'Nothing Good Came of This'

Friendship Splintered Over Gambling, Ended in Murder

Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, January 30, 2009; Page E01

Jennifer Blackburn parked her white Land Rover near Section Eight of Gate of Heaven Cemetery in Silver Spring and turned to the back seat to wake her two young sons from a nap.

"Come on, guys," she said. "We're going to see Daddy."

The three walked through a sprawling green to the grave site of Jason Hadeed. Four-year-old Nikolas and 3-year-old Alex pulled off the petals of some daisies and tulips that they had brought and sprinkled them onto the bronze plaque covering the marble headstone.

"Beloved father, son and brother," the plaque reads.

Today in a Montgomery County courtroom, Michael Adams will be sentenced for Hadeed's murder. Following a two-week trial in November, a jury took a little more than three hours to find Adams guilty of first-degree murder, which carries the possible sentence of life in prison without parole.

Hadeed, 33, had a shaved head, sinewy muscles and a growing reputation as one of the top trainers of young athletes in the area. Adams, 45, was a failed golf pro with a gambling addiction. Their relationship began when Blackburn introduced them eight years ago. They shared a love of sports and occasional rounds of golf together. The relationship ended with Hadeed curled in the fetal position on a street outside Adams's apartment, in Rockville's King Farm community, shot three times in the back.

"I had to bury my fiance of six years and send my best friend to prison for the rest of his life," Blackburn said. "Nothing good came of this."

'He Had the "It" Factor'

A few months before he graduated from Damascus High School in 1992, Jason Hadeed went to an athletic training facility in Germantown owned by John Philbin. Hadeed asked Philbin, who had just finished a five-year run as coach of the U.S. Olympic bobsled team, if he needed an intern. Philbin agreed.

"You could just tell he had the 'it' factor, a passion," Philbin, who served as the Washington Redskins' strength and speed coach from 1992 to 2000, said in an interview. "He was willing to do whatever it took to be the best. He went to seminars. He read everything he could get his hands on. He dove into every piece of literature. He wanted to know everything about it from A to Z. And then he asked questions.

"I was more proud of him than any other student I've ever worked with."

Hadeed earned his bachelor's degree in kinesiology from Towson in 1998. Two years later, he got his teaching certificate in physical education and co-founded Elite Athlete Training Systems. Though he worked with both male and female athletes at all levels, Hadeed found his niche working with high school football players.

Hadeed would train athletes either at Philbin's new facility in Gaithersburg, at area health clubs, at private homes or at athletic fields throughout the Washington area. He had made connections with entire teams, like the football team at Sherwood High School in Sandy Spring, whose coach, Al Thomas, had been Hadeed's coach at Damascus.

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