David Adams

After a series of threats, David Adams shot and killed his wife, Bessie, in their 1509 North Avenue, Wilkinsburg home on the night of December 7, 1917. Several other women were in the home at the time of the killing.


Adams was tried the following June. After a short trial, at which the Virginia-born Adams claimed the shooting was accidental, he was convicted of first-degree murder on the morning of June 12, 1918.

Pittsburgh Press, June 10, 1918

As he was being moved from the courthouse across the Bridge of Sighs to the jail that same day, David Adams committed suicide by leaping through a closed second-story window in the Allegheny County Courthouse.

Suicide note, published in Pittsburgh Press, June 12, 1918

He left a suicide note in his pocket in which he said that his “nerve is weak,” that he did not want to suffer, and that he did not want his “body burned.” He also made arrangements for the care of his body.

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, June 13, 1918

The crime received almost no newspaper attention, with no serious consideration of motive or circumstances. The coverage of the trial was likewise perfunctory. No official accounts of the case survive.

Author: Bill Lofquist

I am a sociologist and death penalty scholar at the State University of New York at Geneseo. I am also a Pittsburgh native. My present research focuses on the history of the death penalty in Allegheny County (Pittsburgh), Pa. This website is dedicated to collecting, analyzing, and sharing information about all Allegheny County cases in which a death sentence was imposed. Please share any questions or comments, errors or omissions, or other matters of interest related to these cases or to the broader history of the death penalty in Allegheny County.

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