Off the Hook – August 8, 2021: Teresa Howell Dropped the Ball

It still hasn’t fully processed that Abernathy died without ever being prosecuted for my mother’s murder and her unborn baby, or for that matter, his own child.

In 2014, after the fiasco with the former Hot Spring County prosecutors’ office regarding my mother’s exhumation, I was hopeful when Teresa Howell was elected as the new prosecutor. She was positive and enthusiastic about reviewing my mother’s case file to see what could be done going forward.  She communicated with me and my wife and gave me hope. For several months she spoke to us and kept us informed of her progress through the case file after she received it from the Arkansas State Police (ASP). Once she finished reading it, she let us know that she had shared it with the sheriff of Hot Spring County to get a second opinion.   

We waited, patiently, and waited. 

Because it frustrates and can be difficult for me to talk about this ongoing, I often ask my wife to pass the emails or phone calls back and forth. I’m never out of the loop. When “new” information comes to light, she forwards it to the prosecutor. For instance, Toby Michael Green was in jail in Garland County. He reportedly had some information about Abernathy from the time of the murder. My wife emailed Howell April 2, 2019, to let her know he was in jail and put her in touch with the individual who had chat transcripts of Green’s comments. On April 12th, my wife followed up and Howell indicated she didn’t know who Green was, but that she had forwarded the chat transcripts to the ASP. She also stated that the last time she has spoken to the ASP they had not interviewed Green.

The email caused a sense of déjà vu.

In the early days, Howell had told me they would pursue DNA testing. She lied. It never happened during her more than five years in office. Now, I believe she never intended to do so. Initially she indicated she was attempting to track down evidence from the crime lab for possible DNA testing. She mentioned that she was specifically asking about a yellow blanket, whereabouts unknown. It was the same tired story we’ve heard from the beginning of how the crime lab returned all evidence to the ASP and the ASP can’t locate it. This was a major crime in Arkansas in the 70’s. I will never believe the evidence was “just” misplaced.

During this same time frame, we did ask, repeatedly, to meet with her in person to discuss some possibilities, including a coroner’s inquisition, alternative charges, and exhumation. Via email she replied that she had never been involved in a coroner inquisition and that she did not have the contact information or work location for the Hot Spring County coroner, though she did provide his name. She stated there were no additional charges due to the statute of limitations on homicide. And then noted that nothing in the case file was a “bright light.” That was the last communication until later in the year.

Garland County Coroner Steve Nawojczyk and deputy examine scene (Photo by Les Beale)
Garland County Coroner Steve Nawojczyk and deputy examine scene (Photo by Les Beale)

Steve Nawojczyk was Garland County coroner at the time of my mother’s death. After retirement, he began reaching out, writing, interviewing, and presenting my mother’s case to a variety of people. He too thought she deserved justice and some of his contacts from the Gang Wars documentary indicated they might be interested in doing a segment about the Linda Edwards case.

During his quest, he emailed Howell who again noted she had not found any of the evidence, stated that she had consulted with a funeral director about a disinterment of Linda Edwards’ body, stated that she spoke to the PA in Garland County and felt they would offer assistance, but did not indicate that an exhumation would actually take place and that she was busy with current cases and had not looked at our file in several weeks.  She also declined a video interview. Steve was not deterred and contacted a local news station. In November 2019, the Fox16 ran a story stating that Howell was moving forward with the exhumation.

My wife emailed the prosecutor on November 8th, thanking her for moving forward with the exhumation and asking for the date so the family could be present. She also told Howell that the family would have liked to have heard the news from the PA’s office rather than on the news, but were happy, nevertheless.

On November 11th, Howell emailed back stating that she would have preferred to have told the family when she had all the information together, but someone contacted the media first. She then stated that she would no longer communicate via email with my wife, even though this was the chain of communication that had long since been established, and that I was never out of the loop. Per the Victims’ Right Act, I did have the right to an advocate or speaker and she willfully choose to ignore my right in the communication chain. That is another story in of itself.

Not once, since November 11, 2019, have we heard anything from the Hot Spring County Prosecutor regarding the exhumation, DNA testing, or missing evidence.

It is doubtful any of the avenues will be legally pursued now that the prime suspect has died. It is probable the details that were withheld, lost, or misplaced will magically appear too late to make a difference.  Isn’t that how it normally goes? There are still those living who know the answers. They should come forward before they too meet their maker, justice in this life or the next? Their choice.

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Off the Hook – August 7, 2021: Thurman Abernathy. Dead.

Thurman Abernathy. Dead.

Those three words texted to me Thursday sent my mind into a tailspin.  It almost felt like I slammed the brakes going a 100mph.

People were notified and the responses were expected.

“He finally made it to hell.”

“Did he suffer? I hope he suffered.” 

“So the @#hole died.”

“I guess he’s getting his first taste of hell.”

“…at least now he will face judgement.”

“His punishment begins now.”

“Hopefully he gets what he deserves now.”

The responses from the family and friends on FB were directly opposite. I wanted to dispute every single one of them.

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Obituary for Thurman Lawrence Abernathy

Thurman Lawrence Abernathy, 81, of Hot Springs passed away Wednesday August 4, 2021. He was born in Dumas, Arkansas on January 18, 1940 to Floyd Abernathy and Delma Reed Abernathy.

Thurman was a member of Winans Missionary Baptist Church; a United States Air Force Veteran and he retired as Maintenance Superintendent at Arkansas Aluminum Alloys. He was predeceased by his parents; his wife of 45 years, Judith Ann Abernathy; one son, Christopher David Abernathy and one sister, Louise Peterson.

Survivors include his children, Anthony Allen Abernathy, Christina “Tina” Marie Haines and Floyd Abernathy and his wife, Jennifer; his brothers & sisters, John William (Patsy) Abernathy, Lou Ella (Howard) Hawthorne, Deborah Ann (Larry) Rowe and Curtis (LaRhonda) Abernathy; his grandchildren, Ashton Allen Abernathy, Nathan Lawrence Abernathy, Sarah Kimberly (Jarrod) Brit, Bethany Kristan (Joey) Griffis, Leah Elaine Haines, Landen Alden (Kirklynn) Abernathy and Logan (Cami) Abernathy; his great grandchildren, Jayden Allen Eoko, Mathew Lawrence Brit, Skylar Ann Marie Griffis, Caroline Pearl Abernathy and Hadlee Abernathy.

Visitation will be 1:00 PM Sunday prior to the service at 2:00 PM Sunday at Winans Missionary Baptist Church with Brother Curtis Abernathy and Brother Mark Sikes officiating.

Pallbearers will be Landen Abernathy, Logan Abernathy, Ashton Abernathy, Brandy Loy, Joey Griffis and Charles Abernathy.

Honorary pallbearers will be Jayden Eoko and Nathan Abernathy.

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Off the Hook – May 5, 2021: Meeting with True Crime Developer/Producer

As we all know Covid-19 has put many things on the back-burner, including the telling of my Mother’s story.

Tonight I had a meeting with a True Crime Developer/Producer with a NYC Production Team. She will be developing the story to pitch to several networks. This will take several months to complete before it is ready to pitch. She did not promise anything, but I believe she will do her very best to move Mom’s story to the next level.

I can not thank everyone enough for what you have contributed; whether it be prayers, words of encouragement, or simply reading these articles. Thank you from the bottom of my heart.

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Off the Hook – January 9, 2020: Production Team Conference Call

The wheels of justice may turn slowly and may be bogged down by cowardice, fear, or perhaps something else? In the end, though, justice will prevail. On January 9, 2020, my wife and I and the local production crew had a conference call with a NYC production team regarding Linda Edwards’ murder. The call lasted roughly an hour and half to two hours. It was informative and exciting. In the near future, expect to see justice play out on the television and hopefully in the courts.


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Also, I’ve been working on a post about the current HSCPA, but every time I try to work on it, my blood begins to boil and I have to stop. It’s makes my blood boil now to even mention it. Stay tuned.

#LindaEdwards

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FOX16 Special Report: Plans to exhume 1977 Arkansas murder victim’s body are ‘underway’

by: Tyler Thomason Posted: Nov 6, 2019 / 09:00 PM CST / Updated: Nov 6, 2019 / 10:20 PM CST

HOT SPRINGS, Ark. – A poem titled “New Lite” sparks memories of an old, dark secret.

The secret starts in the wooded terrain of Jack Mountain in Hot Spring County, where hunters found the remains of Linda Edwards back in 1977.

At the time, Edwards had been missing for months. She was a newly-sworn in deputy at the Garland County Sheriff’s Office; one of the first women to earn such a position.

Since the discovery of her remains, at least one detective has stayed on the case: her son, Toby.

Toby occasionally reverts back to the poem his mother wrote, which stirs up emotions and anger about the standstill the investigation into her death has endured.

“Being a hamster on a hamster wheel,” Toby says. “Just can’t get anywhere.”

He keeps a box of case files with photos and other mementos from his mother.

At the time of Linda’s disappearance, reports indicate that she was pregnant.

Documents also timeline an on-again, off-again affair with a married Hot Springs city cop: Thurman Abernathy.

“He didn’t want her to have the kid because he was up for a promotion to lieutenant,” Toby claims.

In interviews with detectives, Abernathy says the last time he saw Linda was about a week before she went missing. After she disappeared, detectives noted how clean Abernathy’s car was.

Toby, age 6 at the time, says he vividly recalls a final conversation between his mother and Abernathy in the parking lot of a grocery store.

“It was dusk, and Thurman rolled up in his duty car,” Toby says. “They were talking back and forth, and I wasn’t really paying attention, and then it got heated and I’m standing up right beside her in the chair, in the seat and I heard her say…’This baby has as much right to live as any other child’… and I’m paraphrasing.”

“And she just sighed real big and said ‘Thurman, I can’t do this here,’” Toby continues.

Reports confirm Abernathy was arrested in connection to Linda’s death, but a lack of evidence resulted in the case getting dropped.

Abernathy has never been charged with any related crime.

He’s maintained his innocence for more than 40 years.

We reached out to Abernathy by phone at his Hot Springs home.

Abernathy handed the phone to his wife, who then told us that Thurman is 80 years old now and suffering from Alzheimer’s.

We reached out to the Hot Spring County prosecutor, who would be the one to bring forward any charges in the case.

She told me in an e-mail that most of my questions “will not be answered because they relate to the evidence or persons of interest.” But, she did confirm plans are underway to exhume Linda’s remains for further DNA testing.

“When it does unravel, it will unravel,” Toby says.

Toby is left in the same spot he’s been in since the 70s with more questions than answers and haunting memories of the day he, his sister and his dad learned mom was gone.

“It just, it was a tough day for all three of us,” he says.

For now, Toby finds himself going back to that poem, which is also inscribed on Linda’s headstone.

There is hope now that maybe one day, evidence from beneath the grave could shed new light.

Thank you FOX16. Special Thanks to Tyler Thomason. You did an excellent job.

Link to original article below.

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Off the Hook – June 29, 2018: 1340 AM KZNG Radio

Thank you KZNG and Dick Antoine, of Talk of the Town, for allowing me to speak about my mom, Linda Edwards, on your show today.  I cannot express enough the gratitude I have for your support.

I also wish to thank Steve Nawojczyk for his hard work and the desire to undertake such a large project. 

The show primarily focused on Steve’s involvement with field production work for some internationally known award-winning film makers for a potential documentary on this case. In Steve’s own words, “This is not a “gotcha” piece. It will be historical in nature and all parties involved will be welcomed to tell their side and theory of this tragic story. It’s not an “axe to grind” project either. Just an overview and examination of the investigation and current status. It’s time.”

Anyone with any information, please email. Even if you think what you know is insignificant. Anonymity guaranteed. Email: Linda Edwards Project

Video of show coming soon.

Linda Edwards Facebook page

Remember Hot Spring County Murder of Deputy in 1976 Facebook Group

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A Sunny Place For Shady People

1613965_3988909137626_693275976_nThe long awaited novel, ‘A Sunny Place For Shady People’, a crime story woven around the murder of Garland County Deputy Sheriff Linda Edwards is soon to be released. A limited number of prerelease copies are available at www. Stephenwbrooks.com. Just fill out order form stating the title and number of books desired in the comment section. Prerelease price is $15.75 including shipping.

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10 unexplained Arkansas mysteries – THV

December 13, 2013

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (KTHV) — Arkansas is home to many natural wonders and scenic views, but it’s also home to unsolved mysteries.

Listverse has put together the top 10 unexplained mysteries of Arkansas.

10. Old Mike – A man only known as “Old Mike” died in the early 1900s in Nevada County. When he died, his embalmed corpse was put on display for the next 60 years hoping someone would know him. He was buried in 1975.

9. Ghost Lights – These have been seen in Crossett, as well as in Gurdon on railroad tracks. Most people who seem them describe a glowing, floating white light from possibly a railroad worker who died tragically.

8. The Fouke Monster – Arkansas’ very own sasquatch, this monster has been talked about since the 1940s, but most of the accounts happen in the 70s.

7. Crop Circles – The first of these appeared in 2003 in Peach Orchard and Delaplaine.

6. Disappearance of Maud Crawford – It’s a Natural State’s Jimmy Hoffa. Maud Crawford was a lawyer in the 1950s who disappeared from her home March 2, 1957. At the time of her disappearance, a lawyer with her firm was investigating alleged mob ties to organized labor. No one asked for a ransom and her body was never found.

5. The Guy Earthquake Swarms – A series of earthquakes rattled the town of Guy in 2010 and continued for two years.

4. The Moonlight Murders – Texarkana was rocked by the murders five people in 1946 by a white-hooded suspect dubbed the “Phantom Killer”. He attacked eight people over a three week period, killing five. All of his victims were couples.

3. The Edwards Murder – Garland County dispatcher Linda Edwards disappeared Aug. 22, 1976. Supposedly she had an affair with Sgt. Thurman Abernathy with the Hot Springs Police Dept. and they had gotten into a fight the night she disappeared. He was charged after her body was found in 1977. Eventually all charges were dropped against him and her case remains unsolved.

2. John Glasgow’s Disappearance – John Glasgow, an executive with CDI Contracting was last seen leaving his home in January of 2008. His vehicle was found the next day parked on Petit Jean Mountain but Glasgow has never been found.

1. The Boys on the Tracks – Probably the most famous cold case in Arkansas is the deaths of Don Henry and Kevin Ives. Their bodies were found August 23, 1987 mangled next to railroad tracks in Bryant. They were found lying on the tracks with their arms at their sides covered partially with a green tarp. Their deaths were initially ruled accidental, but after the family petitioned for the case to be reopened, new details emerged.

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10 Unexplained Mysteries From Arkansas – Listverse

MYSTERIES

10 Unexplained Mysteries From Arkansas

BRANDON HOWARD 

Don’t let the serenity of the Arkansas landscape fool you. The Natural State has more than enough of its dark secrets and skeletons in the closet to ruin the serenity. Read on to find out the 10 creepiest.

10 Old Mike

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In the early 1900s, down in Nevada County, the man who would come to be known as “Old Mike” was a familiar face in and around the city of Prescott. A traveling salesman, he would swing by each month to sell stationery to homes and local businesses. He occasionally stayed overnight, but he always left the following day on the afternoon train.

One day, residents found Mike lying motionless under a tree. He had apparently passed away the night before. Knowing him only by his first name—and after a postmortem search failed to turn up any identification—the townspeople did the only sensible thing they could think of. They embalmed him and put his corpse on display outside of the local funeral home.

That’s where Mike sat for the next six decades. He was originally placed there in hopes that someone would identify him or claim the body, but no one ever came forward. Eventually, in 1975, the state attorney general’s office requested that he be buried, and Mike was finally laid to rest later that May. His true identity will likely forever remain a mystery.

9 Ghost Lights

Ghost lights—or “will-o’-the-wisps,” as they’re known in Europe—are staples of paranormal folklore. Like a handful of other states in the South, Arkansas has two ghostly orbs of its own, one in Gurdon and another in Crossett. Both are similar in appearance, with witnesses describing them as glowing white lights that occasionally move throughout the woods. What’s more, both lights share equally murky origins.

The Gurdon Light was first spotted in the early 1930s, following the murder of a railroad foreman. Local researchers point to the gruesome slaying of William McClain for the legend’s authenticity. Meanwhile, the Crossett Light also originated from a fatal railroad incident, this time with the unlucky worker being beheaded by the train. The legend’s telling varies, though, with one version claiming that the light is the ghost of the decapitated rail worker looking for his head. Another attributes the light to his wife’s lantern, as she eternally searches for her husband’s body.

8 The Fouke Monster

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When traveling through southwest Arkansas, we advise sticking to the main roads. Those brave enough to wander into the woods risk running into the nefarious Fouke Monster. Also called “the Southern Sasquatch,” sightings of the Fouke Monster date back to the 1940s, but arguably the most famous accounts occurred in the early ’70s.

In 1971, Bobby Ford told police that he was attacked by a man-like creature standing over 2 meters (7 ft) tall with red eyes. Ford claimed that he’d spotted the beast only days before on a hunting trip, and decided to shoot at it with his buddies. It was on his porch and presumably seeking revenge.

Before being treated at the hospital for minor injuries, Ford explained to the officers that he routinely spotted the monster on his property terrorizing his livestock, so they decided to investigate. The police failed to find any blood from a supposed wound inflicted by Ford, but they did find a strange set of tracks out in the woods, as well as scratches on Ford’s door. A reporter from the local paper thought enough of the incident to file a story, earning the attention of low-budget filmmakers, who turned the encounter into a clumsy horror movie that propelled the creature to national stardom. The movie spawned four sequels. The History Channel even got in on the action, sending its MonsterQuest team to investigate in 2009.

In recent years, sightings have been sporadic. While the ’70s saw interest in the Fouke Monster peak—a local radio station even put out a bounty for its capture—the late ’90s was the last time the mysterious beast ever saw a resurgence in popularity. To further muddy the legend, independent researchers have argued that the tracks found by Ford and others were forgeries. Dr. Frank Schambagh, a professor at Southern Arkansas University, said that the tracks were man-made and that the anatomy of the Fouke Monster didn’t fit with the known species of primates. Either way, we’ll take our chances with the well-lit, paved areas of Fouke when passing through.

7 Crop Circles

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Crop circles first popped up in Arkansas in summer 2003. They appeared as a series of 10 circles as large as 9 meters (30 ft) in diameter. Two more appeared in the following years—one in 2004 in Peach Orchard and another in Delaplainethree years later, two towns less than five miles apart. In recent years, more designs have been popping up in southern areas of the state as well.

There’s not much evidence to support ET being behind the crop circles, and farmers are similarly skeptical that it’s the work of pranksters. As of this writing, though, no one has come forward claiming responsibility.

6 The Crawford Disappearance

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Arkansas was a hotbed for mob activity in the first half of the 20th century. Al Capone was a frequent visitor to the state in the 1920s, spending ample time in Hot Springs to bet on horse races at Oaklawn and relax in some of the many bathhouses that lined Central Avenue. Naturally, a state this friendly to mobsters was bound to have a fair amount of shady business deals. That’s where Maud Crawford came in.

A well-known public figure in Camden and a pioneer for women in Arkansas, Crawford worked as a court stenographer before she decided to take the bar exam. Having had no formal legal classes, she aced the exam and eventually became an expert in abstract and title law. At the time of her disappearance, she was even assisting Sen. John McClellan with a congressional investigation into supposed mob ties with organized labor. Crawford’s last known whereabouts place her at home.

Her husband, Clyde, returned to their house to find her car still in the driveway, the TV on, and money in her purse. Their supposed guard dog wasn’t even fazed. The police began searching for her the next morning, but found few clues as to what could have caused her disappearance. Her body was never recovered.

In the mid-1980s, a series of articles in The Arkansas Gazette alleged that her disappearance involved Arkansas State Police Commissioner Mike Berg. Crawford was looking into a potentially illegal transfer of assets between Berg and some of his family members. Only days before disappearing, she had confronted him face-to-face about the issue. According to the articles, Odis A. Henley, the officer originally assigned to the case, reported to his superiors that all the evidence he uncovered implicated Berg as her killer. This contradicted official statements from the Ouachita Sheriff’s department that they had yet to turn up any clues in her disappearance.

His findings did little to sway the rest of the force, Henry recounted, and he was reportedly told by his superiors that “there’s too much money involved” before being reassigned. Adding to the intrigue, all of his files on Crawford disappeared after a short trip away from the office. Legally declared dead by Ouachita County in 1969, Crawford’s death was found to be the result of “foul play perpetrated by person or persons unknown.”

5 The Guy Earthquake Swarms

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A small community just north of Little Rock, Guy wasn’t accustomed to drawing national attention. That all changed in 2010, when a series of relatively minor earthquakes shook the town. The first swarm struck in fall 2010, with most quakes registering under 2.0 on the Richter scale, meaning not everyone in town may have felt or even noticed the shaking. However, the swarms continued over the next two years and increased in magnitude, with one reaching as high as 4.7 in February 2011.

With the trembling becoming more noticeable, residents began to wonder if the quakes were a result of hydraulic fracturing techniques being used to drill for oil and gas in the area. The Arkansas Geological Survey was called out to investigate, and while the group noted that there is some evidence that fracking can cause minor earthquakes, they found no link between the drilling and these particular swarms.

Earthquake swarms aren’t entirely unusual in Arkansas. The state’s had a handful of them before, but none have reached the magnitude of those in Guy. Through 2013, over 500 quakes have rocked the town. As northeast corner of Arkansas was home to one of the country’s most violent swarms—the 1811-12 New Madrid earthquakes—the seemingly endless quakes have left some residents particularly on edge.

4 The Moonlight Murders

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The sleepy town of Texarkana was shaken by a series of vicious slayings in the spring of 1946. The white-hooded “Phantom Killer” preyed on young couples who escaped to secluded areas late at night. He was only active for a three-week period between April and May, but in that span, he attacked eight people, killing five. In an effort to halt the violence and capture the suspect, police put the city under lockdown each day at dusk, patrolling the streets in heavily armed patrols.

