DNA leads to arrest in 2019 homicide at Everett storage unit

Rob Kaputa, 50, was arrested Tuesday in Oregon, more than a year after the slaying of Eric Adams.

Rob Kaputa (left) after his arrest by police in Grants Pass, Oregon. (Snohomish County Sheriff’s Office)

Rob Kaputa (left) after his arrest by police in Grants Pass, Oregon. (Snohomish County Sheriff’s Office)

EVERETT — A fugitive was arrested Tuesday in southern Oregon, in connection with the killing of an Everett man whose body was discovered in a storage unit in May 2019.

Rob Kaputa, 50, was caught in Grants Pass, Oregon, at a park along the Rogue River, about 450 miles south of Snohomish County. He’s charged with second-degree murder in the death of Eric Adams.

Adams, 52, who both lived and worked at a storage facility on Fourth Avenue West, last spoke with family and friends on April 29, 2019. A friend drove to the business weeks later on May 23, 2019, cut the lock of Adams’ unit, and found him dead inside, according to the Snohomish County Sheriff’s Office.

An autopsy confirmed Adams died of blunt force trauma to the head, with severe skull fractures. He was employed at I-5 Mini Storage for about 15 years.

“By almost all accounts, Adams was generally liked and his death took the community completely by surprise,” according to charging papers signed last week by deputy prosecutor Kirk Mahjoubian.

Inside the storage unit were “countless” tools that could have been used to inflict the fatal head injuries, the charges say. There was also an envelope full of over $1,000 cash on a table and a cellphone on the floor, suggesting it wasn’t merely a robbery.

Detectives took fingerprints and potential DNA samples from the scene. Investigators exhausted many leads in the months that followed, sheriff’s office spokeswoman Courtney O’Keefe said.

Rob Kaputa

Rob Kaputa

Entry and exit logs eventually revealed Adams used his passcode to enter the storage facility at 6:59 a.m. April 30, 2019. Seconds later, the logs suggested Kaputa used his code to exit. Detectives believe the two men passed each other at the gate.

Someone used Kaputa’s code to re-enter the grounds at 7:09 a.m. That person left at 7:35 a.m. In the meantime, someone sent a text message to Adams at 7:20 a.m. It went unanswered.

Investigators found Kaputa had been at the business often in spring 2019 — about 55 times per month. After leaving at 7:35 a.m. April 30, he didn’t return for three weeks. Then he came back about once a day, for about a week, until the body was discovered. He avoided the facility again for another two weeks.

Sheriff’s detectives interviewed Kaputa on May 31, 2019. He told police he actually tried to speak with Adams in late April 2019, because his dog had been run over and killed by another customer. But Kaputa reported to sheriff’s detectives that he couldn’t find Adams that day.

Charging papers allege Kaputa had been angry about the dog’s death, ordering the driver to pay him $10,000 and making a threat to kill the driver’s daughter, 8, who was standing nearby.

Adams had “acted in his capacity as an employee of the complex to mediate the dispute,” according to the charges. Kaputa became angry at Adams, too, for cleaning up the scene of the dog’s death.

After he was interviewed, detectives carried out a search warrant to gather DNA and fingerprint samples from Kaputa. The Washington State Patrol crime lab tested evidence, and months later on Jan. 23, samples from under Adams’ fingernails came back as an apparent match for Kaputa’s DNA, according to the charges.

Kaputa had denied ever having a physical fight with Adams.

Detectives struggled to find the suspect in the months that followed — despite searching in parking lots, libraries, storage units, and the address of Kaputa’s sister, his only known relative who lives here.

State records showed Kaputa had no known work history. The only signs of his recent whereabouts were a few reports that his license plate had been checked by law enforcement around Grants Pass at the end of May.

Court records suggest Kaputa hadn’t been convicted of so much as a misdemeanor in over two decades. In the 1990s, he had brushes with the law for driving offenses and violating restraining orders. The charges reflect that he had never been convicted of a felony.

Prosecutors filed murder charges in Snohomish County on June 5. Superior Court Judge David Kurtz issued a $1 million warrant.

Kaputa was arrested around 5 p.m. Tuesday. According to the sheriff’s office, he’s expected to be extradited to Everett.

He remained in custody Wednesday at the Josephine County Jail. He has not been interviewed by detectives since his arrest, according to the sheriff’s office.

“We never gave up hope that we would be able to arrest Eric Adams’ killer,” Snohomish County Sheriff Adam Fortney said in a written statement. “I know this was a long and demanding case for the lead detective and yesterday’s arrest shows just how powerful her relentless determination was in getting one step closer to justice for Eric and his loved ones.”

Major Crimes detectives continue to investigate the case. Tips can be directed to the sheriff’s office at 425-388-3485.

Caleb Hutton: 425-339-3454; chutton@heraldnet.com. Twitter: @snocaleb.

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