By NANCY BRITT
The Sentinel-Record 11-24-1976
The disappearance 12 weeks ago of Garland County Sheriff’s Office Deputy Linda Edwards remains unsolved according to law enforcement officials while her family remains in somewhat limbo, feeling there is nothing left they can do.
Mrs. Edwards, the mother of two young children, left them with a babysitter on Saturday, Aug. 21 and said she would be back for them that night. She never showed up and her locked car was found the next day on Arkansas 290, southeast of Hot Springs.
Various investigations have taken place since that time including efforts by the sheriff’s office, state police, and the Garland County Grand Jury. However, various officials say they haven’t been able to come up with anything concrete on her disappearance, even proof that any crime took place.
The final report of the current grand jury is due by the end of this year, and is expected in late December.
In the meantime, law enforcement officials are keeping the case open. Sheriff Leon Barlow said Tuesday, “The investigation continues to some extent, but we’ve about run out of leads. Anything we get we check, and review past information to see if that develops anything. So far, there is nothing to prove any crime was committed, although there are suggestions that there may have been.”
Mike Fletcher, locally-based criminal investigator for Arkansas State Police, said the file on Linda is still open, and that any new information will be investigated.
While progress toward finding out what has happened to Linda is stymied, the family has attempted to adjust as best as possible. Her children, ages 4 and 6, now live with their father, Linda’s ex-husband. They live in Hot Springs, and have recently moved to a new location for better care of the children, according to Linda’s brother Roy Ockert of Batesville (and formerly of Hot Springs).
Ockert said Tuesday, “I don’t think anybody has much hope (of seeing Linda alive again). If there were a clue to surface that some crime had been committed, it would be some help, but as far as I know, there is none. It’s just a missing person. We’ve had a great number of reports since a reward (for information leading to her disappearance) was offered, but I don’t know of any which have actually helped.”
He said the family is in limbo, feeling there is nothing they can do, adding, “We feel the Arkansas State Police and the sheriff’s office have done all they can that we know of. Members of the family, including me, have personally made an effort to assist, including contacting those who saw her last.
“A number of persons saw her that day, and we’ve had some contact with most of them, trying to see that people come forward if they know anything. We’ve felt that there were some instances where we didn’t get the complete truth, but that’s just a feeling. You don’t just vanish from the face of the earth, yet we’ve contacted just about everybody we know to contact.”
Ockert said Linda’s children know that she has disappeared – “in essence what we do” – but they’re too young now to fully understand. He added, ” The later effect is what we’re concerned with; they’ll be growing up without a mother. My mother (who lives in Hot Springs) has taken care of them quite a bit while their father works, and I believe they’re in some type of daycare.”
Concerning general family reactions, he said that for his and Linda’s mother, “it’s very hard to accept. We’ve accepted that we won’t see her, but we don’t understand about what’s happened. We’ll likely have to go through all the agony again. Hopefully that will be soon – the longer it goes on as is, the less chance exists of finding out what happened.”
Other accomodations to Linda’s absence have included those at the sheriff’s office, where Linda was a radio operator. A shifting and increase in staffing was necessary, as a patrol officer took on radio duty and part-time operator went full time.
The latter radio operator, Deputy Lance Ragsdale, said, “You can’t dwell on things like that (filling the spot of someone whose whereabouts nobody knows), but I’ve probably thought about it some. You have to figure, if not me then somebody else, and actually not fully that since I was working here anyway. Time heals, you know, and people here don’t talk or think about it much now.”
The children’s possessions are with them, Ockert said, while the family is in the process of filing an action in Garland Chancery Court to appoint a trustee to take charge of Linda’s effects.
As investigation goes on in limited fashion, Ockert said, “I have been satisfied with the cooperation of the sheriff’s office and state police, but the city administration has not been altogether helpful. I have at some times had difficulty finding out information I thought might be helpful – mostly problems of getting information to look at. I don’t know about beyond that. In one instance, it took several calls and a trip to Hot Springs to find out some information of public record. (Police) Chief (Grover) Douglas was helpful on that.
“I don’t want to make a big to-do on that item – it didn’t turn out as helpful as I hoped it might – but at a time like that such a thing shouldn’t wind up taking three to four weeks.”
Ockert also said he had asked the Civil Service Commission here for help – some type of inquiry – but had gotten no response, “only what I heard through other people.”