Monday, May 16, 2005

Unsolved death of Paula Adkins- Chief Michael Gust's fiance'

May 16, 2005: Unsolved Death of Paula Adkins - Fiance' of Chief Gust, Dearborn Heights Police Department.

Hail to the chief
Police Chief Michael Gust retiring, Gavin taking over
By Sean Delaney, Press & Guide Newspapers
PUBLISHED: April 30, 2008

DEARBORN HEIGHTS - Dearborn Heights Police Chief Michael Gust will say goodbye May 30 to the department he has proudly served for more than 34 years.

"I've had a good career, and I've made some great friends along the way," said Gust, who joined the department in 1973. "But it's time to say goodbye — I want to leave while I still enjoy the job."

Gust has occupied the top spot in the Dearborn Heights Police Department for nearly eight years, but the veteran lawman fondly recalls his early days with the department — first as a cadet, then as a full-fledged officer.

"I've had a very fulfilling career and there are a lot of highlights that I'm proud of," he said. "But you never forget your first days on the job, when everything is still new. It's a very humbling experience."

Gust said one of his most memorable cases — a stabbing at Annapolis High School — occurred just nine months after he joined the department.

"We were there to protect the suspect from the crowd, but things got out of hand," he said. "We had to call for backup."

But it wasn't just members of the Dearborn Heights Police Department who responded to the call — dozens of officers from different departments arrived at the scene to lend a hand, Gust said.

"I think that really showed the kind of camaraderie that exists among our officers," he said. "We rely heavily on each other — through good times and bad." Gust has faced his share of challenges — both personal and professional — during his tenure as chief.

In May 2005, Gust's former fiance', 37-year-old Paula Adkins, was found dead on the shoulder of U.S. 17 in Murrells Inlet, S.C., near Myrtle Beach. Her death remains under investigation.

Just one year later, the department would be forced to say goodbye to one of its own when gunman's bullet claimed the life of Officer Jason Makowski. An 11-year veteran of the department, Makowski is the second officer in the history of the department to give his life in the line of duty.

"Jason's death hit us all hard — it was a real challenge to hold the department together," Gust said. "I think a lot of people view the things we do as heroic, but Jason's death reminded everyone that at the end of the day, we're only human."

When he isn't in uniform, Gust is a proud father and husband — a role that's sometimes difficult to play given the nature of his job.

"I feel like I've been on call since 1987," he said. "I'm looking forward to being able to leave my phone in the bedroom while I work outside. I think you miss out on a lot of things when you're always on call."

But if he had it to do over again, would he change professions?

"Absolutely not," Gust said. "I love what I do. Being a police officer is the greatest profession in the world. I think everyone has some regrets, but I'm very happy with the choices I've made."

Deputy Chief Lee Gavin, a 28-year veteran of the Dearborn Heights Police Department, will succeed Gust as chief next month.

"Mike has been my friend and mentor for several years, and I'm proud to have served with him," Gavin said.

"I'm looking forward to opening the lines of communication with our residents, and facing the day-to-day challenges the lie ahead."

As for the current chief, Gust said he plans to enjoy retirement.

"I'm going to ride my motorcycle, see the country and spend time with my friends and family," he said.

But the chief won't be able to leave his old life behind completely, Gavin said.

"We still have his number," he said. "We'll keep in touch."

Contact Staff Writer Sean Delaney at (313) 359-7820 or

Family still wants answers in '05 death of local woman in South Carolina
By Sean Delaney
Press & Guide Newspapers
PUBLISHED: June 24, 2007

DEARBORN HEIGHTS - Two years ago, 37-year-old Paula Adkins was a woman in love. Recently engaged, Adkins was looking forward to getting married, raising her 13-year-old daughter and enjoying life in Dearborn Heights.

But all that would change on May 16, 2005, when Adkins' life was cut tragically short following a suspicious motorcycle accident in South Carolina — one that would leave her young daughter without a mother, and her family searching for answers.

"We pulled together as a family and we grieved like families do," said Pam Monro, Adkins' sister, who also resides in Dearborn Heights. "Our focus has been on Andrea (Adkins' daughter); to help this little girl out as much as we can as a family and support her even though we know her life is changed forever. She's lost the person who meant the most to her in her life."

But grief has given way to outrage, Monro said, as Adkins' death remains unsolved more than two years after her lifeless body was discovered on the shoulder of U.S. 17 in Murrells Inlet, S.C., near Myrtle Beach.

Her injuries appeared consistent with being struck by a motor vehicle, according to a coroner's report obtained by the Press & Guide, although her family believes Adkins' death may not have been accidental.

"After two years, now we're starting to question what really happened that night," Monro said.

