|This case has remained unsolved for 30 years, 0 months, and 27 days.|
By most accounts, Adam Emery was the last sort of person who would end up in trouble. He’d never been in trouble with the law, was well-liked by friends, and was happily married, living in Rhode Island (RI). One August evening however, everything changed.
A car hit his Ford Thunderbird, and Emery gave chase. The chase ended up with him stabbing the driver, and he was eventually convicted of second-degree murder. Then he and his wife vanished from the Claiborne Pell Newport Bridge, leaving behind a trail of strange clues and mysterious circumstances.
Despite extensive searches by law enforcement and private investigators, Emery has never been found, and his disappearance remains a puzzling unsolved case. With no definitive evidence or leads, this case continues to baffle investigators and leave everyone searching for answers. What really happened to convicted murderer Adam Emery?
Table of Contents
It was a hot summer evening on August 31, 1990 in Rocky Point, RI. Adam and Elena Emery were eating dinner with another couple in a local restaurant when someone sideswiped Adam’s 1985 Ford Thunderbird which was parked outside. Instead of stopping and leaving their insurance information, the car sped off, leaving the Emerys to deal with the consequences of the accident.
It’s important to understand that Adam Emery held his car in high esteem; it was likely his most important possession. He saw a car pulling out of the parking lot and, thinking it was the car that had broken his Thunderbird’s tail light, he and Elena got into his damaged car and gave chase.
For around 1.7 miles, they followed the car until they got it to stop by flashing their headlights. The car stopped, and Emery got out of his car. He told police that he said to the other driver, “I just want to talk. You hit my car.”
According to Emery, he tried to reach in and turn off the ignition, but the men in the car were frightened and began trying to back up, putting the car into reverse. With Emery’s body half-hanging out of the car, it was driven in reverse for about 1,200 feet. He told the men he had a knife and that they should stop the car.
“I’m feeling I have no way out. I had to react. I had to do something… They didn’t heed my warning,” Adam said at his trial of the incident. He allegedly ended up stabbing the driver several times, and the car hit a boulder and finally came to an abrupt stop.
The Other Side of the Story
20-year-old Jason Bass was driving his cousin, Joshua Post (also age 20), in Post’s 1975 Ford LTD. They were heading to pick up a friend and then possibly head home for dinner — meatloaf and mashed potatoes. But they never arrived.
From the cousins’ perspective, they were headed toward the nearby Rocky Point Amusement Park where their friend worked when a car began following theirs, flashing its lights and driving erratically. They didn’t pull over for a while because they weren’t sure what to do.
Eventually, they pulled over, but Post said that he was afraid, thinking that whoever was in the other car was looking for a fight. Then, a man they’d never seen before came running at them, screaming. Post said of the encounter:
“He got out of his car, yelling and screaming that, ‘We’ll kick your butt! I’m gonna kill you!’ Major fighting words. Unbelievably, this guy was so mad and I’ve never seen anybody madder than this.”Joshua Post (Source: Unsolved)
The two in the car had no idea what Emery was talking about, and were confused and scared. Emery allegedly jumped on the hood of Bass’ car and began trying to slash at him with the knife. Bass put the car into reverse and tried to flee, but he’d already been stabbed through the heart and he died a short time later.
An Off-Duty Lawman Arrives Almost Instantly
A nearby off-duty police detective, Kevin Hopkins, heard a car crash. He told his wife to call 911, then hopped in his cruiser and headed to the nearby scene, trying to help anyone who had been involved in the accident: “I drove up the street to help the people involved in the accident and that’s when I just happened to come upon the murder of Jason Bass.” Later, Hopkins would be assigned to be the lead investigator on the case.
When Hopkins went over to Bass’ car, he saw that Bass was suffering from a stab wound near his heart. Nearby, Emery was allegedly drinking a glass of water, and he told Hopkins, “I did it.” Warwick authorities arrived not long after and arrested Emery.
Emery’s Family & Friends Stunned
Friends and family of Adam Emery were stunned that he’d been arrested in connection with a homicide. He’d never been in trouble with the law before, so the situation stood out to them as very odd. Many of them couldn’t believe that Emery would have done something like this at all.
About Jason “Jay” Bass
Jason Bass was born into a large family, having six brothers and sisters to grow up with. He enjoyed cooking and collecting football cards, and one day, he hoped to open his very own diner. Although he dropped out of high school at 16, he still got a job as a cook at Burger King and then later worked in a donut shop. For a high school dropout, he was doing pretty well for himself.
In 1990, Bass was living in Warwick, RI with his cousin, Joshua Post — the one who was in the car at the time of the murder. Post said of his cousin, “He was a great kid and had a lot going for him. It’s a shame that it went down the way it did. I just miss him.”
