Admitted serial killer says he’s looking forward to ‘retirement’ in prison

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RICHMOND, Va. -- Don't call him "Crazy Mike," as some media outlets and other folks have done.

"I'm 'Dirty Mike,'" Michael Elijah Adams emphasized during a recent interview at Henrico County's Jail East in New Kent County.

The 48-year-old Michigan native started hopping trains when he was 14. He found the footloose, reckless, and dangerous life to be a perfect match after being raised in an "abusive family."

'Dirty Mike,' Michael Elijah Adams

'Dirty Mike,' Michael Elijah Adams

"You pick up and go wherever you want to go," he said. "Whenever you want to go. Nobody to tell you what to do. You're always ducking and dodging, hustling."

Adams would go on to kill more than 16 fellow drifters, according to his reckoning, some of them during sour drug deals, or because they disrespected "the code" or the colors of the Freight Train Riders Association. That's a group of hard-rock train jumpers and drifters (now mostly defunct) started by disassociated Vietnam veterans, Adams said.

Adams said he was shown the way by one of the FTRA's founders.

"We we were the big dogs. We stayed on the border. We were the violent ones, I mean, guns, drugs and girls," he said.

Richmond trains

They were moving heroin - large amounts - by rail, he said.

"Who suspects a bum with a kilo?"

They would even move drugs while panhandling, he said.

Adams is already serving 15 years to life for the killing of train-rider John Owens in Placer County, California. He's also a suspect in murders in Texas and Washington state, among others.

His victims were drifters, often easily forgettable and sometimes not even missed. The killings often happened in secluded areas, with little evidence or witnesses.

The victim he admits to killing in Richmond, Robert Allen "Bobby" Chassereau, was found in a homeless camp near the Acca train-switching yard, beaten to death in June of 2006.

The murder likely would've gone unsolved if Adams hadn't confessed to it while being prosecuted for the California murder.

Robert Allen "Bobby" Chassereau

Robert Allen "Bobby" Chassereau

Henrico County cold-case police Detective Thomas Holsinger said Adams knew details about the victim's clothing and injuries that only the killer would know.

Holsinger believes robbery of drugs was the motive, but Adams told me he just didn't like Chassereau's lifestyle.

Now, Holsinger said, Richmond police are checking Adams for similar unsolved drifter murders, including the 1999 slaying of Edward Northington, a gay homeless man whose decapitated head was found carefully placed on a James River Park footbridge, prompting national concerns that it was a hate crime.

Adams told me he might know who did it, but makes no claim for that slaying. And he's not shy about taking credit for killing.

"I'm proud of what I did," he said. He believes he provided a public service by executing some of the dregs of society, by being a cold-blooded enforcer. "I'm a necessary part of society."

He's working on his story with an author and said there is some some interest from a national magazine.

'Dirty Mike,' Michael Elijah Adams and Mark Holmberg

'Dirty Mike,' Michael Elijah Adams and Mark Holmberg

Adams was brought to the area last year to stand trial for the Chassereau murder. According to the Henrico County prosecutor's office, a plea deal for life without parole is all set, waiting for the governor's office in California to sign off on Adams spending the rest of his life in prison in Virginia.

Adams said he doesn't want the death penalty, nor does he want to do his time in the rougher "gladiator" prisons in California. Referring to prison in Virginia, he said, it's "retirement... Three hots and a cot."

Henrico wants justice and to eliminate the chance of Adams being released on parole in California.

When we spoke at length last week, Adams went into detail about how he killed and why.

"Society labels me as a serial killer," he said. "Other people label me as an enforcer. And other people just think I'm psychotic."