Just as mysteriously as the killings started, however, they subsided. Police quickly orchestrated an intense investigation. Key witnesses were examined, leads were hunted down, evidence was poured over—but nothing concrete ever came from it. All investigators could confirm was that the killer was a man who wore a white hood, preferred to attack young people late at night in isolated areas, and often used a gun to kill his victims.

Relatively little new information ever surfaced in subsequent years. Adding to the creepiness of the case, some self-proclaimed web-sleuths have tenuously linkedthe Phantom with San Francisco’s notorious Zodiac Killer. They cite both killers’ specific victims, method of operation, preferred murder weapon, and the similar—albeit stretched—time period as evidence of a connection.

Nearly three decades after the investigation hit a dead end, Texarkana’s Charles B. Pierce made a movie loosely based off of the events, titled The Town That Dreaded Sundown. A remake is tentatively scheduled to start production later this year.

3 The Edwards Murder

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In the 1970s, Arkansas wasn’t the most hospitable place for an unwed mother of three. When Linda Edwards got a job as dispatcher for the Garland County Sheriff’s Office, she considered it a godsend—but just six months after joining the force, she vanished. Rumors began to circulate that the man she had been having an affair with, Sgt. Thurman Abernathy, had gotten her pregnant. She wanted to keep the baby, he didn’t. When a fight broke out between the two, he allegedly killed her. Along with their stormy relationship, further implicating Abernathy in her murder was testimony from Edwards’ friend, Mary Patterson, who told police that Edwards was going to meet Abernathy the night she disappeared.

While the missing person’s case dragged on for close to a year, things took a frightening turn when a hunter stumbled upon Edwards’ partially buried remains in the woods. Medical examiners reported that she died from blunt-force trauma to her skull. A few months later, Abernathy was formally charged with her murder.

Knowing that most of the evidence against him was hearsay, Abernathy decided to appeal his case. While the appeal wound its way through the courts, the case was passed along to newly appointed prosecutor Dan Harmon. Harmon dropped all charges against Abernathy, who had recently been promoted to lieutenant. A grand jury agreed with him, citing insufficient evidence. Despite an intense statewide investigation, no tangible evidence has ever surfaced linking Abernathy to Edwards’ murder, and the case remains unsolved.

2 John Glasgow Vanishes

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The idea that someone could complete disappear in the digital age seems rather implausible, but that’s exactly what John Glasgow did in 2008. Whether it was by choice, though, we’ll never know. A prominent figure in the Little Rock construction industry, Glasgow was raking in a seven-figure salary as CEO of CDI Contractors when he—allegedly—backed out of his driveway at 5:15 a.m. on January 28 to leave for work. That’s the last time anyone ever saw him.

It’s never been confirmed that the person reversing his black SUV was him, but when his office called his wife later that day asking where he was, she knew something was terribly wrong. It was unusual for husband not to keep in touch. Within hours, she had organized a search party. They traveled to Petit Jean Mountain, the location of his last cell phone signal, and found his SUV parked outside the Mather Lodge. Inside the vehicle they recovered his phone, two credit cards, and his laptop. The only items missing were his keys and wallet. The trail went cold from there.

In the days following his disappearance, rumors started circulating. Some said that it was a result of his “strained” relationship with Dillard’s, the parent company of CDI, as he was being audited at the time. Friends said he was anxious over it. Others countered that he was in “good spirits” before he vanished. Eventually, Glasgow and his company were cleared of anything illegal by the audit. However, investigators noted that Glasgow received a hefty bonus before he vanished. They thought maybe that was evidence of a possible ransom or extortion, but the money in his bank accounts hasn’t been touched.

The case took a strange turn in 2012, when Jonathan Brawner, a convicted felon and prison barber at the Faulkner County jail, made local headlines after claiming that he and a few accomplices had buried Glasgow four years prior. An exhaustive search of the area returned no corroborating evidence, however, and new evidence of his whereabouts has yet to surface.

1 The Train Deaths

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Arguably the state’s most notorious cold case, the mysterious deaths of Don Henry and Kevin Ives still haunt Central Arkansas. In the early morning hours of August 23, 1987, the mangled bodies of Henry and Ives were discovered on a set of railroad tracks in Bryant, a suburb just south of Little Rock. The train’s engineer didn’t see the boys in time to stop. He told police that they were laying motionless on the tracks, parallel to one another with their arms straight down at their sides, their bodies partially covered by a green tarp.

The initial investigation was swift. Police ruled their deaths accidental, with the state medical examiner declaring that they were under the influence of marijuana and had passed out on the tracks. However, the boys’ parents didn’t agree with that conclusion—they were certain their sons died of foul play. After fighting toget the case reopened, they finally succeed in early 1988 when a new prosecutor was assigned to the case. One of Richard Garrett’s first directives was to have the bodies exhumed for further examination.

His findings where chilling, to say the least. Medical examiners reported that both boys had suffered injuries prior to the train accident. Henry’s shirt was in tatters, with lacerations all over his body indicative of stabbing. Ives, meanwhile, had blunt force trauma to his skull. Examiners concluded that both were dead before being run over by the train. The reported green tarp was never seen again.

Then things got weirder. Witnesses came forward with testimony that they’d seen police officers beating the boys “senseless” before tossing them in the back of a truck and speeding off. Others reported seeing a man in military fatigues loitering near the section of tracks where the boys’ bodies were discovered. Speculation began to rise, with many residents wondering if the boys had simply been in the wrong place at the wrong time. Maybe they had seen a “drug drop” that was connected to alleged cocaine smuggling via the Mena Airport. Others insisted that they saw a Bryant official—that Dan Harmon fellow we mentioned earlier, to be exact—partaking in a drug deal, and the boys were simply victims of being potential witnesses that could jeopardize a political career. Harmon waslater arrested on charges for running a drug ring, selling primarily cocaine, from his office.

The parents did see some justice from all these developments. A grand jury reversed its original verdict of “probable homicide” to “definite homicide” and Arkansans haven’t forgotten the boys on the tracks. Residents honored their memory with a memorial last spring. After 25 years, though, it appears as if the case will forever remain unsolved.

Source:

Listverse

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10 Unexplained Mysteries From Arkansas

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Off the Hook – September 30, 2012: POMC Day of Remembrance speech

I was asked to speak on the National Day of Remembrance for POMC – Central Arkansas Chapter. This is the text version. I will post the video as soon as I can. I was nervous, but I was more cold standing on the breezeway than I was nervous! 

I would like to thank Elaine for asking me to speak here today.  It is a great honor to speak on this National Day of Remembrance.  Like most of you, remembering isn’t limited to one day but today we can join together and support one another. I realize I’m not a parent of a murdered child but several years ago I was told by Elaine and Dee that they didn’t care and they welcomed me with open arms anyway.

My mother’s name is Linda Edwards and on August 22, 1976 her car was found parked on Hwy 290 off Carpenter Dam Rd in Hot Springs, Arkansas.  A full scale search and rescue operation of the area began on August 23rd–including a helicopter search.   Many citizens assisted in this operation, an effort my family has been very grateful for all of these years.  Much to our dismay, she wasn’t found.  At first, my sister Kim and I were told our mother was on vacation. Later, we were told that she was lost and that law enforcement had flyers out trying to find her.

In February 1977, a hunter found human bones on Jack Mountain in Hot Spring County, approximately a ¼ mile over the Hot Spring/Garland county line. The bones were later determined to be the remains of my mother. The autopsy determined the cause of death to be “blunt trauma to the head with compound skull fractures”.

One day soon after the hunter found my mother’s skeletal remains, my dad told my sister and me he needed to speak with us. He sounded sad.  Kim and I both kept asking him what was wrong but he kept getting choked up.  When he was finally able to gain enough composure, he told us our mother wasn’t coming home because she had died and gone to heaven. Kim and I immediately began crying and asked him what happened and what did he mean she wasn’t coming home.  With tears in his eyes he did his best to explain to two small children, ages 6 and 4, the reason why their mother wasn’t coming home.  By this time all three of us were crying.  We couldn’t stop.  We sat on the bed holding one another and sobbing.

After a little bit, I asked my dad if he was going to disappear and never come back.  He kept assuring me that wasn’t going to happen. Kim kept saying she was going to run away to the woods and die so she could go to heaven and be with our mother. That was a day I will never forget.

In 1976 Kim and I lost our mother. Her murderer suffered a few months of discomfort while the investigation was in progress.  My mother’s case did not go to trial as presiding Judge Henry Means ruled almost all conversations as hearsay and all evidence as circumstantial. The charges were dropped against the accused Hot Springs police officer, Thurman Abernathy. Sometime in 1979, the case fell by the wayside due to lack of progress, time, money and energy.

In 2004 Kim and I signed paperwork to have our mother’s remains exhumed.  Since much of the hearsay dismissed by Judge Means was based on the lack of proof that the alleged murderer was the father of her baby, we are requesting to have the remains tested for DNA to provide proof of parentage.

To date, nothing has happened with the exhumation request.  We have been told, even with the presence of DNA, a conviction is still a crapshoot. However, many criminals have been convicted on far less circumstantial evidence.

I would like to share one good memory I have about my mother. It’s a memory that always makes me smile.  My mother and I were in her bedroom and I found a bunny costume.  Apparently, I had been a bunny on a previous Halloween.  I told my mother I wanted to put it on.  It was a one piece bunny suit with a zipper up the front. She kept telling me I was too big and I wouldn’t fit into that little bunny suit. I persisted and she finally gave in.  I managed to get both my feet and legs in the little bunny suit. As I was pulling it up I realized it was a little too tight. I kept going because I knew I could fit into it.  I had trouble getting my arms in the small sleeves.  I struggled with getting the suit pulled up over my arms and shoulders; but I finally managed to do so.

The moment I got it on was the moment I realized, beyond a shadow of a doubt; I really was too big for that little suit.  I started trying to take it off. No matter which way I maneuvered, wiggled or jumped, I couldn’t get that bunny suit off.  At this point I could hear my mother laughing.  I really wasn’t paying attention to her as I was still struggling to take the little bunny suit off.

My jumping around must have been quite a sight because it only made my mother laugh that much harder.  By this time, I was feeling claustrophobic and like I was going to hyperventilate.   I needed to get the suit off. I began hollering, “Mama, Mama, help me get this bunny suit off me”.  That made her clutch her stomach and roll around on the bed laughing even harder. I was standing there watching her roll around while laughing at the whole situation.  I remember she was a happy person.

I was asked to speak today as an advocate for cold cases and to share some of the things I am doing to move my mother’s case forward.  My interest in cold cases came about because of my mother’s murder in 1976.  Her murder has remained on the unsolved list for 36 years now.   I realize I am not the only person feeling as if my mother’s case is not moving forward. I never considered myself an advocate for cold cases, but in a way I guess I am.

When I was a teenager in California, a case popped up on America’s Most Wanted on TV.  It was a case based here in Arkansas about two teenage boys who were the same age I was at that time.  I had never before watched America’s Most Wanted, but I did watch that episode. Right then and there I wondered if the people who were covering up those murders had something to do with the cover-up of my mother’s case. I filed this information in the back of my head.

Since that time I’ve created a website using my mother’s name, posted case facts which I could legally post, and have written letters to state senators and other officials. I’ve been to the library, searched out every single article I could find printed in the newspaper.  I have also posted articles indirectly related to my mother’s murder.  At the prodding of one of my Facebook friends, I created a Linda Edwards Facebook page.  Another friend created a Facebook group where comments can be made or discussed.

On a daily basis, I post a newspaper article, newscast, or case facts in chronological order in two Facebook groups and the Linda Edwards’ Facebook page, on Google+, Pinterest and Twitter.  Prior to posting in the Facebook group named Remember in Hot Springs, I asked for, and was granted, permission. The point in posting an article a day is to spread awareness.  Generally I have 2-3 new people each week comment on or remember my mother—keeping the topic open.

We also hosted a social media campaign whereby people were asked to call, email, Twitter or Facebook a list of officials asking for the exhumation and DNA testing of Linda Edwards.  On October 13th we are having a petition drive at several locations both in Hot Springs and in Malvern, asking people to sign the petition which also asks for the exhumation and DNA testing of Linda Edwards. The petition is also available online at www.change.org. Search for Linda Edwards by Toby Edwards.

I have a section on LindaEdwards.com dedicated to other unsolved cases. I try to include a synopsis, picture, link to any sites pertaining to the cases. I encourage all to have your case listed so we can document the need to have a working cold case division.  You can email me the details if you would like your case added to the list.

Having cases listed on the website does work as noted by the Ryan Bradley Hill case. Over 300 downloads of his petition have occurred since his story was shared on the LindaEdwards.com website.  There have been well over 400 page views of Ryan’s story which leads readers directly to Ryan’s Memorial and  Facebook pages.

The purpose of compiling the list is to see if there are any connections or patterns and secondly to show the growing list of cold cases or unsolved murders in our state.  I also would like to hear what you are doing that is working in your specific case.

Which brings me to us, here in this room, we all want and need the generous emotional support offered by the POMC; however, those of you with unsolved cases, like mine, also need support that will enable us to keep fighting for our loved ones.  One person can’t do it all, but together we can step outside our comfort zones and make a difference.

Many, like I have done in the past, will sit by and twiddle their thumbs while waiting on others to stand-up.  We have to quit sitting back. Band together as one, diversify our talents, expand our core beyond the emotional support, and do something.  Some of us can offer emotional support, some technical support, others have legal backgrounds and there is always legwork to be done.  None of us have the time to fully devote as an individual but we can all work together and accomplish our goals.

I admit, sometimes I have to quit working on my mother’s case, step back and re-group.  I have to lean on our core group for that support.  I’ve learned it is comforting stepping away and letting myself block the case from my mind, but I can’t stay there—it would defeat the purpose, and you can’t stay there either.  Once we quit, they win.

When you are beaten down from fighting for your loved one, step back: find your mind, clear your soul of the bitterness and sadness, gather your strength around you, bend down and pull up your boots by the straps, straighten your back and take that renewed determination, mix it with a little anger and get MAD.

Yes, I said MAD.  It makes me angry that my mother’s case is unsolved.  It makes me mad that the prosecutor doesn’t do anything. It makes me mad when I see other people suffering through the same problems with the system that I am fighting against BUT and here is where MAD meets the road–

I am MOTIVATED AND DETERMINED to see this through to the end. MAD. I’M MAD – I AM MOTIVATED AND DETERMINED.

Together we can unite and help push through legislation that will change the way cold cases are handled.  Together we can demand that elected officials are held accountable for their actions.  I understand there are some things that may be in the works legislatively along these lines.  When those items are ready to be presented, we –you, me, our family and friends, need to stand up and support those who are trying to change things for us.  Get MAD—Get Motivated and Determined.

In conclusion, I would like to read a poem my mother wrote before her death.  I had this poem with her signature inscribed on her tombstone when I came back to Arkansas in 1989.

NEW LITE

Are you held by the past?

Oh, Let it go! Let it go

Into a total nothingness—

And instead let there flow

The joy of the presence,

The presence of God, that so

Enfolds you it brings

All you can possibly know,

Of health, of abundance,

Of peace. Thus you grow

Into the fullness of being.

The past is done; let it go.

Let God’s goodness, His truth

From now on be all that you can know.

 

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POMC – CAC Day of Remembrance September 30, 2012 Speech

Here is the video of the speech I gave at the National Day of Remembrance.  I hope to post the entire event; however, I’m waiting on permission to use photos of the children and I still do not have the bagpipe music.

Doing the old school thing of using paper for my speech wasn’t the best choice on this windy cold day.  I had to hold my papers to keep them from blowing around and clinch my teeth to keep from chattering with cold.  I can tell by looking at the photos most of you were cold also!  Regardless, it was a day I will remember because of the love and support from all of you.

Please remember to send me your information if you have an unsolved or cold case you would like to have included on the Other Unsolved Cases link.  I will be happy to post a photo, links to any websites you have, contact numbers for the officials in your case and a brief synopsis.

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Wedding announcement

Linda Edwards
Mrs. Raymond Lee Edwards

The Sentinel-Record 1-26-1969

Recent Bride – Miss Linda Louise Ockert and Raymond Lee Edwards were married on Wednesday evening, Jan. 22, at Oaklawn Methodist Church. The Rev. John Miles performed the double-ring ceremony. The bride is the daughter of Mrs. Harry B. Browning and Roy A. Ockert. Mr and Mrs. O. J. Edwards are the groom’s parents. The couple were attended by France Wisener and Joe G. Smedley Jr. The bride was attired in a white semi-floral lace dress over satin with long tapering sleeves. Following a brief honeymoon, they are at home in Hot Springs. The bride graduated from Remus Consolidated High School, Remus Mich. Mr. Edwards was honorable discharged from the Army last month.

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Off the Hook – September 3, 2012: Thank you

My family is very appreciative of each person who took the time out of their day to call or email key officials about the Linda Edwards case. Again, thank you for all who participated in Call in/Em@il/Social Media Campaign.

Also, a special thank you to KZNG’s Talk of the Town with Dick Antoine; Elaine Colclasure, Dee Engle and Melinda Crowder with the Parents of Murdered Children – Central Arkansas Chapter (POMC); and, Vicki Parker with US-97’s Wake Up Crew.  Each one of you were instrumental in making this campaign a success.

I apologize for this being posted late. Unfortunately, my grandmother was in the hospital and caring for her was a priority. She is now is staying will us temporarily.

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Off the Hook August 22, 2012: Campaign

CALL IN OR EMAIL TODAY and DON’T FORGET FACEBOOK AND TWITTER

Below is the text to copy and paste for the email campaign.  You can get the contact information at     https://lindaedwards.com/contact-information/  — Copy and paste the message below for each method of contact.  Let us all STAND together and made a difference. 
 

On August 22, 2012, (TODAY) we are asking each one of you to contact the Senators, Representatives, Prosecuting Attorney, Governor and President listed on the www.LindaEdwards.com website on the navigation bar under the Contact Information tab near the top right hand side of the page.

Please reach out to everybody on the contact page EXCEPT the Arkansas State Police and Garland County Sheriff’s Dept.

You can contact the officials via email, phone, Facebook and Twitter — the methods available to each individual are listed below their name.

Please participate to make a strong  showing of support.

Below is a sample email, Twitter post and phone script.

EMAIL OR FACEBOOK POST

Email subject line:

Justice for Linda Edwards

It has been 36 years since Linda Edwards, a deputy with the Garland County Sheriff’s department, was brutally murdered. Her murderer remains free; and part of the reason is due to most of the evidence having been ruled as circumstantial or hearsay.

One of the primary reasons for the hearsay rule was the fact there wasn’t any medical record to corroborate witness statements regarding the paternity of her unborn child.

Linda Edwards’s remains are buried in a concrete vault. We are asking to have the body exhumed and tested for DNA and hope a positive match occurs whereby this case can receive the fair trial denied in the 70’s.

Exhumation paperwork was signed in 2004 – we’re still waiting. It’s not too late for Linda Edwards to receive the justice she and her unborn child deserve.  For more information please visit  www.LindaEdwards.com

Thank you.

 TWITTER POST:

Justice for Linda Edwards. Exhume the body. Test DNA. Convict the murderer. www.lindaedwards.com 

 PHONE: Hello, I would like to speak to [Insert Name] or leave a message if they are not available.  I am calling to ask for DNA testing in the Linda Edwards case.  You can find more information at www.LindaEdwards.com

PLEASE CLICK ON THE LINK BELOW TO SIGN THE PETITION.

https://www.change.org/petitions/the-president-of-the-united-states-exhume-linda-edwards-and-have-dna-tests-performed-5?utm_campaign=action_box_reboot&utm_medium=twitter&utm_source=share_petition

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August 20, 2012 Talk of the Town with Dick Antoine audio of next to the last caller

This is the audio (fifth call) of the next to the last caller from KZNG’s Talk of the Town with Dick Antoine on August 20, 2012. There were several other callers that did not get to speak as we were running out of time before Dick’s next guest.

There were a total of 6 callers.  Below is a brief synopsis of those calls.

First caller:  The first caller mentioned he was not a forensic pathologist but he couldn’t understand why HS County Prosecutor would not allow the DNA testing to be done when it was offered to be paid for by a third party.  He also noted Mike Fletcher, the previous investigator, was now in a position to do something.  On a final note, he stated this case had been stonewalled long enough.

Second caller:  The caller asked about a witness who had previously come forward and what the outcome of the sworn statement given by the witness.

Third caller: Wanted the phone number to prosecuting attorney

Fourth caller: This caller asked what was currently happening and what had happened in the past.  This caller identified herself as a government official and offered her help in that capacity.

Fifth and sixth are posted.

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August 20, 2012 Talk of the Town with Dick Antoine audio of last caller

This is the audio of the last caller from KZNG’s Talk of the Town with Dick Antoine on August 20, 2012.

First of all Abernathy was not cleared by the ASP.  He was formally charged with first degree murder (please read here and here). The charges were later dropped (nol pros) — not because he was cleared, but because evidence was dismissed by Judge Means as being either circumstantial or hearsay (please read here). Abernathy did not have a viable alibi, he did have a motive and he was repeatedly noted as telling lies regarding his relationship. It was fortunate for him to have Judge Means on his side.

Secondly, portions of the testimony were deemed hearsay due to the fact there was not any proof of the child’s paternity (please read here). If the DNA does show paternity, portions of the hearsay would possibly be eligible for readmission into testimony.

The final thing I would like to clarify is the conviction of the caller that Abernathy is, in fact, completely innocent of any wrong doing. If this caller knows something he should come forward. It is my desire to have my mother’s murderer convicted, whether it is Abernathy or not.

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Off the Hook – August 20, 2012

2 more days!

I hope everybody has put it on their calendars to join in the em@il/call-in campaign asking to have the body of Linda Edwards exhumed and DNA testing performed.

Did you listen to KZNG’s Talk of the Town with Dick Antoine this morning?  We had some excellent call in questions and comments.  I’m excited to see the response to our campaign and hope each of you will join me in petitioning to have my mother’s body exhumed and DNA tested.

For those of you who missed it, I will get the video posted as soon as possible.

Please share with your friends and ask them to participate also–as a group, our impact will be greater.

