RATHER DIE WITH A SMILE ON MY FACE KNOWING WE GOT ROB. THEN. DIEING LETTING HIM GO FOR THE LIFE HE TOOK.. TOM DIDNT GET THAT LIFE TO ENJOY HIS FAMILY HOLDING HIS SON AND DAUGHTER SEEING THE BIRTH OF HIS GRANDCHILDREN… WHERE ONE LOOKS JUST LIKE HIM. AND ONE ACTS JYST LIKE HIM.. PLEASE BRING A CLOSER TO THEM TOO AND KNOWING GRANDPA TOM S LIFE. WASNT FOR NOTHING BUT FOR SOMETHING HIS KIDS HIS GRANDKIDS.. AND YOU CAN STAND UP FOR TOM TALK FOR HIM AND SAY FOR YOYRSELF.I DID IT FOR HIM… I DID IT FOR MY FRIEND TOM..HIS CLISER I HOLD IN MY HANDS TIME TO LET IT GO ART…GOD BLESS YOU ART AND THANK YOU. ..IL BE WAITING TO HEAR TOMS CASE IS NOW CLOSED

      • Sherri adkins says:

        One more thing art .. You talk to poluce ok. Im sure myself and kids will not let u get in trouble for this ok. I promise you this… Just tell the truth ok..i promise you no trouble

        • Sherri adkins says:

          I been waiting on the day for rob tisor to suffer just like he made me suffer over 30 years…from the time i had to say goodbye to my husband til when i read. What you said art. When i read it.. I cryed and said out loud. Tom we got him…i want Rob to suffer like he had tom suffer. Leaving tom out in the field. Laying there. Leaving toms body and taking off. Un til the police took him in. Hours he took our car hpurs. He may have left tom ALONE in that field..il always remember that day when his wife looks at me and charles kaufman and says to us rob did it i know he did it…his own wife…il never forget the day tom left us not because he wanted to because rob made that choice for him..i never forget the day i had to exsplain to a 2 year old and 5 year old daddys not comming home…SO YES I WAITED AND WAITED AND I PROMISED TOM. I WILL NOT GIVE UP ..I WANT THIS. NOT FOR MYSELF BUT FOR TOM.. HIS LIFE IS GOING ON THRU HIS KIDS AND GRANDKIDS. AND IM SHARE IF ANY MEMORY YOU HAVE IS. ONE TOM LEAVES IN YOUR HEART IN MIND.. I HOPE YOU UNDERSTAND MY KIDS ARE HOPING. PRAYING. WE GOT DADDYS MURDER THRU YOU… IM SURE THE WAITING IS KILLING THEM INSIDE. YOU THOUGHT THEM HOPE ..ART..HELP THEM REMOVE THE HURTING NOW AND FOR TOM WIPE THESES TEARS FROM HIS CHILDRENS EYES… YOU CAN BE A HERO TO THEM YOU KNOW ..TOMS KIDS ARE GOOD KIDS. YOUD LIKE THEM.. IM SURE ..DONT TAKE TO LONG WE NOT GONA PUSH YOU YOUR RIGHT ITS YOUR TIMMING BUT IM SURE YOU WILL DO IT SOON… I DONT KNOW WHO YOU ARE.. BUT YOU MEAN THE WORLD TO ME FOR STEPPING UP… JYST LOOK AT YOUR KIDS AND THANK GOD THEY DONT HAVE TO GO THRU WHAT MINE DID OK..MAY GOD BE WITH U WHEN YOU MAKE THAT CALL .. I THANK YOU MY KIDS THANK YOU AND. I WOULD BACK YOU. TO KEEP YOUR REAL NAME OUT OF ANYTHING I WILL MAKE SURE YOUR INFO STAYS. WITH IN THE POLUCE AND OUR FAMILY.. IM SURE MY SON WOULD BE RIGHT WITH YOU IF YOU NEEDED SOMEONE TO GO WITH YOU TO MAKE SURE YOU LEAVE THE POLUCE STATION. IF ITS WHAT YOUR WORRIED ABOUT YOU CANT GO TO JAIL FOR TELLING THETRUTH.. GOD WILL BE WITH YOU AS WELL .. BECAUSE HIS CHILD IS TOM.. AND YOUR HIS BROTHER THRU CHRIST PKEASE REMEMBER THIS WHEN YOU MAKE THAT CALL GOD BLESS ART OR WHOEVER YOU ARE IL BE PRAYING FOR U AS WELL

