Local News

Chapel Hill Community Searching For Answers In Double-Murder

Posted May 16, 2005

— The Sapikowski family had once been the center of a children's book and described by friends as a "model family" living the "American Dream." But now the parents -- James and Alison Sapikowski -- are dead, and one of their children has been charged with their murders.

On Saturday, the Chapel Hill Police Department charged 16-year-old Adam Sapikowski with two counts of first-degree murder in the deaths of his parents.

"Adam has submitted a statement indicating he is responsible for shooting his parents," Chapel Hill Police Chief Gregg Jarvies said Saturday.

Investigators said Adam Sapikowski was a junior at Durham Academy, and they do not know the motive for the killings.

"We have no record here in Chapel Hill that he’s ever been in trouble," Jarvies said.

Jarvies said the investigation began Friday night at about 9:30 when an out-of-state relative called the Chapel Hill Police Department to report that she had been unable to contact the family in Chapel Hill for several days.

Officers responded to the relative's concern and found the bodies of James Sapikowski, 52, and Alison Powell Sapikowski, 49, inside their residence on Whitley Drive early Saturday morning.

"They were very fine people," said Rich Gonzales, one of the Sapikowskis' neighbors.

James Sapikowski was a businessman and the head coach of the club ice hockey team at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Players with the team said they looked up to him as a father figure.

"His commitment was unmatched," said Adam Arthur, a student at UNC-Chapel Hill who worked with the ice hockey team. "I've never seen anything like it. He was such a great guy and a father figure to so many of these guys; it was incredible."

Arthur said the team suspected something was wrong. He said he traded emails with James Sapikowski several times a day.

But Arthur said he had not spoken with James Sapikowski in about two weeks.

"The last contact we had with him was on April 28," Arthur said. "We suspected something was wrong. Of course, we didn’t expect this."

Justin Sirianni, who played hockey at UNC-Chapel Hill, added: "I just kept thinking, 'No, that can’t be him. His son wouldn’t have done that. It must be another Sapikowski.'

"It's gonna be really hard to recover from this," he said.

Gonzales said that the residents of The Oaks subdivision, where Adam Sapikowski lived with his parents, were stunned.

"It's kind of numbing to see something like this occur," he said. "We don't think things like this happen in our area of the world, but here it is. Right across the street from where I live."

The Sapikowskis, friends said, had been depicted as a "model family" in a children's book about a Spanish houseguest who riled up the children.

James and Alison Sapikowski also had a daughter, Lauren. James Sapikowski had two children from a previous marriage. Investigators believe Adam Sapikowski was the only child living in the parents' home at the time of their deaths.

Police are still investigating the scene.

They have not determined when the shootings occurred. Jarvies said the couple had been dead for at least three days before their bodies were discovered.

Investigators also continue to interview neighbors, friends and family to try to find a motive for the killings.

They said they would speak with people affiliated with Durham Academy to find out if Adam Sapikowski was in school this past week. He had been at a hotel in Durham when police discovered him early Saturday morning, they said.

The headmaster at Durham Academy said there would be counselors at the school on Monday.

Adam Sapikowski is currently being held in the Western Youth Institution in Morganton without bond. He has been charged as an adult.

The facility is located in Burke County in western North Carolina and houses some of the youngest male inmates in the state prison system. Inmates can receive their GED, and they are offered vocational training while at Western.


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