We are also putting together an online petition, I have been working with tech support to iron out some wrinkles in the petition due to some technical difficulties.  When we get the problem solved, we will promote the petition online so everyone can sign.  Once we reach the signature target, we will print it out and send it to the appropriate people.

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Off the Hook – August 18, 2012

4 more days!

I hope everybody has put it on their calendars to join in the em@il/call-in campaign asking to have the body of Linda Edwards exhumed and DNA testing performed.

Former Garland County Sheriff Leon Barlow and I will be on KZNG’s Talk of the Town with Dick Antoine on Monday, August 20, 2012.  Be sure to listen — 1340AM.

Please share with your friends and ask them to participate also–as a group, our impact will be greater.

We are also putting together an online petition, I have been working with tech support to iron out some wrinkles in the petition due to some technical difficulties.  When we get the problem solved, we will promote the petition online so everyone can sign.  Once we reach the signature target, we will print it out and send it to the appropriate people.

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Off the Hook – August 16, 2012

6 more days!

I hope everybody has put it on their calendars to join in the em@il/call-in campaign asking to have the body of Linda Edwards exhumed and DNA testing performed.

Former Garland County Sheriff Leon Barlow and I will be on KZNG’s Talk of the Town with Dick Antoine on Monday, August 20, 2012.  Be sure to listen — 1340AM.

Please share with your friends and ask them to participate also–as a group, our impact will be greater.

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Off the Hook – August 14, 2012

8 more days!

I hope everybody has put it on their calendars to join in the em@il/call-in campaign asking to have the body of Linda Edwards exhumed and DNA testing performed.

Former Garland County Sheriff Leon Barlow and I will be on KZNG’s Talk of the Town with Dick Antoine on Monday, August 20, 2012.  Be sure to listen — 1340AM.

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Off the Hook – August 9, 2012: Email/Call in Campaign

On August 22, 2012, we are asking each one of you to contact the Senators, Representatives, Prosecuting Attorney, Governor and President listed on the www.LindaEdwards.com website on the navigation bar under the Contact Information tab near the top right hand side of the page.

Please reach out to everybody on the contact page EXCEPT the Arkansas State Police and Garland County Sheriff’s Dept.

You can contact the officials via email, phone, Facebook and Twitter — the methods available to each individual are listed below their name.

Please participate to make a strong  showing of support.

Below is a sample email, Twitter post and phone script.

EMAIL OR FACEBOOK POST

Email subject line:

Justice for Linda Edwards

It has been 36 years since Linda Edwards, a deputy with the Garland County Sheriff’s department, was brutally murdered. Her murderer remains free; and part of the reason is due to most of the evidence having been ruled as circumstantial or hearsay.

One of the primary reasons for the hearsay rule was the fact there wasn’t any medical record to corroborate witness statements regarding the paternity of her unborn child.

Linda Edwards’s remains are buried in a concrete vault. We are asking to have the body exhumed and tested for DNA and hope a positive match occurs whereby this case can receive the fair trial denied in the 70’s.

Exhumation paperwork was signed in 2004 – we’re still waiting. It’s not too late for Linda Edwards to receive the justice she and her unborn child deserve.  For more information please visit  www.LindaEdwards.com

Thank you.

 

TWITTER POST:
Justice for Linda Edwards. Exhume the body. Test DNA. Convict the murderer. www.lindaedwards.com 

 

PHONE: Hello, I would like to speak to [Insert Name] or leave a message if they are not available.  I am calling to ask for DNA testing in the Linda Edwards case.  You can find more information at www.LindaEdwards.com

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Off the Hook – July 27, 2012: KZNG Radio

Thank you KZNG and Dick Antoine of Talk of the Town for featuring the Linda Edwards story on your show today.  I am always thankful for help and hope that something will spark somebody to step forward.

I failed miserably at trying not to say UH so much; but I had fun and an hour was over before I knew it. Besides being nervous, it is a difficult topic for me to discuss. I had to catch my breath a few times. Please forgive my “UH’s” and the stumbling.

We get didn’t around to covering an email campaign that is currently being organized or the book that will be written.  I also failed to mention the fact that those of you using IE7 or IE8 probably want to upgrade or switch to an alternate browser for optimal viewing.

Hopefully, I will be able to upload a video of today’s broadcast before the week’s end. Vicki Parker, of US 97, is handling an audio version of the broadcast and she will edit it as soon as she can.

Monday, July 30,2012, I will begin posting from the beginning again. There will be several new articles about my mother’s case as well as articles regarding Judge Means’ personal case and the outcome.

Linda Edwards Facebook page

Remember Hot Spring County Murder of Deputy in 1976 Facebook Group

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Off the Hook – July 24, 2012: Talk of the Town

My sister and I have been invited to speak with Dick Antoine of KZNG 1340’s “Talk of the Town” on Friday, July 27, 2012.  The unsolved murder of Linda Edwards and the struggle to move the case forward are a few of the things on the table for discussion.

7am – 9am – “Talk of the Town” with Dick Antoine.  Dick talks to the newsmakers and community leaders, keeping you up to date on what’s happening in the Diamond Lakes Region. KZNG 1340 AM

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Off the Hook – June 26, 2012: Dear Sir

Dear Sir,

We do not get to choose how we die. My mama did not choose how she died. She didn’t get to enjoy seeing Sonny, Kim or I grow up. She did not get to hold her firstborn grandson or any of her grandchildren. Unlike you, she did not have the pleasure of spoiling her grandchildren; she missed their first Christmas, their graduations, a wedding and all the accomplishments grandparents revel in seeing and bragging about.

What if you die in the night without coming forward? I’ve heard stories of people who, on their deathbed, felt the fires of hell licking at their feet. Do you want to feel the heat of rejection or the welcoming light of heaven? You can still choose.

Have you consoled yourself by saying you will confess all on your deathbed? What if you aren’t able to do that? Will your Maker say “well done” or “depart from me” when you stand before him? Is your name in the Book of Life crossed out? You can choose redemption now or you can choose the route of “all liars and murderers.”

God is giving you the opportunity to make things right. Confessing to your pastor or asking God’s forgiveness isn’t enough because this isn’t about you — it’s about the people who have suffered and a dead woman whose face you see in your memories. What do you really think people are going to say about you when you die? They are going to remember what you did and didn’t do for Linda Edwards. Is this the legacy you want to leave your children? A legacy of innuendos and shadows.

You know what happened on August 21, 1976. You know how many individuals died that night to help cover up the death of Linda Edwards and her unborn child. You were there when she told you whose baby she carried in her womb — I saw you. You know what murder weapon he used. Did you wipe the blood from a billy club or perhaps from the bat sitting near the kitchen door in your partners house? Were you shaking with fear or anger at the position your “friend” put you in? You can choose peace now and give peace to Linda’s family. Let this heavy burden of guilt lift from your mind and enjoy your last days knowing you have finally done the right thing.

Please come forward and tell what you know. I’m sure a deal can be made, but you have to come forward first. Your friend can no longer hurt you — you can only hurt those you love by protecting him. Please let my mama, my unborn sibling and the other individual have the justice they deserve. Please let our families have the peace and justice that we deserve.

Sheriff Sanders is just a phone call away to your peace of mind. 622-3660.

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Off the Hook – June 25, 2012: For the Record

I don’t believe the whole Hot Springs Police Department (HSPD) was involved in the cover-up of my mother’s murder. I do feel the few who pled the fifth knew something about it and a couple of those individuals who pled the fifth (and possibly the wife of one of them) were directly involved in the heinous crime. I also believe that politics played a key role as well.

I was scared of anyone who wore a HSPD uniform. I was only 6 years old and had already heard too much yelling and screaming between my mother and a couple of the officers. I had even been whipped by one of the fifth pleaders. Then, my mother disappeared forever. I was hesitant about staying over at my step-mother’s cousin’s house. He was a HSPD officer. I did not realize it then, but my step-mother was trying to help me overcome the fear. Law enforcement officers wearing Garland County Sheriff Department (GCSD) or  Arkansas State Police (ASP) uniforms didn’t cause me to be afraid. It was sometime before I was able to overcome that fear and accept people for themselves instead of their uniform.

Some people have heard rumors that the murderer was not the one who was charged in 1977. I am sure the same rumors were also milling around in the 70’s. I am positive that those in charge of the investigation back then also heard these rumors. I believe they came to the conclusion in the beginning they were just that, rumors. If these rumors were true that would mean as a whole, every LEO/LEA who has handled the case has lied to my family for thirty plus years. I just don’t buy it because I have had my own experiences with  a couple of these individuals. Without those experiences, I may have believed these rumors.

There are things I know that I haven’t spoken of to the public. Maybe they will be told in the book, who knows, I’m not there yet. Above all, I do not wish to jeopardize the case. However, if you have heard something or feel you know something, even if you may think they (the police) may already know; tell Sheriff Sanders and let him decide. What could it hurt? If you’re posting on the internet that you have heard or you know something already, you have posted in “cyber history” anyway

It is my belief the end of a murderers story would have been different had they found my mother’s remains in Garland county. As it stands now, I am still trying, begging, for justice for my mother and an unborn sibling. I firmly believe that former Sheriff Leon Barlow did everything he could possibly do and may have lost the next election because of what he tried to do. That man is a real hero in my book.

I believe I am being stonewalled; but not by the ASP. If there was a way I could prove the murder happened in Garland County  (I, along with others, believe it did), I feel Prosecuting Attorney Steve Oliver and Sheriff Sanders would do everything in their power to bring justice to this case

The ASP and I have had some mis-communications and some disagreements about this case, but who hasn’t had disagreements? We agreed to disagree and are working toward a common goal–conviction of a murderer. I have spoken with the ASP CID and have given them what I have collected. There are some things that have fallen through the cracks, but I do not believe it is the ASP who has allowed this to happen.

Sometimes, I have to step away to clear my head or re-gather myself to keep up this fight, but I refuse to accept NO for an answer. Somewhere, someone who cares is in a position that can do something. Will you help me?

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Casey Bess Crowder

Casey Bess Crowder
Casey Bess Crowder

Kenneth Osburn was tried and convicted of Capital Felony Murder for killing Casey Bess Crowder. Kenneth won his appeal. There is a new trial scheduled for September 2012.

UPDATE AUGUST 2012:  The Pre-trial hearing and trial have been continued again. Will be next year before anything happens.

Facebook Page

Find a Grave Memorial Page

Casey Bess Crowder Scholarship Fund

Sixth annual Casey Crowder Memorial Tournament started Saturday June 2, 2012.

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Off The Hook – June 4, 2012: POMC SOS Conclusion

Parents of Murdered Children offer a Second Opinion Services (SOS) which allows victims of crime to submit documentation, autopsy reports, and other information to specialists who review the information to see if the opinions are the same or different.

A few days ago, we received a letter from POMC with the results of the SOS from their criminal investigator. Below are excerpts from the letter:

“Re: Linda Edwards Homicide

I was assigned this case for review. Please note that due to the case still being classified as “open” I was not given the actually police report(s), crime scene photos or any other information that involved agencies feel is of a classified nature.  What I had to review were a series of interview notes, newspaper articles and biographical information.  The following is my opinion only and is based upon my reading of above mentioned materials, not any active field investigation.

With that being said I think anyone who read the material which I received will agree that Mr. Thurman Abernathy is the responsible in the murder of Linda Edwards.

Motive: Advised that he is the father in the pregnancy of his mistress, Ms. Edwards, Mr. Abernathy went into a rage. This news likely had his head spinning with the financial, personal and career consequences such news can cause. In interviews Ms. Edwards expressed fear in the temper of Mr. Abernathy….I feel he “snapped” ……

Inappropriate behavior: On the night of the homicide Abernathy drove his unmarked police car for several hours without ever checking in on the radio, making a single citizen or suspect contact and most unusually-sent his underling home early (for no reason).

Abernathy’s car was “scrubbed clean” when investigators finally got around to checking it.

Ms. Edwards had advised friends that she was going to confront Abernathy THAT NIGHT about her pregnancy.

Witnesses reported seeing a couple in loud argument in dark sedan.

After the fact behavior: Abernathy’s complete lack of cooperation is a major key. This was a woman who was pregnant with his child, someone he had cared about and carried on a long term relationship with. A person with nothing to hide would go to the ends of the earth to help find her, he could care less. He continued this by refusing to assist in the homicide investigation. His testimony in the deposition hearing was unbelievable.

My conclusions: I believe Mr. Abernathy committed this murder.  He checked out his unmarked unit, sent home his cover officer and murdered Ms. Edwards. Due to his vehicle being sanitized, it sounds like he assaulted her in the police car.  She was then transported to the remote location where she was found.  If not dead at that time, she was most likely “finished off” by Abernathy.

…in a politically charged competitive atmosphere. Mr. Abernathy in any other circumstance would have been compelled to assist in the investigation. I do not think that situation would be tolerated in today’s world of law enforcement. …Mr. Abernathy, to commit such an act and be what looks like a serial cheater, may be a sociopath. As such he would not have the feelings of guilt to cause a confession.

Ongoing investigative suggestions: …Contact a newsmagazine show…At our annual trade conference 20/20, 48 hours and others are actively recruiting for upcoming shows. I don’t feel they could find a more compelling case….

In closing: Someone in our law enforcement family was brutally murdered along with her unborn child and left alone in the middle of nowhere for the wild animals. She left behind small children and friends. It is as concerning that another cop is the likely responsible. This case cries out for justice and it needs to be investigation until justice is done. (POMC Second Opinion, 2012)

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Off the Hook – June 3, 2012: May 2012 Final Stats

May 2012 Final Stats
May 2012 Final Stats

This image shows the final statistics for May 2012. As you can see the stats have increased.   The most viewed page (660+ page views) is the post about Sheriff Sanders’ new $1000 reward being offered for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the murderer of Linda Edwards.

I would like to thank each one of you who has helped spread the word and shared the links. Please continue to do so as higher rankings will improve our chances of getting picked up by a nationally watched television program.

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Off the Hook – May 26, 2012: Clemency? Really?

In July of 2007, I sent Governor Beebe a letter.

On August 10, 2007 I received a phone call from the Governor’s office ….. the Department of Clemency’s counsel, Amy Click-Horoda was calling as the spokesperson.

We had one question, “Why was the Dept of Clemency calling us”?

We were told our case had nothing to do with the Dept. of Clemency (duh). That the call had been referred to her due to her experience in criminal defense law (we were not looking for defense); and, all police/cold case files were referred to her.

She said she was calling to “check-in” on the status (obviously the status was negative or I would not have contacted the Governor’s office). She also indicated the Governor could not put pressure on the prosecutor. She indicated there was a “point” where they could possibly do something but did not tell us what that “point” was or what had to happen to reach it.  She gave us a few avenues whereby to log complaints against the prosecutor but said we probably would not get very far.

On a positive note, she said Eddie Easley, Hot Spring County Prosecutor, could request state/county monies for exhumation (although he has not done so). She also asked that we keep her posted.

Horoda said to keep her informed, I tried calling back on September 18, 2007 and September 29, 2007. No luck.

I voted for Governor Beebe, the “Voice of the little people”, to become Governor the first time around. Apparently I had wasted my vote. I haven’t voted for him since.

I refuse to believe there isn’t somebody who cares in a position to do something.

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Dawna Natzke

Dawna Natzke’s body was found in January 2012 after she was reported missing during the Christmas holidays of 2011. Reports state that foul play is suspected. There have not been any convictions in this case at the time of this posting.

Ms. Natzke was an emergency dispatcher for the past six years with the Hot Springs Village Police Department. She was well spoken of by all that knew her. Her family deserves peace and she deserves justice.

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Chris Byers, Michael Moore, Steve Branch

Chris Byers, Michael Moore, Steve Branch
Chris Byers, Michael Moore, Steve Branch

Technically, this case has been closed. Many feel that it is unsolved and others feel as if the guilty were released from prison in an unprecedented move here in Arkansas that allowed the accused to plead guilty under the Alford plea and walk out of prison for time served. Who really killed these three cub scouts? The infamous WM3? Mr Bojangles? Some unknown? Regardless, these children have not received the full justice they deserve.

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Janie Ward

Janie Ward
Janie Ward

Janie Ward was 16 when she was pronounced dead on September 9, 1989. According to several accounts, Janie fell backward off of a 9″ – 10″ high deck and sustained neck and upper spinal chord injuries. Her death was ruled an accident, however her family feels it was homicide. Accident or cover-up?

Justice for Janie Ward Yahoo Group

The Mysterious Death of Janie Ward by JIM AVILA (@JimAvilaABC) and TERI WHITCRAFT, ABC NEWS’ LAW & JUSTICE UNIT with JULIA HOPPOCK

Mysterious Death of Janie Ward YouTube Videos ABC Primetime

YouTube page by CrimeTeVo

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Walter Odell Robinson

Walter Odell Robinson
Walter Odell Robinson

On October 25th, 2001 the body of Walter Odell Robinson was found near Old Dallas Rd. and was the apparent victim of foul play.

Mr. Robinson was last seen by his family on Saturday Oct.13,2001 between 5:30 p.m. and 5:45 p.m.

Investigators have exhausted all leads in this case.

The Garland County Sheriff’s Department is offering a $1,000.00 reward in this case for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the suspect. For more information please click HERE.

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Kristy Yates

Kristy Yates
Kristy Yates

On April 26th, 1997 shortly before 12:00 noon, the body of Kristy Yates, a 15 year old white female, was located in the 1300 block of Sleepy Valley Road in northern Garland County. Kristy Yates had been brutally murdered.

Investigators conducted numerous interviews and have exhausted all leads in this case.

The Garland County Sheriff’s Department is offering a $1,000.00 reward in this case for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the suspect. For more information please click HERE.

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Stand for Truth

Stand for truth
through lies and misconceptions
Stand for truth
through slander and deceptions
Stand for truth
when all ails
Stand for truth
when all else fails
Stand for truth
and by His hand truth will guide you
Stand for truth
and in the end truth will stand for you

Toby Edwards

October 12, 20111

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Teela Hudson and Frank Delaney

On August 31, 1997 the bodies of 17 year old Teela Hudson and 18 year old Frank Delaney were found in eastern Garland County murdered execution style.

The bodies were located in Delaney’s 1989 Blue Oldsmobile Cutlass at approximately 4:00 a.m.. Teela Hudson was last seen at approximately 1:00 a.m. getting off work at a restaurant on Central Avenue and getting into Delaney’s vehicle, which was driven by Delaney.

Investigators have followed up on numerous leads and conducted numerous interviews.

The Garland County Sheriff’s Department is offering a $1,000.00 reward in this case for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the suspect. For more information please click HERE.

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Off the Hook – May 18, 2012: Dear Sir

Dear Sir,

Do you remember the day you came over to our house, the day mom told you she was pregnant with your partners baby? I do. My mom had gotten off the phone crying. I asked her what was the matter and she was bawling and saying (your name omitted) wouldn’t come over and headed back to her bedroom. Then you showed up. You came in through the carport door. Didn’t knock, just walked right on in all dressed up in your Hot Springs Police uniform. You asked me where my mama was and I told you she was in her bedroom crying because you wouldn’t come over. You glared at me and then walked back to her room.

The crying and yelling only increased in volume, in loudness and in tears. So much that I could hear what you two were saying all the way in the living room. I heard her tell you she was pregnant and you asked her whose it was and she told you (name of your partner omitted). Then more yelling and screaming. So much that I became concerned and knocked on the bedroom door. When mom opened the door, both of you were yelling at me to get back up to the living room. You were standing by her dresser beside my mom’s gun. My mom NEVER left her gun out.

You two eventually came out of the bedroom and as you were entering the living room area, I yelled at you, “Quit making my mama cry!” Do you remember what you did next? My sister and I do. You started chasing me around. We ended up in the kitchen before you finally got your hands on me. Mom finally managed to get me away from you. I know you remember you were whipping me.

Why did all the color drain from your face when you saw my sister? Did you see a ghost? Were you remembering what happened?  Like Lady MacBeth, have you repeatedly tried to wash blood from your hands?  Who else did you have to kill to cover the tracks of your partner?  Was it worth it?

I know you have been reading the Linda Edwards Facebook page and the blog that was created in her name. I know it has caused you great pain and heartache.  It has for my sister and I as well.  This  pain must be a great burden to bear. You can’t sleep very well. You’re constantly looking over your shoulder, asking yourself, is today the day someone is coming to take me away? I know,  deep down inside your soul,  you wish to be free from this. I plead with you sir, before you have your last breath and move on to eternity to meet your Maker, make things right with Him now.

The puzzle is coming together.  New evidence has come to light and those who conspired to commit murder will pay.  Come forward and tell what you know. Perhaps a deal can be made. I don’t have control of that, but you have control of what your Maker will say to you by doing the right thing now. Live the rest of your life in peace and give some element of peace back to the children who lost their mother.

Sir, please do the right thing. You can message me here on Facebook or you can call Sheriff Larry Sanders. Let’s take care of this so we can all move on with our lives.

Sincerely,

Toby Edwards

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Virginia L. Williams

Virginia L. Williams

On December 31, 1993, the Garland County Sheriff’s Department received a call in reference to a Homicide at the trailer park located at 108 Old Brundage Road off Amity Road.   The victim was identified as Virginia L. Williams, age 24.  She was known as “Jenny” to her friends.  The victim’s boyfriend found her body on the living room floor with apparent gunshot wounds at approximately 12:48 am.  The victim was reported to have had telephone conversation approximately three hours prior to her body being discovered.  She gave no indication of any problems at that time.  The victim’s two small children were in the residence at the time of the shooting.  The children were not harmed and were too young to assist investigators with information.  There were no signs of forced entry into the mobile home and there were no signs of a struggle.  This might indicate that the victim knew the killer.

Investigators are still seeking information and believe the suspect or suspects could still be living in the area.

The Garland County Sheriff’s Department is offering a $1,000.00 reward in this case for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the suspect. For more information please click HERE.

