Chris Adams Wrestles With Girlfriend’s Death

Fort Worth Star-Telegram – August 19, 2001
By Tanya Eiserer

On a warm spring night in April 2000, Chris Adams took his girlfriend for dinner, drinks and pool.

Still feeling like partying, the couple then went to a friend’s Dallas apartment to drink some wine. They mixed the popular club drug GHB with orange juice and drank that, too.

Adams, a British-born pro wrestler who gained fame in the 1980s, said his next recollection is of waking up in Presbyterian Hospital of Plano.

His girlfriend, Linda Kaphengst, died there 12 hours later.

“It was the worst thing that’s ever happened in my life,” Adams said. “I don’t think I ever will get over it.”

Adams, 46, was charged in June with manslaughter in the death of Kaphengst, who died from ingesting GHB and alcohol. Under Texas law, a person can be convicted of manslaughter if the defendant recklessly causes someone else’s death.

GHB — or gamma hydroxybutyrate — was supposedly safe, and many of Adams’ wrestling and bodybuilding friends took it. He and his girlfriend had taken it no less than 20 times, he said.

“I liked the high feeling and the sexual feeling,” Adams said.

Adams believed the claims that GHB would build muscle while a person slept. “It was meant to be this wonder thing, but obviously it turned sour on me,” he said.

Now he knows GHB can kill, particularly when mixed with alcohol.

Adams, who is free on $25,000 bail, is expected to enter a plea of not guilty during a court appearance scheduled for Aug. 30 in McKinney.

“If he had slipped her something, that would be one thing. But she was partaking in it,” said David J. Pire, a Dallas lawyer representing Adams. “It’s a tragedy that a young woman died, but I don’t believe it rises to the level of reckless.”

Pire also questions why it prosecutors took 14 months to file charges against Adams. “If it was a reckless act in April 2000, it would make sense to arrest him that day and made him post a bond,” Pire said.

Collin County prosecutors and Kaphengst’s relatives declined to comment on the case.

More than a year later, Adams is wracked with remorse over Kaphengst’s death.

“I can’t imagine how her parents feel,” he said. “I have three children myself, and it must be awful.”

Adams is raising his 7-year-old daughter. His 10-year-old son lives in Detroit with his ex-wife, and a 19-year-old daughter lives in Colorado.

“He’s a good guy. He’s just made some bad mistakes,” said Gary Hart, his former manager and friend.

“Gentleman” Chris Adams was loved and hated by wrestling fans. Loved when allied with wrestling’s favorite sons, the Von Erich brothers — hated when he feuded with them.

“Chris Adams and the Von Erichs were known everywhere,” said Dave Meltzer, editor of Wrestling Observer, a weekly industry newsletter. “They were gods.”

Adams, a three-time national judo champion in England, immigrated to the United States in the early 1980s.

“You can make people love you or hate you” with wrestling, Adams said. “It appealed to me — the theatrics mixed with athletic ability.”

During the high-rolling Von Erich era, Adams owned a house in England, land in Southlake, a red Corvette, two condos and a Mazda RX7.

“I thought it would never end,” he said. “I lost it all through divorces, ignorance and mistakes.”

Alcohol was the root of his misfortune, Adams said.

“Alcohol is something that changes Chris,” Hart said. “He’s no longer a nice, sweet guy.”

Adams has twice been convicted of drunken driving, once in Tarrant County and once in Pittsburgh. He was sentenced to a year’s probation after a 1989 incident in Lufkin, where he assaulted his second wife, Toni Adams, according to Adams and newspaper accounts. The couple divorced.

Die-hard Adams fans may still remember an incident on an American Airlines flight heading for Dallas on June 30, 1986.

Adams was returning from a Caribbean wrestling exhibition when engine trouble delayed the plane in Puerto Rico. When the plane took off again, he became belligerent after a flight attendant asked him to sit down, he said.

“I make 25 times the money you do, and no one like you is going to tell me what to do,” a drunken Adams said, according to court testimony.

He head-butted the co-pilot, according to newspaper accounts. Adams testified he did not remember the assault. But in a recent interview, he said he pushed the co-pilot.

“I’m not proud of it, but I really didn’t head-butt him,” he said. “If I had, he would have been unconscious.”

A federal jury convicted him of misdemeanor assault.

“Chris Adams, as the court knows, is a good young man,” his lawyer, Balon Bradley, wrote in court documents. “He is not one who has a criminal outlook on life. His problem is that he tends to abuse alcohol.”

In late 1999, Adams left Ted Turner’s World Championship Wrestling. He and his girlfriend of eight years split early last year.

A friend introduced him to Kaphengst, an insurance office secretary, and they began a romance that lasted four months until her death, Adams said.

“I thought that she was an angel from heaven. I fell absolutely, crazily in love with her,” he said.

