Wives can be great companions and lots of fun, but from a cop’s perspective, an angry wife can be something else altogether. She can stop your heart. Of all my professional dealings with hostile women, two encounters really stand out.
On Thursday afternoon, November 15, 1973, I was still in the honeymoon phase with my wife, Sheila. I reported in uniform to the Nineteenth District Court in Dearborn for a contested ticket I had written. I had stopped a guy for speeding, and as I walked up to his car, he rolled down his window, looked at me with a smirk, and said, “I know Inspector Novak! He lives on my block, and our wives play tennis together!” Glancing into the car, I saw a well-dressed woman with the same condescending look on her face. Inspector Novak was in charge of our 120-man Sheriff’s Patrol and Investigation Division in western Wayne County, where I was assigned. A former marine, he was a tough, no-nonsense command officer.
“Inspector Novak?” I replied as the driver handed me his license, registration, and proof of insurance. “Never heard of him.” Entitled guys like that didn’t deserve a break, and I wrote him up.
The judge was about as impressed with his name-dropping as I was, and ordered him to pay his fine. Meanwhile, I accumulated six hours’ court time (four hours, actually, but it paid time and a half) for a half hour’s work. Thank you, Inspector Novak. After that, I drove to the Patrol and Investigation Division, where I got assigned to work with Walt Kurcinski. Walt was a big guy and great to work with, but he practically chain-smoked these big, smelly cigars. He had one going as he drove to our assigned area for the day: southeast Romulus. Three other two-man sheriff cars patrolled the other three quadrants of Romulus, a thirty-six-square-mile city encompassing Detroit Metropolitan Airport.
It was safe having a lot of scout cars in one city, but I didn’t like working Romulus, because most of the time we just drove in circles. Other than a false alarm and a dispute between neighbors, it was a quiet evening. A light rain began to fall. Walt turned on the wipers, fired up another stogie, and said, “Did you hear Nathan last night?”
Nate was another officer on our shift. The night before, seeing the northern lights for the first time, he had radioed in that alien spacecraft were circling the area.
“What an ass!” I said. “A month ago, I was working with him when a prisoner got loose at Detroit House of Corrections. Nate drove into that big-ass complex and went flying down all the dirt roads with his overheads and spotlight on.”
“That’s textbook for sneaking up on escapees. You ever find ’im?”
“Hell no, not with Nate! All he did was stir up clouds of dust on the roads.”
“Poor Nate,” Walt said, laughing. “He didn’t realize the guy wouldn’t be as stupid as him.”
“Car Thirty-seven! Car Thirty-seven! Two-oh-five-five!”
A 205 was a vehicle accident, and a 2055 was an injury accident. I picked up the mike and said, “This is Car Thirty-seven. Go ahead, radio.”
“Car Thirty-seven, assist Taylor PD, Inkster, south of Van Born.”
“Car Thirty-seven, Inkster and Van Born, en route,” I replied.
“Make it on the double, Thirty-seven! Car Thirty-one and Car Twenty-eight, assist Thirty-seven.”
Walt turned on our lights and siren, and since it was dark by now and the rain was pouring, we swung our spotlights on to illuminate the road. A few minutes later, we arrived at the scene on Inkster Road. It was a head-on collision with people critically injured or dead in both cars, but Taylor PD was already there, and since the accident happened on their side of the road, it was our job to assist.
No matter how bad an accident is, it can always get worse if the scene isn’t blocked and illuminated to prevent other cars from piling in. So as more scout cars arrived, Walt and I repositioned our car to stop traffic and grabbed flares from the trunk to place in the road. I was kneeling, ready to strike the fuse on my third flare, when I heard Walt scream, “Ankony, look out!”
Glancing back, I saw a pair of headlights bracketing me, one on the right and one on the left, barreling right at me. All I could do was leap straight up in the air. Behind the wheel was Jessica Steward, 27, who had just sped off in her car after fighting with her husband. In her haste, she had forgotten her glasses.
Her bumper caught me in both calves, just below the knees, and I could hear her shrill screams as I reverse-somersaulted over her hood, windshield, roof, and trunk. I bounced off the pavement, and a flash of light shot through my head when my helmet flew off; then everything went black.