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Cheryl Lynn Eason

Cheryl Lynn Eason
Cheryl Lynn Eason

Cheryl Lynn Eason was killed outside her apartment at 119 Oak St. On November 26, 2002 at about 6:00 PM. She was unloading groceries when she was shot in the head by a black male.  A witness heard a single gunshot and looked back to see Ms. Eason lying on the ground and the black male running away toward the west. The suspect is described as a black male in his twenties, five feet to five feet six inches tall, weighing between 120 and 130 lbs.  He was wearing a dark jacket and toboggan.
There is a reward of $5,000.00 in this case for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the suspect.
For more information please click HERE.

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Off the Hook – May 11, 2012: Appreciation

I appreciate all of the emails with offers of help, condolences, and well wishes.

If you want to help now…….like and/or share the daily links and encourage your friends to do the same. Sharing the link spreads the word and raises awareness outside of our immediate friend circles.

When something comes up, hopefully in the near future, everyone will be in place and ready to help out!

Some of you already are helping and I really appreciate it.

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Iva Joyce Johnson

 

Iva Johnson
Iva Johnson

Dorrell Investigations  MISSING – IVA JOYCE JOHNSON – This is one of my cases. Iva has been missing since 4/4/1981 from Hot Springs, AR. Last seen at the Joker Club wearing a Rust colored outfit. Iva was 45 at the time, she is 5′ 8″, brown hair, 135 lbs. She was seen in the company of 3 men inside the club. Some knew her as Joyce. PLEASE RE-POST this to your wall. Iva’s family desperately needs answers and some closure. If you know anything at all about Iva from 31 years ago or possibly frequent the Joker Club during that time PLEASE CONTACT ME!

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Off the hook – May 7, 2012: Badge No. 137

Good News! Badge No. 137 is now officially retired.Garland County Sheriff's Deputy Badge

Like all things in life, this took some time as new badge numbers had to be ordered and assigned. I followed up with Sheriff Sanders and he let me know that the badge was offically retired.  Since her death was not in the line of duty a ceremony was not held.

Thank you Garland County Sheriff’s Department for retiring Badge No. 137 in memory of Linda Edwards.

A special thanks from my sister and I, to Sheriff Sanders, Chief Shoptaw and the lieutenant who previously held this number.

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Specialist Bradley Ryan Hill, ARNG

Bradley Ryan Hill
Bradley Ryan Hill

Bradley Ryan Hill joined the Arkansas Army National Guard and served his country proudly. Ryan served a tour in Iraq risking his life in combat for his country. Ryan returned home only to die as a result of what his family and others across Arkansas as well as the nation, believe to be FOUL PLAY on the evening of April 7, 2006.

Ryan went to a local club. He gave three young men a ride. After a physical altercation, Ryan was robbed and his car was stolen. He made several calls to friends seeking help. He stated in a voice mail he was bleeding severely and needed to go to the hospital. He was found the next morning propped against a tree with an electrical cord around his neck. He was also straddling a fence with one leg and the other touching the ground. The pants that he was found in were not his own.

Ryan’s death was ruled a suicide. HOWEVER, the physical evidence does not support this finding. Ryan’s family and friends want and need questions answered. Our hero deserves to be treated with honor and respect.

Today, May 5, 2012, I received a petition from Parents of Murdered Children. Please click on the following link to print the petition, have people sign the petition and send the signed petition to Governor Beebe. Thank you. Bradley Ryan Hill Petition

Change.org Online Petition

Justice for Bradley Ryan Hill Facebook page

Link to Bradley’s Memorial Website

 

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Posted in Pulaski County | 2 Comments

Kevin Ives and Don Henry

Interesting side note: In this video you will see the Prosecuting Attorney, Dan Harmon and the Deputy Attorney is Richard Garrett. Dan Harmon, I believe, was the second Prosecutor assigned to my mothers case. His name will be seen in upcoming articles that I will be posting. Richard Garrett is the current Deputy Prosecutor in my mothers case. Read more about Richard Garrett HERE.

I shared this video from youtube. The following synopsis is from the youtube page created by Josh Corbin. Note, if you feel I violated any rights by reposting any and all items, please let me know and I will remove the entire post.

Published on Mar 30, 2012 by 

On August 23, 1987, seventeen-year-old Kevin Ives and sixteen-year-old Don Henry, were murdered in a rural community just south of Little Rock. Their bodies were placed on railroad tracks and run over by a passing train. A cover-up began immediately and eventually extended to every level of government involving local, state. Two suspects implicated in the killings are law enforcement officers one is now a police chief and the other is an ex-police chief who was convicted of drug charges, and later the sentence was overturned.

Everyone who tried to help with this case has ended up dead or run out of town. For this reason it has led to a cold case file with little to no effort by local law enforcement agencies.

Please help Linda Ives seek justice for her son Kevin.

**PETITION**
http://www.change.org/petitions/kevin-ives-don-henry-derailed-justice-the-mur…

**SOURCES**
http://www.idfiles.com/ojvid.htm
http://www.freerepublic.com/focus/news/790016/posts

 

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Off the hook – May 4, 2012 $1000 Reward

Linda Edwards
Linda Edwards

The Garland County Sheriff’s Department is offering a $1000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the murderer of Linda Edwards.

Thank you Timothy Moore for requesting the Linda Edwards’ case to be included on the Garland County Sheriff’s Unsolved Crimes webpage and a big thanks to Sheriff Larry Sanders for his quick response and reward offer.

Click on this link  GCSD UNSOLVED for more details.

Please, drop Sheriff Larry Sanders an email thanking him. The email address listed herein is the address publicized on the Garland County webpage. Sheriff Larry Sanders, les@garlandcounty.org

Also, if you know Mr. Moore’s email address you are welcome to thank him as well.

 

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Off the Hook – Google map of Files Ranch Road on Jack Mountain

Linda’s skeletal remains were found scattered on the south side of Files Ranch Road. Based on what I was told, the beginning of the road was moved north a little bit. I can’t remember how far down the road the skeletal remains were found, but it was not more than a mile or two–easy walking distance. My sister and I have both been there, in fact the KTHV 2000 newscast was partially shot on Files Ranch Road.


View Larger Map

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Off the Hook – April 2, 2012

I have created a Facebook page for Linda Edwards.  Please “like” it if you are a member of Garland County Sheriff BadgeFacebook.

I will try to post a link every day in chronological order on the Linda Edwards Facebook page from the Linda Edwards site, this will make it easier to follow along if you prefer to read a little bit at a time.

No word yet on re-retiring badge No. 137–I’ll continue to follow-up and keep you posted.

I have passed the written exam to become a Garland County Sheriff Reserve Officer.  The next step is to meet the committee later this month.  Although, I’m looking forward to doing this, it is both exciting and nerve-wracking.

 

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Off the Hook – Updates

I’ve integrated the old Blogger blog into the new WordPress format and the old Blogger blog is going to disappear.  Some of the old links no longer work due to various reasons; other than that, I think all the images and document links are working properly.  If you see something that doesn’t work please let me know so I can check it out.

In the photo section under misc photos, I’ve added some new photos.  Eventually it will be setup to be more user friendly.  Also, I’ve added a Facebook page–please feel free to like it!

Linda Edwards on Facebook

To date, there isn’t any word on the badge retirement situation.  I’m not sure how long it takes to order and assign new numbers or if there is a certain time of year that they requisition badges.  All I know is that so far we are still waiting.

Last Friday I took the civil service exam as part of the application process to become a reserve deputy sheriff in Garland County.  It was a pass or fail test and they email the results to  you in 10-15 days.  I know time passes quickly but this is like waiting on a pot of water to boil.  My goal in becoming a reserve officer is to gain real experience working in the computer forensic field.  I’ve thought long and hard about what I want to be when I “grow up” and think that this is the field that appeals to me the most.

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Behind the News: 24-year old Case Reopened

By Roy Ockert Jr.
Courier editor 8-29-2000

In June while marking the 25th anniversary of this column, we reprinted some of what I considered my best columns over the years. One of those was a column I wrote after the disappearance of my sister, Linda Edwards, a Garland County sheriff’s dispatcher, in 1976. Her remains were found five months later, and her murder is still unsolved, long forgotten by all those but those who cared the most.

That may be changing. The case has been reopened by the Arkansas State Police, and last week Little Rock television station KTHV led its 10 p.m. Monday newscast with an extensive piece about the case.  (see video here)

Modern forensics methods are bringing once-unsolvable cases back to life. If DNA testing techniques had been available in 1977, Linda’s killer might have been brought to justice. Investigators think those techniques could still help today.

These developments, as you might imagine, raise mixed emotions within her family. We had long ago given up hope that the case would ever be solved and closed it, to the best of our abilities, in our own minds.

Linda, a 29-year-old divorcee, was last seen alive late Saturday night, Aug. 21, 1976, in Hot Springs. Earlier that night she had taken her children and a babysitter, who was a close friend, to the movie theater, giving the sitter money for cab fare home.

Linda never made it home.

That night she dropped by another friend’s house twice, met with a city police officer with whom she’d had a relationship and was seen by three acquaintances – the last about 12: a.m.

The next morning her friends became concerned and called the sheriff. That evening her car was found abandoned but operational alongside a quiet highway just south of Hot Springs. A full-scale search and investigation began that Monday.

Meanwhile, I had taken my family, including my mother and brother Ken, on a camping trip to Florida. Those were the days before cell phones; we had no specific itinerary, and foolishly we did not check in with anybody along the way.

By the time we returned to Hot Springs that Thursday night, Linda’s disappearance had become a major statewide story. Everyone knew about it except us.

In those first days after Linda disappeared, the policeman, who was married, had become a prime suspect.  Linda had told many friends that she was carrying his baby, that he wanted her to have an abortion but she refused and that she intended to give the baby the policeman’s name.  Before she disappeared that Saturday night, she told several friends she was going to have a “showdown” with him.

The policeman admitted meeting her that night but denied everything else.  During the first few days the case became a source of great friction between sheriff’s officers and city police.  Then, thankfully, the State Police took it over.

Unfortunately, some critical mistakes had already been made in the investigation.  Her car was towed in to a garage but left where almost anybody could get to it.  The policeman’s car was kept at his home that Sunday and had been cleaned by the time it was inspected Monday.

But for the next five months, while the murder investigation proceeded, Linda remained a missing person.  We established a reward fund, sent posters all over the country and followed every tip, including some crazy ones.  A grand jury looked into the case but ruled that the evidence did not warrant action.

Just into my second year as managing editor of the Batesville Guard, I spent every weekend in Hot Springs trying to help.  For hours at a time my brother and I walked the woods in the area where her car had been found.

As it turned out, we were nowhere near the right place.  On Feb. 12 a wolf hunter looking for his dog found some human bones on rugged Jack Mountain, about eight miles from where her car had been found.  The next day more bones were recovered, the remains having apparently been scattered by animals.

Later, the medical examiner would use dental records to confirm that they were Linda’s remains.  An autopsy determined that the cause of death was “blunt trauma to the head with compound skull fractures”–several blows to the top of the head with some sort of heavy instrument. The murder weapon was never found, nor were her purse, badge and sheriff’s ID card.

The next day Ken and I went to the scene and were shown where her body had been left beside a tree–less than 150 feet from a dirt road used often by hunters and loggers but almost nobody else.

We found some fingernails and small bones under the tree–evidence the authorities had not been thorough here either.  If DNA testing had been available then, fingernails might have been critical.

Another critical fact about the scene as that it was in Hot Springs County, not
Garland.  Thus the case came under the jurisdiction of different law enforcement authorities, a different judicial district.

We were fortunate that the prosecutor was John Cole of Sheridan, who conducted his own investigation and charged the policeman with first-degree murder.  In August 1978, though, Circuit Judge Henry means ruled that most of the state’s case was hearsay — what Linda had told various people–and was therefore inadmissible.  Cole appealed the ruling to the state Supreme Court, which gave him only a partial victory.

Meanwhile, Cole has been elected judge, leaving the case to a new prosecutor named Dan Harmon.  After the adverse ruling he dropped the original charge and submitted the case to a grand jury, which declined to issue an indictment.

For all practical purposes the criminal case was closed that day in June 1979. Harmon went onto some notoriety in other maters, eventually earning himself a federal prison cell.

The policeman, who had been suspended when originally charged, gained reinstatement and $15,000 in back pay, but then was demoted and resigned, saying his credibility had been destroyed.

After spending much time and resources, I eventually realized I could do nothing more to change what had happened.  I had lost sight of a more important consequence–that two children had been left motherless.  Thankfully, they somehow survived to adulthood and overcame their circumstances–to become a fine young woman and man.

If somehow after all these years, technology could solve the mystery of their mother’s death, justice would be finally served.

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Badge No. 137 to be re-retired

It came to my knowledge recently that my mothers badge number was still in use. After she was found, her badge was to be retired and never used again. I have an article and an an editorial stating this fact.

My wife called the Garland County Sheriff”s Office to confirm that the badge number was retired and discovered that wasn’t actually the case.  She left a message with Chief Shoptaw asking about the badge number. Later, when they actually spoke on the phone, he indicated he had been unaware that this was the same badge number my mother had used but he had checked into the matter. He also said he had a met with both Sheriff Larry Sanders and the lieutenant and they all agreed that retiring the badge number was the right thing to do and would order a new number for the lieutenant.

My sister and I want to thank Sheriff Larry Sanders, Chief Shoptaw, and especially the lieutenant ( I don’t know his name) for doing the right thing. This kind gesture means a lot to us.

By the way, Chief Shoptaw said he was a big fan of Mom’s. He said he played at some of the clubs during his “wanna be hippie” days!

We are waiting on the official word that the badge number is retired and I hope to update here when all is said and done.

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Even though authorities have come up against a “block wall” Edwards disappearance still under investigation

By LARRY AULT
The Sentinel-Record 1-14-1977

Col. Doug Harp, director of the Arkansas State Police, says that the investigation into the disappearance of Garland County Sheriff’s Deputy Linda Edwards is continuing, even though law enforcement authorities have come up against a “block wall” in their investigation.’

Harp said that the Criminal Investigation Division of the ASP has a “case file 12 inches high” on the Edwards case, and has conducted “hundreds of interviews”, however, he said that law enforcement authorities have only located “a, few scattered little leads” in the case, which will “never be closed” until some disposition of the matter is obtained.’

Harp was responding to an inquiry regarding a letter which Garland County Sheriff Leon Barlow wrote to Gov. David Pryor regarding the investigation.

Sheriff Barlow noted in his letter that he was not asking the Governor to use his influence in the case, but was merely making him aware of what Barlow considers “the situation which exists in Hot Springs.”

While Sheriff Barlow was complimentary of the way in which the Criminal Investigators for the Arkansas State Police handled the’ investigation into the disappearance of Mrs. Edwards, he said that he is disturbed about the way that the “city officials of Hot Springs and the Civil Service Commission seem to be so very uncooperative and unconcerned about this. They have a very good habit of ignoring things hoping they will go away.”

Barlow provided the governor with a copy of a letter which was mailed to the five members of the Civil Service Commission and Mayor Tom Ellsworth. He said he hoped the letter would persuade the city officials to take “care of this matter now which is of great importance to this county and law enforcement in general.”

The two page letter generally described a portion of the criminal investigation into the disappearance of Mrs. Edwards, claiming that a police officer at the Hot Springs Police department was questioned in connection with her disappearance.

According to the letter, the officer refused to’ testify before the Garland County Grand Jury and would not take a’ polygraph test in connection with the disappearance. The officer was a “known associate” of hers, said Barlow.

Barlow was critical of the way in which the city officials had handled the matter, noting that “when a police officer is this uncooperative during an investigation and the Civil Service Commission docs not have legal grounds and cause to dismiss him from the department; then I am afraid that law enforcement in general is in jeopardy and there is not much justice left.”

Barlow said he believed that if the officer was unwilling to cooperate with a criminal investigation, that he should be dismissed as a police officer.

The belief by Sheriff Barlow that a police officer who refuses to cooperate in a criminal investigation should be dismissed opened up a wide discussion of the legal aspects of the case, which everyone interviewed agreed was complex in nature.

Sam Stathakis, chairman of the Hot Springs Civil Service Commission, said that if a crime had been committed that authorities would have something a little more concrete to deal with.

As for the officer under suspicion at the Hot Springs Police Department Stathakis said that authorities had no proof that he had committed a crime, because it could not be proven that a crime occurred.

Stathakis said that City Attorney Curtis Ridgeway had advised the city officials that they should not discuss the case in too much detail for fear of being sued for libel or slander.

“The City Attorney and says there is nothing we can do to the officer involved,” noted Stathakis.

While Sheriff Barlow was stating that he believed the city officials were involved in a “cover up” of the police officers involvement in the case, Stathakis noted that the police officer has constitutional rights just like any other citizen, and that those rights must be protected.

Stathakis said that an officer can be dismissed from the police force for not cooperating with a criminal investigation, however, be said that “under the circumstances, we can’t do anything.”

He then noted that he did not want to make any further comments regarding the case.

Police Chief Grover Douglas noted that there were “certain things” about the letter which Sheriff Barlow wrote to the city officials concerning the matter “that I would disagree with” however, he dismissed most of the conversation as being “strictly hearsay.”

Prosecuting Attorney Walter G. Wright, who said that his office had nothing to do with the way in which the City handles its personnel matters but noted that  “there are cases that hold that even a policeman is entitled to his constitutional rights.”

Wright said that exercising his constitutional rights would not subject the officer to dismissal.

Calling the case “a complex issue” Wright further reiterated that the investigation was further complicated because there has been no “specific crime” committed. There has been no body located, no crime proven, and the police officer is entitled to his constitutional rights not to testify, said Wright.

Mayor Tom Ellsworth said that he was reluctant to discuss the matter because it involved what amounts to “an active investigation” and a case which is not closed.

Noting that “we can’t act without any proof” the Mayor further cited court decisions which have held that an officer may be dismissed from the police force if he refuses to cooperate in a criminal investigation, unless he is a suspect in the case. Then he has a constitutional right to refuse.

City Attorney Curtis Ridgeway noted that he was concerned about the situation, but had issued no written opinion about the matter one way or another.

Ridgway said a refusal to take a polygraph test was not grounds for dismissal of the officer, and that his constitutional rights must be protected.

Ridgeway said that the Civil Service Commission has apparently adopted no regulations one way or another concerning an officers’ refusal to cooperate in an investigation.

Ridgeway said if the officer was dismissed at this time that, “it probably wouldn’t be sustained in the courts.”

“We don’t know a crime was committed. The Grand Jury investigated this thoroughly and came up with nothing,” he said.

Ridgeway said that no facts “have been uncovered which would have warranted his dismissal.”

Civil Service Commission Chairman Stathakis noted that the commission would probably deal with departmental regulations concerning officers cooperating with investigations at its January meeting.

In the letter which Sheriff Barlow sent to Mayor Tom Ellsworth and the Hot Springs Civil Service Commission, he said that as sheriff he has attempted to develop good working relationships between the Sheriff’s Department and the Hot Springs Police Department.

However, Barlow noted that in recent months “events have occurred that make it near impossible until something is resolved. I have appealed to various ones, who are in a position to help this situation, but the answer seems to be “I don’t want to get involved” or “I don’t want to rock the boat.”

“It is my feeling that if the boat is that unstable and insecure, we may have a cover up and a hush-hush attitude for the protection of others who may be fearful of their own exposure to illicit deeds and activities. If this is so, then I am sure the whole system has problems,” he said.

“At this time, there is very little working relation by our department and that of the City Police Department. In fact, it is rumored that some of the men in the Police Department do not want to work with (the suspected officer),” he said.

Barlow said it was common knowledge that a female deputy named Linda Edwards has missing since last summer. She was pregnant and just prior to her disappearance, named the officer as the father, he said.

“It is also known that on the evening that she became missing, she left a friends house at about eleven o’clock and stated that she was going to meet with him and put the pressure on him even if she had to go to his home and confront him with his wife present,” said Barlow in the correspondence.

Barlow said that when a Criminal Investigator for the Garland County Sheriff’s Department contacted the city policeman, that the officer “denied that he ever dated her, but then admitted he had, but not in two years. Later he changed his statement because he had been confronted with names and conditions that would prove his statements untrue,” said the Sheriff.

Barlow said the officer refused to take a polygraph test and later on, when the Grand Jury investigation was held, the officer took the Fifth Amendment and would not reveal his whereabouts during this critical time.

“He cannot account for his whereabouts for approximately two hours or more which includes the time Deputy Linda Edwards was last seen and when her vehicle was discovered abandoned on State Highway 290 near Hot Springs,” said Barlow.

“When the State Police was called in for an investigation (the officers name) was given as one who was known to associate with Linda Edwards and one who had not answered truthfully the questions he had been asked,” said Barlow.

“When the State Police called for him at the Police Department, the officials refused to submit him for questioning. Later they agreed if two officers were present during the questioning,” Barlow continued in his letter.

Barlow said that the City Officials refused to allow the officer to be taken to State Police Headquarters in Hot Springs, and that the interview was held at the Hot Springs Police Department by an Arkansas State Police officer.

“There was also some assistance from Honorable Circuit Judge Henry M. Britt, until then (the officer) had been harbored by his own department,” said the Sheriff.

“Although we have not discovered a body, (the officer) still stands as a prime suspect and one who has failed to cooperate with the State Police in this matter,” said Barlow.

“I cannot help but believe that more is involved than just protecting a fellow officer. I feel that a police officer should be even more cooperative if he is not guilty,” said Barlow.

“Citizens and family members are now asking some embarrassing questions. They have heard about other incidents that have occurred that are highly questionable within the ranks of city government and police decorum,” he said.

“I cannot say there is a feat of all people involved that if one person gets roasted that he will begin to talk and implicate others, but since it is beginning to be the talk over the town, I feel it imperative that you take a close look at this affair and give the citizens a fair and honest appraisal. We have far too many incidents overlooked because, so as to speak, someone may be a big wheel,” said Barlow in his letter to the governor.

“I keep getting the answer, we can’t do anything because there is no body. Also there is proof that two other Hot Springs City Police Officers questioned one of the Grand Jury witnesses at length about this incident which I feel was very irregular,” he said.

“It is in the State Police report that (the officer) make the statement to one of his fellow officers “let the State Police find out what happened to her the hard way.”

“There have been rumors of threats made to other witnesses also,” Barlow said.

