COLD CASE: Possible witness emerges, Ex-deputy sounds off in murder case

By JAMES JENNINGS
The Sentinel-Record 8-28-2007

A potential witness has decided to come forward in a 31-year-old murder cold case.

Byron Rhodes
Byron Rhodes

After reading an Aug. 22 story in The Sentinel-Record about the unsolved homicide of Linda, Edwards, Carter McCaslin, a former captain of the Garland County Reserve Deputies, decided to break his long silence. On Friday, he gave a sworn affidavit in the office of Byron Rhodes, the attorney for Toby Edwards, Linda Edwards’ son.

Edwards, a former Garland County Sheriff’s Department dispatcher, disappeared on Aug. 21, 1976, and her abandoned car was found two days later on a dirt road just off Arkansas Highway 290 near Carpenter Dam Road, Six months later, her remains were discovered by a hunter on Jack Mountain in Hot Spring County.

“Once I read this thing about the judge saying that this lady or sister or friend said that she heard (Linda Edwards) say she was going to meet (a Hot
Springs police lieutenant) was hearsay, well, what I got is not hearsay,” McCaslin said in his statement.

The lieutenant he was referring to was a man with whom Edwards was having an affair and whose child she was allegedly carrying.

The police lieutenant subsequently was charged with her murder, but charges were dropped in August 1978, after Circuit Judge Harold Means tossed out the testimony of a friend of Edwards’ who claimed that Edwards told her she was going to meet the man the night she disappeared. Means found the testimony to be hearsay and could not be introduced to a jury.

McCaslin recalled working with Edwards and said they had a conversation about a mobile home he had available to rent and that she was interested in it.

When he told her he needed a deposit to hold the place, she said she was going to meet the lieutenant that night.

“It was common knowledge at the sheriff’s department that she was having an affair with him,” McCaslin said in his statement. “She made the statement
to me at that time that she was pregnant with his child and was meeting him that night and could have the money for me the next morning.”

McCaslin said that at 9 a.m. the next day, he saw the lieutenant meeting with a sheriff’s department detective at the Sand’s Restaurant.

He said they were “sitting in a back booth with their heads real close together having a very serious conversation.”

He added that he did not think much about it at the time, not knowing that Edwards was missing.

“They just looked like they might have been out all night working,” McCaslin said. “They looked tired and weren’t neatly dressed.”

When McCaslin arrived for work, he found out Edwards was missing. He said he mentioned what he saw to some other deputies and was told to “just keep my mouth shut and stay out of it.”·

In a telephone interview Monday, McCaslin recalled that he approached the sheriff’s detective about his conversation with Edwards, but the detective
told him, “I don’t need to talk to you at all.”

“In my opinion, he is the key to this whole thing,” McCaslin said Monday.

Rhodes said that after he took the sworn statement, he forwarded it to Hot Spring County Prosecutor Eddie Easley. Hot Spring County is prosecuting the case because Edwards’ remains were found in February 1977 on Jack Mountain.

Easley said Monday that because this is still considered an open case, there is little he can say about it.

“We did receive the statement this morning,” he said. “We will turn it over to the state police to follow up and check out the information.”

Toby Edwards said he hopes that McCaslin’s coming forward will spur other possible witnesses to do the same.

“I am very grateful for the witness coming forward,” he said. “I feel there are others who still have reservations or are struggling with coming forward. Hopefully others will follow suit.”

Easley agreed, saying, “It’s possible that it could lead to others coming forward.”

Rhodes expressed hope that this statement could be a missing link investigators need.

“This could be the breakthrough the authorities need to finally, finally, finally solve this 31-year-old murder mystery,” he said. “My clients now expect this terrible unsolved murder in our town to be “Solved one way or the other, sooner rather than later, and the guilty finally brought to justice.”

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