A few seconds later, I woke up dazed on the ground, looking at several fellow officers’ flashlight beams as rain pelted my face. An ambulance was already at the scene, but they were busy helping people in worse shape than me, so Walt laid me on the backseat of the scout car and tore off for Wayne County General Hospital.
At the hospital, they x-rayed my entire body. Luckily, my helmet had taken much of the impact, and other than cuts and bruises all over, all they found was a small hairline fracture in my hip, which put me off work for ten weeks.
My second run-in with an angry wife happened two years later, early Sunday morning, November 9, 1975. I was back on duty after another two-month medical leave from a work-related incident. It was overcast and 65 degrees, and I was at my favorite hangout, Amy Joy Donuts, in Dearborn. The owner, Joe Porcarelli, was telling me about how he got wounded in the French town of Sainte-Mère-Église after parachuting in with the 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 82nd Airborne Division, during the early morning hours of the Normandy Invasion.
I mentioned visiting Sainte-Mère-Église with my wife that June, just before we separated, and said I felt sorry for all the paratroops who were shot on their descent into the town.
“They were from another company,” Joe said. “I got hit at daybreak just outside the town.” He then asked, “You and your wife back together?”
“No, it’s not gonna work. But thanks for the doughnut and conversation,” I replied as I picked up my portable radio and headed out to my scout car.
I turned east on Michigan Avenue and swung north on Telegraph Road, a six-lane divided highway with a grass median, en route to my assigned area. It was peaceful as I drove along, watching families on their way to church, the little kids peering out rear windows at the big black and white Wayne County Sheriff emblem on my side doors. Then, out of nowhere, a blue four-door Chevy shot through a red light in front of me and sailed east directly across Telegraph Road. As cars screeched and swerved to avoid a collision, I turned on my emergency lights and siren and gave pursuit. I caught up to the car in a residential area and saw that it was crammed with bags of stuff obscuring most of the windows, and a woman was at the wheel. I flashed the car with my spotlight and alternated my siren frequencies, but she wouldn’t stop or even slow down at intersections—which I still had to do to avoid making a bad situation worse. All the while, I was looking at street signs to radio in the location of the chase.
When a chase is called, all other cars cease radio communications unless they become involved. I had no clue whether the driver I was chasing had been involved in a more serious crime or if there was a child in the car, but I knew that if she wasn’t stopped soon, she was going to kill somebody.
I grabbed my microphone and said, “Car Twenty-seven to radio!”
“This is radio, Twenty-seven. Go ahead.”
“Notify Dearborn I have a chase, eastbound on Buckingham, with a white female driving a blue four-door Chevy.”
“Do you have the plate, Twenty-seven?”
“Yes. Michigan license, Mary John Adam three seven one.”
“I have Mary John Adam three seven one, eastbound on Buckingham.”
“That’s affirmative. But she just swung north on York.”
“Twenty-seven, Dearborn’s notified. Give me your next cross street.”
“Radio, we just passed Oak.”
“Twenty-seven, this is teletype. S O S shows the vehicle is registered to David Wayne Adkins on Goddard Road in Taylor.”
“Twenty-seven, okay. Are there any warrants?”
“LEIN and NCIC are running slow, Twenty-seven.”
“Okay, notify Dearborn she just swung west on Lawrence.”
She then reached Telegraph again and shot north across three lanes of traffic. Though she wasn’t moving especially fast, she knew I was behind her, and was driving erratically, switching lanes a lot, trying to lose me. She blew the light at Ford Road, a major east-west highway, and had now entered the City of Dearborn Heights.
Other cars from Dearborn PD were already in the residential areas where I had been, and I hoped they or Dearborn Heights would catch up so we could box her in and slow her to a stop. But she sped up and blew through a light at Warren Road, then again at Joy Road. She had entered Redford Township and was approaching West Chicago—another busy crossroad and, coincidentally, where my wife had moved after we separated. This driver had to be stopped, and there weren’t any other scout cars to help. So rolling down my window, I swung to her right side, pulled out my .357 Magnum Smith & Wesson Model 66 revolver, and aimed left-handed at her right rear tire. Taking three shots, I blew it out. Then I drove forward and, with two shots, took out the right front tire.