“Linda Edwards being a Deputy Sheriff of Garland County, I feel this department has had very little consideration in this matter, and I am very much disappointed with the results at this time. I am sure I can speak for her family also,” he said.

Barlow told the Civil Service Commission that “I am appealing to you to look into this matter of which is of great concern to me and this department.”

The Garland County Grand Jury noted in its year end report for 1976 that the investigation into the disappearance of Deputy Sheriff Linda Edwards was to be continued this year by the 1977 Garland County Grand Jury after it is empanelled.

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Linda’s family will not let case be forgotten

By LARRY AULT
The Sentinel-Record  1-15-1977

Mrs. Irene Browning, mother of Linda Edwards, a Garland County Sheriff’s Deputy who has been missing for the past five months, said Friday in an interview that despite all the conversation regarding the legalities of the investigation of her daughters’ disappearance, that her daughter continues to be missing.

“I’d like to say that even though it has been said that a crime has not been committed, that there is a crime committed because my daughter has not been found,” she said.

Mrs. Browning stated that her daughter “disappeared off the face of the earth with just the clothes she had on. Her bank account has never been touched. No money has been taken from her bank account since she disappeared. I have her last paycheck which was given to me for her. No one would have left without one penny or without anything else.”

Mrs. Browning said that she has written to all five members of the Hot Springs Civil Service Commission asking for their help in the matter, but has received no answer from any of the members.

Mrs. Browning said that her daughter has been missing five months and “I have had no help from the city officials whatsoever. Maybe the city doesn’t care about her, (Linda Edwards), but the sheriff’s office and the state police do care. Her family will not let it be forgotten. ”

Mrs. Browning was responding to an article in The Sentinel Record published Friday which recounted some of the history of the Linda Edwards case; and noted that even though a Hot Springs City Police Officer has been named as a suspect in the case, that no crime can be proven.

The article quoted city officials as stating that the officers constitutional rights are at stake and that according to a legal opinion of the City Attorney, that the officer cannot be dismissed, at least until it can be established that a crime occurred and the officer is implicated.

Hot Springs Mayor Tom Ellsworth said that he and other “responsible” individuals, including the representatives of the Civil Service Commission, had met Friday to redefine their legal stand on the matter.

Noting that the investigation was still open, Mayor Ellsworth said that the “conversation” regarding the legal stand of the city had reestablished that the city had no legal recourse against the officer at this time.

Mayor Ellsworth said that no crime can be
proven and that it cannot be established that any employee of the city was responsible for the disappearance of Linda Edwards.

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What now, Linda Edwards

Local comment
The Sentinel-Record 1-15-1977

Garland County Sheriff Leon Barlow this past week jumped into the Linda Edwards mystery with both feet and landed with one foot squarely on the back of city police.

Whatever his motivation in writing the Civil Service Commission and then to Gov. David Pryor and finally in talking for publication about the case, he accomplished several dramatic things.

First, he certainly alienated city police. It will be a massive job for anyone who is interested in doing it, to ever get the two law enforcement agencies to work well together. This is a great loss for the county. He said there was little cooperation at the time of the letter and then ensured that there would be none afterwards.

He also revved up public interest in the case, an interest which has consistently been intense. By so doing, he applied the pressure of public opinion to the Civil Service Commission, to Mayor Tom Ellsworth, to Chief of Police Grover Douglas and to the officer in question.

Sadly, he also greatly lessened public trust in city police. Rumors that have rumbled about town since the woman’s disappearance have left police with a serious credibility gap which widened appreciably when he opened his mouth.

Since he named a specific police officer in letters and would have named him publicly if asked, he also affected a human being who may or may not be guilty of a crime.

As a professional lawman, he did some curious things.

The fact remains that Linda Edwards could very well be alive.

Hopefully, she is living and will reappear and clear up the controversy once and for all.

What should be the result of the letter?

The most important thing that could result would be the formation of a committee or commission that would be charged with drawing up plans for cooperation between city police and the Sheriff’s Office. There is no realistic reason why all local residents should not have the best possible protection by law enforcement officials. Specific steps should be taken immediately to guarantee this. Linda Edwards is important, but so are all the other 60,000 county residents.

The allegations made in the letter should also be dealt with by the Civil Service Commission, the Mayor, and the Chief of Police.

Legal and ethical options should be nailed down and then adhered to.

It would seem that, ethically, the officials should do everything they can to see that the investigation if the officer in question is complete as possible, If they can legally require that he take a lie detector test, they should do so. If they can’t, then they should leave him alone.

The simplest solution rests with the officer. He has a great obligation to the public he serves and who pay his salary. As a law enforcer, his obligation to adhere to both the spirit and the intent of the law is far greater than that of the average citizen.

His badge and the gun he carries separates him from the public and sets him upon a pedestal.

The officer should come forward (not publically, but privately to State Police investigators) and offer any pertinent information that he has and should take it upon himself to lift the mist from around the department by taking the polygraph examination.

His public is more important than his own well being and than any need he has to protect Mrs. Edwards.

Some will view Barlow’s actions in talking as courageous, others will wonder what he had to gain by attacking police.

Whatever the reactions, whatever his reasons, he has raised questions that must be dealt with.

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Are they dragging their feet?

Local Comment
The Sentinel-Record 1-16-1977

Are city officials dragging their feet in the investigation of the disappearance of Linda Edwards?

Probably not but Mrs. Edwards’ relatives and others think so and have thought so for some time.

There is no sure way of knowing, but Mayor Tom Ellsworth has stated that everything is be that can be done by his office and by the Civil Service Commission and by city police.

The primary concern of late has been a policeman who allegedly refused to take a lie detector test as part of the investigation. The Mayor says there is no way he can legally be forced to do so and the Mayor couldn’t afford to lie about this.

Therefore no criticism is in order.

But criticism may be justified in another area.

Relatives of Mrs. Edwards have complained for some time that they have received little or no cooperation from the Mayor’s office and from the Civil Service Commission when they requested information and other assistance.

Mrs. Edwards’ mother says she wrote letters that were never answered. Mrs. Edwards’ brother claimed shortly after the disappearance that he had asked for specific help from the Mayor but failed to receive it even though it was repeatedly promised.

Although they probably were not “guilty” of breaking any law, there appears to have been a closing of ranks by City Officials for self protection that looked like a cover up, and a simple lack of consideration for fragile family feeling.

As much as anything it’s probably been a public relations problem.

The lesson to be learned here, probably, is simply that the “public,” in this instance the Edwards’ relatives and others, do have a need to know what’s going on. And need to know what can legitimately be expected from the Mayor and the Commissioners. Perhaps too much has been expected, perhaps miracles have been called for. Perhaps the pleas for help were misdirected.

The disappearance of Linda Edwards is affecting the county intimately. But so far there is no proof that city officials are guilty of any major wrongdoing.

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Mayor was right

Local Comment
The Sentinel-Record 1-17-1977

The disappearance of Linda Edwards has stirred up a great deal of emotion around town. Rumors and criticism abound.

In at least one instance, Mayor Tom Ellsworth has been unnecessarily criticized. In a recent Sentinel-Record editorial, the Mayor was said to have failed to provide help when requested to do so by a brother of Linda Edwards.

The truth is that the Mayor did precisely what the brother asked. He provided a copy of the Civil Service regulations.

The material was delivered several weeks after it was requested, long after the brother had given up on receiving it, but it was provided.

Because the complaint was made public, many will now believe the Mayor is guilty of some wrongdoing, even though the purpose of the editorial was to reassure that city officials are not hindering the investigation.

This is lamentable.

Several things should be learned from the experience.

Certainly, all the facts of a situation should be known before anyone is criticized. This is true regarding the Mayor and is particularly pertinent regarding the police officer who has been under fire since the woman disappeared. Until the truth is discovered, no one has a legitimate right to attack him.

Even if the policeman did commit a crime, which certainly is not a proven fact at this time, there can be no justification for any complaint against him until a crime is proven, and, if he is then found guilty. That’s the way the system works, and it is set up to protect the innocent. The police officer is innocent until proven otherwise.

Mrs. Edwards’ brother requested the material from the Mayor so he could encourage action against the officer by the Civil Service Commission. He apparently found that no such action was possible, which should relive some of the public pressure directed against the Commission.

Finally, it should become obvious that elected officials are easy targets for criticism, justified or not. The Mayor has no control over the investigation, since it is being conducted by the State Police. Still he is expected to work miracles.

Hopefully, a benefit from the distressing disappearance may be a better understanding of what can be realistically expected from elected officials, and a better understanding on their parts of their obligations to the public.

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Civil Service Commission chairman writes letter to Sheriff: Criticism of city officials draws response

The Sentinel-Record 1-19-1977
By LARRY AULT

Sam Stathakis, chairman of the Hot Springs Civil Service Commission, Tuesday made public a letter written to Garland County Sheriff Leon Barlow in response to criticism Barlow had levied against city officials in connection with the investigation of the disappearance of Deputy Sheriff Linda Edwards.

Barlow was critical of the city officials, in part, because a Hot Springs Police officer was not dismissed from the police department when he refused to cooperate in the Arkansas State Police investigation of the matter.

Barlow said he received the letter Tuesday afternoon and considered the document to be “mis-stated” in regard to the commission’s interpretation of the letter he wrote in November complaining about the way in which the City officials had handled the investigation.

“The commission has mis-stated the facts, they have misinterpreted the entire letter,” said Barlow.

Barlow said that he had never accused the City officials of a “criminal cover-up” in the Edwards case, but was critical of the fact that a city police officer who refused to cooperate in the investigation was not dismissed from the police department.

In the letter to Sheriff Barlow, Stathakis said, “I feel the publication of your unfortunate and illadvised letter of Nov. 8, 1976 and its libelous interpretation by the local press that various officials of the City of Hot Springs are engaged in a cover-up of a crime requires some comment by me.”

Stathakis continued, “If you will recall, when this letter was initially received by the Mayor (Mayor Tom Ellsworth) and by me, a meeting took place at our request to discuss the matters therein.”

“We explained that we have received legal advice that no action could be taken against the Police Officer and no inferences could be taken from the exercise of his constitutional right not to incriminate himself. At this time you were in full accord with the position that we had taken,” wrote Stathakis.

“As you know, the members of the Hot Springs Police Department are professional career law enforcement officers, and their conduct is governed by Civil Service laws adopted by the State of Arkansas which provide, among other things, that they cannot be disciplined, reduced in rank or their employment terminated except for good cause,” he said.

“It is our understanding that the Criminal Investigation Division of the Arkansas State Police, your office, and the Garland County Grand Jury have conducted a thorough and in-depth investigation of the disappearance of Miss Edwards, and as of this date, no facts have been committed, and, we have nothing more to act on at this point than the fact that Miss Edwards is missing,” he said.

“At no time during the course of this investigation has any agency of the City of Hot Springs been asked to participate in this matter, however, on several occasions agencies of the City have furnished information to your office and to the State Police which they felt might be helpful in this matter,” he wrote.

“The Hot Springs Police Department continues to stand ready to actively participate with your office and with the Arkansas State Police in any area which might be helpful in solving this whole unfortunate matter,” he said.

“I would like to say again that the elected officials of this City, the members of the Hot Springs Civil Service Commission, and the Hot Springs Police Department resent very deeply the libelous implications of your letter that we are engaged in a cover-up in connection with the disappearance of Miss Edwards. I hope that in the future better communication channels are developed with your office and the city of Hot Springs so that this type of unfortunate dialog can be discontinued, and that both agencies can work together more effectively so that the citizens of this City and County can receive effective and unbiased law enforcement,” he said.

A copy of the letter was hand delivered to the offices of The Sentinel-Record Tuesday afternoon just hours after the Civil Service Commission had met for its monthly meeting and discussed the matter.

Stathakis told the commission he intended to draft the letter and had several “rough drafts” prepared. He said he would discuss the letter with the various members of the commission prior to making it public.

Stathakis said the letter was in response to both the comments of Sheriff Barlow and the discussion by the news media of the Linda Edwards disappearance.

Stathakis said at the meeting that the commission had discussed its “action” in connection with the police officer “allegedly involved” in the Edwards case and would continue to abide by a legal opinion of the City Attorney which stated that under the circumstances, the officer was within his legal constitutional rights not to testify in the matter and could not be dismissed from the police force because he refused to take a polygraph test.

Stathakis said he also planned to personally call Mrs. H.R. Browning, mother of the missing deputy, and discuss with her the legal bounds on the city defined by the city attorney in connection with the investigation.

Stathakis said that he realized it is difficult for a parent to accept the legal restrictions on the investigation and added that “she has all my sympathy.”

“They want action and there is no action we can take at this time,” he said, adding, “I will explain what we can do and can’t do.” Stathakis said he planned to contact Mrs. Browning “most likely” today.

In connection with the letter which Sheriff Barlow wrote to the Commission in November, Commissioner Fred Dale said that “some of the inferences he made need to be defended,” Stathakis said that he believed it was “mandatory that a reply be made.”

Commissioner Arthur Ray noted that he believed it was necessary that the commission continue to work with the city attorney in the matter, while Commissioner Warren Frazier said that “we have no control over hearsay or public opinion.”

Commissioner Dale added that he considered the contents of the letter drafted by Sheriff Barlow to be “a personal slap” and added that he believed “the truth must be spoken.”

Stathakis added that members of the commission were invited to join him in writing the letter, if they desired to. Stathakis stressed that “we have not mentioned the officers name, for the record.

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Does anyone care?

From our readers:
The Sentinel-Record 1-1977

Dear editor:

Linda Edwards’ mother, Mrs. Browning, stated that the city officials don’t care about her daughter.

I believe nobody cares about anybody here in Hot Springs unless you tell them you’re from the north. I feel like a complete stranger here and am treated like a stranger and I’m from here.

Those words, justice and liberty to all, are real sickening. I believe there is no justice at all to some people, especially in this area.

Edwin Wilson
Hot Springs

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Disgusted with criticism

From our readers:
The Sentinel-Record 1-26-1977

Dear editor:

I am disgusted with the criticism levied at Sheriff Barlow in the recent articles in your paper in regard to the Edwards case.

If the city officials have nothing to cover up, why have they spent one solid week, thus far, justifying their stand. Sheriff Barlow also has a job to do and is justified in bringing before the public information in regard to this matter.

I personally feel that the city officials should be of such moral and reputable standards that they would not want a city policeman who would not have the courtesy to his public to clear himself of this matter.

After your articles in support of city officials how about giving a supporter of Mr. Barlow a chance. Thank you.

Janice Parris
Hot Springs

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Commendation for sheriff

From our readers:
The Sentinel-Record 2-3-1977

Dear editor:

I recently read an article in your newspaper concerning the missing lady Deputy, Linda Edwards and what efforts Sheriff Leon Barlow had put forth to find out what has happened to her. I personally want to commend Sheriff Barlow for his efforts. In my opinion, he is rated along with Sheriff Buford Pusser of whom they made the movie, “Walking Tall.”

I think that when the people in Garland County see Sheriff Leon Barlow, they should give him a pat on the back and breathe a prayer for him and his work.

My best regards to him and hope that his efforts for this investigation turn out to be very successful.

Robert Jarrell
Vincennes, Indiana

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Dep. Edwards’ remains found: Skeletal remains located by hunter on Jack Mountain

By DENNIS WOOTON
The Sentinel-Record 2-14-1977

Linda Edwards
Linda Edwards

JACK MOUNTAIN – Skeletal remains later identified as those of Garland County Sheriff’s Deputy Linda Edwards, 29, missing since August, were discovered scattered across the face of this Hot Spring County mountain by a band of wolf hunters late Saturday afternoon.

Along with the remains were several items of clothing, including a pair of shoes, and four rings. Dr. Stephen Marx of the State Medical Examiner’s Office made the identification through dental records and the personal items found with the body. Maj. W. A. Tudor, head of the Criminal Investigation Division of the Arkansas State Police, said no identification was found with the body, however.

Marx delivered the remains to the medical examiner’s morgue in Little Rock Sunday afternoon and said Sunday night he would attempt to determine the cause of death through a more thorough examination today.

A posse formed of the wolf hunters, Garland County Sheriff Leon Barlow and Garland County deputies, Hot Spring County Chief Deputy Harold Thornton and other Hot Spring County deputies, and state police scoured the area in which the first remains were located Sunday. Tudor said the area over which the bones were scattered measured 100 feet by 1,000 feet.

Tudor theorized the bones were scattered by animals (“post-mortem animal activity”).

Jack Mountain is located about eight miles southeast of Hot Springs and Tudor said the remains were located just south of Files Ranch Road.

The disappearance of the young mother of two, who had left the children with a babysitter the weekend she disappeared, Aug. 21 – 22, caused a flurry of activity by local law enforcement officers – searches were mounted and the aid of citizens was enlisted. Her car was located on a lonely stretch of Carpenter Damn Road.

Throughout the ensuing months, interest was regenerated in the case several times, once when it was announced the missing deputy was pregnant, but little progress was made in the case. Ms. Edwards’ family contended a crime had been committed, but county officers, though they did not rule out the possibility, said they had no evidence of any crime.

The State Medical Examiner’s Office ruling on the death will hopefully decide that question.

Barlow declined Sunday to say if any charges were pending the ruling, but stated, “You should know something about that in the next couple of days,” apparently referring to the ruling.

State Criminal Investigator Mike Fletcher has been in charge of the case locally.

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Discovery closes five-month search

The Sentinel-Record 2-14-1977

Garland County Coroner Steve Nawojczyk and deputy examine scene (Photo by Les Beale)
Garland County Coroner Steve Nawojczyk and deputy examine scene (Photo by Les Beale)

With the discovery of the remains of Garland County Sheriff’s Deputy Linda Edwards in a wooded area several miles south of the city Saturday, so ends a search that stymied local and state law enforcement officers for over five months.

Ms. Edwards, a pert blonde radio operator, disappeared Aug. 21 or 22 after leaving her two young children with a babysitter. The first organized search was of an area off Highway 290 near Carpenter Dam Road where the deputy’s automobile had been located. The search turned up nothing the first day.

On the second day of the search, Deputy Roy Smith was quoted as saying, “If there is foul play, and we have no evidence to indicate any foul play, it is a possibility that because she is a police officer someone was trying to get revenge, you never know.”

More than month after her disappearance, on Sept. 23, a reward fund of at least $1,000 to aid in the search for the missing deputy was announced by her brother, Roy Ockert Jr., who also is the managing editor of the Batesville Daily Guard and Weekly Record.

On Nov.5, Arkansas State Police Criminal Investigator Mike Fletcher sought the support of local hunters in the search for the missing deputies. It was wolf hunters who found the remains Saturday, over three months later.

By Nov. 24, local officials said they hadn’t been able to come up with anything concrete on her disappearance, even proof that any crime took place. Ockert was quoted Nov. 23 as saying “I don’t think anybody has much hope (of seeing Linda alive again).

Col. Doug Harp, director of the Arkansas State Police, confirmed Jan. 13 the investigation into the disappearance of the deputy, but that law enforcement authorities had come up against a “block wall” in their investigation.

In the last article published by the Sentinel-Record about the case, on Jan.15, Ms. Edwards’ mother, Mrs. Irene Browning stated. “I like to say that even though it has been said that a crime has not been committed, that there is a crime committed.

Perhaps one of the saddest chapters of the case involved Ms. Edwards’ pregnancy at the time of her disappearance. Had she lived, that baby was due to have been born just a few weeks ago.

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Hunter recounts find

The Sentinel-Record 2-14-1977

The hunter who located the first of the skeletal remains of missing Garland County Sheriff’s Deputy Linda Edwards Saturday said Sunday night he had hunted in the same general area several times since her disappearance last August and attributed the discovery to chance.

Hunting wolves with a pack of dogs on Jack Mountain, C.W. Bledsoe said he and his hunting partner became separated from the pack. A report over the CB radio in his pickup truck that the dogs were on the trail of a wolf and he headed the truck in that direction.

Driving the truck along the Files Ranch Road, the dogs were nowhere to be seen or heard. Bledsoe said he pulled the truck over at the base of a hill and told his partner he was going to “run up and see if I can hear the dogs.” He did so, but still could not locate the dogs.

On his way down the hill, Bledsoe said he noticed “a bone laying there about halfway down the hill.” “It looked kinda funny and I couldn’t figure what kind of animal it was from and I thought it might be human.” Another bone was found nearby.

His friend in the truck agreed the bones appeared human and told Bledsoe they might be those of Ms. Edwards. With that in mind, Bledsoe contacted Garland County Sheriff Leon Barlow and told him of the discovery. Barlow then asked Bledsoe to wait where he was and drove out himself. Bledsoe said the sheriff agreed the bones looked as though they might be human and said he would have them checked out in town and call Bledsoe back.

Bledsoe said the sheriff did call him back and told him the bones were those of a human female. One was the left thighbone and the other the left lower leg bone. He said Barlow then asked him if he’d be willing to show him where the bones were found and Bledsoe replied he and the rest of the hunters were “ready to go.” Darkness approaching, the sheriff asked the hunters to meet him and his posse at 9 a.m. Sunday morning. A search throughout the day turned up the rest of the remains, several rings and articles of clothing.

Barlow had requested hunters to be on the lookout for Ms. Edwards’ remains or other evidence last fall.

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Officials expect homicide ruling after discovering woman’s remains

Batesville Daily Guard 2-14-1977

HOT SPRINGS, Ark. (AP)
The death of a Garland County deputy sheriff whose skeletal remains were found Sunday is expected to be ruled a homicide.

The deputy, Linda Louise Edwards, 29, had been missing since Aug. 22.

Authorities are waiting for the medical examiner’s office to determine the cause of death, but Lt. Roy Smith of the sheriff’s office said he presumed the death would be ruled a homicide.

Most of skeletal remains of Mrs. Edwards were found Sunday in a wooded area about eight miles southeast of Hot Springs. Authorities say Mrs. Edwards was identified through her dental work.

A search of the Jack Mountain area began Sunday after two wolf hunters found two bones in the area. The wolf hunters called Garland County authorities who had the bones analyzed by two doctors.

Both doctors said the bones were human, possibly female.

The search party found the bones scattered over a 100-yard radius. They also found some personal effects, including a shoe and a ring.

