By Roy Ockert Jr.
Batesville Daily Guard 2-17-1977
WE HAD REACHED THE END of the road in trying to find my sister, Linda Edwards, who was last seen alive about midnight last Aug. 21. For days and days, this writer, among others, hopelessly had walked the woods around Hot Springs near the desolate area where her car was found abandoned, just for something to do. Since then, I’ve spent more weekends in the town of our birth than the previous 10 years together. We’ve written more letters, asked more favors and cried more, too.
We did not know where else to go.
Then last Saturday a couple of wolf hunters, who had strayed from a larger group, found a couple of bones. They notified the Garland County sheriff, and Sunday morning most of what remained of my sister had been found and identified. Her bones and clothing had been scattered by animals over a circle of about 100 yards on an even more desolate mountain, nine miles from her car.
Despite that, it was odd she had not been found earlier. Her killer had apparently not buried her. The spot can now be plainly seen from the road, although the environment has changed since summer. Lumberjacks had cut down a dozen trees within 100 feet, and one of the hunters said he had been in that area 50 times since August.
Now we are waiting for the state medical examiner to complete an intensive investigation before we can have a funeral. But we’ve waited more than five months for that. And by Tuesday we were still recovering fingernails and teeth from the woods, still searching for her purse, badge and the weapon used against her.
For Linda the worst was over last August when someone hit her over the head repeatedly and left her body beside a tree. For her family the worst is finally over now that we know for sure. For her three children, ages 4, 6 and 7, the worst may be beginning. For her killer there is less doubt of punishment.
We had known almost immediately last August that Linda had been murdered. Too many things pointed in that direction. And we believe we know who killed her. But we will be more certain.
Those who investigate a crime like this one can make no mistakes, cannot afford to overlook a hair or cigaret package. This is a time when we must have professional policemen, when we must have competent prosecutors and judges. They must be better than good. To us, their efforts now are priceless.
In the last of her 30 years Linda had found something she could do well. In growing up, she seldom took things seriously, waiting for the world to come to her. And even after graduating from high school she moved from one job to another, never making a dent. But somehow she landed a dispatcher’s job at the Garland County sheriff’s office a year ago, and the sheriff said she quickly excelled as a deputy.
She became known by all who listen and use police radios as No. 137, a number that will be used no more in Garland County, and they say she learned to handle any kind of crisis. She could talk to anyone, make friends at the snap of a finger.
As children, we traveled by train from Arkansas to Ohio one year. Before the rest of us got settled into our seats, Linda, a fifth grader then, knew everybody on the coach.
But some personal problems haunted her. She had allowed a relationship that was doomed from its beginning to break up her marriage. She loved a man more than he was worth. That sort of frustration apparently allowed her to meet someone she trusted that last night. What happened afterward no one is saying.
She did not likely die in the line of duty. Although she had aided the sheriff in a couple of drug cases, we have no reason to believe that anything like that was involved. And the murder that she witnessed six years earlier apparently had no connection. No, someone she knew and trusted killed her, we think, and that probably hurt her worse than the blow on the head.
We had a long time to prepare for last Sunday, and yet we were not ready. Those who loved her will continue somehow to blame themselves for her loss, though we have cried long enough. Our problem is mental: we should have looked harder for Linda before Aug. 21. But how can we tell Sonny and Toby and Kim that she will not come back?