"When it was told to us initially, it didn't really make sense, but being in shock and grieving you try and prioritize — we decided to take care of our family first. But now we want answers, for us and for her little girl."

Those answers have been hard to come by, Monro said, as the incident remains under investigation by the South Carolina Highway Patrol.

"We don't even know the most basic information," Monro said. "It's been very tough."

What is known, Monro said, is that Adkins traveled to Myrtle Beach with her former fiancé, Dearborn Heights Police Chief Michael Gust, in May 2005 to participate in "Bike Week" — an annual event that draws thousands of motorcycle enthusiasts to the city.

"He's the one that introduced her to motorcycles," Monro said. "For the most part, she wouldn't get on anyone else's bike."

The couple had been together for about nine months, Monro said, and became engaged after six. They were to be married last month — but a May 16 visit to the Suck Bang Blow bar, located on U.S. 17 in Murrells Inlet, S.C., would change their lives forever.

What happened after that remains a mystery.

"There's a tremendous amount of gray area," Monro said. "I think the truth would help us find closure, but I don't think we'll ever recover from this." According to South Carolina police, Gust said he left Adkins with friends at the bar the night of the accident so that he could return to the condominium the couple shared.

During that time, Adkins left the bar and was not seen again until her body was discovered later that night.
Adkins' family, however, believes Gust may know more than he's telling.

"There are a lot of unanswered questions from that night, and he may be the only one who can answer them," Monro said. "We're not out to discredit him — we've all lost someone we care about. But we believe that there are answers out there."

Gust did not return phone calls seeking comment about the ongoing investigation.

According to Monro, Adkins' former fiancé was the first to contact the family after she died — a call that shocked and horrified Adkins' mother, Alice McMahon.

"My mom, being in shock, just couldn't put the words together — so she sat on the couch for three hours and then contacted the rest of the family," Monro said. "Of course, it came as a shock to us as well."

But most shocking of all, Monro said, is the amount of unanswered questions surrounding Adkins' death, including who she was with the night she died.

"When I spoke with (Gust) he was really unclear about what happened," she said. "Piecing it together is one thing, but you would think he would've lifted a finger — whether it was with his social status or not — to help find the person responsible. The thing we question now is that there was no involvement." Adkins was one of several individuals killed during the "Myrtle Beach Bike Week" event in 2005, according law enforcement officials. Accidents reported during the event increased by nearly 90 percent from the previous year, police said.

While her family continues to search for answers, Monro said she would remember her sister as a woman full of life, who enjoyed traveling, fishing and making others laugh.

"I still remember when we going to visit mom and dad and we were supposed to bring pasta salad — Paula put it on the roof of the car and forgot about it," Monro said. "We lost it somewhere near Outer Drive and Telegraph Road. The salad was ruined, but we couldn't stop laughing. That's what I'll remember most about her — she could find humor in anything. She was the best sister anyone could ask for and we miss her."

Anyone with any information about the May 16, 2005, death of Dearborn Heights resident Paula Adkins should contact the South Carolina Highway Patrol (Horry County) at (843) 365-5001 or Pam Monro, who can be reached via e-mail at

Comments To: Trooper Collins
Re: Paula Adkins Death

The Detroit Free Press quoted Dearborn Heights police chief Michael Gust "We were at the bar and I left to
get something from the condo"....shortly thereafter she was found dead on the side of a busy highway. They had to ride to the condo and one female member of the traveling group was at the condo. Did you ever question her to validate the condo visit?

2) Your local paper quoted the chief as saying, in effect "Paula and I were separated in a crowd and I went back to the condo to get something"

3: Southeast Michigan contacts have the Chief stating to a new girlfriend that "Paula was drinking a lot, we went back to the condo and she refused to stay and went back towards the bar".

The "Suck, band and blow" bar has a website with 6 active live cameras 24/7. Did you happen to investigate videos of the bar the night of the disappearance? Mr. Collins, who ID'd the body or Paula that evening? The only printed news states she was ID'd by an unidentified male. Was it Mr. Gust? Why would he be at the scene so soon? The Condo was a bike ride away.

It is understood that a woman member of the Michigan traveling group was at the condo the night Mr. Gust Protends to have returned. Have you interviewed or indentified her? Please help the family of Ms. Adkins.

Seeking help
Biker Blog
Posted by Emma Ritch
May 19, 2006 at 06:40 PM Permalink

Police are handing out flyers at the two SBB locations to try to solve the year-old mystery of Paula Adkins' death near a biker bar.

