Children seek exhumation of mothers body: Family seeks DNA testing in hopes of solving murder

The Sentinel-Record 8-31-2004

Twenty-eight years after her murder, the children of former Garland County sheriff’s deputy Linda Edwards are requesting her body be exhumed for DNA testing.

Linda Edwards
Linda Edwards

Vicky Edwards, wife of Edwards’ son Toby, said Monday, “What we understand is the remains included some fingernails, a sweater and some hair. What we’re hoping, the way technology has advanced, is to be able to link it somehow. It’s pretty much a long shot but
perhaps by doing this, if the killer or killers are here, this might stir them up a little bit. His (Toby’s) feeling is, there is no reason those people should sit there and be happy.”

According to newspaper articles published at the time, Linda Edwards, the 28-year-old day radio operator for the Garland County Sheriff’s Department, disappeared Aug. 21, 1976, after leaving her children, Toby, 6, and Kim, 4, with a baby sitter around 10 p.m. that evening.

An extensive search was conducted for Edwards after her car was found on a dirt road just off Arkansas 290 near Carpenter Dam Road on Aug. 23. Police searched a large portion of the woods in the vicinity and divers searched a portion of Lake Catherine near where the car was found. No trace of Edwards was found.

Her skeletal remains, along with some fingernails, a sweater and some hair, were found six months later on Jack Mountain in Hot Spring County by a wolf hunter. It was also reported that she was four and a half months pregnant at the time of her disappearance.

Edwards’ son said, “We’ve signed the paperwork granting the state permission to exhume the body essentially to see if we can find any DNA evidence from anything that’s in the coffin. It’s a small chance but we are hoping to find something.”

Kim, whose last name is now Smoke, said she contacted Cpt. Mike Fletcher with the Arkansas State Police about four years ago and requested they start looking into the case again. Fletcher was the State Criminal Investigator in charge of the case at the time.

“We lived in California until I was almost 18 years old,” Smoke said, ”And then moved back. I was just wanting to know what was going on and asked if they would look into the case again. Actually, the case was never closed, but it has accumulated a lot of cobwebs.

“One of the things I told them when I met with them was I had autopsy reports and the death certificate and she was buried with fingernails. I know there are reports out there that some people had scratches on them and I asked about the possibility of getting anything. We have DNA (testing) now that we didn’t have back then.”

Smoke said she and her brother obtained records from Gross Funeral Home before it burned showing her mother was buried in a sealed coffin in a cement vault.

“That was unusual because during that time period, people didn’t spend a lot of money on funerals but my grandmother just went out of her way to make sure she was buried properly which is a blessing now. What-ever she was buried with then, she still has to this day. So that’s a good thing and I think if she hadn’t been buried like that, they probably wouldn’t even consider exhuming the body.”

Since Edwards’ body was found in Hot Spring County, Smoke said the Hot Spring County prosecutor had to prepare the papers asking for the exhumation but a Garland County judge will have to issue the order since Edwards is buried here.

”As far as I know, the paper- work has been sent to Garland County.”

Former Sheriff Leon Barlow said he hopes the body is exhumed. “I think it needs to be found out what happened but I don’t know, at this stage, if they will be able to find out anything or not. The family needs to know something and that’s why I’m glad they are bringing it back up.”

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