Local News

Teen Gets Plea Deal in Parents' Slayings

Posted January 25, 2008 2:17 p.m. EST
Updated January 25, 2008 6:14 p.m. EST

— A Chapel Hill teenager on Friday agreed to a plea deal in the May 2005 shotgun slayings of his parents, whose bodies were hidden for weeks inside the family's upscale home.

Adam Sapikowski, 19, pleaded guilty to felony obstruction of justice and agreed to plead guilty to two counts of second-degree murder in the deaths of James Sapikowski, 52, and Allison Sapikowski, 49.

Superior Court Judge Carl Fox gave the teen a suspended sentence and a $10,000 fine on the obstruction charge and was expected to pass sentence on the two murder charges in the next two weeks.

The plea was structured in multiple parts so Sapikowski would have a felony conviction on his record when he is sentenced for the killings, allowing Fox to impose a stiffer prison term, authorities said. Sapikowski faces 40 to 50 years in prison for the two slayings.

Prosecutors said the Sapikowski family agreed to the plea deal. Adam Sapikowski's two older brothers were in the courtroom for the Friday afternoon hearing, and Chris Sapikowski shook his head as he listened to his brother's plea.

"I'm sorry," a shaken Sapikowski said softly as his attorney, Rosemary Godwin, rubbed his back.

His family issued a written statement Friday that said the plea deal brought some closure "to this horrific and painful chapter" for them.

"The pleas speak for themselves and provide some solace and a sense of safety to family members in that Adam will remain behind bars for many years for his crimes," the statement said. "The thought of a trial – and the reopening of wounds that are still healing – was not inviting to any family member. It is time for this to come to an end."

James and Allison Sapikowski were found wrapped in blankets behind a barricaded door in the family's east Chapel Hill home on May, 13, 2005, and police said the bodies had been there for weeks before they were discovered. Both had been shot several times at close range with a .410-caliber shotgun, police said.

Adam Sapikowski attended his junior prom at Durham Academy the weekend his parents were killed, and neighbors said he had an after-prom party at the house, police said. He then checked into a Durham motel, where he stayed on and off for two weeks until out-of-state relatives asked police to check the Chapel Hill house and the bodies were discovered.

He had maintained that he killed his parents in self-defense and considered an insanity or diminished-capacity defense. His attorneys said James Sapikowski had threatened his son with a bat and that physical and emotional abuse had provoked the shootings.

Fox reviewed the teen's mental health history in court. Sapikowski has undergone several psychological evaluations since his arrest and has been housed in Umstead Hospital in Butner, a state mental health facility, for more than a year.

Sapikowski had told psychiatrists that he had heard voices since middle school and that he heard them frequently before the slayings, Fox said. He also told psychiatrists that he thought often about hanging himself because his parents told him he wasn't working hard enough.

The records also noted that one of the teen's friends referred to James Sapikowski as "psycho dad" because he frequently yelled at his son, the judge said.

A hospital psychiatrist said in 2006 that Sapikowski suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder and has had flashbacks of killing his parents.

James Sapikowski owned an oil and gas exploration business and was well known as the coach of the club ice hockey team at the University of North Carolina.