The 37-year-old Michigan woman died May 17, 2005, shortly after being discovered on the shoulder of U.S. 17 Bypass, about 50 yards from SBB Four Corners in Murrells Inlet. Autopsy results revealed that Adkins died of internal injuries, but authorities don't know what caused them.

"We have not gotten any tips about Paula Adkins,'' Trooper Sonny Collins of the S.C. Highway Patrol said. "It's very frustrating. We hope that someone who was here last year is back and will step forward to say they saw something.''

Adkins came to the Harley-Davidson spring rally with her fiance, Michael Gust, the top police officer in Dearborn Heights, Mich.

To help, call Horry County CrimeStoppers at 843-248-5000 or the S.C. Highway Patrol at 843-365-5001.

Police ask bikers for clues in Michigan woman's death
The Bay City Times - Bay City,MI,USA
5/8/2006, 6:30 a.m. ET

MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. (AP) — Police say they hope some bikers returning to Myrtle Beach for the annual Harley Davidson motorcycle rally will shed some light on the mysterious death of the fiance of a suburban Detroit police chief at last year's event.

Paula Adkins, 37, of Dearborn Heights, Mich., died after she was found on the road near a bar on May 17, 2005. The hair salon worker died of internal injuries, but it remains unclear what caused those injuries.

Investigators said she could have fallen off a motorcycle or been hit by a car or motorcycle or been the victim of some other crime.

"It's still an open case," Highway Patrol Senior Trooper Sonny Collins said. "We certainly haven't given up on it. We're still investigating."

Adkins' fiance, Dearborn Heights police Chief Michael Gust, was interviewed and his motorcycle examined.

"The fiance's been very cooperative," Collins said. "Anything we've asked for, he's done."

Police plan to publicize the investigation at this year's rally, hoping to jog someone's memory.

"We're sure somebody saw something," Collins said. "There are so many people from out of town that quite possibly anyone who witnessed it could be anywhere in the country."

Tips sought in bike rally participant's death
Posted on Sat, Jun. 04, 2005

It's been more than two weeks since a Michigan woman died while visiting the Grand Strand with her police-chief fiance for the Carolina Harley-Davidson Dealers Association Myrtle Beach Rally, and authorities hope fresh appeals to the public will yield clues that may provide a break in the case.

Paula Adkins, 37, of Dearborn Heights, Mich. - where her fiance, Michael Gust, is the police chief - was found along U.S. 17 Bypass near Inlet Square Mall near a popular biker bar about 11:30 p.m. May 23. She died early the next morning. The S.C. Highway Patrol is handling the case.

Adkins had abrasions on her body and broken bones. The injuries indicate she was either hit by a car or thrown from a motorcycle.

The couple had apparently split up for a short time and Gust went to his condo to retrieve something. Adkins was found dead a short time later. Sonny Collins of the Highway Patrol, said Friday that a message board posting near the accident site about the incident failed to produce any tips. "Until we hear something from the public, we've exhausted all of our avenues we can go down," Collins said. Anyone with information can call 365-5001 or dial *hp on a cell phone.

Fatal accident leaves behind shattered lives, questions
By Sean Delaney
Press & Guide Newspapers
PUBLISHED: May 25, 2005

DEARBORN HEIGHTS - Sitting at a bar in South Carolina, police Chief Michael Gust and his fiancé Paula Adkins were just two bikers in love.

They talked, they laughed and they made plans for the future — a wedding next May, a honeymoon, and the chance to spend the rest of their lives together.

But it's a future that the 37-year-old Adkins won't get the chance to see.

A motorist discovered Adkins' body on the shoulder of U.S. 17 in Murrells Inlet at 11:30 p.m. on May 16 — just hours after she and Gust were at the nearby bar.

According to Tamara Willard, deputy coroner of Horry County, Adkins suffered injuries to the head and abdomen, as well as road rash injuries on her left side.

"Her injuries are consistent with falling off a bike, or being hit by a car," Willard said.

Adkins was pronounced dead at the scene, according to South Carolina Department of Public Safety spokesman Sid Gaulden.

Until further information is available, Gaulden said that the case is being treated as a traffic fatality.

"It was some type of accident," Gust said. "Nobody knows what exactly happened."

Prior to her death, Adkins and Gust had been in town to participate in the annual Carolina Harley-Davidson Dealers Association Myrtle Beach Rally.

"We were just having a great time, enjoying life, loving each other," Gust said.

According to South Carolina police, Gust said the he had left Adkins with friends at the bar the night of the accident so that he could return to the condominium the couple shared.

During that time, Adkins left the bar and was not seen again until her body was discovered later that night.

Adkins' sister, Paula Munro, said that the couple had been very much in love.

"Her and her fiancé is a pure love story," she said. "We support Mike Gust, and we support the family."