Smith said the bones were not buried.

Smith said Mrs. Edwards, a fully commissioned deputy sheriff who operated the office radio, disappeared in the early morning hours of Aug. 22. He said her car was found about 4 a.m. August 22 on Arkansas 290 a few miles south of Hot Springs.

Smith said there was nothing at the scene where the car was found to indicate foul play.

Mrs. Edwards had worked as a radio dispatcher in the sheriff’s office for about six months before her disappearance. She left her two children with a baby sitter Aug. 21 and was reported as missing by the sitter when she did not return for the children.

(Mrs. Edwards was the sister of Guard managing editor, Roy Ockert Jr.)

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Work in Progress

I am still working on getting the site back up to full speed. There are several links on the home page that are not complete yet. The Photos and Case Facts sections are not yet complete as well. There are a couple of articles that need pictures. I will work on this as time permits.

You should be able to keep up with recent posts via the side panel that shows recent posts.

The Article sections now contain words instead of pictures. Hopefully you will find them easier to read. I scanned the pictures to a word document, so there could be typos. If you find typos or think that one may have occurred, please leave a comment at the bottom of that article and I will correct it as soon as possible.

Which leads me to …. now you can leave comments if you wish. You do need to be logged in (just register) to leave a comment. All comments are moderated before being posted.

I left the old blog up to keep what was already written. Nothing else should be posted there, check the current blog for currents.

 

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An unhappy ending

Local Comment
The Sentinel-Record   2-14-1977

Although it is an unhappy ending to a tormenting story, the discovery this past weekend of the remains of Linda Edwards at least allows her to be put to rest at long last.

Her private life, unfortunately, became public property when she disappeared. Now it can be reclaimed by those who loved her.

Hopefully, her family and friends will be able to let her go in peace. At least the perpetual, and terrible, wondering that has plagued them since last August is over.

Indications are that she died at the same time she disappeared.

Perhaps it won’t be long before criminal justice provides the appropriate conclusion to the saga.

No doubt street-corner detectives will have a field day for a while. The renewed flames of gossip and titillation will burn ever so brightly, but hopefully briefly, and her children and others close to her can develop a new norm for their lives.

Punishment is mandatory for anyone who harmed her.

Care and affection and respect are due those who mourn her.

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Notified Sunday: Family feels remorse and relief

By MARK PHILLIPS
The Sentinel-Record 2-14-1977

The overwhelming emotions felt Sunday, by the family of missing Sheriff’s Deputy Linda Edwards were ones of remorse and relief.

Ms. Edwards’ remains were discovered Saturday on Jack Mountain by hunters and identified Sunday by representatives of the Arkansas State Medical Examiner’s Office.

According to Roy Ockert Jr. of Batesville, a brother, of the late Ms. Edwards, the family was notified by Sheriff Leon Barlow about noon Sunday. He said the family took the news “hard, but we were all prepared.”

“We all felt we knew what had happened and we were just waiting until she was found. So we weren’t shocked, but it is a time of grief for all of us.” Ockert said.

Continuing, he said it is hard to express his own feelings adding that he feels a great deal of relief since the family had felt Ms. Edwards was dead for several months and had come to the point they could do nothing but pray.

“I guess we felt we knew she was dead, but somehow we needed to know for sure,” Ockert said. “We’ve had some time to prepare ourselves, but it’s still hard to accept.”

The brother said he and other family members were grateful for the efforts of Garland County Sheriff Leon Bartow and Sgt. Mike Fletcher of the Arkansas State Police.

“They (Barlow and Fletcher) did all they could possibly do to complete this investigation, and I’m sure they will continue,” Ockert said.

Ockert said the efforts of the sheriff’s office and state police have been “priceless” to the family.

In addition he said a reward fund established in September to assist in the investigation has not yet been converted into a trust fund for Ms. Edwards’ three children. However, the decision to distribute the funds will be made by authorities, Ockert said.

“The fund is more than a $1.000. We are certainly grateful and always will be grateful to those who found her,” he said.

As of Sunday night Ockert said the children did not know about the death of their mother.

“We don’t know what we’ll do about telling them.” he said.

The children are Sonny, age seven; Toby, age six; and Kim, age four, Ockert said.

Other members of Ms. Edwards’ immediate family include her father, Roy Ockert Sr. of Lake Oswego, Ore.; her mother, Gladys Irene Browning of Hot Springs; a half-brother, Kenneth Browning of Hot Springs; and Ockert, who resides in Batesville where he is managing editor of the Batesville Daily Guard.

Ockert said the family remains uncertain about funeral arrangements, noting that none can be made until the investigation of her remains is completed.

He said that when arrangements are made, the family will be requesting donations for a trust fund for the education of the Edwards’ children in lieu of flowers.

As of Sunday night however, Ockert’s thoughts centered more on the immediate sorrow of his family and the relief they have now that the long period of uncertainty is over.

“We appear to have a crime. It’s finally evident, and I hope those officials who’ve said they were waiting for some evidence will consider it, in their power to act now.” Ockert said.

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Linda Edwards Obituary

The Sentinel-Record   2-15-1977

Linda Louise Edwards, 29 at the time of her disappearance last August, was found dead Saturday afternoon on Jack Mountain in Hot Spring County.

She was a native and life resident of Hot Springs and a Garland County deputy sheriff.

Survivors include her mother, Mrs. Gladys Irene Browning of Hot Springs: her father, Roy Ockert Sr. of Oregon: two sons, Sonny Edwards and Toby Edwards, both of Hot Springs: one daughter, Miss Kim Edwards of Hot Springs: and two brothers, Roy Ockert Jr. of Batesville and Kenneth Browning of Hot Springs.

Funeral arrangements will be announced by Gross Mortuary.

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Blows to Head Killed Deputy

Gazette State News Service  2-15-1977

HOT SPRINGS – The state Medical Examiner’s Office reported Monday that Garland County Deputy Sheriff Linda L. Edwards died from “multiple blows to the head,” the State Police said.

Sgt. Mike Fletcher of the Criminal Investigation Section, who is heading the investigation said assistant Medical Examiner Steve Martz of Little Rock said that Mrs. Edwards was struck several times in the head, Fletcher said.

“The death definitely was a homicide and we’ll pursue it along those lines,” Fletcher said. He refused to give any details.

Skeletal remains of the woman’s body were found Saturday by wolf hunters in a remote section of northern Hot Spring County near Lake Hamilton. A search party of about 75 law enforcement officers and hunters searched the area Sunday and found most of the remains, her rings, shoes and the clothes she was wearing when last seen.

Mrs. Edwards, 29, who was radio dispatcher at the sheriff’s office, disappeared August 21 after ·leaving her two children with a baby sitter. She was 4-1/2 months pregnant at the time of her disappearance. Her car was found a few days after she was reported missing about eight miles from where the remains were discovered.

Fletcher would not comment on reports that investigators had a lead on a suspect.

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Edwards’ ruling

By DENNIS WOOTON
The Sentinel-Record 2-15-1977

Xs indicate location of Edwards remains and automobile
X’s indicate location of Edwards remains and automobile

Reports from the Arkansas State Police and the Garland County Sheriff’s Office indicated the State Medical Examiner’s Office ruled Monday that “multiple blows to the head” were the apparent cause in the death of Garland County Sheriff’s Deputy Linda Louise Edwards.

Ms. Edwards’ skeletal remains were discovered by a hunter on Jack Mountain, located about eight miles southeast of Hot Springs, just inside Hot Spring County. Maj. W.A. Tudor of the State Police Criminal Investigation Division said Sunday the bones were scattered by “post-mortem animal activity” and recovered in an area measuring 100 feet by 1,000 feet. Several rings and articles of clothing were also recovered.

CID Sgt. Mike Fletcher issued a plea Monday for public assistance in locating what he called “an important piece of evidence.” Fletcher said Ms. Edwards was believed to have been carrying a blue denim purse at the time of her disappearance last August. Also missing is her Garland County Sheriff’s Deputy badge, No.137, and her official identification card. Fletcher asked that anyone finding any of these items mark the location and contact State Police Troop K at 262-1814.

Ms. Edwards’ abandoned car was recovered on Highway 290 (about eight miles from the site of the discovery of her remains) shortly after her disappearance.

Fletcher said Monday he is in the process of having a survey made and acquiring aerial photos of the area in which the remains were found.

Fletcher refused to comment on the possibility of an imminent arrest. Should an arrest be made, the case will probably be conducted by Hot Spring County authorities. Henry B. Means is circuit judge for that county and John Cole is prosecuting attorney. Malvern is the county seat.

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Behind the news: Five months seems long enough to cry

By Roy Ockert Jr.
Batesville Daily Guard 2-17-1977

Linda Edwards
Linda Edwards 1946 – 1976

WE HAD REACHED THE END of the road in trying to find my sister, Linda Edwards, who was last seen alive about midnight last Aug. 21. For days and days, this writer, among others, hopelessly had walked the woods around Hot Springs near the desolate area where her car was found abandoned, just for something to do. Since then, I’ve spent more weekends in the town of our birth than the previous 10 years together. We’ve written more letters, asked more favors and cried more, too.

We did not know where else to go.

Then last Saturday a couple of wolf hunters, who had strayed from a larger group, found a couple of bones. They notified the Garland County sheriff, and Sunday morning most of what remained of my sister had been found and identified. Her bones and clothing had been scattered by animals over a circle of about 100 yards on an even more desolate mountain, nine miles from her car.

Despite that, it was odd she had not been found earlier. Her killer had apparently not buried her. The spot can now be plainly seen from the road, although the environment has changed since summer. Lumberjacks had cut down a dozen trees within 100 feet, and one of the hunters said he had been in that area 50 times since August.

Now we are waiting for the state medical examiner to complete an intensive investigation before we can have a funeral. But we’ve waited more than five months for that. And by Tuesday we were still recovering fingernails and teeth from the woods, still searching for her purse, badge and the weapon used against her.

For Linda the worst was over last August when someone hit her over the head repeatedly and left her body beside a tree. For her family the worst is finally over now that we know for sure. For her three children, ages 4, 6 and 7, the worst may be beginning. For her killer there is less doubt of punishment.

We had known almost immediately last August that Linda had been murdered. Too many things pointed in that direction. And we believe we know who killed her. But we will be more certain.

Those who investigate a crime like this one can make no mistakes, cannot afford to overlook a hair or cigaret package. This is a time when we must have professional policemen, when we must have competent prosecutors and judges. They must be better than good. To us, their efforts now are priceless.

In the last of her 30 years Linda had found something she could do well. In growing up, she seldom took things seriously, waiting for the world to come to her. And even after graduating from high school she moved from one job to another, never making a dent. But somehow she landed a dispatcher’s job at the Garland County sheriff’s office a year ago, and the sheriff said she quickly excelled as a deputy.

She became known by all who listen and use police radios as No. 137, a number that will be used no more in Garland County, and they say she learned to handle any kind of crisis. She could talk to anyone, make friends at the snap of a finger.

As children, we traveled by train from Arkansas to Ohio one year. Before the rest of us got settled into our seats, Linda, a fifth grader then, knew everybody on the coach.

But some personal problems haunted her. She had allowed a relationship that was doomed from its beginning to break up her marriage. She loved a man more than he was worth. That sort of frustration apparently allowed her to meet someone she trusted that last night. What happened afterward no one is saying.

She did not likely die in the line of duty. Although she had aided the sheriff in a couple of drug cases, we have no reason to believe that anything like that was involved. And the murder that she witnessed six years earlier apparently had no connection. No, someone she knew and trusted killed her, we think, and that probably hurt her worse than the blow on the head.

We had a long time to prepare for last Sunday, and yet we were not ready. Those who loved her will continue somehow to blame themselves for her loss, though we have cried long enough. Our problem is mental: we should have looked harder for Linda before Aug. 21. But how can we tell Sonny and Toby and Kim that she will not come back?

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Memorial service planned

The Sentinel-Record 2-18-1977

A memorial service has been scheduled Friday at 2 p.m. for Linda Louise (Ockert) Edwards. 29, the Garland County sheriff’s deputy who was found dead Sunday.

Mrs. Edwards had been missing since last Aug. 22. when her car was found abandoned on a rural road  near the Carpenter Dam.

Her remains were found by hunters on Jack Mountain, just off the Files Ranch Road in Hot Spring County.

Because the state medical examiner’s tests on Mrs. Edwards’ body will continue next week, the memorial service has been scheduled for the sake of out-of-town relatives.

The service will take place at the First United Methodist Church. Dr. George Martin, pastor, will officiate.

In lieu of flowers, the family has asked that contributions may be made to a trust fund being established for Mrs. Edwards’ children. Contributions may be made to Mrs. Edwards’ mother, Mrs. Irene Browning, trustee of her estate, at 505 Zinnia. Hot Springs, Ark. 71901, or may be made through the Garland County Sheriff’s Office.

A graveside service will be announced later by Gross Mortuary.

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Edwards findings due

By MARK PHILLIPS
The Sentinel-Record 2-24-1977

The findings of an Arkansas State Police investigation into the death of Garland County Sheriff’s Deputy Linda Edwards should be in the hands of Hot Spring County Prosecuting Attorney John Cole within the next 10 days.

Lt. Ken McFerran, a criminal investigator for the state police, said Wednesday the results of the investigation should be ready for presentation to Cole within the next week to 10 days.

Since Ms. Edwards’ remains were found on Jack Mountain by hunters on Feb. 12, state police have been conducting a homicide investigation by interviewing a large number of individuals and checking leads, McFerran said.

He said 100 or more persons will have been interviewed by the time the investigation is completed and findings are given to the Hot Spring County prosecuting attorney.

McFerran indicated it would be possible for the case to be turned over to the Garland County prosecuting attorney if any evidence is obtained indicating the death occurred in this county.

However, McFerran said the case would probably go to Hot Spring County authorities based on the results of the investigation to date and the fact Ms. Edwards’ remains were found in Hot Spring County.

Once the state police present their findings to Cole, McFerran said it would be Cole’s responsibility to decide if there are sufficient grounds on which to file charges against anyone.                                                      .

The final ruling on the cause of death was “multiple blows to the head by a blunt instrument,” according to Dr. Stephen Marx, associate state medical examiner, who said Wednesday his examination of the remains and ruling were completed last week.

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Flags flown in mourning

The Sentinel-Record 2-25-1977

Black flags of mourning currently are being flown on the radio antennas of all patrol and detective cars of the Garland County Sheriff’s Department in memory of deceased Deputy Linda Edwards.

Sheriff Leon Barlow said Thursday the flags were placed on all cars, both marked and unmarked, after Ms. Edwards’ remains were discovered by hunters Feb. 12 on Jack Mountain.

The flags will stay on the cars until funeral services are held for the slain deputy, Barlow said.

The sheriff said representatives of the State Medical Examiner’s Office in Little Rock have told him Ms. Edwards’ remains will not be returned to Hot Springs prior to Monday.

If that proves correct, he predicts the flags will continue to fly through a part of next week before being removed.

Triangular in shape, the flags measure approximately six by eight inches, Barlow said.

He also noted that the use of such flags is customary for all law enforcement agencies when an officer has been killed.

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No new evidence

By MARK PHILLIPS
The Sentinel-Record 3-2-1977

Representatives of the Arkansas State Police will be meeting with the Hot Spring County prosecuting attorney next Tuesday to discuss the current investigation into the death of Garland County Sheriff’s Deputy Linda Edwards.

In separate interviews, Lt. Ken McFerran of Little Rock and Sgt. Mike Fletcher of Hot Springs said they would be meeting with Hot Spring County Prosecuting Attorney John Cole to report on the status of the investigation which began last August when Ms. Edwards was discovered to be missing.

McFerran said the meeting would determine whether further investigation would be necessary noting that state investigators will remain on the case until Cole is satisfied with the findings.

With a half-dozen or so interviews yet to be made, McFerran said no evidence has been uncovered to indicate the deputy’s death occurred in Garland County.

The investigation has involved a large number of interviews with individuals who knew or thought they knew Ms. Edwards, according to McFerran.

Searches were  also made of the area in which Ms. Edwards’ remains were found on Jack Mountain, he said, adding that “no earth shattering evidence” has been discovered so far.

At next Tuesday’s meeting, McFerran said the case would be handed over to Cole, “if everything goes okay,” however, he said there was no way to speculate on when or if an arrest will be made.

At this point, McFerran said, only about a half-dozen interviews need to be held to check out new leads. Some of those interviews cannot be held until those to be interviewed return to the state.

Fletcher also said additional interviews were needed, and he said an active investigation is continuing with authorities pursing every lead they get.

Pointing out that a lot of work remains to be completed, Fletcher said he has “almost daily contact with John Cole” to keep him up to date.

Fletcher would not, however, speculate on the amount of time still needed to complete the investigation.

Acknowledging that the public is anxious to know the result of the investigation. Fletcher said he and other investigators cannot afford to act too quickly, since all available evidence must be obtained.

For that reason he said he was uncertain as to the results of next Tuesday’s meeting with Cole.

Cole was unavailable both during the day and Tuesday night for comment on the investigation and possible legal action to be taken.

According to McFerran, Cole will make the final decision on whether to file charges against anyone in connection with Ms. Edwards’ death.

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Edwards’ case to be reviewed

The Sentinel-Record 3-8-1977

Hot Spring County Prosecuting Attorney John Cole Monday confirmed that he will meet with Arkansas State Police investigators in Hot Springs today to review the findings of an investigation into the death of Garland County Sheriff’s Deputy Linda Edwards.

Cole said the meeting, which will be held at Troop K Headquarters here, was scheduled at his request so he could review the facts and evidence uncovered by state investigators.

Anticipating a lengthy meeting, Cole said he planned to familiarize himself with “the whole thing,”  but said he was particularly interested in being brought up to date on investigative work completed in the last few weeks.

Although there may still be some “additional loose ends to be checked,” Cole said he thinks the substance of the investigation is complete.

He also said it is a normal procedure for the prosecutor  to meet with law enforcement officials handling an investigation in order to review the findings and decide if any additional areas need attention.

However, Cole said he would not know if further investigation will be necessary until he has completed the review.

When and if charges will be filed in connection  with  the case will be based largely on Cole’s meeting with investigators, he said. But he noted that the meeting is a standard and normal procedure and will not necessarily result in any immediate legal action.

However, Cole did hint that some action might be taken in the very near future.

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In Edwards case: Prosecutor receives reports

By MARK PHILLIPS
The Sentinel-Record 3-9-1977

During a meeting with Arkansas State Police investigators in Hot Springs Tuesday, Hot Spring County Prosecuting Attorney John Cole was given copies of all reports the investigators have developed on the death of Garland County Sheriff’s Deputy Linda Edwards.

Sgt. Mike Fletcher said he and several other investigators, including Lt. Ken McFerran of Little Rock, met with Cole in a day-long session to familiarize the prosecutor with the case.

Fletcher said he felt the meeting was informative for the prosecutor, but said he was uncertain of the prosecutor’s current plans since Cole will be waiting on the State Police to check a few additional leads.

Until those checks are completed, Cole will be continuing his review of the reports on the investigation, Fletcher said.

Although some work remains to be completed, Fletcher agreed with a statement made Monday by Cole that the substance of the investigation is complete.

On Monday Cole also said the meeting between him and the investigators was a normal and routine procedure used to keep the prosecutor up-to-date on the developments in an investigation.

Any decision to file charges in connection with the deputy’s death will be made by Cole, however, Fletcher would not speculate Tuesday on when such a decision might be made.

In addition Fletcher pointed out that there is no way to tell how long it will take to check out the remaining leads.

He said it might take a day or two or as long as a month.

The trooper also said he felt the public did not understand the time involved in completing an investigation, noting that it must continue until a complete case is developed. For that reason, it becomes difficult to make predictions.

Although several attempts were made to contact Cole during the day and evening Tuesday, he was unavailable to make comments on the review session.

Cole pointed out on Monday, however, that the meeting was intended primarily to up-date him on the investigation and will not necessarily result in any immediate legal action.

Now that the meeting has been held, Fletcher said Cole “knows everything we know about the case.”

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Murder suspect found

By MARK Phillips
The Sentinel-Record 3-11-1977

The Hot Spring County prosecuting attorney said Thursday he has a suspect in the murder of Garland County Sheriff’s Deputy Linda Edwards, and that he expects to eventually have the evidence needed to file charges and win a conviction in court.

Prosecuting Attorney John Cole said that although authorities are still working on the case and will continue to do so until “we break the case and break it right,” he thinks enough evidence will eventually be found to win a conviction in court.

Cole said he may have enough evidence at this point, but will not be sure until he makes a thorough study of the case file “sheet by sheet to determine what we have and if additional investigation is needed.”

He said he requested some additional investigative work last Tuesday when he met with representatives of the Arkansas State Police at Troop K Headquarters in Hot Springs.

If those inquiries raise any questions additional work will be done, he said.

Cole said the case file is more than a foot thick and will require considerable time to examine.

However, he said he hopes to be able to make a decision regarding the filing of charges by sometime next week.

During his review of file, Cole will be organizing the evidence and looking for inconsistencies and new items for further investigation .

“We think we know who did it, but I won’t file charges until I know I can get the case to a jury,” Cole said. “I don’t want to see a direct verdict of acquittal from the judge. If I don’t think I can get a conviction, I won’t waste money on a trial. But given just a little time, charges will be filed. We have a suspect and will eventually have evidence to file and get a conviction.”

The prosecutor said sufficient evidence may already have been collected, noting that more than 100 persons have been questioned by authorities.

“We’ve got the evidence, but because of new rules which went into effect in July, we aren’t positive if some things are admissible or not admissible. The new rules open some doors and close others, and many questions have not been resolved in court,” Cole said.

Noting that the investigation is very close to completion, he said, “If we have not now broken the case, I just haven’t examined the files closely enough. We’ve got it. Now we just need to put it together, and we’ll go until the statute of limitations runs out or we get a defendant.”

Continuing, he said the commander of the criminal investigation division of the Arkansas State Police is in agreement and will continue the investigation until all necessary evidence is gathered, and he said, “That will happen.”

