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Mother still fighting for justice 12 years after daughter Danick Adams was killed outside Arkansas fitness center

Danick Adams, 18, was shot and killed outside Ultimate Fitness, a fitness center in Jacksonville, Arkansas, on August 15, 2008. The masked gunman approached Danick and her friend as they were walking to her car and demanded their purses, cell phones and money before shooting Danick multiple times and fleeing in Danick’s car. He has never been caught. The Jacksonville Police Department in Arkansas is investigating.

Every year around this time, Amy Adams flips through a thick, 3-ring binder filled with photos and mementos of the 18 years she had with her daughter, Danick.

Danick AdamsPhoto provided by Danick's mother, Amy Adams.

Once in a while, Amy will add a letter that she has written when she can’t find the words to say them out loud.

“I miss her so much and I think about her every single day,” Amy told Dateline. “I can’t talk to her, so I write letters. I write about life. And everything that has happened since she’s been gone. And details about her case that will hopefully help find her killer.”

Danick Adams was only 18 years old when she was shot and killed outside Ultimate Fitness, a 24-hour fitness center in Jacksonville, Arkansas on August 15, 2008. Twelve years have passed, but no one has been arrested in her death.

Amy told Dateline she remembers it being a typical hot and humid August evening. She spoke to her daughter on the phone around 10:30 p.m. on Friday, August 14.

“She told me, ‘Mama, I’m with Princess, but I gotta go. You’re eating up my minutes,’” Amy recalled. “So before I knew it, she was off the phone and I never heard from her again.”

Amy explained to Dateline that Princess was someone Danick knew from high school and they had recently begun hanging out. Amy said she later heard that the girls went to the fitness center to use the tanning beds and then put on makeup before heading out for the night.

“It doesn’t really make sense to me,” Amy said. “Danick was pretty pale and never really tanned. Something just seemed shady about them being there so late.”

Danick AdamsPhoto provided by Danick's mother, Amy Adams.

A few hours later, Amy got a phone call that would change her life forever. There had been a shooting outside Ultimate Fitness and Danick had been shot.

“I knew right away that she was gone,” Amy said. “I could feel it in my gut. My baby was gone.”

Detective Cynthia Harbour with the Jacksonville Police Department told Dateline that Danick and her friend left the fitness center just after midnight on August 15, and were walking to Danick’s white Cadillac when they were approached by a masked gunman.

The gunman demanded their purses, cell phones and money. Danick’s friend told police that Danick started protesting and that’s when the man pulled off his mask briefly and started shooting. Danick was shot five times, Det. Harbour said. Her friend was not shot nor was she injured and told authorities she did not recognize the gunman.

The detective said the gunman then fled the scene in Danick’s car. According to police, Danick’s friend said she ran from the area of the shooting and went to a nearby house where they let her use their phone to call 911.

“It’s just strange, because I think if you had just shown your face to someone you’re about to kill, I wouldn’t think you’d want to leave a witness,” Det. Harbour told Dateline.

The detective said Danick’s friend has been questioned many times over the years, and authorities believe she knows more than she is revealing to police. Dateline NBC tried to reach out to the friend for comment, but attempts were unsuccessful.

A few hours after the shooting, a man was spotted driving Danick’s car past the fitness center - which had become a very active crime scene. When the car was pursued and stopped by police, the driver managed to escape the vehicle and flee the area, Det. Harbour told Dateline. A woman, who was a passenger in the vehicle, remained at the scene and told authorities she had just been picked up by the man and wasn’t able to identify him.

“Why would someone who had just shot a person multiple times return right to the scene of the crime?” Det. Harbour wondered. “It could have been the shooter or maybe the car was traded by that point. We just don’t know.”

Detective Harbour said they believe Danick was targeted and that more than one person is responsible for her death.

“It’s very hot and humid here in the summer,” Det. Harbour noted. “I find it hard to believe that a man wearing a ski mask was waiting outside the fitness center to rob a random person going to work out at the gym at midnight.”

Danick’s mother told Dateline that when her daughter was shot, she had a pink Motorola RAZR cell phone in her back pocket and 30 cents in her front pocket.

“She didn’t have much on her, but she wasn’t going to just let someone take it,” Amy said. “She was always just very feisty.”

Evidence from the crime scene -- including some DNA -- is minuscule, but Detective Harbour is hopeful that advancements in technology will lead to some answers.

She confirmed that there have been several persons of interest over the years, some of whom have been cleared through the DNA that was found. No one has been publicly named, but there are a few people they are planning to interview and re-interview.

“It’s only a matter of time until someone talks,” she said. “Someone knows what happened and we’re going to find out.”

The years following Danick’s death were a waking nightmare for Amy.

“I didn’t know what to do or what to think or how to live without her,” Amy said. “How do I breathe? I was a complete mess. The trauma and grief were unbearable.”

Amy Adams at the grave of her daughter, Danick.Photo provided by Danick's mother, Amy Adams.

But with the help from the Parents of Murdered Children Organization, Amy said she was able to keep going and even find a new calling for her own life.

She is now a victim advocate for families going through the same thing with the Central Arkansas Chapter of Parents of Murdered Children.

“I can’t bring Danick back,” Amy said. “But with this new purpose in my life, I can use it to help others. To let them know this doesn’t have to define you.”

Amy’s other purpose in life remains the same - to find justice for her daughter. She believes Detective Harbour’s dedication to the case will make a difference.

Detective Harbour, who has been on Danick’s case for five years now, keeps multiple binders of the case file on her desk where she can see it every day.

When she retires in April 2021, the detective told Dateline she plans to work on Danick’s case full-time.

“I can’t wait to give all my time to this and get to the bottom of it,” Det. Harbour told Dateline. “It’s time to get some answers.”

Her dedication gives Amy hope there will soon be justice in the case - a final piece to add to her own binder that holds memories of Danick’s life.

“It’s time,” she added. “It’s time my girl got the justice she deserves.”

Anyone with information that could help solve Danick’s case is asked to call the Jacksonville Police Department - Criminal Investigations at 501-533-6477. A $5,000 reward is being offered by Crime Stoppers for information that leads to an arrest in the case.