Wrestler found shot dead family has lost five sons Latest tragedy apparently a suicide

February 19, 1993|By New York Times News Service

SHADY SHORES, Texas -- Wrestler Kerry Von Erich Adkisson, member of a star-crossed wrestling family that had already lost four of its sons, died yesterday of a bullet wound that was apparently self-inflicted.

Mr. Adkisson, 33, a well-known wrestler dubbed "the Texas Tornado," was found dead about 2:50 p.m. by his father, Jack Adkisson, who also wrestled professionally for several years under the name Fritz Von Erich and raised a family of wrestling stars.

He apparently used a gun he had given his father two Christmases ago.

Kerry Adkisson was only the second of six sons still alive since a string of tragedies began in 1959. Two of the others took their own lives.

Jack Adkisson found his son's body in a blackberry vine thicket on the family's 140-acre ranch in this community of Denton County north of Fort Worth. He had a single wound in his chest from a .44-caliber Magnum handgun, county investigators said.

Kerry Von Erich Adkisson was scheduled to wrestle tonight in a Global Wrestling Federation match against "The Angel of Death" at the Dallas Sportatorium.

Earlier this week, Dallas Criminal District Judge Larry Baraka signed an arrest warrant after Kerry Adkisson was indicted on a charge of cocaine possession. Since he was on 10 years' probation for a drug conviction in September, prosecutors were seeking to revoke his probation and send him to prison.

Judge Baraka, told about the death about 24 hours after signing the arrest warrant, said: "It's very sad. I feel sorry for him as well as his family. I think it was very selfish of him."

Only four hours after finding his son's body, Jack Adkisson stood on the front porch of his A-frame home and calmly spoke to reporters about his son. He revealed for the first time that his son's right foot had been amputated but had not prevented him from wrestling.

The father said the amputation came a year after it was severely injured in a 1986 motorcycle accident. He said everyone at the hospital and, later, the physical therapists, had been sworn to secrecy.

"No one knew. It was extremely painful at first," Mr. Adkisson said. "Kerry's had a drug problem since that accident, and no one was ever about to tell why."

He said Kerry didn't want to tell because "Fellas might think he was weaker."

The elder Adkisson said his son had been despondent recently because of the legal problems and had frequently mentioned taking his own life. Kerry Adkisson's wife of nine years, Cathy, had removed all guns from their house.

Mr. Adkisson hadn't seen his son for two weeks until 1:30 p.m. yesterday, when he came to the house and hugged his father for the last time.

"This time he said, 'I love you, Dad,' " the father said, losing his composure and wiping a tear from the corner of his eye. "I should have known something was wrong."

Before Kerry Adkisson drove into the pasture in his father's yellow Jeep, "He told me, 'I'm going to go back and find a quiet spot. I need to do some thinking.' "

About 2:15 p.m., Jack Adkisson said he got worried because he knewKerry had to pick up his daughters, Holly, 9, and Lacy, 6, from school in Dallas County. "I found that Jeep empty, durn it," he said. He found the body partially hidden in the thicket.

Kerry Adkisson's death was only the latest family tragedy. The first was in 1959, when Jack Adkisson Jr. died of an accidental electrocution at age 7. David, considered by many to be the best wrestler, died in 1984 at age 25 of an inflamed intestine during a wrestling tour of Japan.

Mike, 23, died in April 1987 after a series of health troubles. His death was the result of a drug overdose; authorities found notes at his car and residence. And Chris, 21, was found shot in the head in September 1991 by his mother and a brother at the family's 500-acre East Texas ranch. The death was ruled a suicide.

The only surviving son is Kevin, 34, also a wrestler, who was en route from Jefferson, Texas, to the family home after Kerry's death. The boys' mother, Doris, and father were divorced last summer after 42 years of marriage.

"Kerry could never learn to cope with the loss of any of his brothers," Jack Adkisson said. They may have helped him decide to take his life,however, "Because when one in the family does it, it makes it a whole lot easier for another one to do it. We learned that the hard way."

He added that his son was having income tax problems and was worried about the indictment. "He was always in pain, walking on that foot," he said. "He just couldn't see over the hill, it piled up so high."

Kerry Von Erich was to be the headliner in an "Iron Claw" match tonight. It was dubbed the "Iron Claw" match because it was to pit two wrestlers using a maneuver where the opponent's head is grabbed and held.

His attorney, Grey Pierson, said the show would still go on fTC without his star, explaining, "In the past, when things like this have happened, when his brothers died, he insisted that it go on. That would have been his wish."

Funeral arrangements will be announced later, Jack Adkisson said.

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