Politics & Government

Late SC solicitor was tough prosecutor, loving person

By Nikie Mayo and Mike Ellis

Independent Mail

Chrissy Adams poses for a photo after being elected the 10th Circuit solicitor in 2005.
Chrissy Adams poses for a photo after being elected the 10th Circuit solicitor in 2005. Independent Mail

When 10th Judicial Circuit Solicitor Chrissy Adams decided years ago to perform in a charity dance contest, she worked hard to perfect her moves. And her bank-robber-like delivery.

During Dancing for our Heroes, an event to raise funds for Upstate nonprofits, Adams used the intermission to tease the crowd with one line: "Give me all your money."

She followed the request with a wink or a smile. And many times, it worked.

That night in 2012, she raised more than $14,000 for the Cancer Association of Anderson, an organization whose mission was close to her heart.

"For all of her toughness in the legal field, she has always had a heart of gold," said her husband, Eddie Adams. "If you needed her help on a personal level and she could help you, she would do it in an instant. Many people who think of her only as a prosecutor know only part of her. She was a devoted and loving woman, and gave and gave to anything, or anyone, she could."

Chrissy Adams died shortly after 11 p.m. Tuesday, surrounded by family and friends, after a long battle with Hodgkin lymphoma. She was 49.

"This has been a long and hard road for her and for us," her husband said Wednesday. "She fought with her spirit as hard as she could, every minute that she could, but her body couldn't fight any longer. She was dedicated to her work, her family and her boys. We know she is in a better place."

Chrissy Adams had two sons, a 14-year-old and a 9-year old.

She was first found to have cancer in October 2003, her husband said. In 2004, she began campaigning for the solicitor's post.

"She would take chemo on a Friday, then sleep all weekend, then campaign all week long," he said. "A lot of people never knew she was sick."

Adams earned an undergraduate degree from Clemson University and a law degree from the University of South Carolina. Her legal career started in Charleston and included stops in Greenville and Oconee counties before she sought the top job in the 10th Judicial Circuit.

Anderson lawyer Druanne White, who was solicitor at the time, lost a 2004 Republican primary to Adams.

"She was a born prosecutor," White said Wednesday. "She started battling cancer more than a decade ago, and she really fought. To have fought that long and that hard says something about a person. I'm sure one of the reasons she fought so hard was for her kids. She was a mom. And I think this is a lesson for us all to learn: to appreciate our good health."

Adams took office in January 2005, prosecuting cases in Anderson and Oconee counties.

"She was wonderful and bright and dedicated to her work," said Deputy Solicitor David Wagner, who worked under her for 12 years. "We are going to miss her toughness. And her."

During her tenure in office, Adams handled a series of high-profile cases.

She helped to get a life sentence for Nathan Dickson, who confessed to killing his four family members in 2008. She declined to press state charges in the 2015 death of Zachary Hammond, an unarmed 19-year-old who was fatally shot by a Seneca police officer during a drug bust.

Adams also oversaw the investigation into the death of Tucker Hipps, the Clemson University student who was found dead in Lake Hartwell after a run with his fraternity brothers in 2014. No charges have been filed in that case.

Adams stood by her decisions in controversial cases.

"I’m here to look at the facts, apply the law," Adams said in a November 2015 interview with the Independent Mail. "What I want doesn’t come into play because I have to prove it in court."

Even as she worked in office, her health battles were not far behind.

After a period of remission, the cancer resurfaced in 2012. She underwent stem cell transplants in 2012 and 2014. In the past year, she battled a serious infection that was a complication related to the cancer, and has been on an extended medical leave. She decided in 2016 not to seek re-election.

In the weeks before the election was decided, the sometimes-contentious relationship between her office and the Anderson County Sheriff's Office became an issue of the campaign.

"We didn't always see eye to eye," Sheriff John Skipper said Wednesday. "But we all have our jobs to do, and she did hers and did it well. I have nothing but respect for her professionalism and the bravery that she showed as she struggled with her illness on and off for years."

Wagner, a longtime deputy solicitor under Adams, won an election for the solicitor's post in November and is scheduled to take office in January. Wagner said it is up to Gov. Nikki Haley whether she will appoint someone to serve as solicitor in the days before he takes office.

Solicitor Walt Wilkins, of the neighboring 13th Judicial Circuit, said in a statement that Adams built a team of skilled prosecutors and helped shape crime legislation.

"It was an honor and privilege to have worked with Chrissy, who will always be remembered as a great prosecutor, public servant, mother, wife and friend," Wilkins said.

As solicitor, she championed and implemented a worthless-check unit to help curb the number of checks bounced in local businesses.

In 2015, she introduced the first courtroom dog in South Carolina. Roma, a Labrador retriever, is often put into service to calm nervous trial witnesses or distraught family members involved in a case.

Adams helped create drug court in Anderson and Oconee counties, a program that requires intensive drug testing and counseling for people who are working to kick the habit.

Outside the courtroom, Adams was involved in community work. She served on the board of directors of Collins Children's Home in Seneca, a Christian nonprofit that works with needy children and families. Her husband said she was also passionate about the mission of Safe Harbor, an agency that exists to help victims of domestic violence.

Adams was part of a well-known Upstate couple. Her husband, Eddie, has served as chairman of the Oconee County Republican Party and previously served as chairman of the South Carolina Department of Transportation Commission.

Besides her husband and young sons, Adams is survived by her mother, Helen Theos of Charleston and brother, Nick Theos of Atlanta.

Eddie Adams said a wake for his wife is for planned Friday, beginning at 8:30 a.m. at the Saint George Greek Orthodox Cathedral in Greenville. A funeral will follow at 11 a.m. Friday. She will be laid to rest Saturday in Charleston, he said.

In her private life, Adams and her husband spent months preparing their sons, 14-year-old Gregory and 9-year-old James, for the possibility that she would not survive her battle with cancer.

"We spent a lot of time as a family, just knowing what is important and savoring every moment," her husband said. "We took lots of moments to just cherish each other and to laugh."

Those moments included Chrissy Adams once again showing off her dance moves.

"That's one of the funny things I'll miss about her," her husband said. "She would hear some song on the radio and just start some fun, crazy dance. She was full of life and full of joy, and she knew the value of appreciating every moment."

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