Adkins was laid to rest in St. Hedwig Cemetery in Dearborn Heights on May 21 following funeral services at Sacred Heat Church on Michigan Avenue in Dearbron.

A Dearborn Heights resident, Adkins worked at a local hair salon and is survived by her daughter, Andrea Adkins, her parents Jim and Alice McMahon, two siblings and a grandmother.

5 Deaths During Bike Week 2005- One needs your help
The Soft Tails Gazette
May 2005,+Chief+Gust&hl=en&ct=clnk&cd=5&gl=us

Just for FYI - there were only 5 deaths during the Spring Harley Rally this year. Not bad - considering that we had about 350,000 visitors this year.

Investigators are searching for clues in the death of Paula Adkins, 37, from Michigan.

She was found on the side of the road, on Highway 17 By Pass, and the incidents surrounding her injuries and death are UNKNOWN!

Adkins, 37, and her fiance, Michael Gust, were in Myrtle Beach to take part in the Carolina Harley-Davidson Dealers Association Myrtle Beach Rally when she died of injuries early Tuesday, about a half-hour after either a tumble off a motorcycle, a hit-and-run crash or another incident, authorities said. Her body was found about 11:30 p.m. Monday on the shoulder of U.S. 17 Bypass, roughly 50 yards from SBB Four Corners in Murrells Inlet.

Trooper Sonny Collins of the S.C. Highway Patrol said Friday that the probe would continue as authorities tried to determine how Adkins died.

Call 365-5001 if you have information about her death.For a complete story and photos - go to

In other accidents, were 45-year-old Gregory Carter of Maryland; 49-year-old Harvey Harold Ocallaghan of Maryland; and 37-year-old Paula Jean Adkins of Michigan.

2 a.m. Sunday, 26-year-old Mike Kalwiss of Southampton, N.Y. turned his bike in front of a Ford Explorer. It happened on Grissom Pkwy. at 10th Ave. N. Kalwiss later died at Grand Strand Memorial Hospital. Deputy Corner Tamara Willard says Kalwiss wasn't wearing a helmet.

A large box truck and a motorcycle collided just after 3:30 AM on May 20th. The wreck happened on Highway 9, near Buck Creek Road in Longs. That's about a half mile from the H.D. Spokes Saloon, which is a popular biker hangout.

The accident, which happened about 3:40 a.m. near H.B. Spokes Saloon, claimed the life of Lollie Edwards Demopoulos, said Trooper Sonny Collins of the S.C. Highway Patrol.

The truck overturned, and trapped a passenger on the bike underneath. That person, a woman, died. The coroner's office has not released her name. Officials are trying to reach her next of kin.

Horry County Fire Department spokesman Todd Cartner says a medical helicopter airlifted the operator of the bike to New Hanover Regional Medical Center in Wilmington. Harvey Harold Ocallaghan, 49, was identified Monday afternoon as the first motorcycle crash fatality of the 2005 Carolina Harley- Davidson Dealers Association Myrtle Beach Rally.

South Carolina highway Patrol Fatality Memorial Site

Name:Paula Jean Adkins
Date of Birth:1/29/1968
Date of Passing:5/17/2005
Hometown:Dearborn Heights
County/Road of Fatal Collision:U.S. Bypass 17

Paula was a beautiful person, who was full of life. She loved her family very much, especially her daughter. We love you and miss you so much. You are forever in our hearts.


May 17, 2005, age 37. Beloved mother of Andrea. Loving daughter of Jim and Alice McMahon. Sister of Mike McMahon, Rosemary (Howard) Rowland, Pamela (Russell) Munro. Granddaughter of Ann Barkholz. Fiancee of Mike Gust. Funeral Saturday 10 a.m. Prayers at the Dearborn Chapel of the Howe-Peterson Funeral Home, 22546 Michigan Avenue and 10:30 a.m. Mass at Sacred Heart Catholic Church. Visitation 5-9 p.m. Thursday and 1-9 p.m. Friday. Rosary 7 p.m. Friday. In lieu of flowers memorials in care of Andrea Adkins.

Chief mourns tragedy of trip
Police treat fiancée’s death as traffic case
By Niraj WarikooKnight Ridder
Posted on Fri, May. 20, 2005

They were in love and at a biker bar in South Carolina.

But later that night, the fiancee of Dearborn Heights Police Chief Michael Gust was found dead alongside a highway near the bar.

Hours before her death Monday, Gust said, the couple had discussed plans for their honeymoon.

"We were just having a great time, enjoying life, loving each other," Gust said Thursday of the last day he spent with Paula Adkins, a 37-year-old Dearborn Heights resident who worked at a hair salon.

