ADAM BRUCKNER is a lot of things: A former professional soccer player and coach, an activist for the homeless, a mentor for troubled youth, a 2015 Daily News Sexy Single . . . and a crime-fighter who may have stopped a serial killer.
It's that last jaw-dropper that also will make him a TV star, at least for one night this week, when Bruckner's sleuthing will be featured on the docudrama "Suspicion" on the Investigation Discovery channel. The episode, titled "Slaughter on the Schuylkill," will air at 10 p.m. tomorrow.
Bruckner was a young player for the Philadelphia KiXX in 2001 when he began to visit Center City's homeless, bringing them food, getting them proper state IDs to land jobs and helping however else he could.
When one turned up dead in July 2002, he worked the streets to solve her murder, digging up clues that helped police prove that a homeless man named Red Colt had killed his 60-year-old girlfriend, Josephine Angelo, chopped her up and hung the gore in five plastic bags in trees along the Schuylkill River banks.
The motive was monetary, authorities decided. Angelo, it turns out, was rich and not homeless: She had a cluttered apartment where she'd stashed $300,000 in cash, possibly a family inheritance. When police took Colt into custody, he had $50,000 in a cart he pushed around town. Police also found a note he wrote, possibly to remind himself, saying that the rest of the fortune was buried somewhere in Fairmount Park.
Even after Colt's conviction, Bruckner remained fixated on the case. On one hand, Colt had been a friend he'd met during his homeless outreach, someone who seemed so educated and gentle that Bruckner couldn't shake his shock that he'd stooped to murder. And though Bruckner had collected the crucial clues authorities needed to convict Colt, the two traded letters for years afterward, as Bruckner tried to learn more about his mysterious friend.
Yet authorities told Bruckner that Colt had dismembered Angelo and hid his murderous methods so expertly they speculated that he'd killed others. He'd also been in trouble before for pulling a gun on a cop and for threatening President Ronald Reagan, suggesting a life in upheaval bound to end in deadly violence.
In the TV show airing tomorrow, Bruckner walks viewers through the case, explaining how he scoured the crime scene for missed evidence, picked through Angelo's trash and spent all his spare time with either detectives or homeless folks hunting for clues. In between, actors re-created scenes that might annoy sticklers for authenticity (like an actor strolling past "Broadway" and "San Julian" street signs - hey, that's not Philly! And while "Philly Fire" may have an alliterative ring to it, Philly's professional indoor soccer team was the KiXX).
The show's producers flew Bruckner to London last September for taping. He described his experience as the star subject of a crime show "interesting."
"It's bizarre because the core of it is a tragedy rooted in abuse against women; the reality is that a lady died in a horrible situation," Bruckner said.
It wasn't his only crack at crime-fighting. About six years ago, a burglar broke into an apartment he shared in Montgomery County with former 76ers shooting guard Kyle Korver and stole season tickets. Bruckner figured the thief would scalp the tickets - so he worked with authorities to nab him, participating in a sting complete with counterfeit money, cops hiding nearby in black SUVs and a foot chase. With Bruckner's help, police got the guy.
But Bruckner has no plans to swap his service work for a badge and gun. After the KiXX folded in 2010, Bruckner devoted all his time to advocating for the needy. He still runs Philly Restart, the nonprofit he founded about 13 years ago to bring meals to homeless people and help them get IDs. He also works at the Helping Hand Rescue Mission in North Philadelphia, where he runs a youth program.
Of his crusade to get Angelo's killer off the street, he said: "I've got a little bit of an unsettled mind that gets stuck on thoughts."
Besides, he said, "the homeless weren't cooperating with the police, and she [Angelo] didn't have family members to call in and nudge the detectives" to remain aggressive about probing a tough case.
"The homicide detective said it probably would have [otherwise] gone unsolved," he added.
Colt died last year in prison, succumbing to a terminal illness. Still, Bruckner's unsettled mind won't let him stop puzzling over the contradictions of a homeless killer with multiple aliases who spoke in the genteel accent of an English royal and sang opera in his muddy river encampment.
"For me, there are still so many questions about the case," Bruckner said. "Who was this guy?"
On Twitter: @DanaDiFilippo