‘Just negligent’: KCPD towed SUV from scene before finding missing man’s body inside
Adam “A.J.” Blackstock Jr. had his whole life ahead of him.
His parents and sister remember him as bright and funny. A jack-of-all-trades and a busybody, he had an entrepreneurial spirit, trying his hand at a handful of vocations but never settling on one in particular.
He talked of returning to college and finishing his degree.
He was also a beloved member of Glory Bible Fellowship International Church, based in Lee’s Summit, where his parents both serve as ministers. And at 24, he was a father to an 18-month-old boy, another Adam his family fondly calls “A3.”
In the wake of Blackstock’s death, knowing his son is now fatherless is one of the things that bothers the family the most.
“I won’t get to see my son finish growing up. He won’t get to see his son grow up, and his son won’t be able to see his daddy as he grows up,” said Adam Blackstock Sr., a church bishop and teacher.
On Jan. 17, Blackstock was found dead in the cargo area of his own vehicle after police towed it from the driveway of a home in the Oak Park Southwest neighborhood of Kansas City. He was the sixth to be killed in 2023 as the city comes off the second-deadliest year in its history.
Among the many questions is how the body came to be discovered at the police station.
One forensic expert told The Star the police made a mistake by moving the vehicle before looking inside first — an action that would have led to Blackstock being discovered sooner.
“The idea of taking a vehicle into custody without searching inside a vehicle or opening the trunk is just negligent. It is an unthinkable level of negligence,” said Brent Turvey, a forensic scientist and criminologist with the Forensic Criminology Institute in Sitka, Alaska. “Whether they would find anything in it or not. You’re supposed to check because you don’t know what’s inside.”
Police say they made the best choice in the moment based on the totality of circumstance that were in the best interests of the case, also citing concerns about property rights protected by the Fourth Amendment.
Many details remain unknown. As of this week, Sgt. Jake Becchina, a KCPD spokesman, said detectives were making headway toward identifying persons of interest. No charges have been filed against anyone in the case, according to police.
For Blackstock’s family, and others close to him, his sudden disappearance and death has been a shock. They want to know why his life was taken — and who is responsible. Now, they are left to wonder how they will one day help his son understand, and are forced to explain his absence to his niece.
“She said the other day, ‘I don’t want Uncle A.J. to be in Heaven. I want him back on Earth,’” said his mother, Adrinne Blackstock.
“We found out about A.J.’s death on my daughter’s birthday,” added Danielle Blackstock, his older sister, calling the timing of it all even more “disheartening.”
“We really are asking for justice. And that’s what we need. We can’t have him back. But we need justice,” she said.
SUV parked at strange location
The Blackstocks had just flown back to Kansas City after celebrating Martin Luther King Jr. weekend at Disneyland, where they brought Danielle and her 8-year-old daughter.
It was a continuation of a family Disney tradition, which is documented with photographs in their living room of big smiles beside Mickey and Minnie Mouse. Many feature a young Blackstock.
After a day of travel, they got back to Grandview in the wee hours of Tuesday. Blackstock’s SUV wasn’t there.
It wasn’t a cause for concern, at first. They knew he sometimes worked temp jobs overnight in Edwardsville. But by that morning on Jan. 17, when no one had heard from him, the worry began to creep in.
Adam Blackstock Sr. left work early. His GPS tracker brought him to his son’s car in the 4600 block of Montgall Avenue. When he got there, he was directed to a vehicle parked in someone’s driveway and covered up by a gray tarp.
Beyond the evidence of the location device, Adam Blackstock Sr. said he knew in his spirit that it was his son’s car. By then, no one had been able to get in touch after hours of trying. And they knew it was not right for it to be parked in a random spot.
“We just didn’t have a good feeling about it,” Adam Blackstock Sr. said.
He called the police for help. Officers arrived and he explained the situation: His son was missing, he had been unable to contact him, and he believed the vehicle in the driveway belonged to Blackstock.
When police officers went to the residence, they were met with the homeowner, who told them the car in the driveway was her uncle’s. She gave them a phone number to call, and the man who answered told them the vehicle was his.
“That was an outright lie,” said Adrinne Blackstock, recalling the frustration she and her family felt that day — and continue to feel as they seek someone to come forward and help solve the crime.
“There’s a grandmother, or aunt or uncle or someone that knows who these individuals are, and they’re keeping their mouth closed. And God’s judgment is gonna come up on that.”
The Blackstocks say they talked and prayed over Facetime while police were on scene — and ranking officers were called out — to settle a long dispute over who the SUV belonged to. Adam Blackstock Sr. explained the vehicle was under his insurance, and remotely started the engine as a display of proof.
Eventually, police officers convinced the woman at the home to sign a waiver giving them permission to remove the vehicle from the property. The tarp was removed, left on the ground next to a bottle of cleaning product, and the officers noted what appeared to be a bullet hole in the front driver’s side seat and blood on the floorboards.
Afterward, the SUV was hooked up to a city tow truck and brought to East Patrol at 2640 Prospect Ave. as officers followed behind.