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Local comment: For the doubters

The Sentinel-Record 3-12-1977

Those who fear the Linda Edwards matter will eventually be quietly dropped should take heart from the recent statements by the prosecuting attorney who is handling the case.

John Cole of Sheridan said emphatically this past week that charges will be filed and that there will be prosecution.

The case is being handled in Hot Spring County because the remains of the late deputy sheriff were found there.

Many long-time Garland County residents claim that in the past it has been fairly common for a person to die mysteriously and for the perpetrator of the crime to go unpunished. This may be legend or fact but even if it is true, history will apparently not repeat itself this time.

The Arkansas State Police have conducted an excruciatingly long investigation of the circumstances leading up to the unfortunate death. Cole indicated he has not yet been able to read the extensive investigation report.

When he’s finished and when additional investigative work that he has requested is complete, then he expects to file charges.

So far he and the State Police investigators have done everything they possibly could to keep the public informed about their progress.

Hopefully they’ll continue to do so.

Cole said he expects to file charges within the next week or so and that should prove to even the most cynical of county residents that justice will eventually be done in the Edwards’ death.

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Edwards case still pending

The Sentinel-Record 3-19-1977

A spokesman for the Arkansas State Police said Friday that no new developments have occurred in connection with the probe into the murder of Garland County Sheriff’s Deputy Linda Edwards.

Representatives of the Prosecuting Attorneys Office in Hot Spring County also indicated that no new developments had occurred.

The Hot Spring County prosecuting attorney has said he has a suspect in the murder and expects that eventually he will have the evidence needed to file charges and win a conviction in court.

Prosecutor John Cole has indicated that authorities are still working on the case and will continue to do so until the case is solved. The investigation is continuing.

Authorities indicated that the press would be notified immediately if any arrests are made in connection with the murder. Ms. Edwards was missing for over six months.

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Edwards decision pending

The Sentinel-Record 3-29-1977

Hot Spring County Prosecuting Attorney John Cole said Monday he has thoroughly examined the case file on the Linda Edwards death, but wants to see the results of investigations into three additional areas before making a decision in the case.

Cole said he keeps thinking the case will be “wrapped up soon,” only to have additional information come in from the investigators.

New information received in the past few days has included a letter written by the Garland County Sheriff’s deputy and reports coming out of additional interviews conducted by Cole and law enforcement officers, Cole said.

“I’ve been through the file, but it’s extremely difficult to put together and get a perspective,” Cole said, noting that all new information has to be given attention.

The new information is classified by the prosecutor as “little things,” but he said the investigation would have to continue until all avenues have been explored.

At this point Cole said the investigation simply is not complete and will not be until he gets investigation results on the three additional areas.

Although he would not discuss the areas, Cole said investigation into those areas should not take long since the “things to be checked out should be fairly readily available in Hot Springs.”

Until these items have been investigated, however, Cole said no final decision will be made. He also said the investigation is a difficult and delicate one, which makes it hard to satisfy the public.

However, Cole said he hopes the public can understand that he cannot afford to be “premature” in making a decision in the case.

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Edwards decision due in May

City Digest
The Sentinel-Record 4-20-1977

Hot Spring County Prosecuting Attorney John Cole said Tuesday he will make a decision in May regarding the filing of charges in connection with the murder of Garland County Sheriff’s Deputy Linda Edwards.

Cole said the investigation is basically complete but progress on the case has been slowed because of a reevaluation of his priorities which made it necessary for him to become involved in some other court cases.

At this point Cole said there is no-way he can predict what his decision might be, but he said he would either files charges next month or make a public statement about the case if charges are not going to be filed.

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Headway expected in Edwards case

The Sentinel-Record 5-10-1977

Hot Spring County Prosecuting Attorney John Cole said Monday he anticipates some headway in the investigation of the death of Garland County Sheriff’s Deputy Linda Edwards may be made in June.

“We’re not through with the case yet. I’m still working on it. I still expect to be able to get it in court,” he said.

Ms. Edwards, the mother of two, died last August. Her decomposed body was found in a wooded area in Hot Spring County. The cause of death was ruled by the coroner to a blow to the head.

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Nothing new in Edwards case

City Digest
The Sentinel-Record  5-19-1977

Hot Spring County Prosecuting Attorney John Cole said Wednesday no additional activity has occurred in connection with the investigation by his office of the death of Garland County Sheriff’s Deputy Linda Edwards.

The remains of the woman were found in a mountainous, wooded area in Hot Spring County earlier this year approximately six months after she turned up missing.

An extensive investigation by the Arkansas State Police has been conducted. Cole said he anticipated an arrest in the case might be made in June.

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An editorial Ms. Edwards: Not forgotten

The Sentinel-Record 5-19-1977

Late last summer, during the hot weekend of August 21-23, a blonde-haired mother of two from Hot Springs was brutally murdered in or near Hot Springs. By now the killer is probably feeling pretty secure in the belief that he or she has committed the perfect crime.

Linda Edwards, who was a deputy sheriff for Garland County, had her skull crushed by a murderer who very likely is still living among us.

Prosecutor John Cole, of Sheridan, who is handling the case, has skillfully weaved and skipped among our questions, refusing to commit himself to definite action with the circumstantial evidence he’s collected thus far.

Mr. Cole, who roared into the case like an enthusiastic tiger, has evoluted into a soft-spoken lamb. He now contends the best approach to solving the crime is to sit back and wait a long time in hopes new facts might turn up.

The statute of limitations on murder, as far as we know, is a very long time. We’d much rather see him bring forth the evidence gathered to this community and let the story develop from there.

This stale mate has led many in Hot Springs to believe there’s some kind of hush-up in the air… that nothing like justice will ever come in Linda Edwards murder and that we should all be content to shrug and mumble something like “too bad” and go on about our business.

But we are not going to forget, not this month, or next year, or the next. And we hope there are enough concerned and indignant citizens in our community to feel the same way.

Regardless of any shortcomings she might have had while she was alive, Linda Edwards was a human being and the mother of two small children.

And no one had the right to bash her head in with a rock.

There’s been talk in the city about fear of possibly violating a suspect’s rights in this case. A valid point if not taken to ridiculous extremes. After all, didn’t Ms. Edwards have the right to live?

On another related point, it’s frightening to realize we have a person in town capable of killing someone so brutally. Might not they do the same thing again to someone else if the time and place are right?

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Inquiry to begin: Should Judge Means be removed

THIS IS AN INTERESTING ARTICLE REGARDING THE JUDGE WHO RULED ALL OF THE TESTIMONY IN THE LINDA EDWARDS CASE AS “HEARSAY”.

The Sentinel-Record 5-19-1977
Associated Press

Little Rock – The Committee on Legislative Affairs got organized Wednesday for its inquiry into whether Judge Henry B. Means of Malvern should be removed from office.

The committee decided to try to start taking testimony in the controversy next month, probably around June 15-16. A decision will be made in the next couple of weeks about who see [unintelligible].

Means, 56, judge of the 7th Judicial Circuit since Jan. 1, 1959, did not attend the meeting. It was not clear whether he would be asked to testify next month or at any time in the proceedings.

The committee adopted 36 rules to govern the hearings and adopted a resolution asking the Legislative Council for funds to hire a court reporter, pay witness fees, and cover subpoena costs.

Marcus Halbrook, director of the council, said he thought about $3,000 would cover the costs of the process.

Attny. Gen. Bill Clinton and Asst. Attny. Gen. John Fincher, who drafted the procedural rules, were formerly designated as the legal staff for the committee.

Fincher and the committee cochairmen, Rep. William F. Foster of England and Sen. Jim Caldwell of Rogers, will confer among themselves and with others to decide who will testify next month.

Means had been invited to address the committee’s organizational meeting. He was represented by Ted Boswell of Little Rock and Bryant, but Boswell said nothing to the committee.

Cliff Jackson of Little Rock, the lawyer for a group of 7th Judicial Circuit residents who hope Means will be ousted, also was invited. He attended, but he was asked not to address the meeting.

[unintelligible] on. The committee members talked about the rules nearly two hours before adopting them.

After them meeting, Boswell told newsmen and some committee members he thought he ought to be allowed to cross-examine witnesses who present testimony against Means.

Under the rules adopted the committee, on the committee’s legal staff, and members of the committee itself, would do the questioning.

The 36 rules were among 37 which had been drafted by Clinton and Fincher. The committee dumped one which would have banned the taking of pictures by news organizations when a witness was testifying.

Some of the rules would allow the committee to go into executive session to hear witnesses.

The rules on closed sessions might be in order, some committee members said, since they did not know whether a witness would be subject to a libel suit for what he might say to the committee.

Clinton said he thought there was a real legal question about whether the committee could give anyone immunity from a civil suit for damages based on libel.

The attorney general declined to recommend whether the committee should adopt the rules on closed hearings, but he said his legal opinion was that the committee clearly had authority to hold closed hearings.

The state Constitution provides that the business of the legislature should be conducted in public except when the subject matter “ought to be in secret.” By analogy, Clinton said, the same standard would apply to committees of the legislature.

The rules also authorized Clinton and Fincher to interview witnesses in advance of their appearance before the committee. Clinton said this was the same procedure followed by the House Judiciary Committee in Washington, D.C.. during the Nixon impeachment inquiry which came in the wake of the Watergate burglary.

Although the committee gave the rules lengthy consideration, there may be some changes. Boswell said later he wanted the the right to individually cross-examine each witness who testified against Means. Jackson told newsmen he thought Boswell ought to have that right. The rules provided for witnesses to be question [unintelligible] the committee.

Witnesses would testify under oath or affirmation. Any lie told to the committee would be a perjury offense subject to prosecution in the courts.

After the committee meeting Wednesday, Fincher told newsmen he did not know whether Means would be asked to testify next month and did not know yet whether it would be appropriate for him to testify ever.

Jackson said he thought Means should be asked to testify at some point in the hearings. he called Means the key figure in the controversy. Jackson himself also expects to testify in the case. O. E. Fiser of Sheridan, chairman of the Concerned Citizens for Justice, also may testify. His group opposes Means.

Boswell said he had no comment on whether Means should testify because he had doubts about whether the committee had the legal authority to even be engaging in such hearings.

The controversy over Means developed last year when he gave light fines and probation to four men who pleaded guilty to charges of possession illegal drugs with the intention of delivering them. A charge against a fifth man in that case was dismissed after the man pleaded innocent.

Boswell said that when Means took those actions he was engaging in a lawful exercise of the judicial discretion possessed by every jurist. By being the target of a committee hearing, Means was in effect accused without being advised of the charge against him or the identity of the accuser, Boswell said.

Clinton said he thought the committee did have the legal right to engage in such hearings as a fact-finder in connection with a removal process.

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A letter: Linda Edwards’ mother responds to editorial

The Sentinel-Record 5-21-1977

Dear Editor:

I would like to thank you for your very honest editorial in the May 19 paper concerning my daughter’s brutal murder (Linda Edwards).

It is indeed unbelievable to me that this case has been shoved aside and a possible murderer’s rights are continually upheld. It is even sadder to me that our Hot Springs city policemen care so little about human rights and yet that is precisely what they are hired to do for all of us.

I wonder what their oath really means to them? Perhaps there may be four or five who stand up for another’s right to live. Right now, all I can say is that we live in a very unlawful situation.

Thank God we have a newspaper who believes in justice and can honestly stand up for truth and justice. Perhaps we all need to take a lesson from you.

I deeply appreciate you.

Sincerely,
Irene Browning
Hot Springs

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Resident praises paper

The Sentinel-Record 6-1-1977

Dear editor:

This is a letter to the editor of the Sentinel-Record of Hot Springs and to the Daily Newspaper of Malvern, Ark. and to all of the concerned people of Garland and Hot Spring counties.

I join Mrs. Irene Browning in thanking the editor of The Sentinel-Record for the stand taken in the brutal slaying and double murder of Deputy Linda Edwards and her unborn baby of Garland County.

Question:

What are our elected officials and law enforcement officers doing about it? It has been almost a year since this double murder was done, and the bodies carried to the mountains in Hot Spring County to be fed to the wolves. I think that it is a shame that our officials have not caught this killer and brought him to justice. It looks like they are covering up for somebody, thinking that the people will forget this horrible act.

I don’t think that the taxpayers in Arkansas will ever forget the brutal slaying of Deputy Edwards and her unborn child. Especially the citizens of Garland and Hot Spring counties. I think that it is a shame that this killer is still going free among us. Whoever the killer might be, he is a disgrace to our community, and if he is a law enforcement officer as some people think, he is not only a disgrace to our community, but a disgrace to the uniform he wears, and to the entire law enforcement system of Arkansas.

I notice where our Attorney General, Bill Clinton, has asked the legislature to appoint a committee to investigate for impeachment Circuit Judge Henry B. Means of Malvern for a decision he handed down in a marijuana verdict at Sheridan Arkansas.

If headlines in the news is what Mr. Clinton wants, then I think the citizens had much rather see justice done in the double murder case of Linda Edwards and her unborn child than to read headlines about a narcotics case. At least there was not a double murder involved in the case that Judge Means ruled on.

What do you think?

W. A. Bill Thornton

Hot Springs

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Means committee meets on schedule

THIS IS AN INTERESTING ARTICLE REGARDING THE JUDGE WHO RULED ALL OF THE TESTIMONY IN THE LINDA EDWARDS CASE AS “HEARSAY”.

The Sentinel-Record   6-14-1977

Little Rock (AP) – The legislative committee investigating Judge Henry B. Means of Malvern will meet Wednesday, as scheduled, despite the request by the attorney general for a postponement.

Rep. W. F. “Bill” Foster of England, co-chairman of the Committee on Legislative Affairs, said a poll of committee members favored going ahead with this weeks session.

Foster said that although the attorney general’s office evidently would not be finished with the investigation by Wednesday, he had been told some witnesses could be available.

Atty. Gen. Bill Clinton had asked the committee to delay the taking of testimony in the Means case until July. He said his investigators needed more time.

The investigators are interviewing prospective witnesses, preparing information for consideration by the committee, and trying to work up a roster of witnesses to testify at the hearings.

The attorney general’s request also indicated that four days of hearings, rather than the two days scheduled for this week, might be necessary to complete the giving of testimony.

The request suggested it would be more appropriate to have a single hearing for witnesses pro and con, rather than to hear “accusatory” witnesses in one session and rebuttal witnesses later.

The committee’s meeting this week is scheduled for Wednesday and Thursday. Foster said that, if necessary, the committee could meet again later to hear additional witnesses.

Means became controversial last year because he handed out light fines and probation to four drug case defendants who pleaded guilty and dismissed a charge against one who pleaded innocent.

Rep. William Clark of Sheridan and 13 others got the investigation rolling by asking the committee in a resolution to make a probe and submit recommendations to the legislature about whether Means should be ousted.

Clark said Monday that he did not share Clinton’s view on “accusatory” and rebuttal witnesses.

He said the members of the committee were “big boys, fairly intelligent,” who would be able to hear a witness and keep the testimony in perspective until the other side had been heard.

Some committee members, including Clark, were angered over a news article last week quoting Asst. Atty. Gen. John Fincher, who has been handling the investigation for Clinton’s office.

Fincher said he thought the action by Means in imposing light fines and probation and in dismissing the charge against one of the defendants was within a judge’s judicial discretion.

The exercise of such discretion, Fincher said, should not by itself be a basis for ousting a judge.

Some members of the committee thought Fincher meant to give his stamp of approval to everything Means did when he handled the cases. But Fincher said he meant his statement to refer only to the final disposition of the cases, not to any steps leading up to that disposition.

Clark said that in a meeting he had with Fincher prior to the news article “he made the same inference to me, and I was shocked, and I sort of tried to hint to him that his job was not to try to decide the case, but just to present the case and let the committee decide.”

Foster, Clark, and others connected with the committee’s work said they did not know who would testify. That is being left up to the attorney general’s office, they said.

Fincher was out of town Monday and unavailable for comment.

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Children make some big changes

By Mark Phillips
The Sentinel-Record  6-29-1977

“My children have had to make some big changes, and I have too in trying to be a father and mother to them since Linda disappeared,” says Ray Edwards, the ex-husband of slain Garland County Sheriff’s Deputy Linda Edwards.

Discussing the life he and his son, six-year-old Toby, and daughter, five-year-old Kim, have made for themselves since his former wife disappeared in August 1976, Edwards said the transition was hard on the children.

Another son, seven-year-old Sonny, has been less affected since he is an exceptional child under the guardianship of Mr. and Mrs. William Sabin of Hot Springs, Edwards says.

It was particularly difficult, however for Toby and Kim to accept the disappearance and death of their mother.

“It was very depressing for them at first. During the first month Linda was missing, we told Kim and Toby she was on vacation, but they kept asking when she would come back,” he explained.

“After the first month, I told them their mother was lost and that the police, sheriff’s deputies and state police were looking for her. That seemed to mean a lot to them since she was a deputy. Once they even saw a bulletin with Linda’s picture on it, and I told them it would help the police in finding their mother,” he continued.

When at last the skeletal remains of the missing woman were found Feb. 12 on Jack Mountain, Edwards said he was inclined to let the children continue believing their mother was lost.

“But Linda’s brother (Roy Ockert Jr. of Batesville) told me he thought I should tell them she was dead since they might hear about it anyway, maybe at school. I think he was right; it was probably better for them to hear about it from me,” he said.

Thinking of the death of his own mother when he was 25, Edwards broke the news to his own children that mother wouldn’t come back.

“It was very hard for them to accept. They both cried a lot. I suppose it was harder on them since they had been expecting her to come back for so long,” he said.

For some time, he said Toby seemed especially afraid his father might disappear also; and Kim would make statements about running away and dying so she could go to Heaven to see her mother, Edwards said.

“Toby and Kim had been to my mother’s grave, and it’s hard to give them an answer when they want to know where their mother is buried. Once she’s buried, I think they’ll be a little more satisfied,” he said, noting that he really doesn’t understand why authorities haven’t released the remains for burial.

As for himself, Edwards says the past year has been upsetting.

“Linda and I were married for four years before getting a divorce in June, 1973. If someone had told me something like this could happen when we got married, or even when we got the divorce, I wouldn’t have believed them. Even though we were divorced, it’s been hard since there is always a bond if you’ve been married and had children,” he said.

However, things are beginning to look up somewhat since Edwards remarried June 25 with the approval of Kim and Toby, he said.

However, Edwards and his children still must face a few remaining obstacles before a truly normal family life can be obtained.

“Linda’s mother, Irene Browning, is trying to get custody of Kim and Toby and Linda’s estate. We’re in court now, but should know something before long,” he said.

In addition, he said the Sabins are wanting to adopt Sonny and change his name.

“The kids are just now getting settled and I’m just beginning to get adjusted to having a family home again. Every time things begin to look okay, something else pops up. It’s been almost a year since Linda disappeared and I got custody of Kim and Toby. Now I wish we could be left alone to live our lives like we want to,” Edwards said.

Assuming Edwards does win final custody of his children, he says it will still take time for them to recover from the events of the past year.

“I guess I’m speaking out for Sonny, Kim and Toby, I want to know we can live together without worrying about someone trying to take them away.”

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Sheriff investigates badge alarm

The Sentinel-Record   7-7-1977

Garland County Sheriff Leon Barlow said Wednesday he personally investigated the discovery of a sheriff’s badge found by a Hot springs woman late Thursday.

Barlow said his office was notified about 6:30 p.m. Tuesday that a six-point badge had been found in the front yard of the Susan Dewey residence at 174 Cedar St.

“I answered the call myself since I thought it (the badge) might have been Linda Edwards’ badge, but it wasn’t. It was just a cheap badge made out of thin metal with a pin back. The word “sheriff” was stamped on it with the word “Arkansas” below that,” Barlow said.

However, he noted that the report shows area residents are still interested in the outcome of the case and haven’t forgotten the plea he made for help shortly after Deputy Edwards became missing in August, 1976.

Edwards’ remains were later found by hunters on Jack Mountain in Hot Spring County, and a murder investigation has been underway since then.

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Officer accused of murder: Lieutenant charged in pregnant deputy’s death

Arkansas Democrat 7-9-1977

HOT SPRINGS– Lt. Thurman L. Abernathy, 36, a narcotics officer with the Hot Springs

Linda Edwards
Linda Edwards

Police Department, was arrested Friday at his office and charged with first degree murder in the death of Mrs. Linda Edwards, 29, whose body was found in a remote area about 15 miles south of here in February.

Mrs. Edwards, a radio dispatcher for the Garland County Sheriff’s Department, had been missing since Aug. 22, 1976. Mrs. Edwards, who had been divorced for about three years and had three children, was four and a half months pregnant at the time of her disappearance.

Police believe Abernathy was the father of Mrs. Edwards’ unborn child, Garland County Sheriff Leon Barlow said Friday. Abernathy was under investigation in the case “from the very beginning” Barlow said.

Abernathy, a 10-year veteran of the police force, is married and the father of two children. He was arrested by State Police Lt. Kenneth McFerran and Hot Springs Police Chief Grover Douglas. He is being held in the Malvern city jail on $25,000 bond.

Police conducted an intensive search for Mrs. Edwards after her abandoned car was found on a road just off Arkansas 290 south of here, but found no trace of her. Police searched a large area of the mountainous, wooded area and scuba divers explored areas of Lake Catherine near where the car was found as part of the search.

Her remains were found about six months later by a wolf hunter walking on Jack Mountain, about eight miles from where her car was found. The state medical examiner ruled that she had been killed by several blows to the head. The type of weapon used was unknown.

State Police questioned more than 150 persons in their investigation, which spanned seven months. Police turned the results of that investigation over to Pros. Atty. John Cole of Sheridan in March, according to Major W. A. Tudor, head of the State Police Criminal Investigation Division. Tudor said he did not know why Cole delayed three or four months to file charges in the case.

Barlow said he thought the prosecuting attorney had wanted to conduct his own investigation of the case before filing charges against Abernathy.

“I’m sure they were checking every detail to see that there were no flaws in their case,” Barlow said. “I don’t feel they were laying back on it, they were just doing a real good, thorough job.”