For Bass and Post, this situation seems to be one of being in the wrong place at the wrong time. They had never met Adam Emery, nor was their car the one that hit Emery’s Thunderbird — a fact that later came out in trial.
The Trial & Conviction
In the time since his arrest, Adam Emery was offered a plea deal in which he could plead guilty to manslaughter, but he declined the offer and went to trial instead.
Two-and-a-half years after Bass’ death, the trial finally took place. During proceedings, Emery claimed that he’d killed Jason Bass in self-defense. Emery’s lawyer explained, “It began as a mistake, turned into a tragedy, but didn’t make out to be a crime.”
However, both the general public and the jury didn’t find Emery’s testimony very compelling. A reporter said of his time on the stand, “He never expressed any remorse for killing someone. He said that he stabbed Jason Bass in self-defense.”
Not Even Bass’ Vehicle
While examining evidence in the case, it turned out that Bass hadn’t been the one to sideswipe Emery’s car. Police paint chip analysis later pointed to another vehicle entirely; Bass had been innocent of the hit-and-run. Detective Hopkins said of the tests:
“The Ford LTD that was being driven by Jason Bass was not the vehicle that hit Adam Emery’s car. They took paint chips off of Adam’s car and they tested those paint chips with the… paint of Jason Bass’s car, and proved conclusively that it was a different vehicle that struck Adam Emery’s car that evening.”Det. Kevin Hopkins (Source: Unsolved)
Emery Found Guilty
It was November 10, 1993 when Adam Emery was found guilty in Kent County Superior Court for second-degree murder. It was also by coincidence his 31st birthday. He was facing up to 25 years of prison for the crime. Despite this, he was allowed to remain free on bail pending the sentencing hearing that was to be conducted the following month.
After the conviction, Elena Emery allegedly whispered to her then-convicted husband, “We will do what we originally said. You promised me. We should have done this before.” It wasn’t clear what this statement meant, but many suggest that its true meaning would become obvious as the next few hours unfurled.
A few hours after the Emerys left the courthouse following Adam’s conviction on November 10, 1993, a call came in about a traffic accident. Officers responded to the scene and found a Toyota Camry was found idling on the Claiborne Pell Newport Bridge (locally known as the Pell Bridge or Newport Bridge) in Newport, RI. A scan of the license plate revealed that the car belonged to the Emerys.
Inside the Camry were an odd collection of items: cut-up credit cards, folded clothing, cash, and a driver’s license. However, no drivers on the bridge that day reported seeing the car pull to a stop, nor people getting out and jumping to their deaths. A Coast Guard officer commented, “That bridge is very busy. Even in [the offseason], it would be out of the ordinary for no one to see it.”
In the hours after the conviction but before the Emerys’ car was found idling, the couple had been spotted at a sporting goods store in Cranston. There, they’d purchased wearable exercise weights. Later, they were seen at a fast food restaurant. Witnesses also reportedly saw two people — a man and a woman — walking on the Pell Bridge about an hour before the car was found idling.
Because of the circumstances surrounding the disappearance of the Emerys, authorities began investigating the case right away. It was thought that, in the wake of his conviction, both Adam and Elena Emery may have jumped off of the Pell Bridge — a distance of about 200 feet from the roadway to the water’s surface. (As an aside, if you’re struggling yourself, please reach out to the 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline.)
A policeman who went to the Emery’s home claimed he saw passports sitting on the Emery’s desk. It’s not clear why the passports were left out or if the Emerys had originally planned on fleeing the country. Because the passports were left behind, many saw this as more evidence pointing to the idea that both Emerys had jumped to their deaths from the Pell Bridge.
Authorities conducted searches of the water surrounding the Pell Bridge, using divers to comb the sea floor. Additionally, the Emery family spent $15,000 on private search companies to try to locate the bodies. Unfortunately, all the search efforts were fruitless, and for over a year, no evidence was found of the Emery’s bodies.
August 1994: Human Remains Found
Fishermen in Narragansett Bay made a gruesome discovery in August 1994 when their nets dredged up a human skull, along with some leg bones. Testing done on the skull confirmed that it was Elena Emery’s, although nothing of Adam has ever been found.
The question that has made this case so enduring for some is whether Adam Emery is still alive and somewhere out there. Could he have survived a jump from the Pell Bridge? Or did he go into the water with his wife and suffer the same fate?
Theories on What Happened
To this day, we have no definitive evidence one way or the other about what happened to Adam Emery. There are several plausible theories about what might’ve happened though, and many debate what they think the most likely theory is.