The sudden noise of the gunshots, the sight of a large handgun pointing in her direction, and the tires flopping along the road must have shaken her up some, because she stopped in the left lane of traffic, with me slamming to a halt alongside her. I didn’t know if she was armed or why she was behaving so irrationally, but I knew I had to act fast to get hold of the situation. I had only one shot left in my revolver, and I jumped out holding it and jerked open the passenger door. Clothes and junk were piled on the floor and seat, and as I reached to grab her she swung around on her seat, yelled, “You fuckin’ bastard!” and started kicking my arms and chest.
I was trying to grab her legs as she kept shouting, “You bastard!”
She was still kicking as I struggled to subdue her, but when she began clawing and biting, there was nothing else to do but grab her by the hair and drag her out of the car. As I flung her up against my scout car to cuff her, I noticed that all the traffic had stopped on Telegraph Road—all those families dressed in their Sunday best, watching me manhandle this woman.
Can’t look good, I thought, but they don’t know what this crazy bitch just did!
Redford, Dearborn, and Dearborn Heights PDs arrived. My prisoner was already in the backseat, cuffed and screaming, “You fuckin’ bastard!” as I went through her purse. I found Kleenexes, lipstick, a small mirror, birth control pills, and the Michigan driver’s license of one Brenda Lynn Adkins, 35.
As the other departments got traffic moving again, a Redford officer said he’d wait for a wrecker so I could transport my prisoner to the station.
“Car Twenty-seven to radio,” I said.
“Go ahead Twenty-seven.”
“En route from Telegraph south of West Chicago, with a female prisoner.”
“Twenty-seven, your starting mileage?”
A starting mileage and time is always given when transporting a female prisoner to avoid accusations that somewhere en route you stopped to molest her.
“This is Twenty-seven. Starting mileage is three-five-five-seven-three.”
“We have three-five-five-seven-three. Your starting time is zero nine thirty-five hours.”
Though I was in the process of a divorce and could do with some female companionship, dispatch needn’t worry about me trying anything with the raging lunatic I had in my backseat. I’d sooner cozy up to a rabid wolverine.
I drove Brenda Adkins to the station and put her in lockup while she kept screaming, stopping only to inhale. My shift lieutenant, John Parkman, who was studying for his PhD in sociology, looked up from his textbook and said, “We called Taylor PD, and they have a car at her house.”
“What’s her problem, Lieutenant?”
“They said she and her husband are constantly at it. So complete your report and take her to the county jail.”
I took a seat at the patrolman’s counter to start writing as Brenda Adkins’s screams continued to reverberate through the station.
After twenty minutes of hearing “Bastards! You fuckin’ bastards!” Lieutenant Parkman walked over.
“Let me see your report,” he said, giving it a quick glance. “Two pages for this kind of shooting is plenty! Finish it and transport her ass downtown before I go deaf!”
“Okay, Lieutenant,” I said. “Just one more sentence.”
When I was done, I got her out of lockup, recuffed her, and said, “If you think you got problems now, wait till you get to the county jail. Hopefully, they’ll put you in a cell with another crazy bitch!”
She finally stopped yelling, but there was no way she was getting out of this deal, so we drove to Detroit and pulled into the annex of our six-story county jail. I removed my cuffs so the two matrons could book her, and when they were done, I walked them to an elevator and watched Brenda Adkins disappear.
Twelve days later, Friday, November 21, I took the day off and drove to downtown Detroit, to Judge Andrew Dimaggio’s courtroom, Third Judicial Circuit Court, Lafayette Building, to divorce my wife. We didn’t have kids, and she had left me because she wanted “time to think.” As the months dragged on and every attempt at contact just got me the brush-off, I finally filed for divorce. Now, outside the courtroom, she stormed past me, and the divorce took only five minutes. I walked away thinking how much happier the whole occasion was, just two years earlier, when the mayor of Niagara Falls, New York, married us. Still, on the spectrum of angry wives, I had seen way worse than this. She hadn’t even run me down with her car, bitten me, or tried to scratch my eyes out!
That night, I sat up drinking with my brother, Richard, an off-duty Dearborn cop, in my flat till five in the morning. Sometimes, you just plug away and wait for brighter days.