The Sentinel-Record 3-24-1979
Hot Springs Police Chief Grover Douglas said Friday Det. Lt. Thurman Abernathy will be eligible to seek reinstatement to the department when a first-degree murder charge against him is nol prossed next week.
Seventh Judicial District Prosecuting Attorney Dan Harmon announced earlier in the day that he will nol pros the charge next week then submit the matter to the Hot Spring County Grand Jury for consideration.
Abernathy is accused of murdering Linda Edwards, a Garland County sheriff’s deputy, who disappeared Aug. 22, 1976. Parts of her decomposed body were found in Hot Spring County in early 1977.
He has been on suspension from the police department without pay since his arrest in June, 1977.
Abernathy will be released from the $50,000 bond he has been under since his arrest when Harmon nol prosses the charge.
“If it is nol prossed,” said Douglas, “I would think, technically, he would be eligible to come back, according to the laws and rules and regulations, the way I understand it.”
“If Abernathy decides s to seek reinstatement,” Douglas said, “he will have to submit an official request to the Hot Springs Civil Service Commission.”
“He will have to come back through the commission, because they are the last ones who handled him,” said Douglas. “I could only suspend him up to 30 days without pay. Then, the commission went ahead and suspended him, pending the outcome of the case.”
Douglas would only say he will abide by the civil service commission’s decision when asked his position on Abernathy’s reinstatement.
Joe Poe, commission chairman, said he is uncertain whether Abernathy would be eligible for reinstatement.
“We will have to meet and see,” he said. “I would have to have legal advice on it.”
Poe said the commission’s next regular meeting is set for April 17 but added there is a possibility of a special called meeting being held before then.
Little Rock lawyer Jack Holt Jr., who is representing Abernathy in the case, said he will not advise Abernathy to attempt to return to the police department until the matter is resolved.
“I haven’t discussed it with him at all,” he said. “I do not think he would seek employment until the matter is totally and finally resolved.”