Adkins, a veteran of the Vietnam War, spent years in Virginia working as a federal government worker before he retired, family members said.
A friend of Adkins’s told police that she went to visit him Tuesday night. When she arrived, she found the door to the home “unsecured” and called authorities, police said.
Adkins, the son of a successful salesman, grew up in Winnetka, Ill., on Chicago’s well-to-do North Shore, said Adkins’s stepmother, 96-year-old Alice Warman. He attended New Trier High School, the area’s academic powerhouse, graduating in 1954, a school spokeswoman confirmed. He later went to college in Colorado, Warman said.
Warman said in a telephone interview from her Florida home that Adkins struggled with prescription drug abuse over the years.
He also had “a tragic family,” she said. Two of his sons committed suicide in 2000, according to Warman and online obituaries. His daughter was left a quadriplegic after an accident and later died from her condition, Warman said.
Adkins had one surviving son, Warman said. He could not be reached to comment.
For the past 14 years, Alfredo Mancia, 42, was a next-door neighbor of Adkins in the small community of townhouses off Old Bridge Road. He said Adkins was always friendly and outgoing — everybody in the neighborhood knew the septuagenarian and his small, blue hatchback.
Mancia, who struck up a friendship with Adkins when he began to mow the neighbor’s lawn, said Adkins liked to swim at the Chinn community center and went to organized activities with other senior citizens.
“As far as we know, he had no enemies,” Mancia said. “Everybody knew him around the neighborhood. It’s very quiet and very peaceful, and it’s a shock to see what happened.”
Police said Adkins was last seen on Sunday.
Natasha Hooper, 24, who lives several units down from Adkins’s townhouse, said Wednesday that police asked her if she had seen or heard anything suspicious between Sunday and Tuesday. She said she had not.
Mancia said he also hadn’t heard or seen anything over the past few days and was surprised to hear of Adkins’s death when police turned up at his doorstep.
The walls in their townhouse complex are so thin that he could hear the music Adkins liked to play, Mancia said, adding to the mystery of why some neighbors did not hear anything before his death.
Mancia said he talked to him occasionally about the death of his children. But Adkins, his neighbor said, preferred to focus on his younger years, and the two would generally banter about the weather.
“There are some sad things that happened to him in his lifetime,” Warman said of her stepson.
She said he often struggled with his finances; court records show liens and civil lawsuits filed against him. She said they did not always get along. Still, when he had struggled with drug abuse, she took him to a rehabilitation clinic in Florida and visited him for lunch every day.
“It’s sad to lose a stepson like that,” she said.
Jennifer Jenkins contributed to this report.