Twenty-five-year-old Anthony Adams was the campaign manager for the Socialist Party in Utah and a gay-rights activist. Adams was found brutally stabbed to death in November 1978. Adams was one of four violent murders of closeted and prominent gay men in Salt Lake City during November and December 1978.
The Salt Lake Police Dept. described Adams as "a member of a local radical element." The murders contributed to the climate of paranoia around progressive activists in ultra-conservative Utah in the 1970s. Also: The murders of gay men in Utah happened around the same time as the assassination of Harvey Milk.
On Nov. 6, 1978, Bill Woodbury, Adams’ boyfriend, Rev. Bob Waldrop, and another friend went to Adams’ apartment. They were concerned because no one had seen or heard from him for several days. After climbing in through a window, Woodbury found his boyfriend in the bedroom, naked and covered with blood. Adams had been stabbed repeatedly with a butcher knife and his throat slit. An autopsy showed that he had been dead for several days and murdered on Nov. 3.
Coincidentally, police detectives were still investigating the death of 16-year-old Sharon Schollmeyer who was found strangled to death in the same apartment building in December 1977.
[Activists] accused the police of dragging their feet investigating the recent murders of homosexuals . [Police] denied the charges, claiming that murders were being “rigorously” investigated and that a suspect in the murder of Doug Coleman, another gay man, was in the state mental hospital for observation.
Community leaders were not satisfied with the officials’ responses and claimed that they had inside knowledge from a “closeted police officer” that some officers in the police department joked about Adams’ death, saying, "Nigger, Queer, Communist — Three Strikes You’re Out."
The Socialist Workers Party claimed that Adams had been "harassed by police and entrapped in a sex charge" only weeks before his death.
Shortly before his murder, the city vice squad had arrested Adams for soliciting sex acts for hire. The police claimed that Adam’s phone number had been scrawled in a telephone booth and in restrooms throughout the Salt Lake area. The vice squad officers then called the number and arranged to meet him for a “sex act.” Upon meeting with Adams they arrested him. Shirley Pedler, director of the Utah ACLU, upon learning about this situation questioned Chief Willoughby about this method of locating "sex offenders."
Adams and the city's emerging gay community had a number of successful accomplishments in 1977: "Activists protested Anita Bryant’s appearance at the Utah State Fair, forced the state not to hold church sponsored dances in the capitol’s rotunda, forced the Hotel Utah to pay a settlement for breaking a contract, and helped more and more people to come out of the closet."
Many activists in Salt Lake City believed that the police were "covering up the murders" or that "someone in the department was the killer." The loss of Anthony Adams and the fear around the murders caused a halt to SLC's gay activism for the next four or five years.