Police in South Carolina continue to investigate how she died. It's unclear whether she fell off a motorcycle, was hit while walking or died in another way.

The couple had driven to South Carolina for the annual Carolina Harley-Davidson Dealers Association Myrtle Beach Rally, said Gust and South Carolina police.

"She loved motorcycles," Gust said, and "she loved riding with me."

Now, he said, "I'm not sleeping or eating. I'm not getting closure."

During the trip, the couple were "together constantly," Gust said. But at one point Monday night, they were separated.

Earlier that day, they had gone to a bar in Murrells Inlet, S.C., said Horry County officials. The bar is spread out and has a large parking lot that was filled with bike vendors for the rally, bar manager Tammy Mack said. It's unclear what part of the bar the couple were in, said Tamara Willard, deputy coroner for the county. They may have been in the building, in the bar's parking lot or in both areas.

At some point, Gust went to his condo to get something, Willard said. During that time, Adkins left the bar. Her body was found about 11:30 p.m., said Sid Gaulden, a spokesman for the South Carolina Department of Public Safety. She had injuries to the head and abdomen, Willard said.

She had road rash injuries on her left side, Willard said. But her injuries were less than what victims normally get if they fall from a motorcycle or are hit by a vehicle, she said.

"She could have been walking alongside the road and got hit by a car," Willard said.

But Willard said there is no reason to believe she fell off Gust's motorcycle. The case is being investigated as a traffic fatality, Gaulden said.

Adkins' sister, Pamela Munro, said Thursday: "We as a family fully support Mike Gust. It was truly a love story. ... They were planning their wedding and their lives. .... He truly loved her."

Survivors include a daughter, Andrea Adkins; parents Jim and Alice McMahon; two other siblings, and a grandmother.

Visitation will be 1 to 9 p.m. today at the Howe-Peterson Funeral Home, 22546 Michigan Ave. in Dearborn. The funeral is 10 a.m. Saturday at the funeral home, followed by 10:30 a.m. mass at nearby Sacred Heart Catholic Church, 22430 Michigan Ave.

Burial will follow in St. Hedwig Cemetery in Dearborn Heights.

Details emerge after woman dies; cause still unknown
By Paul Nelson and Brock Vergakis
Posted on Thu, May. 19, 2005
The Sun News

The woman who died shortly after her body was discovered along U.S. 17 Bypass in Murrells Inlet near a popular biker bar was here with her fiance and a group of friends attending the Carolina Harley-Davidson Dealers Association Myrtle Beach Rally.

Paula Adkins, 37, was engaged to Dearborn Heights Police Chief Michael Gust, municipal employees of the suburban Michigan community said.

"[Gust] goes every year," said Tina Foley, who works in the mayor's office in Dearborn Heights, a community outside of Detroit.

Foley said the couple had planned to wed next May.

How Adkins received internal injuries and died Monday night still is a mystery.

Despite appeals by authorities, no additional witnesses have come forward with information, said Trooper Sonny Collins with the S.C. Highway Patrol.

"It was some type of accident. Nobody knows exactly what happened. I don't know. I want to know, too," said Gust, who has returned to Dearborn. He declined to comment further Wednesday.

Investigators from the S.C. Highway Authority have been appealing to the public for help via a message board near SBB Four Corners in an effort to piece together the sequence of events that left Adkins sprawled about 50 yards from the bar around 11:30 p.m Monday. The bar, Suck Bang Blow, gets its name from the way an internal combustion engine works and has a wide reputation among Harley-Davidson fans.

Adkins was rushed to Waccamaw Medical Center and pronounced dead about 40 minutes later, authorities said.

Autopsy results revealed that Adkins died of internal injuries, but authorities still don't know whether she fell off a motorcycle or was the victim of a hit-and-run or foul play.

Adkins had signs of road rash on her body, but not much, Collins said.

"It indicated some kind of moving impact against the pavement. We don't know exactly how that came up," he said. So far, Adkins' death has been treated as a "suspicious pedestrian fatality," he said.

It's unclear how long Adkins was lying on the side of the road before police received a call, but Collins said it was on such a busy road she likely wasn't there long before being noticed. As of Wednesday, no additional witnesses have come forward with any information, Collins said."We don't have any leads yet. No one has called in to give much help. We're reaching out to anybody who saw anything." A male came to the crash scene and identified Adkins, Collins said.

Collins did not have the man's name or know his relationship with Adkins. He also did not know who Adkins might have been with Monday night.

Adkins' funeral is set for 10 a.m. Saturday in Dearborn, according to Dearborn Heights City Council President Elizabeth Agius.

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