The actor speaks to PEOPLE about the death of his caretaker and friend

By Jessica Herndon
Updated August 17, 2007 01:30 PM

Ving Rhames tells PEOPLE that he wants to “set the record straight” about the death of his caretaker Jacob Adams, who was found dead Aug. 3 on the actor’s front lawn.

“He was much more than a caretaker,” Rhames, 48, says. “He really became a member of the family. He was at my mother’s birthdays, my children’s birthdays. He was the person I could trust.”

Despite widespread reports that Rhames’s dogs mauled Adams to death, “My dogs are family dogs,” he says. “Jacob didn’t have any bites on his face or neck. He had scratches to the middle of his torso as if the dogs were trying to pull him over.

“He had a few bite marks on his arms and legs, but there were only two imprints on the top and two on the bottom meaning the dogs didn’t clamp down on him in an aggressive fashion.”

Rhames and Adams met about seven years ago on the set of Sins of the Father. “He was my stand in,” says Rhames. After about two years of developing a “good friendship” through continued stand in work on Dawn of the Dead and Kojak, Rhames asked Adams to come live with him so he could further his acting career.

“If I was out of town, Jacob would take care of my properties,” says the actor, who was filming in Bulgaria when he heard the news. “I was stunned because Jacob knew my dogs. He took care of them. When I found out, I was shocked, especially when I read that they said my dogs mauled him.”

The actor says he called Los Angeles police and was told there had been a lack of bites on any fatal areas, but detectives were questioning if the dogs had any part in Adams’s death.

Once Rhames returned to L.A., he says he contacted Adams’s family in Toronto. About a week later, he says, police and the coroner told Rhames they had ruled out the dogs as well as the heart attack as the cause of death.

“There was such a lack of blood at the scene,” Rhames explains. “They think possibly an aneurysm in the brain. They’re doing a toxicology report. They will know [the results] in six to eight weeks. Closure for me will be when the coroner says what was the cause of death.”

The actor says that coming to terms with his friend’s death is “still surrealistic.”

Says Rhames: “It’s almost like his spirit is still here.”

Rhames’s dogs have since been released from quarantine and are back at his home. But, they may not stay there long. Rhames says he will probably relocate his dogs to a friend’s 12-acre estate in Texas. “God forbid that I’m outside with my dogs and they look at a person and the person wants to sue me.”