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Sheriff reports: I-80 shooting was ‘senseless’


Iowa County Sheriff Robert Rotter said the murder of Jeffrey McAdam was a “bizarre” and “senseless” act.

Rotter said that Peter Riggs, 31, Columbus, Neb., confessed to shooting McAdam the night of Saturday, May 30. McAdam was working part-time as an attendant in the westbound Victor rest area when Riggs walked in the restroom and allegedly shot McAdam once in the lower back, said Rotter.

“It’s a bizarre thing to say the least,” Rotter said.

McAdam was shot with a 9 mm handgun, Rotter said. Riggs had two 9 mm handguns in his vehicle at the time of his arrest, Rotter said. He said both guns were registered to Riggs.

“Why he had guns, we don’t know,” Rotter said. “It is hard to learn about (Riggs). He had no close personal friends. We have nobody to talk to about what was going through his head.”

As far as Rotter can tell, Riggs and McAdam never met. In fact, Rotter said there is no evidence that Riggs and McAdam had any sort of interaction. He said there are rumors there was a fight between the two men, perhaps over the no smoking policy at the rest area, but Rotter said there is no indication the two men even spoke to each other.

“I don’t think McAdam had any idea what was about to happen,” Rotter said. “I don’t think there was any interaction with Riggs at all… If you look at it for what it was, this one just has ‘senseless’ screaming from it. It’s one of those things where people just do crazy things. Somebody died and left a family behind, because someone did something you and I would consider crazy.”

Rotter said as far as he can tell, at approximately 7:30 p.m. Saturday, May 30, Riggs walked into the bathroom of the Victor rest area, shot McAdam in the back and walked out.

He said it is his belief that McAdam was found within minutes of the shooting, but he said there were no direct witnesses. McAdam died shortly after he was found, he said.

A short time after the shooting, Rotter said Riggs turned himself in to the Johnson County Sheriff’s Department — in a roundabout way.

Rotter said a Johnson County deputy was assisting another motorist either on Interstate 80 or close to Interstate 80 when Riggs pulled over and parked his 1995 Dodge Spirit in front of the Johnson County vehicle. Rotter said Riggs sat in his car and waited for the deputy to approach.

When the deputy finally approached Riggs in his vehicle, Rotter said Riggs told the deputy, “I’m the one you are looking for.”

According to Rotter, Riggs told the deputy he didn’t want to be on the run.

Rotter said the deputy didn’t know what Riggs was talking about, and ran his license, not finding any charges or warrants out for his arrest. However, after further investigating the vehicle, the deputy found a loaded 9 mm handgun on the front passenger side, and arrested Riggs on a weapons charge.

After Riggs was taken into custody, word reached the Johnson County Sheriff’s Department about the murder on I-80, Rotter said.

“Thank goodness the police rumor mill was working,” Rotter said. “Hats off to Johnson County. They didn’t know he had done anything.”

Rotter said he received a call from Johnson County at approximately 1 a.m., telling him they had Riggs in custody.

An agent from Iowa County went to Johnson County to interview Riggs. Rotter said that is when Riggs confessed to the murder.

“He confessed that he did it, very matter of factly,” Rotter said.

Riggs hasn’t provided a motive to investigators, he said.

“I think it’s just very simple. He just did it,” Rotter said. “He’s not offering any explanations. But you know, there are a lot of people in prison for killing people just because they wanted to.”

As far as why Riggs was in Iowa County, Rotter said they are still piecing that puzzle together. He said they are looking at Riggs’ bank records and cell phone records to trace his whereabouts prior to May 30.

“From what I can see, he didn’t pick Iowa County. He just landed here and did this terrible thing. He just happened to be where he was and where he did what he did,” Rotter said. “I don’t think there is any rhyme or reason.  I don’t think he was trying to get from point A to point B.”

Riggs can be described as homeless, and has probably been so for most of his life, Rotter said. In the past two years, Rotter said Riggs has lived in and out of about three different church missions in Nebraska.

Rotter said Riggs has no past criminal history aside from citations for a loud stereo, parking infractions and driving issues.

“There is nothing that sets him apart,” Rotter said. “He has just kind of been on his own for a long time. His life hasn’t been what you would call fulfilling.”

Rotter said Riggs has a high school diploma from Boystown in Omaha. Rotter said they have not been able to locate Riggs’ parents, and since he lived in Boystown, Rotter said it indicates he may not have had parents.

Rotter said Riggs does have distant relatives, but he does not believe they were in contact. Rotter said since Riggs has been in Iowa County Jail, he has not contacted anyone except his assigned public defender.

Riggs did have some vocational training in welding, but there is no indication he ever held a long-term job.

The last position Riggs held was working a fresh produce job in Nebraska, Rotter said. Riggs was let go from the position four to five days before the murder. Rotter said the produce shop was the last place anyone recalls having contact with Riggs.

Rotter said they have not found any evidence that Riggs is mentally challenged or mentally unstable.

“He knew exactly what he did and he told us about it,” Rotter said. “But he’s not your average neighbor.”

Rotter suspects that Riggs will not go to trial any time this year, unless his lawyer invokes his right to a speedy trial. Even so, Rotter said the county could go to court very quickly and be able to bring a strong case.

The real tragedy is that McAdam’s family lost a husband and a father, and they may never know why, Rotter said.

“I know Mr. McAdam’s family would like a clear answer. I don’t know that we will ever have a clear answer,” Rotter said. “No answer other than the man that has done this is in jail and will be so for a long time. Assuming that holds, he will never see the outside of jail again.”

Rotter said he was told by family and friends that McAdam really liked his job maintaining the rest area.

While it isn’t the most glamorous job, Rotter said McAdam liked to talk to people and he liked to be of service, “and he ends up dying over it.”

“Wow, it’s just a sad story,” said Rotter.

UPDATED June 9, 2010 3:04 PM

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