A couple of months before Kaphengst’s death, Adams had been hospitalized in Denton when friends mistakenly thought he had overdosed on GHB because they couldn’t wake him, he said. Still, he said he believed GHB was safe.

The liquid drug — once sold on health food shelves as a sleep aid, sex enhancer and fitness product — mimics the effects of alcohol without the hangover, experts say.

On that fateful night, the couple decided to go to their friend Brent Parnell’s apartment to take some GHB, which Adams had left at Parnell’s apartment, he said. Adams had moved out of the house he shared with his former girlfriend and was moving in with Parnell.

Adams said he was supposed to meet Kaphengst’s family the next day.

Parnell said Kaphengst called to ask if the couple could visit. “They were laughing, and they had this little dog from Taco Bell. If you squeezed it, it said something. She couldn’t hardly talk for laughing.”

After the couple arrived, Parnell laid down on the couch. “They were loving on each other, so I decided I’d let them have their good time,” he said.

The couple drank some wine and then downed orange juice mixed with GHB, Adams said.

“I said, ‘Down the hatch,'” Adams recalled.

Parnell checked on them after noticing they had fallen silent. They were in the dining room. Adams was slumped over a chair. Kaphengst lay on the floor. Parnell frantically tried to administer CPR to her.

“I couldn’t wake them up at all,” Parnell said.

After Adams regained consciousness in the hospital, a nurse asked him if he wanted to see his girlfriend. Holding Kaphengst’s hand, he begged her to get well, not realizing a machine was keeping her alive, he said.

“I said, ‘Oh, come on, baby. I’ll wait for you downstairs,'” Adams said.

Kaphengst died about 12 hours after arriving at the hospital, according to the Collin County Medical Examiner’s Office.

“I wanted to die and be with Linda, but there was this little thing in the corner of my mind saying, ‘You have children. You can’t leave them,'” Adams said.

“I drank an awful lot after Linda died,” he said. “I wanted to kill the pain.”

He was hospitalized for depression, and he still sees a psychiatrist and a counselor, Adams said.

Friends say he still has what he calls “Linda attacks.”

“He feels terrible about what happened,” said Tom Lance, a friend and wrestling promoter. “He still thinks about Linda every day.”

In the 1980s, sweaty, frenzied masses would pack into the Will Rogers Coliseum in Fort Worth or the Sportatorium in Dallas every week to watch the modern-day gladiators of World Class Championship Wrestling, operated by local wrestling icon Fritz Von Erich.

Scantily clad women pranced around the outside of the ring, yelling at the opponents and wiping the sweat from their wrestlers’ brows. There were throngs of screaming girls, prowling packs of boys, lusting grandmothers and old men intent on the action — all of them believing every minute of it.

Adams rocketed to fame in 1983 when he joined the WCCW. Strutting into the ring in his trademark Union Jack attire, he often defeated opponents with his signature superkick, a karatelike thrust kick.

Adams achieved greater fame when he broke ranks with the Von Erichs. Wrestling fans may still remember a match at the Cotton Bowl when Adams hit Kevin Von Erich with a chair.

“I wanted to make the people angry,” he said. “What I didn’t expect was that it would really split his head wide open.”

Adams came to enjoy his “bad guy” status, wrestling on the Dynamic Duo tag team with wrestling’s casanova, Gino Hernandez. One match featured the tag team getting their heads shaved after being defeated by the Von Erichs.

“It was fun, and we were making so much money that we didn’t care,” Adams said.

Outside of the wrestling ring, tragedy befell many of Adams’ contemporaries.

Hernandez died of a drug overdose in 1986. Three Von Erich brothers committed suicide, and one brother died from an intestinal inflammation in Tokyo during a wrestling tour.

“It was a boom period for wrestling,” Meltzer said. “But the human cost from that era is unbelievable.”

Wrestling began to fall out of vogue in the Metroplex after the Von Erichs faded, and Adams never regained the notoriety he once enjoyed. He has continued to wrestle off and on during the past decade.

In the early 1990s, Adams operated a wrestling school in Dallas and trained Stone Cold Steve Austin, now a highly paid World Wrestling Federation star.

“I thought I had paid my dues, and that it would never end,” Adams said. “It’s like a roller-coaster ride at Six Flags. It’s up and down, then something comes along and makes it crash.”

Adams said he was surprised by the manslaughter indictment, since more than a year had passed since Kaphengst’s death. He has a new girlfriend and has been trying to get his life back together, he said. He had been selling wrestling rings and was part of the SuperStars of Wrestling, featuring some of the famed wrestlers from the Von Erich era.

He hasn’t wrestled professionally since his arrest.

In a recent appearance at the Collin County Courthouse, Adams looked weary as his daughter played nearby.

“I feel guilty, but I just don’t think I’m guilty of what they are accusing me of,” Adams said in a later interview. “It was a tragic mistake.”

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