By BENNIE IVORY
The Sentinel-Record 4-3-1979
A motion to dismiss a first-degree murder charge against Hot Springs Lt. Thurman Abernathy will be filed Wednesday in Hot Spring County Circuit Court, Prosecuting Attorney Dan Harmon said Monday.
Harmon announced over a week ago he would not prosecute Abernathy on the charge and instead would turn the case over to the Hot Spring County Grand Jury for consideration.
He said he would present the case to the grand jury in 30 to 60 days.
Abernathy is charged in the slaying of Linda Edwards, a Garland County sheriff’s deputy who disappeared Aug. 22, 1976. Parts of her skeletal remains were found by hunters in a forest in western Hot Spring County in early 1977.
Abernathy, who is free on $50,000 bond, was arrested in June, 1977, and has been on indefinite suspension from the police department without pay since then.
He will be released from bond when Harmon’s motion is granted.
Harmon said he decided not to prosecute Abernathy because of a recent state Supreme Court ruling that has limited the state’s case against the lieutenant.
The Supreme Court ruled last month that certain testimony ruled inadmissible last year in a hearing concerning the case can be admitted into court but said other testimony can not be admitted.
Then-Circuit Judge Henry Means had ruled that all of the testimony of Sara Edwards, who is not related to the dead woman, was inadmissible because it was hearsay.
In the hearing, Sara Edwards testified that Linda Edwards told her she was going to meet Abernathy on the night she disappeared. The court said that testimony should have been ruled admissible.
However, the court said the rest of Sara Edwards’ testimony could not be presented to a jury.
That testimony included statements allegedly made by Linda Edwards that she was pregnant by Abernathy, who is married, that he wanted her to have an abortion against her wishes and that they had had violent arguments about her refusal to get an abortion.
“We have less evidence now than we did when the charge was filed,” Harmon said when he announced his decision.
Harmon said he does not know whether Hot Spring County Circuit Judge John W. Cole will grant the motion to dismiss the motion himself since he will be required to disqualify himself from the case. Cole was the prosecutor who filed the charge against Abernathy in 1977.
A special judge will be appointed by the state Supreme Court to empanel the grand jury.
Harmon said the earliest possible date for the empanelmeny of the grand jury would be late May or early June.
“I don’t see how it could be earlier with my schedule the way it is,” he said. “I’ve got to have time to prepare for it.”