Officials fear deputy dead, ask for help

By STEELE HAYS
Democrat Staff Writer 9-1976

HOT SPRINGS – Garland County authorities, obviously frustrated in their search for Linda Edwards – a radio dispatcher for the Garland County Sheriff’s Department missing since Aug. 22 – said Friday they fear Mrs. Edwards is dead.

The sheriff’s department also revealed for the first time Friday that Mrs. Edwards – who has been divorced about three years – was 4 and a half months pregnant at the time of her disappearance.

Garland County Sheriff Leon Barlow said that Mrs. Edwards’ pregnancy “could have” been a factor in her disappearance.

“She was extremely upset in the weeks before her disappearance over the fact that she was pregnant,” said Maj. W.  A.  Tudor, director of the State Police Criminal Investigation Division.

The identity of the father of Mrs. Edwards’ unborn child is known to the police and he has been questioned about her disappearance.

Mrs. Edwards told Barlow that she was pregnant several weeks before her disappearance, Barlow said.  She feared that the fact that she was pregnant might cause her to lose her job, but he said he told her that it would not.

“She was doing a good job,” he said. “And she had trouble enough. I wasn’t going to slap her in the face.”

Mrs. Edwards’ former husband, Raymond Edwards of Hot Springs, has been questioned at great length by the State Police and has been “eliminated” as a suspect in the case, according to Tudor. Edwards volunteered to take a polygraph test, but he did not undergo one, Barlow said.

The State Police now assume Mrs. Edwards was the victim of foul play and that she probably is dead, according to Tudor. “We’re searching for her body,” he said.

More than 150 persons have been questioned by the State Police and a number of leads have been followed, but the investigation into Mrs. Edwards’ disappearance is stalemated at this point, according to both Tudor and Barlow.

Mrs. Edwards was last seen at 12:55 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 22, driving south on Central Avenue in her car. She was alone. Her car was found by police Sunday, abandoned on a dirt road just off Arkansas 290 about eight miles south of Hot Springs. The car was seen there by a local resident at 2:30 p.m. Saturday, so her disappearance has been pinpointed to within an hour and 35 minutes after she was last seen, according to Barlow.

More than 40 policemen searched the heavily wooded area near where her car was found, but they found no clues, Barlow said.

Scuba divers conducted an underwater search around a bridge near Carpenter Dam on Lake Catherine several days ago. They found nothing, Barlow said. The bridge is within a mile and a half of the area where Mrs. Edwards’ car was found.

Mrs. Edwards had three children. Two live at home. Another child is retarded and in an institution. Toby, 6, and Kim, 4, lived with their mother and stayed with a babysitter when Mrs. Edwards worked. The children live with their father now.

Mrs. Edwards has been employed by the Sheriff’s department for six months. She previously worked as a bartender, Barlow said. She is a native of Hot Springs.

The State Police and the Garland County Sheriff’s Department have asked all persons in Arkansas, and especially those who live around Hot Springs, to assist in the search for Mrs. Edwards. She is 29, with blond hair and brown eyes. She is about 5’6″ in height, 130 pounds, and slender build. When last seen she was wearing a black knit blouse and light colored slacks.

The police have urged all persons in and around Hot Springs to look in the areas around their homes for any clues to Mrs. Edwards’ whereabouts. Abandoned houses, wells and wooded areas should be searched, police said. They asked that anyone who finds Mrs. Edwards or one of her personal belongings to contact the State Police or the Garland County Sheriff. The police ask that persons finding such clues not disturb them or the area in which they are found.

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