Brown County property dispute murder leads to 60-year prison sentence

NASHVILLE — The gruesome nature of the shooting of Bob Adair and the senseless property line dispute that resulted in his murder nearly two years ago brought extra years in prison for his killer.

So did the fact that the 70-year-old wood craftsman and Buddhist was shot to death while sitting with his dog in his Ford F-150 pickup at the end of his driveway in rural Brown County.

Randy Steven Small, 58, has been sentenced to 60 years in prison. He gets credit for 711 days spent at the Brown County Jail since his arrest. He was assessed a $1 fine and $189 in court costs.

Adair didn’t have a weapon the day he was shot in the head with a shotgun.

During a sentencing hearing Monday morning, Brown Circuit Judge Mary Wertz acknowledged that Small has no criminal record. But the brutality of the September 2021 crime called for a sentence longer than the 45-year standard sentence for murder in Indiana, she said. The range is 45 to 65 years, and a fine up to $10,000.

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Wertz spoke to Small before imposing the sentence, expressing horror at what the evidence during the July trial showed. “You shot him directly in the head at close range and that resulted in the blowing off of his head. And you left him in that truck.”

Adair’s body was discovered the next day. The judge pointed out that Small drove his tractor to Adair’s that day, shot the unarmed man and drove back to his home to hide the murder weapon “hoping no one else would find out what you’d done.”

Wertz cited two legal aggravating circumstances to support the 60-year term. One was that the victim was older than 65. The other was the nature and circumstances of the crime, which she described as “substantially aggravating.”

“This was a dispute over property,” she said, noting the heart of Small’s issue with the man he shot was the location Adair placed a post for his mailbox.

A damaged mailbox marks the scene where Brown County resident Bob Adair was shot to death in September 2021.

Before the trial, Wertz denied a request from defense attorney Andrew Baldwin that the jury be taken to the murder scene to see the Helmsburg site for themselves. Small and Adair had been neighbors on Helmsburg Road for decades.

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Brown County Prosecutor Ted Adams didn’t object, saying it would do the jurors good to see the plot of land in question. They viewed photos from the site instead, and deliberated four hours on July 25 before finding Small guilty of murder.

“Both Bob and Randy believed the little patch of land was theirs. It culminated with Randy tearing out and running over Bob’s mailbox,” Brown County chief Deputy Prosecutor Rob Seet wrote in a statement released after jurors found Small guilty.

“Nobody,” Seet said, “should have been killed over such a trivial matter.”

Adair was a master woodworker whose specialty was constructing doors like the ornate entryway into the Brown County Art Guild in Nashville. He also was a musician, playing dobro for the White Lightning Boys bluegrass band.

Bob Adair constructed this main entry door at the Brown County Art Guild in downtown Nashville. Jack Brubaker designed and crafted the ironwork and the stained glass was made at Shuster Glass Studio.

Small said he will appeal his conviction and sentence, asking the judge to appoint a public defender for the appeal. Wertz said she needs more information about property and vehicles Small may own before she can declare him indigent and eligible for a county-funded attorney.

Adams said he’s happy to see the case conclude after nearly two years.

“Bob Adair’s family can, at least, have some sort of closure to the nightmare that they have been experiencing since Sept. 15, 2021,” the prosecutor said after the sentencing.

“Nothing will ever bring Bob Adair back, and his murder was malicious and meaningless. But I hope that justice having been carried out can help assuage some of his loved ones’ anguish.”

Contact H-T reporter Laura Lane at llane@heraldt.com or 812-318-5967.

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