It was brought there with a hold for Grandview police as a missing persons investigation was being opened for Blackstock.
Before the SUV was towed a second time, though, they found him.
As police returned later that night to the home where the car was found for a second search warrant, the woman who gave them permission to tow the vehicle could not be contacted by police. They took the gray tarp. A bottle of cleaning product was not included on the property inventory list.
According to search warrant applications made in Jackson County Circuit Court, the first request to collect evidence of a homicide from Blackstock’s vehicle was filed in court at 9:14 p.m., roughly six hours after police were first called to investigate in the 4600 block of Montgall.
It occurred after police looked inside and saw “a lifeless body in the rear cargo area” that the officers said had not been visible to them initially.
Kansas City Police Department procedures say officers towing vehicles should check the contents inside before moving them.
A procedure document dated Oct. 25, 2017, and published on the department’s website with other policies, says officers towing vehicles and taking them into protective custody should — when permitted by policy — create a “detailed inventory and listing of items located inside of a vehicle being towed, which may include its trunk and engine compartments.”
The Star sent a list of questions to KCPD seeking to understand the process of that day, why the vehicle was not searched earlier and before being towed to East Patrol and whether Blackstock was considered missing at the time.
In response, Sgt. Becchina said vehicles that show signs of a violent crime may or may not be processed at the place they are found depending on the specifics of an investigation, and the decision to do so is up to the investigator assigned to the case.
He said detectives work within the confines of the Fourth Amendment, the constitutional protection for citizens from unreasonable searches and seizures, when treating an area as part of an investigation.
Becchina also said that at the time officers were on scene, a formal missing persons report had yet to be filed for Blackstock. That was being completed in Grandview as officers were continuing to work on getting the car towed, he said. And he said the report for Blackstock could not be taken by KCPD at the scene because there was not sufficient evidence to establish Kansas City as Blackstock’s last known location.
He added that the officers showed “very creative thinking to talk the homeowner into allowing the vehicle to be towed based on consent at that time, when there was no other legal standing to enter onto the property, much less process the car on the property.”
“There was a very real risk that absent the exact scenario they were able to facilitate, the vehicle would have been left there, and then any number of things could have happened to it as the missing persons investigation (that had as yet to begin with a report) was initiated,” Becchina said in an email.
“At best a significant passing of time would have occurred before a search warrant granting legal standing to be on the property as part of a missing persons investigation would have allowed investigators to return and hope the vehicle was still there.”
Meanwhile, Turvey, the expert consulted by The Star, said police officers should generally look through vehicles before they take them into custody first as a matter of “basic safety protocol.”
“Before you take the vehicle, especially if there’s evidence of a violent crime, or potential violence of any kind, you have to process it at location. You can’t start moving it,” Turvey said.
After removing the vehicle from the area, police in that moment “missed the opportunity” to treat the house as an extension of the crime scene, Turvey said.
Everyone in the family had a unique bond with Blackstock. And they have their own special moments with him to treasure.
Back in high school, Danielle, his older sister by eight years, couldn’t go to a basketball or a football game without bringing him along — and her old schoolmates have reached out to remind her that he was always like everyone’s little brother.
For his mother, she recalled how he always respected their household, came to church every Wednesday and Sunday, and took joy in spending time with his own young son.
For his father, he was a best friend, going out to NASCAR races, or to watch the Chiefs play with other members of the men’s fellowship on Sundays.
Over the past few days, donations have filled Adam and Adrinne Blackstocks’ living room — including several boxes of diapers — as condolences have poured in from their friends and all the people they’ve come to know through their ministry — and as they have shared their story on social media, posting scripture alongside the hashtag #justiceforajblackstock. His parents started a GoFundMe webpage, seeking help to pay for their grandson’s daycare and college in Blackstock’s absence. Support has come in from Florida, North Carolina, Washington, D.C., and Texas.
For the family, the response has further shown the impact A.J. had on the lives of many. And they are now focused on providing a bright future for his son.
“Adam the third is a precious, precious boy,” said Adam Blackstock Sr. “And I’m going to do everything I can to raise him the way I raised Adam.”
As the family to grips with Blackstock’s death, his family says they only want answers and justice. They want anyone who might have helpful information to contact police and help detectives solve their case. And they hope the perpetrators of the crime will hear their pleas to come forward.
“There’ll be no peace for the wicked, and the only way for those individuals to have peace is to repent and ask God for that grace and mercy,” Adrinne Blackstock said, saying she knows those responsible have families, and citing the ripple effects of violence on the community.
“My plea is if you can’t do it for yourself, do it for your own children.”
“We’ve forgiven you already,” added Adam Blackstock Sr. “We just want the family to have the answers that we believe we deserve.”
Blackstock’s homicide remains an open investigation. Kansas City police are asking anyone with information to call homicide detectives at 816-234-5043 or the TIPS Hotline at 816-474-TIPS.
Correction: An earlier online version of this article misstated the age of Adam Blackstock Jr.’s niece as 3 years old when she is 8 years old.