Both Jumped to Their Deaths
One of the prevailing theories is that both Elena and Adam Emery jumped to their deaths from the Pell Bridge. A jump from that high up almost certainly would kill someone, or at least incapacitate them to the point of drowning. Many law enforcement officers agree. Detective Hopkins, the lead investigator on the case, said:
“If I had to give you my honest opinion, I would say he was deceased. We hadn’t found him, but we looked everywhere and if he was around, we would have found him.”Det. Kevin Hopkins (Source: 10 WJAR)
Only Elena Jumped
Some have suggested that while Elena Emery jumped to her death, Adam remained behind, letting his wife kill herself. Joshua Post, Bass’ cousin who was in the car when he was murdered, believes that Adam is still alive out there somewhere, that he either killed Elena or let her fall to her death alone. “It’s easier to hide with one person than with two,” Post reasoned.
If Adam is still out there, the authorities are determined to find him. FBI Boston spokeswoman Kristen Setera said:
“No matter how long it takes, the FBI will continue to work with our law enforcement partners in following every lead until we can locate fugitive Adam Emery, or his remains, and provide his victim’s family with some much-needed closure.”Kristen Setera (Source: 10 WJAR)
Both Jumped but Adam Survived
Others have suggested that both jumped from the bridge but somehow, Adam managed to survive. This seems unlikely, most of all because the Pell Bridge is Rhode Island’s highest bridge. Most of the roadway height (the distance from the road to the water’s surface) is over 200 feet.
The height of the Pell Bridge means that most people wouldn’t survive a fall into the water and, that even if they did, they would be injured and unable to swim to safety. A Coast Guard officer who has responded to numerous search-and-rescue alerts explained:
“[But] hitting the water from that height and that speed, you are probably approaching terminal velocity [at impact]. They are hitting concrete, basically. Is it possible? Yes. Is it likely? No. You are probably going to have broken legs, arms or cracked ribs. It would be very difficult for someone to then swim to shore” (Newport This Week).
Most experts who’ve examined this case agree that Adam Emery not only surviving but making it to shore is highly improbable — but not impossible, which is probably why this case remains an enduring mystery to this day.
What Do I Think Happened?
Personally, I believe that Adam Emery is most likely deceased and has been since the day he was convicted. Friends of Emery said that he wouldn’t have survived in jail: “He was definitely the type who would not have survived a stint in jail — a little too pretty — and definitely not a tough guy.”
Additionally, no trace of Emery has ever been found. With the proliferation of cell phone and security cameras in the years since his disappearance, I believe that someone would have seen him or recognized him and turned his location into authorities. The fact that this hasn’t happened only further reinforces the idea that he is dead.
It’s always possible that something strange happened and somehow, Emery survived the jump. Stranger things have happened. Take the case of Kevin Hines, a man who tried to commit suicide by jumping off of California’s Golden Gate Bridge. He was miraculously saved by a passing sea lion who helped keep his mangled body afloat. That being said, the vast majority of those who have jumped from the Golden Gate Bridge ended up dead.
The Case Overall
This case is a tough one because you have a completely innocent victim who didn’t even know the murderer end up in a tragic situation. Jason Bass had never even seen Adam Emery before, and yet he ended up stabbed to death for a perceived slight that he didn’t even commit. And even if Bass had been the one to side-swipe Emery’s Thunderbird, that still wouldn’t justify killing him for it. I hope that all the families involved in this tragedy can one day find peace, as difficult as that may be.
There have been a number of case updates in the Adam Emery case since he went missing.
2004: Emery Declared Legally Deceased
A judge declared that Emery was legally dead in 2004. However, some law officials didn’t agree with that decision and warrants for his arrest remained active.
2010: Emery Named to FBI Most Wanted
Despite being declared legally dead in 2004, Emery was added to the 2010 FBI Most Wanted List. Some authorities clearly still believed that he was out there somewhere.
2018: Adam Emery Featured on Fugitive Playing Card
Pawtucket police started a new program in which fugitives were featured on playing cards given to inmates in the Rhode Island Department of Corrections in the hopes of generating new leads. In 2018, Emery was featured in one of these decks of cards.
Do You Have Information?
At the time of his disappearance, Adam Emery was 6’1, about 195 lbs. with blue eyes and black hair. If you have information regarding the whereabouts of Emery, please contact your local FBI office or call (877) 747–6583.
Cold Case Questions
- Was Emery’s conviction fair?
- Do you think Adam Emery jumped off the Pell Bridge along with his wife?
- Do you think Emery is still alive today?
Let me know your thoughts on this case in the comment section below!
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