Abernathy resigns from force

By Rex Hogan
The Sentinel-Record 8-10-79

Thurman Abernathy, the former police lieutenant charged two years ago with the death of a Hot Springs woman, hand delivered a resignation letter Thursday to police Chief Grover Douglas.

Shortly thereafter, the 12-year police veteran provided the Sentinel-Record with a copy of the letter.

Contacted later at his home, Abernathy, 39, commented briefly on his resignation decision, but declined to discuss events surrounding his case.

He did say he would grant an interview at a future date.

The Hot Springs Civil Service Commission suspended Abernathy in June of 1977, after he was charged with first-degree murder in connection with the death of Linda Edwards, then a Garland County Sheriff’s deputy.

Commissioners unanimously voted to reinstate Abernathy during a July 17, 1979 meeting. Before the vote was taken the commission was told its legal counsel had received official notification that no criminal charges were pending against Abernathy.

The following day, Douglas announced Abernathy would be demoted to a sergeant, for “conduct unbecoming of a police officer.”

Abernathy later filed a protest with the Civil Service Commission because of the demotion and it appeared as though he intended to resume his police career.

The Hot Springs City Council voted this past Monday to grant Abernathy’s request for back pay, in the amount of $14,854.

However, Abernathy said, “When I first got the demotion letter I began to think about resigning. With all the publicity and the demotion, I had to re-evaluate the whole situation and then I decided it would be better if I resigned.

Abernathy said the decision was solely his own.

“He delivered the letter to this morning and it was accepted by me,” Douglas said, “I’d rather not go into it. You know most of the details which transpired during the last two years and 31 days.”

“It is a relief because of the notoriety of this case. It has not helped him (Abernathy) or his family. It has not helped this department. Certainly, I’m relieved although I personally have mixed emotions,” Douglas said.

Abernathy, who had been reassigned to the records department, originally was to rejoin the force July 30, but at his own re-quest was given a two week extension.

This Monday would have been his first work day since the suspension.

In part, Abernathy’s resignation statement reads as follows:

“The privilege of serving the people of hot springs as a policeman for over ten years has been personally satisfying. It is my opinion that because of the situation that developed during the investigation of the Linda Edwards case my credibility has been damaged.

“My being arrested on the charge of murder and being kept on the charge for over two years certainly dampened my enthusiasm for law enforcement.

“…Justice has not been served in the Linda Edwards case. There is a person or persons guilty of this crime who has not been brought to answer for it.

“After much consideration of my situation – the very aggressive news coverage of this case, the extended period of time over which it covered, the fact that my enthusiasm for law enforcement is not at a level that I believe is needed to produce good police work, the reduction in rank and the loss in salary that the occurred after I was reinstated – after considering all of these things and more, I find to my regret that I will no longer be able to serve as a policeman.”

Linda Edwards was reported missing Aug. 22 1976.  Hunters found her partially buried remains about six months later at Jack Mountain in western Hot Spring County.

Abernathy was formally charged with first degree murder in June of 1977.

A subsequent preliminary hearing was halted because of legal questions raised by at Abernathy’s attorney, concerning the admissibility of portions of a key prosecution witness’ testimony.

The state supreme court later upheld the defense attorney’s objections.

Hot spring county prosecutor Dan Harmon then turned the case over to a grand jury and it ruled there was insufficient evidence to indict Abernathy on the murder accusation.

Investigators believe the victim, who was pregnant at the time of her death, was involved in an affair.

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