    • Traci says:

      Okay, but I’m confused. You knew Tom and you recently did time with Tisor? So this is a little more personal for you considering you also knew Tom. I can promise you that there is absolutely no judgement towards you for what you have done, why you don’t like the police, or anything. However, this might be the one time they can do something good for a family and that information rest with you. Please help ease the minds and hearts of my husbands family. I understand wanting to do it on your own time. Build up the courage. I can assure you that once you’re done, it will feel good knowing you did the right thing.

  9. Sherri adkins says:

    Thank you for letting me know art or whoever you are. What rob told you… And traci is right… If you cant do it for you do it for. Tom… His kids myself. We arent mad at you nor. Accusing you im sure you understand if it was your family. Going threw. What we did you be same way…i believe this is GODS TIMMING. AND GOD SENT YOU AS THE MESSAGER..TIME TO. TAKE THAT MESSAGE TO WHERE IT NEEDS TO. GO.. I WISH I KNEW WHO YOU ARE … ID GAVE YOU MY NUMBER I DONT KNOW IF WE EVER MET I KEEP RUNNING THRU MY HEAD .. WHO U MIGHT BE.. PLEASE. I BEG YOU TOM YOU SAID WAS GOOD PEOPLE GOOD TO YOU REPAY THAT BACK TO HIM.. He cant stand up. For him self it takes YOU ART IT TAKES ME AND HIS KIDS AND GRANDKIDS ..TO ME YOU WILL BE MY HERO.. TO ME I WOULD OWE YOU ..I. FEEL YOU GOTTA HEART AND MAY BE SCARED BUT. … I WILL STAND BESIDE YOU .. I WISH YOU COULD SEE MY KIDS AND FACE THEM. MY GRANNDKIDS. AND LOOK IN THEIR EYES BECAUSE THRU THEM YOU WILL SEE TOM..YOUR FRIEND …ASKING YOU TO GO TELL.. HELP MY FAMILY….. THINK OF TOM OK ART. THINK ABOUT THE LAST TIME YOU SAW HIM…THE LAST CONVERSATION YOU HAD WITH HIM..32 YEARS AGO AND I REMEMBER. TOM AND MINE… I REMEMBER HOW HE KAID HIS KIDS DOWN AND KISSED THEM. GOODNIGHT .. AND TOLD THEM HE LOVED THEM.. I WISH MY KIDS COULD ATLEAST REMEMBER THAT PART. OF ALL MEMORY THEY COULD HAVE. ..BUT YOU GOT MEMORYS OF TOM LIKE I DO… GIVE THEM THIS MEMORY OF HELPING THEM. PLEASE FIND IN YOUR HEART. THIS LITTLE LEAD YOU HOLD IN YOUR HANDS. CAN FINALLY BRING. CLOSER TO TOMS CHILDREN HELP US. LET TOM REST IN PEACE HE DIDNT. DESERVE THIS .. I KNOW GOD WILL BRING TRUTH AND I PRAY YOU ARE THE TRUTH HE SENT US… THANKS AGAIN

Comment Policy

We encourage thoughtful discussion here but ask that comments remain civilized and constructive … i.e. without personal attacks or name-calling. Be respectful of others and remember that victims' family members visit these pages, too. If you'd like to provide us with information regarding a suspect or have other sensitive details to relay, please email us directly. Thank you in advance.

Share Your Thoughts