By Mark Phillips
The Sentinel-Record 6-29-1977
“My children have had to make some big changes, and I have too in trying to be a father and mother to them since Linda disappeared,” says Ray Edwards, the ex-husband of slain Garland County Sheriff’s Deputy Linda Edwards.
Discussing the life he and his son, six-year-old Toby, and daughter, five-year-old Kim, have made for themselves since his former wife disappeared in August 1976, Edwards said the transition was hard on the children.
Another son, seven-year-old Sonny, has been less affected since he is an exceptional child under the guardianship of Mr. and Mrs. William Sabin of Hot Springs, Edwards says.
It was particularly difficult, however for Toby and Kim to accept the disappearance and death of their mother.
“It was very depressing for them at first. During the first month Linda was missing, we told Kim and Toby she was on vacation, but they kept asking when she would come back,” he explained.
“After the first month, I told them their mother was lost and that the police, sheriff’s deputies and state police were looking for her. That seemed to mean a lot to them since she was a deputy. Once they even saw a bulletin with Linda’s picture on it, and I told them it would help the police in finding their mother,” he continued.
When at last the skeletal remains of the missing woman were found Feb. 12 on Jack Mountain, Edwards said he was inclined to let the children continue believing their mother was lost.
“But Linda’s brother (Roy Ockert Jr. of Batesville) told me he thought I should tell them she was dead since they might hear about it anyway, maybe at school. I think he was right; it was probably better for them to hear about it from me,” he said.
Thinking of the death of his own mother when he was 25, Edwards broke the news to his own children that mother wouldn’t come back.
“It was very hard for them to accept. They both cried a lot. I suppose it was harder on them since they had been expecting her to come back for so long,” he said.
For some time, he said Toby seemed especially afraid his father might disappear also; and Kim would make statements about running away and dying so she could go to Heaven to see her mother, Edwards said.
“Toby and Kim had been to my mother’s grave, and it’s hard to give them an answer when they want to know where their mother is buried. Once she’s buried, I think they’ll be a little more satisfied,” he said, noting that he really doesn’t understand why authorities haven’t released the remains for burial.
As for himself, Edwards says the past year has been upsetting.
“Linda and I were married for four years before getting a divorce in June, 1973. If someone had told me something like this could happen when we got married, or even when we got the divorce, I wouldn’t have believed them. Even though we were divorced, it’s been hard since there is always a bond if you’ve been married and had children,” he said.
However, things are beginning to look up somewhat since Edwards remarried June 25 with the approval of Kim and Toby, he said.
However, Edwards and his children still must face a few remaining obstacles before a truly normal family life can be obtained.
“Linda’s mother, Irene Browning, is trying to get custody of Kim and Toby and Linda’s estate. We’re in court now, but should know something before long,” he said.
In addition, he said the Sabins are wanting to adopt Sonny and change his name.
“The kids are just now getting settled and I’m just beginning to get adjusted to having a family home again. Every time things begin to look okay, something else pops up. It’s been almost a year since Linda disappeared and I got custody of Kim and Toby. Now I wish we could be left alone to live our lives like we want to,” Edwards said.
Assuming Edwards does win final custody of his children, he says it will still take time for them to recover from the events of the past year.
“I guess I’m speaking out for Sonny, Kim and Toby, I want to know we can live together without worrying about someone trying to take them away.”