NFL player accused of killing 6 in York County had ‘unusually severe’ stage II CTE, brain test shows

State - Regional

ROCK HILL, S.C. (FOX 46 CHARLOTTE) – Former NFL player Phillip Adams, the man accused of shooting six people to death at a home near Rock Hill before killing himself in April, had “unusually severe” stage II CTE, according to brain test results.

On April 7, authorities said Adams killed Dr. Robert Lesslie, 70, his wife, Barbara Lesslie, 69, their two grandchildren, Adah Lesslie, 9, and Noah Lesslie, 5, at Dr. Lesslie’s home on Marshal Road.

Two HVAC contractors working outside of the Lesslie home, James Lewis, 38, and Robert Shook, 38, were also shot by Adams, investigators said. Lewis died on the scene.

Shook was taken to the hospital in critical condition before he died from his injuries. His family told FOX 46 he was shot at least six times.

Days after the shooting, the York County Coroner’s Office said Adams’ brain would be studied for CTE, a degenerative brain disease linked to violent mood swings and cognitive decline, including dementia.

During his NFL career, Adams suffered at least two concussions over the course of three games in 2012. Researchers at Boston University worked with the York County Coroner’s office to see if Adams had any brain damage.

Dr. Ann McKee with Boston University confirmed the study of Adams’ brain showed he had bilateral stage II CTE

McKee said Adams was likely experiencing “progressive cognitive behavioral abnormalities” that increased over time.

The doctor said Adams’ case was different from most stage II CTE patients in that his was “unusually severe in both frontal lobes,” comparing his results to Aaron Hernandez.

According to McKee, stage II CTE leads to poor impulse control, poor decision making and paranoia. She added that it could lower the threshold for a person to commit a homicidal act.

McKee said that football put Adams at risk and that his brain injuries “definitely” came from 20 years of contact football.

York County Coroner Sabrina Gast said the results give investigators a small piece of a puzzle that is still under investigation.

The NFL player’s family said his mental health had degraded “fast and terribly bad.” According to the family, Adams said he was suffering from excruciating pain, memory issues and had difficulty sleeping.

He was reportedly fighting a disability claim with the NFL. The family said his requests for help were denied.

Lisa McHale, the director of family relations with the Concussion Legacy Foundation at Boston University, said it was shocking to hear how serious Adams’ condition was.
“We want people to understand this could happen to anyone,” she said.

Phillip Adams’ family released the following statement about the test’s findings:

“As we process these results, we are deeply saddened by the events that occurred on April 7 and we continue to pray for the families of the victims. We are pleased to have a better understanding of the mental turmoil that Phillip was dealing with during the last moments of his life. We cannot say that we are surprised by these results, however, it is shocking to hear how severe is condition was.

After going through his medical records from his football career, we do know that he was desperately seeking help from the NFL but was denied all claims due to his inability to remember things and to handle seemingly simple tasks such as traveling hours away to see doctors and going through extensive evaluations. We now know that these deficits were most likely caused by the disease.

By participating in the research process, we hope to bring awareness to this condition so that players young and old can understand the risks. We will continue to advocate for any research that can prevent any other families from having to endure this type of tragedy. We want people to understand that this could happen to anyone. Phillip is not the first to battle with this disease and he will not be the last. Thank you so much to Boston University, the Concussion Legacy Founding, the VA and all of the folks that have helped us and many other families to get these much-needed answers.”

Statement from the Shook Family:

“Holly SHook and the SHook children continue to grieve the loss of Robert, a devoted husband, and beloved father. Holly hopes to find answers that will prevent similar tragic outcomes.”

Statement from the Lesslie Family:

“On behalf of the families of Robert, Barbara, Adah, and Noah Lesslie, we would like to officer the following statement regarding the results of the CTE analysis.

These eight months have been unimaginably difficult. Even in the midst of crushing heartbreak, we are finding some comfort in the CTE results and the explanation they provide for the irrational behaviors pertaining to this tragedy. We are grateful for all of those who are working to continue to shine a light on anything that can help prevent this kind of nightmare from happening to other families.

Those who sow with tears will reap with songs of joy. Those who go out weeping, carrying seed to sow, will return with the songs of joy, carrying sheaves with them. Psalm 126:5-6

Thank you for your prayers of support. We continue to grieve as those with hope.

Lori Alexander, Amy Kulbok, Robbie Lesslie, and Jeff and Katie Lesslie.”

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