Archived Story

Monday, June 16, 2003

Family still wonders what happened 8 years after son's disappearance

By TAMMY J. McCOY/Staff Writer

BARSTOW -- The Riley family is haunted by unanswered questions and thoughts of the horrifying possibilities that could have befallen their son, who vanished almost eight years ago.

Barstow residents Joseph Gerald Riley and Mark Wayne Adamson, disappeared on July 8, 1995, and are presumed dead, although their bodies have not been found. Riley was 29 and Adamson was 37 when they disappeared.

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Joseph Riley's family has spent the past eight years wondering what happened to their beloved relative.

"At first there was a shock and disbelief that anything this horrible could happen to one of our family members," said Riley's mother, Dorothy Riley. "Then as time goes on, you began having images of what could have happened or what might have happened to them and you just think maybe you will never know."

She said there are many reminders of her son which bring her to tears.

"Whether it be in church or merely riding alone and suddenly something, a song on the radio or a memory of that person comes to mind and the tears (begin) to swell," Dorothy Riley said.

Adamson was last seen at about 1:30 p.m. on July 8, 1995, getting into an American model, maroon-colored sedan in the Wal-Mart parking lot. Adamson's roommate told police Adamson left town with Riley and a large sum of cash to buy a vehicle.

"We believe they met with foul play," said Barstow Police Detective Leo Griego. "We suspect it was drug-related."

Griego said police have a suspect in mind, but declined to release the person's name as the case is being actively investigated. Griego said the suspect has not been charged because the district attorney's office wants to recover the bodies before proceeding with a double-murder case.

Dorothy Riley said the family hired its own investigator to help them find out what happened to Joseph.

"According to the reports we had, it was another drug deal that had gone sour," Dorothy Riley said. "Joe got involved with the wrong crowd somehow and that is where things really began to go wrong. He wasn't perfect."

She said the prevailing theory is they were robbed and murdered in the Barstow area then buried in the desert.

The Riley family wants closure, Dorothy said.

"We miss Joe and are committed to finding out what happened to him," she said. "We will not give up. It is not easy losing a family member ... There is nothing as hard as losing a child even if he is grown."

She described her son as a happy-go-lucky young man who made many friends during the five years he lived in the Barstow area. Dorothy Riley said he grew up in Huntington Beach and his many friends there have fond memories of growing up with him.

"He was a talented carpenter and was a quick learner," she said. "Joe would have been 30 in just two weeks when he came up missing."

Dorothy Riley said she believes that someone has the critical piece of information that would provide her family with the closure they need.

"Please, if you are out there, it would be a blessing to our family if you would do so," she said.

Anyone with information about this case is urged to call Griego at 760-256-3531 ext. 3242 or to remain anonymous, contact WE-Tip at (800-78-CRIME).

The Riley family is offering a $5,000 reward for information leading to the whereabouts of Joseph Riley.

Tammy J. McCoy can be reached at or 256-4126.

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