Family ‘fearful’ over fate of missing woman deputy

By MELNDA GASSAWAY
The Sentinel-Record 8-31-1976

The Garland County Sheriff’s Department and Arkansas State Police Monday reported no new developments into their investigation of the Aug. 21 disappearance of Linda Edwards, 28.

The missing woman’s brother, however, pieced together a personal profile of the deputy whose automobile was found abandoned Monday, Aug. 23, along Highway 290 near Carpenter Dam Road.

Roy Ockert Jr., managing editor of the Batesville Guard and Record, has described his only sister as “independent,” adding, “I never was real close to Linda – the last time I saw her was around Christmas.”

Ockert has been in Hot Springs since Thursday, Aug. 26, when he was first notified of his sister’s disappearance. The former Sentinel-Record staff writer gave a biographical sketch of Mrs. Edwards who was employed by the Sheriff’s Department as day radio operator.

“Her full maiden name is Linda Louise Ockert,” he said. “She was born Oct. 16, 1946 in Hot Springs. Her father, Roy Ockert Sr., a labor union official, lives in Lake Oswego, Ore.”

The editor said his father’s reaction to the news about Linda was “just like that of all of us – very sad.”

“We don’t understand it and we’re naturally fearful,” he noted.

Ockert explained that he, his wife, Pat, and their children had been on a camping trip to Florida and didn’t hear about Linda Edwards’ disappearance until almost a week after it was reported.

“We left here a week ago Saturday,” he went on, “and came back through late Thursday. The authorities called within an hour of our arrival. They’d been trying to contact us, but couldn’t and that’s understandable. Camping like that, we didn’t know where we were going from one day to the next.”

He continued the profile. “Linda’s mother is Mrs. Gladys Irene Browning of Hot Springs. She works for Weyerhaeuser. The police distributed a description, but we have one that’s a little different. We think she’s five feet six inches tall, about 110 pounds, with hazel
eyes and blonde hair. The other description reported she was five feet 10 inches – she’s no where near that tall.

“Linda attended Jones Elementary School and Central Junior High. She went to Hot Springs High for one year, but graduated high school in Michigan where her ‘father was living at the time. She came back to Hot Springs in 1966 and has been here ever since.”

Ockert said his sister attended Garland County Community College for a year and a half. “We don’t know if she was planning on going back or not since she was working for the Sheriff’s Department,” he said.

Linda Ockert, her brother pointed out, was married to Raymond Edwards, of Hot Springs in 1968. They were divorced in 1973. They had three children: Oscar (Sonny) Edwards, 8; Toby Edwards, 6, and Kim Edwards, 4.

“We’ve been told that Linda enjoyed her work, that she liked this job more than some of the others she’d had,” Ockert stressed.

“Everybody I’ve talked to said she did a good job. I do not believe she ran off or did harm to herself. Judging from what we’ve been told, though, the circumstances don’t point to that.

“Linda valued her children and her car very highly. I don’t think she would’ve left either. The children are staying with their father now. They don’t really know anything about all of this. They think their mother’s on vacation.

“Her kids were her life. That’s why it’s so hard for us to understand what’s happened.”

Roy Ockert plans to remain in Hot Springs “another day or two” and come back on weekends as the situation warrants.

“I’ve been out searching the woods myself,” he said, “but there’s really not much I can do. The authorities are doing a very thorough job and they know more about cases like this than I.

“The worst part of it all is not knowing. If you know what happened you can accept it. Not knowing anything, we can’t even begin to accept it.”

Sgt. Roy R. Smith of the Garland County Sheriff’s Department reported “lots of response” to previously published news articles about Linda Edwards and he said, “We’ve had a lot of leads and it takes time to check them out.”

Of Mrs. Edwards, Smith remarked, “She was a good worker, she was good on the radio. And she was dependable. I never heard anyone in the department say anything derogatory about her.”

Linda Edwards, Smith went on, was a likeable person who seemed relatively cheerful and generally wore a smile, “even on her grumpy days.”

“I didn’t know her well enough to say whether she’d confide any problems in a co-worker,” he observed. “I don’t know if she was a strictly private person or not.

“That’s the sad thing. That a group of people can work together every day and still not know anything more about each other. It really is a sad thing.”

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