Still no answers

By JAMES JENNINGS
The Sentinel-Record 8-22-2007

Still No Answers
COLD CASE: Toby Edwards, the son of Linda Edwards whose murder 31 years ago has not been solved, leafs through a handwritten letter from his mother to a friend. She claims in the letter that a Hot Springs Police lieutenant is the father of her child. Toby Edwards has been pushing for several years to have the investigation into his mother’s death moved forward.

Another year has passed, 31 in all, since 29-year-old Garland County Sheriff’s Department dispatcher Linda Edwards was killed, and her family is frustrated the the person or persons responsible for her death still have not been brought to justice.

Edwards 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.

The investigation quickly focused in on a married Hot Springs police lieutenant, with whom Edwards was allegedly romantically involved. The lieutenant, who is no longer with HSPD, was charged with first-degree murder. It was also reported that Edwards was four and a half months pregnant at the time of her disappearance.

The case, though, ground to a halt in August 1978 when 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.

Since that time, the case has gone cold, and efforts by her son, Toby, who was 6 when his mother died, to push the case forward have been, to date, futile.

“I don’t know where we’re at right now,” Toby Edwards said. “I feel like a Ping-Pong ball.”

His attempts to view the case file have been rebuffed.

“At first we were told we would be able to see the case file,” he said. “Now, they say we can’t because the case is active.

“That thing is dusty, and we’re getting some kind of runaround.”

Hot Spring County Prosecutor Eddie Easley confirmed the case is still an active one.

“It is still an open case,” Easley said. “It’s an old case, but in the last five or six months, State Police investigators have conducted some interviews and will conduct more interviews.

“We will eventually have to make the decision to go forward with charges against someone or close the case because there’s not enough evidence to charge anyone.”

State Police Investigator Shannon Shepherd did not return a phone call seeking comment on the case.

Linda Edwards’ daughter, Kim Stinson, who was 4 years old when her mother disappeared, said “Easley assured her the case would go forward.

I don’t know
where we’re at
right now. I feel
like Ping-Pong
ball.

Toby Edwards,
son

Stinson started looking into the investigation in 1992, when she was 18 years old.

“The ball got rolling pretty fast for awhile, but then it stopped,” she said. “I don’t know where it’s going right now.”                 ,

Another source of frustration for Toby Edwards has been the inaction on their attempts to have his mother’s remains exhumed for DNA testing, which was not available in the 1970s.

In 2005, producers from the A&E television show “Cold Case Files” contacted Edwards about exhuming the body and doing an episode about the case.

“They offered to pay for the exhumation and the DNA testing,” Edwards said.

A&E tried unsuccessfully for nearly two years to get the approval from investigators and prosecutors to do the exhumation and conduct the DNA testing, and their interest has since waned.

“At this point in time, we’re kind of in limbo with that,” Edwards said.

Easley said he has not ruled out requesting an exhumation.

“We have to make a determination whether the evidence gained from an exhumation would be helpful,” Easley said.

He added that because Linda Edwards is buried in Garland County, a judge in Garland County would have to sign off on a request submitted by the Hot Spring County Prosecutor’s office.

“No request has been made at this time,” Easley said. “But, it certainly hasn’t been ruled out.”

Former Garland County Sheriff Leon Barlow, who was in office at the time of Edwards’ death, said the case has been frustrating from the beginning.

“We had a hard time getting to, interview the suspect,” Barlow said. “We eventually had to go to a circuit judge before we could talk to him.”

Barlow said he has his own personal theories about what happened, but declined to elaborate on them.

“Someone knows what happened, but they’re either not talking or have passed on,” he said. “I believe whoever did it, had help. One person can’t drive two cars. There had to be at least two people involved.” Stinson said that she is anxious to see whether the case is
finally solved.

“I’m sitting back and waiting to see what happens,” she said. “I feel like it will, but just in due time. It’s going to happen when it’s going happen.”

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