The son of a man serving a life sentence for a 1990 manslaughter and feticide in Hinesville recently was sentenced to a similar fate in upstate New York.
Adam Croote, 23, pleaded guilty in March to raping and choking a 10-year-old girl left in his care, and on April 28, he was sentenced to at least 25 years in prison.
Croote — whose childhood was so wrenching that he was invited to the White House at age 7 as a symbol of the plight of missing children — was a known offender with a record when a family in Berne, near Albany, N.Y., asked him to watch their daughter after school one afternoon.
The girl managed to escape the attack as Croote tried to strangle her, the Associated Press reported.
For Croote, the offense was another twist in a tragic tale with local ties.
When Adam Croote was 2, his father, Army PFC Michael Croote, killed his pregnant mother, Wendy Ann Croote, and left the toddler alone with her body inside their mobile home off Kelly Drive at White’s Mobile Home Park No. 26.
Hinesville Police Maj. Thomas Cribbs, who was a captain at the time, recalls working the case. The park is now known as Shady Grove.
Cribbs went to the scene early on June 24, 1990, with now Assistant Police Chief Maj. Julian Hodges and retired MACE Capt. Robert W. Higginbotham.
“I recall that the victim, who was lying on a mattress in a living room, she was covered up, and she had been shot in the head,” he said.
Cribbs also recalls Wendy Croote’s autopsy the next day, and how investigators had to locate a private practice doctor in Savannah to estimate the age of the fetus.
According to the case file, the unborn child was a male, about 20 weeks developed.
Cribbs did not recall a child being at the scene, but case documents show 2-year-old Adam Croote was in the home.
“I think he had been removed by the time I got there …,” Cribbs said. “But the case talks about how he was removed and given to the Department of Family and Children Services, and they took care of him until some of his family came and got him.”
Beyond that, the case file makes little mention of the young Adam Croote.
“If I recall, he was asleep, according to the report … the child was asleep in another room,” Cribbs said, looking through the case file. “Two years old, I find it hard to believe he remembers anything, but I certainly feel like this has had an effect on his life, very much so.”
Michael Croote pleaded guilty on Nov. 1, 1990, to voluntary manslaughter and feticide. He was sentenced to 20 years on the former charge and life on the latter.
According to the Georgia Department of Corrections offender database, Michael Croote currently is in Hays State Prison in Trion.
Courier coverage of the trial said District Attorney Dupont Cheney introduced evidence that Michael Croote shot his wife in an “extreme emotional state” after learning she had had several extramarital affairs and was romantically involved with his father.
Cribbs said the argument between them escalated because Michael Croote suspected his own father may have fathered his wife’s unborn child.
“I’m sure that’s quite a burden for that young man [Adam Croote] to carry over the years,” Cribbs said. “If I understand right, he didn’t have a stable home life when he went back to his grandparents. He had been sent from one place to the other. That would cause some issues, I would think.”
Two years after Wendy Ann Croote’s slaying, Adam Croote’s maternal grandparents abducted him during a custody fight with his paternal grandparents, the Albany Times Union reported. His face was on missing-child fliers for three years until they were captured, living under assumed names.
In 1996, Adam Croote and his paternal grandmother went to the White House to see President Bill Clinton sign a policy to put missing-children posters in federal buildings. A photo shows the small boy standing near Clinton’s side as the president writes.
And his troubles continued. As a teen, he was convicted of sexually assaulting an instructor at a home for troubled youth in Wendell, Mass.
Adam Croote returned to the Albany, N.Y., area five years ago and was arrested about two years later when he failed to register as a convicted sex offender, authorities said. He later registered.
Cribbs said he had little reaction when he recently learned about Adam Croote’s record and conviction.
“You can’t tell me anything that’s going to surprise me,” Cribbs said.
“It shows you the far-reaching events that happen when something so tragic happens,” he added. “Not only does it happen to the immediate family, but if happens to friends and other members of the family, reaching down to the children and others and so forth — it’s very dramatic that something like this happens.”