Former professor’s sexual advances brutally rejected, detectives say

Investigators confer Wednesday at the site where a body was found in the back of an industrial park.
Investigators confer Wednesday at the site where a body was found in the back of an industrial park.

A former professor was killed in a knife and hammer attack by a 20-year-old man who rejected his sexual advances, according to authorities.

Barry Joshua Baer of Bradenton told detectives that Hollant Maxford Adrien, 56, had picked him up and driven him to a dead end in a Manatee County industrial park, where Adrien’s body was later found, according to an arrest report.

“Baer stated that victim began to make sexual advances, which Baer rejected,” Manatee County Detective Ben Main, lead homicide investigator in the case, wrote in his report.

It was then when Baer said he took out a knife that he regularly carried for protection and stabbed Adrien in the neck. A physical struggle began outside of the vehicle, and Baer grabbed a hammer and struck Adrien 40 to 45 times in the head, the report said.

Baer told detectives he then took the victim’s Toyota Scion to the home of friend Alexander Turner, 18, and the two cleaned out the vehicle and took out Adrien’s belongings and his money, the detective reported. Details of the crime, known only to law enforcement involved in the investigation, were revealed during the confession, authorities said.

Early Wednesday morning, deputies were called to the intersection of 58th Avenue East and 21st Street East, and Adrien’s body was discovered face down in the road.

“The trauma sustained by the victim produced a large amount of blood splatter in the immediate area, indicative of an extremely violent attack,” Main wrote in the arrest report.

It took investigators several hours before Adrien’s body was identified Wednesday evening, but his identity was not released publicly until Friday morning after detectives finally located his next of kin because he had no local family members.

Baer initially was arrested Wednesday night after driving and crashing Adrien’s stolen vehicle during a high-speed chase with Manatee deputies that ended in Lakewood Ranch, according to the sheriff’s office. He has been lodged at the Manatee County jail since Wednesday night while the murder investigation continued.

Turner, who was a passenger in the vehicle with Baer, was arrested Wednesday for violating probation and has additional charges pending. “At this time, he has not been charged in connection with the murder,” Manatee County Sheriff Rick Wells said in a statement announcing the murder arrest issued Saturday morning.

On Thursday, detectives found Adrien’s vehicle registration, mail, identification cards and checkbook in a recycling bin when they searched Turner’s home after obtaining a warrant, according to the arrest report.

Witnesses told detectives with the Manatee Homicide Investigative Unit that they had seen Baer at Turner’s home with Adrien’s Scion Wednesday morning — the same morning of the brutal murder. When one of the witnesses asked Baer about the ownership of the Scion was, he reportedly said it belonged to a friend.

Adrien was a former French professor and had taught at Hamline University in St. Paul, Minn., and Wittenberg University in Springfield, Ohio. He appeared to have moved to Sarasota in an attempt to get away from past troubles.

Known as Professor Max Adrien, he gained national media attention when he began offering informal classes in Creole to volunteer workers who were planning trips to his native Haiti to help in the relief effort after a massive earthquake killed more than 300,000 people on Jan. 12, 2010.

In February 2013, Adrian was found not guilty after being accused in the August 2012 rape and kidnapping of a 19-year-old developmentally disabled man. Wittenberg, however, had fired him a couple months before his trial.

Adrien later filed federal civil rights lawsuits against Wittenberg University, the police and six media outlets, claiming that the allegations had “defamed and destroyed” his personal and professional life. His lawsuits also claimed he had been unjustly fired before being found not guilty. He claimed he had been treated differently because of his race, his sexual orientation and his national origin.