Adams family rests case; defense takes over Seth Adams civil trial

Defense starts with missing cell phone witness

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. -
"It's the worst nightmare, only it's real." Lydia Adams broke down on the stand, as she described the loss of her son, to gunfire. Adams died May 2012. Palm Beach County Sergeant Michael Custer shot and killed him.
 
"You don't get over it," said Lydia. 
 
The family of Seth Adams rested its case in federal court Monday. Now, the case is in the hands of Custer and his attorneys. 
 
Lydia Adams and her family are suing Custer. The family says Custer didn't need to kill Seth, and used excessive force when he did so. Custer has claimed Adams choked him during a confrontation over private property, and he shot Adams because thought the 24-year-old had a gun. 
 
Lydia Adams told the jury Monday, her family filed the federal lawsuit because "we just want truth and culpability." 
 
She testified that one deputy threatened to arrest her when she arrived near the scene of the Loxahatchee shooting, to pick up her other son and his wife. Lydia says another deputy told her "I need to get to the hospital and be with my son." They did not tell her that Seth already passed away.
 
Lydia testified that when she got to the hospital and realized Seth was dead, she ran down the hall, screaming "Where is Seth? Where is he?" She says she spotted "Seth's feet," then a CSI allegedly threw her to the ground, calling Seth "evidence.
 
Lydia remembers saying, "I just want to hold my child. I just need to hold my baby." Lydia told the jury, "Everyone had his hands on him, but me." 
 
After the hospital, the Adams went back to the One Stop Garden Shop. Lydia said the parking lot, "looked like a massacre," in the daylight.
 
She says she went into Seth's room, "pulled all his clothes out the drawer, buried myself in them, because I wanted to smell him. I wanted it not to be real. You're in a nightmare. Incomprehensible. No way to explain what happened."
 
When asked about life without Seth, Lydia said, "How do you allow yourself to have pleasure and beauty when you bury your child?"
 
The jury must determine if Custer's version of events is truthful, and whether he was justified in shooting Seth. 
 
The State Attorney's Office decided not to file criminal charges in this case after the sheriff's office found no wrongdoing by Custer. The Adams say PBSO mishandled the investigation from the beginning.
 
As part of the lawsuit, the jury must also decide if Custer handed in his PBSO cell phone to superiors, as part of the Adams shooting investigation. 
 
The defense started their case by calling PBSO Captain Michael Wallace to the stand. Wallace was the Lt. in charge of homicides at the time. He was not in town the night the shooting happened, but when he came back, oversaw the investigation.
 
Wallace testified that when asked to preserve Custer's cell phone on June 5, 2012, he immediately called Custer and asked him to take his phone to telecommunications, where they would hand him a new one.
 
Wallace said he told telecommunications the plan but admits he didn't follow up to make sure it happened, saying "lots of assumptions made."
 
The phone went missing and has never been seen since. Wallace said he "assumed Custer got a new phone and someone from PBSO got his phone," adding, "we did everything humanly possible to find the phone." 
 
Wallace said Custer's cell phone was not taken the night of the shooting because "it was not part of the criminal investigation," despite the fact that Custer's cell phone clip was taken into evidence because it was found within the crime scene.
 
Wallace denied an "evil plan" email referred to Custer's cell phone. He testified it was referring to a schedule change with a host of deputies. 
 
When Adams' attorneys questioned Wallace, they repeatedly asked why the phone wasn't taken into evidence right away, and why, when it was found under Custer's car, it wasn't taken then. Wallace said "I can't say sir," several times. 
 
Wally McCall, attorney for the Adams, also brought up time card documents that show Custer went to the Violent Crimes Division twice, only an hour after getting Wallace's call about the cell phone. 
 
PBSO launched an internal investigation 3 years after the phone went  missing. Wallace was verbally counseled for neglectful conduct and poor supervisory conduct.
 
Wallace said again that there was no evil plan and the phone was not intentionally destroyed. 
 
The defense's case is expected to last at least a week.
 
 
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