John Adcock, deputy prosecutor known for fairness, dies at 60

EVERETT — John Adcock took the 3 a.m. calls for years.

He trekked across Snohomish County, standing shoulder-to-shoulder with police officers investigating crime scenes. His mind cataloged what needed to be done to bring violent offenders and drug dealers to justice.

Often dressed in a suit and tie, the long-time deputy prosecutor offered his advice and support. His input was welcome because of his reputation.

“He wasn’t there to take control of the investigation. He was there to make sure when it made it to court, it was solid,” retired Everett police detective Wally Friesen said.

Adcock was known for honesty, fairness and no nonsense, Snohomish County Prosecuting Attorney Mark Roe said.

Adcock died Jan. 13. He was 60.

The Nevada native never graduated from high school but went on to become an experienced trial attorney who was considered a champion for crime victims and an ally to police officers.

His path to the courtroom was circuitous.

He was asked to leave high school before earning a diploma, his wife, Lise, said. School officials in Reno didn’t take kindly to his long hair, she said.

He ended up following his first passion: music. At a young age, Adcock, a guitarist, played gigs in casinos. He played with several bands and scored a job in the record business in California. Eventually, though, he enrolled in college.

Adcock attended the University of Washington. He met his wife in a political science class there. They were married in 1982.

Adcock intended to go into entertainment law when he entered law school at Willamette University in Oregon. A summer class, however, convinced him that he wanted to spend his career in courtrooms and being a criminal prosecutor would give him the opportunity.

Adcock was first hired in Snohomish County in 1988. He left a couple years later for a position in Jefferson County, where he became the chief criminal deputy prosecutor. He returned to Snohomish County in 1996.

He became the first deputy prosecutor assigned to the Snohomish Regional Drug Task Force. He quickly developed a reputation for being reliable, accessible and “rock solid,” Roe said.

“The cops knew they could count on him. He wasn’t afraid to tell them ‘no’ if the law didn’t support what they wanted to do. They would listen to him,” Roe said. “He had this gigantic swath of fairness.”

Adcock prosecuted a number of the county’s highest-profile cases, including the trial of James Homer Elledge, who killed a woman in 1998 at a Lynnwood church. Elledge requested the death penalty and directed his attorney not to fight to keep him alive.

Adcock witnessed Elledge’s execution in 2001. He told The Herald a short time later that he felt it was important to be there to represent Eloise Fitzner, the woman Elledge murdered.

Her husband appreciated working on behalf of crime victims, Lise Adcock said.

Keri Wallace, a victim advocate with the prosecutor’s office, worked with Adcock for years.

“He was so passionate about finding justice for victims and doing right by them,” she said.

Adcock was assigned to prosecute Troy Meade, a former Everett police officer charged with murder for a 2009 line-of-duty shooting.

Roe said he handed the case to two prosecutors whose credibility was unquestioned.

Snohomish County deputy prosecutor Matt Baldock was Adcock’s co-counsel.

“It struck me how steady and calm he was during the case. He was unflappable,” Baldock said.

The prosecutors expected to face heightened scrutiny by the public and police on how the case was handled.

“John cut right through that. He told us to keep our heads down and do our jobs,” Baldock said.

A jury in April 2010 acquitted Meade but stopped short of calling the shooting self-defense.

Adcock retired about a year later because of health issues.

“He missed the people and he missed wearing the white hat,” his wife said. “He didn’t miss the stress or the hours.”

Kenneth Cowsert retired as a Snohomish County Superior Court judge that same year. He and Adcock began hanging out, logging plenty of miles on road trips to visit aircraft and train museums and to take in a few baseball games.

“We were both out to pasture, looking for something to do,” Cowsert said. “We had a lot of laughs. Both of us have senses of humor that probably didn’t evolve past 15-year-old kid locker room humor.”

Once a month, homicide detectives around the county met Adcock for lunch, catching him up on the latest shop talk and reminiscing about old cases.

“You could just see the camaraderie,” Cowsert said.

Adcock was a friend to law enforcement, Snohomish County sheriff’s detective Jim Scharf said.

“He was my go-to guy. Any time I had questions I could go to him. He’d make time for us,” Scharf said.

Adcock prosecuted one of Scharf’s first homicide investigations. Two men were killed during a robbery in 1997 in Marysville. Two men were convicted of aggravated murder in connection with the killings. Scharf said each trial lasted just three days.

“From picking a jury to the guilty verdict, three days,” the detective said. “He was just a dynamite prosecutor in the courtroom.”

Friesen met Adcock through work, but they connected more over music. Friesen was getting some fellow cops together to start a band. Friesen said he only needed to hear a few chords to know that the deputy prosecutor, an avid Kinks fan, was talented.

“He was just a master on guitar,” Friesen said.

The band, Station House Blues, ended up cutting an album in 2003 in honor of Friesen’s former partner, Brian DiBucci, who died in the line of duty in 1999. The blues-rock band played numerous small-venue gigs and charity events.

His friend would always show up in a black suit, Friesen said.

“John was a stone-cold gentleman,” he said.

Diana Hefley: 425-339-3463,

A celebration of Adcock’s life is planned for 5 p.m. Thursday in the lower level of the Majestic Cafe, 2929 Colby Ave., Everett.

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