By LARRY AULT
The Sentinel-Record 8-25-1976
The mysterious disappearance of a 29-year-old female deputy last weekend in Garland County has members of the Garland County Sheriff’s Department alert and working, however the official reaction of the department is that the case is being treated just like any other missing persons investigation.
The failure of Linda Edwards to report to work early Monday as a radio operator at the Sheriff’s Department resulted in a full scale manhunt which involved about 50 members of the mounted patrol, rescue squad, deputies, and off duty officers.
The search was confined to the Red Oak community near Highway 290, but was called off late Monday evening when deputies assumed they had exhausted all of their leads.
The search, however, continued Tuesday more or less in the fashion of a routine investigation, with information about her disappearance being provided to the news media in Central Arkansas in hopes that some helpful information would be provided.
Deputy Roy Smith, in charge of public information, said that initial news reports had generated a bevy of information, however nothing positive had turned up which might lead to locating Mrs. Edwards.
The general reaction of several deputies regarding the failure of a fellow law enforcement officer to return to work was low key at best, although the deputies appeared to be more conscious of the situation because of their personal involvement.
“Everybody here is like a member of a family,” said Deputy Smith, adding that “I wouldn’t say there is any extra effort being given to finding her, no more than we’d give to an ordinary citizen,” said Smith.
“When you have one of your own people missing, you never know, it might be because she’s a police officer. There would be more motives involved because she was a police officer,” said Smith.
“If there is foul play, and we have no evidence to indicate any foul play, it is a possibility that because she was a police officer someone was trying to get revenge, you never know,” commented Smith.
“Everyone is puzzled. Everyone has their own opinion. However, we don’t deal with opinions, we deal in facts,” he said.
Smith said that the Arkansas State Police lab crew has been requested to assist in the investigation by combing the abandoned vehicle, which has been towed from the site where it was found to a local garage for storage.
The lab crew will be asked to check for fingerprints and other data which would lead to locating the deputy, said Smith.
Chief Deputy Tony Robbins, as well as other deputies and an Arkansas State Police Officer, noted that the officers are trying to avoid any type of speculation regarding motives and are attempting to treat the case just like any other.
Robbins said that many rumors have already been spread regarding the incident, and cited a report that was broadcast on local civilian band radios which substantially suggested that the Sheriff’s Office had cornered two men in a manhunt who were responsible for the shooting of a police officer in the northwest section of the state. This is not true.
Smith added, “You wonder about what could have happened. Your mind plays a lot of tricks on you. You have fantasies about it.”
Beyond the initial personal reaction of the law enforcement officers to one of “their own” becoming a victim, their reactions appear to be the same as if any member of the community were missing, officially.
“There will be no speculation. We’re merely dealing in facts,” said Smith, adding that information relating to the disappearance has been sent to authorities throughout Arkansas and in surrounding states.
Smith said that the investigation into Mrs. Edwards disappearance would “never end” until she is located. “No case is ever closed until it is solved,” he added.
Mrs. Edwards has been employed as a radio operator for the Sheriff’s Department for about six months. She has been missing since mid-weekend when a baby-sitter became worried about her when she failed to return to pick up her children.