In September, friends and relatives established a reward fund of $1,000 for anyone who provided information leading to the discovery of her whereabouts. The fund was later converted to a trust fund for the benefit of Mrs. Edwards’ children.

Mrs. Edwards was last seen at 12:55 p.m. on Aug. 22, driving south on Central Avenue here in her car. She was alone. She had left her children in the care of a babysitter about 10 a.m., and when she did not return that night, the babysitter called the police to report her missing. Police found Mrs. Edwards’ car the following day on a dirt road just off Arkansas 290 about 8 miles southeast of here.

Mrs. Edwards, a native of Hot Springs, had worked for the Sheriff’s department about six months before she was killed. She had previously worked as a bartender.

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Linda Edwards case: Policeman charged in murder

By NANCY BRITT
The Sentinel-Record 7-9-1977

Hot Springs police Lt. Thurman Abernathy was charged Friday afternoon in Hot Spring County with murder in the first degree in connection with the death of Garland County Deputy Sheriff Linda Edwards.

Abernathy, who was released on $25,000 bond, was arrested at the Hot Springs Police Department on a warrant issued to Arkansas State Police at 1:30 p.m. in Malvern, according to Malvern deputy prosecutor Ed Scrimshire.

Deputy Edwards turned up missing under mysterious circumstances Aug. 22, 1976, a Sunday when she was supposed to have returned to a babysitter’s home to pick up her two children.

The search and investigation to find out what happened to her involved numerous law enforcement officers for months, but petered down when all available traceable clues had come to nothing. Possible foul play was suspected because her locked car was found east of Hot Springs on Arkansas 290, and she never touched her bank account.

The skeletal remains of her body were found Feb. 12, 1977, scattered across Jack Mountain in Hot Spring County. The remains were discovered by wolf hunters who notified law enforcement officers.

In the intervening period, about a month after her disappearance, a reward fund of at least $1,000 to aid in the search for Mrs. Edwards was announced by her brother, Roy Ockert, who is also editor of the Batesville Daily Guard and Weekly Record.

On Nov. 5, Arkansas State Police investigator Mike Fletcher asked local hunters to help locate the missing deputy.

One fact brought out during the period the deputy was missing was that she was about four months pregnant when she disappeared.

The arrest Friday about 4 p.m. was made by state police investigator Lt. Ken McFerren of Little Rock, who took Abernathy to Malvern for processing of the charges. Fletcher was out of state on other police business at the time. Hot Springs Police Chief Grover Douglass immediately suspended Abernathy from duty.

When asked about the bond set for Abernathy, Scrimshire said the $25.000 is a minimum bond for the seriousness of the charge, and that other factors affecting the level of bond have to do  with the likelihood that the defendant will show up for trial.

He said no date for initial preliminary hearing in Malvern Municipal Court had been set, but “I’m sure it will be soon.”

When told of the arrest, Edwards’ former roommate Sarah Edwards said, “You’re kidding.”

Ockert said, “At this point, it should be up to the courts to decide what will happen. Beyond that, I can’t say anything.”

The deputy’s mother, Mrs. H.R. Browning said, ‘”I just heard it on the news – I can’t quite believe it. I’m just thankful they’ve finally made an arrest. I don’t know anything else to say.”

Sheriff Leon Barlow said, “I’m just glad that proceedings are in the works, unpleasant a task as it is.”

Abernathy began employment with the Hot Springs Police Department on June 1, 1967. He was promoted to lieutenant in August of 1976 within days of Linda Edwards’ disappearance.

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An editorial: Linda Edwards murder case poorly handled from start

The Sentinel-Record 7-16-1977

It is inconceivable to us that a city police lieutenant could be the prime suspect in a first degree murder case and be able to remain on his job, as was the situation with Lt. Thurman Abernathy now charged with the murder of Linda Edwards.

For nearly a year after the female deputy Sheriff’s disappearance last August until just last week, Lt. Abernathy was considered by state police investigators as the principal suspect in the killing.

But, at no time did the Police Chief or members of our Civil Service Commission order Abernathy to take a polygraph test, which he had refused to take voluntarily.

As a matter of fact, the state police investigative report in the Edwards case showed that Abernathy was uncooperative with investigators from the beginning.

He even refused to be interrogated at State Police Headquarters where other witnesses were summoned to testify about the case.

Now there’s no questioning Lt. Abernathy’s constitutional rights as a suspect. A person certainly isn’t required to testify against him or herself. But it’s both puzzling and distressing that a professional policeman wouldn’t want to cooperate fully with getting to the bottom of any murder, especially that of a wrong he had known.

He was an officer who took the oath, with duties and obligations not common to ordinary citizens.

There are states where policemen who refuse an order to submit to a polygraph about criminal acts they might be involved in are suspended and even fired from their jobs.

The reasoning behind such action is obvious. Police officers are in very-visible, highly-sensitive positions of public trust where abuse of integrity cannot be tolerated.

Had Abernathy been ordered to submit to a polygraph last year, he might have been cleared of any public suspicion overnight, or at least a dark cloud would have passed

But, instead, the citizens of Hot Springs and the many honest, hard-working policemen on the local force have had to endure a lengthy, painful and unjust experience.

Police Chief Grover Douglas admitted in a news story Thursday that his department had been damaged by the Edwards’ murder case and Abernathy’s attitude.

There were rumors flying from every direction in Hot Springs about city police cover-ups and conspiracies. But, we believe they were only that unfounded, unfair rumors.

Many thought nothing would ever happen legally in the murder. They were wrong. The charges are filed, based on whatever evidence Prosecutor John Cole has amassed, and now we’ll wait and watch.

The fact that Cole elected to file his case in Malvern’s Municipal Court for a probable cause hearing rather than in Circuit Court with other murder cases tells us he likely has the same evidence he’s held onto for eight or nine months.

But whatever the outcome of the trial it will not solve the problem that stretched this situation out to a ridiculous length, action should have been taken much earlier than it was.

And if our police force doesn’t have a policy requiring policemen to either submit to a polygraph or face suspension if they are prime suspects in a murder, then we darned-well need one by tomorrow at the latest.

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Voluntary suspension discussed

By MIKE MASTERSON
Executive editor
The Sentinel-Record 7-17-1977

Hot Springs Police Chief Grover Douglas said Thursday he talked with a police lieutenant now charged with first degree murder about that policeman accepting either a voluntary suspension or leave of absence while the officer was a prime suspect in the case.

Douglas said Lt. Thurman Abernathy, of Hot Springs, who was charged last Friday in the brutal murder of Deputy Sheriff Linda Edwards, would not voluntarily remove himself from the department during the investigation last year, either by suspension or leave of absence.

But Douglas also said he at no time ordered Abernathy to submit to a polygraph test, saying he was advised against such action by City Attorney Curtis Ridgway.

He said he met with Mayor Tom Ellsworth and the city Civil Service Commission on three occasions to discuss Abernathy “because of the controversy” that arose in the community over the matter.

Abernathy worked on the police force for nearly a year during 1976-77 while he was the principal suspect in the state police investigation.

In some states, Douglas said, when an officer refuses a direct order from his superior to take a polygraph in connection with a possible criminal act that he or she might be involved in, suspension has been ruled in order by the courts. He cited the recent case of an Arizona deputy who lost his job by refusing a polygraph.

“This incident has hurt the department,” Douglas said. “There’s no doubt about that, and it’s hurt me personally.”

The Chief said he believed both the credibility and reputation of the local police force” was damaged at a time when we were trying very hard to upgrade the system.”

But Douglas also said Abernathy’s arrest brought a measure of relief. “I know I was relieved when it finally happened and I feel Lt. Abernathy was, too. Now we’ll just have to wait and see what happens.

“I certainly hope he’s not guilty. But if he is, I hope he gets the extreme punishment.”

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Means financial records sought

THIS IS AN INTERESTING ARTICLE REGARDING THE JUDGE WHO RULED ALL OF THE TESTIMONY IN THE LINDA EDWARDS CASE AS “HEARSAY”.

The Sentinel-Record   7-21-1977

Little Rock (AP) – The attorney general’s office has issued six subpoenas for documents related to its investigation of Judge Henry B. Means and is issuing about 27 subpoenas for witnesses.

The documents include some personal financial records of the judge, but Atty. Gen. Bill Clinton refused Wednesday to say which documents were under scrutiny.

He specifically declined to say whether they included any of the judge’s tax returns, or papers concerning the judge’s home loan, or records of any of the judge’s business dealings.

Clinton likewise declined to name any of the prospective witnesses, but he said the legislative committee investigating Means may choose to hear from some of the witnesses at a meeting next week.

The list of prospective witnesses does not include Means, Clinton said.

He specifically declined to say whether the list included Sen. Harold King of Sheridan, who represented one defendant in a drug case which ignited the Means controversy last fall.

In that case, the judge dismissed a charge against one man who pleaded innocent and gave only probation and fines to four who pleaded guilty.

The Committee on Legislative Affairs, which has a hearing Tuesday, is investigating to see if there is any good cause for recommending the removal of Means.

A dozen of the subpoenas for witnesses had been issued Wednesday and 15 others were being prepared for issuance this week.

The attorney general’s office also has obtained copies of the Code of Ethics statements Means has filed since the code became law in 1971.

As a public official – for 20 years he has been judge of the 7th Judicial Circuit, which includes Hot Spring, Grant, and Saline counties – he was required to file the statements.

The judges form for 1975 did not mention two items – his position as a director of the First Federal Savings and Loan Association at Malvern and the fact that he received more than $1,500 a year in that capacity.

Willful concealment of the information public officials are supposed to disclose on the form may be punished by removal from office. Failure to obey for other reasons may result in fines and jail terms.

In addition, the committee co-chairman, Rep. W. F. “Bill” Foster of England and Sen. Jim Caldwell of Rogers – met with Clinton, means and others this week about whether Means has practiced law while holding the office of judge.

The Constitution forbids law practice by judges. Means attorney, Ted Boswell of Bryant, took the position that the type of tasks performed by the judge apart from the bench did not constitute the practice of law.

Clinton said he would give the committee a summary of the work done so far in the investigation, outline what some of the witnesses might testify, and discuss whatever the committee wants to discuss when it decides what steps it wants to take next.

The committee probably will want to start hearing some witnesses, Clinton said.

At its last meeting, the committee went into a closed meeting to hear one of Clinton’s assistants, John Fincher, explain the work he has done so far in the probe. Some committee members were upset then because they did not believe Fincher had been moving quickly enough in the investigation. Clinton and Fincher apparently will be able to show considerable work at the next meeting.

When asked Wednesday if all of the prospective witnesses would testify in an “antiMeans” vein, Clinton said, “I don’t know how to answer that question – I’ll have to say no comment.”

Asked why Means was not on the list of prospective witnesses prepared by the attorney general’s office, Clinton said he was sure that the committee would be “willing and happy to hear from him at the appropriate time.”

While representing Means, Boswell has maintained that the committee does not have authority to engage in the kind of investigation it is conducting.

No charge has been filed against Means. The resolution which brought about the probe suggested no area of inquiry and did not limit how far into Means’ past the probe might go. Clinton said that the inquiry had “generally” dealt with activities which took place over the last three or four years. He refused to say specifically whether some of those activities took place prior to the last election in which Means won another term.

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Means’ hearing to begin today

THIS IS AN INTERESTING ARTICLE REGARDING THE JUDGE WHO RULED ALL OF THE TESTIMONY IN THE LINDA EDWARDS CASE AS “HEARSAY”.

The Sentinel-Record   7-25-1977
Associated Press

Little Rock  – The committee on Legislative Affairs sits down this week for its first real hearing on whether Judge Henry B. Means of Malvern should be removed from office. Means’ lawyer still says the committee has no authority to do what it is doing.

The attorney general’s office has given the committee a legal interpretation which disagrees with Boswell’s.

That office is also handling the investigative work for the committee and has issued six subpoenas for documents and 27 for witnesses.

Means has not been subpoenaed, and his lawyer , Ted Boswell of Bryant, does not intend to submit the judge to the committee.

“I just wish they would come to their senses and realize they have no legal or constitutional authority,” Boswell said.

Nevertheless, the 27-member committee, which has met twice before, has shown no inclination to drop its pursuit of Means, who is judge of the 7th Juditial Circuit – Hot Spring, Grant, and Saline counties.

The investigation was undertaken by the committee in line with a resolution sponsored by Rep. William Clark of Sheridan and others which asked whether there was a good cause to remove Means from the office he has held for a couple of decades.

The controversy over Means got hot last November when the judge dismissed a drug charge against a defendant who pleaded innocent and gave only fines and probation to four co-defendants who pleaded guilty.

Nothing in Clark’s resolution limited the probe to the drug case or to any particular period of time or to any set procedures.

“There have been no set procedures or legal restraints so far, and I don’t expect them to set up any now,” Boswell said.

News reports last week revealed, however, some of the things the committee will be exploring in the two-day meeting which starts Monday.

Boswell contends the committee is not the proper forum for handling any of them.

The things the investigation has touched on so far include these, with Boswell’s suggestion of the proper method of dealing with such a violation, if one existed.

The judge’s failure to list his position as a director of the First Federal Savings and Loan Association on his Code of Ethics form for 1975. Means said it was an oversight. At least one member of the committee had a similar had a similar omission. He called it an oversight, too. Boswell said that rather than it being the committee’s business, prosecutors are authorized to enforce the ethics law.

The question of whether it was the practice of law, in violation of the Constitutional prohibition, for Means to examine abstracts and perform similar tasks for the S&L and perhaps others. Boswell said the constitutional provision has been interpreted to mean that it prohibits a judge from representing anybody in court. “Half the judges in the state” perform little legal tasks – like drawing wills, rendering title opinions, and handling income tax returns – without it being a violation of the Constitution, Boswell said. Any constitutional violation falls under the jurisdiction of the attorney general, not the committee, Boswell said.

Suggestions that the judge went too lightly on the drug case defendants. If the judge committed any crime in this proceeding, the prosecutor is the proper official to charge him with the crime, Boswell said. If the judge engaged in impeachable conduct, the impeachment process – indictment by the House, trial by the Senate – is the correct forum and the committee is not, Boswell said.

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After first day: Means’ hearing indecisive

THIS IS AN INTERESTING ARTICLE REGARDING THE JUDGE WHO RULED ALL OF THE TESTIMONY IN THE LINDA EDWARDS CASE AS “HEARSAY”.

The Sentinel-Record   7-26-1977

Little Rock  – Witnesses disagreed Monday over whether Judge Henry B. Means of Malvern broke a rule barring judges from participating in plea discussions.

Atty. Gen. Bill Clinton elicited testimony suggesting such a violation might have occurred but two lawyers who testified disagreed.

They said Means did not engage in any discussion aimed at reaching an agreement, but merely informed the lawyers what sentence he would impose after they inquired what he would do if and when their clients pleaded guilty.

The dissenting lawyers – Sen. Harold King of Sheridan and Bill Murphy of Sheridan – represented some of the defendants in a controversial drug case which ignited the Means controversy Nov. 18.

The lawyers testified after Clinton also had introduced information showing the canon of ethics for lawyers says they should not engage in plea discussions unless the opposing side is involved.

Pros. Atty. John Cole of Sheridan already had testified that he was not party to any discussions which led to any plea agreement.

Means handed out fines and probation to four defendants, who pleaded guilty, and he dismissed the charge against the fifth, who pleaded innocent. Cole was cited for contempt of court for protesting.

That led to a resolution by Rep. Bill Clark of of Sheridan asking the legislature’s Committee on Legislative Affairs to hold hearings and decide whether to recommend that Means be removed from office.

The testimony Monday – eight people testified for six hours – was the first testimony taken by the committee.

Much of the testimony was confusion and marred by memory lapses as well as differences over how to interpret the rule prohibiting judges from engaging in plea discussions.

The rule is a part of the criminal procedures adopted by the state Supreme Court, effective Jan. 1, 1976, to govern the conduct of criminal cases in Arkansas courts.

King and Murphy said there was no violation of lawyer canons or the criminal procedures rule on judges if an attorney merely asked what sentence the judge would give to a client who pleaded guilty. A violation would develop if the lawyer and the judge began to argue whether the proposed sentence should be lightened, they testified.

Cole said that prior to Jan. 1, 1976, there was no restraint to keep lawyers and judges from discussing the potential disposition of a case. He said he himself had done it as a defense attorney.

But he agreed with Clinton that the language of the rule was clear and that the Supreme Court obviously intended for the practice after Jan. 1, 1976, to be different from the way it had been.

That did not occur right away in Means’ 7th Judicial District, Cole said. He said it stopped, so far as he knew, after the contrversy erupted last November.

Cole also testified that he heard in a telephone conference call about an agreement to give fines and probation to most or all of the defendants.

He said the call involved Means and another of the defense lawyers. Clinton did not ask Cole whether he made it clear during the call that he objected to the agreement.

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Clinton produces benefits of Means

THIS IS AN INTERESTING ARTICLE REGARDING THE JUDGE WHO RULED ALL OF THE TESTIMONY IN THE LINDA EDWARDS CASE AS “HEARSAY”.

The Sentinel-Record   7-27-1977

Little Rock  (AP) – Atty. Gen. Bill Clinton produced data Tuesday showing that Judge Henry B. Means received what may be prohibited benefit from his business connections and services.

Clinton, working for the Committee of Legislative Affairs, produced documents and drew out testimony about remuneration as the committee continued its probe to decide whether to recommend that Means be removed from office.

Means, 57, of Malvern, has been judge of the 7th Judicial Circuit for 19 years. The circuit includes Hot Spring, Saline, and Grant counties.

The attorney general focused on Means’ relationship with the First Federal Savings and Loan Association of Malvern.

Harold Elder, the S&L president the last three years, said Means had been a director of the association for 23 years and had rendered title opinions for the association about three years. Clinton introduced checks showing that over the last 5 1/2 years Means had been paid $18,000 in director fees.

The attorney general also introduced copies of checks paid to Means for giving title opinions, which are legal statements aimed at establishing the validity of titles to property involved in the association’s loan business. These checks totaled $17,085 over the last 36 months.

One of the issues before the committee is whether Means’ title opinion work is the kind of law practice prohibited by the Constitution or other codes which apply to judges.

Means’ lawyer, Ted Boswell of Bryant, contends that the Constitution is talking about something else when it says judges should not practice law.

Elder did not call the work “legal services.”

But Clinton pointed out that the association had listed Means as the association attorney in association documents for 1974, 1975, and 1976. Elder said the association listed the name of Means as the association attorney because the association had no regular attorney and “we had to list somebody there.”

Under questioning by Sen. Stanley Russ of Conway, Elder later said the association was not required to list anyone, and that he was using only a figure of speech when he said the association “had to” list somebody there.

Clinton estimated that Means had done about 340 title opinions for the association out of the 519 which were rendered for the association over the last 3 1/2 years.

Elder said that giving the opinions did make the judge an employee of the association. He said it was a service which was compensated by the borrower of a loan from the association, rather than by the association itself.

But Clinton got affirmative answers from Elder when he suggested that in most cases the association alone received the opinion and that the borrower rarely communicated with Means or even knew he had done the title opinion.

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Abernathy is now re-charged

By NANCY BRITT
The Sentinel-Record 7-29-1977

A charge of first degree murder against Hot Springs police Lt. Thurman Abernathy was filed direct in Hot Spring County Circuit Court Thursday, bypassing Municipal Court and grand jury proceedings.

Abernathy was charged July 8 with the same charge in connection with the death of Garland County Sheriff’s Deputy Linda Edwards, who turned up missing last August. Mrs. Edwards’ remains were found by wolf hunters in February, scattered over Jack Mountain in Hot Spring County.

Municipal Court proceedings in Malvern had been stalled for want of a court date set, so the matter had never gotten as far as the grand jury there. The direct filing Thursday, in connection with which Abernathy’s bond was raised from $25,000 to $50,000, eliminates that procedure.

Prosecutor John Cole said, “We issued the Municipal Court warrant about three weeks ago. As occasionally happens, people come forward once they think the wheels are turning. Based on additional evidence, we decided to file direct today.”

Abernathy was formally arrested again at 4:45 p.m. in the Hot Spring County Sheriff’s Office by state police investigator Lt. Ken McFerren, who also made the arrest earlier this month.

McFerran said he contacted Abernathy in Hot Springs by telephone, after which further telephone contact with Abernathy’s bondsman (Bill Morris of H & H Bail Bond Co.) resulted in the decision to meet in Malvern.

Abernathy immediately made the bond Thursday, the same as he had done with the first bond three weeks ago. No arraignment date has yet been set, but Hot Spring County circuit clerk Ralph Barris said Thursday it would be “soon, I’m sure.”

Abernathy has been on suspension from the Hot Springs Police Department since the initial arrest.

Deputy Edwards turned up missing Aug. 22, 1976, a Sunday when she was supposed to have returned to a babysitter’s home to pick up her two children. Her locked car was found on Arkansas 290.

One item brought out during the period she was missing was that she was about four months pregnant when she disappeared.

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Abernathy trial date uncertain

City Digest
The Sentinel-Record 8-4-1977

Hot Spring County Prosecuting Attorney John Cole said Wednesday the first-degree murder trial of Hot Springs Police Lt. Thurman Abernathy probably will not be set until January or early February.

He said it is unlikely the case will come up before then because of a heavy case load in his district.

Abernathy was charged July 8 in connection with the death of Garland County Sheriff’s Deputy Linda Edwards, whose skeletal remains were found scattered over Jack Mountain in Hot Spring County in February. She had been missing since last August.
Abernathy was booked on the same count again last Thursday after Cole filed a direct information in Hot Spring County Circuit Court.

He is free on $50,000 bond.

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Abernathy suspension continued

City Digest
The Sentinel-Record 8-18-1977

The Hot Springs Civil Service Commission has continued indefinitely a suspension of police Lt. Thurman Abernathy which was initiated by Police Chief Grover Douglas on July 8, when the officer was charged with first degree murder in connection with the death of Garland County Sheriff’s Deputy Linda Edwards.

Although Abernathy had been suspended on the day he was charged, Douglas said Wednesday the commission had to review the suspension without pay since state law and commission regulations do not permit a police chief to suspend an officer for more than 30 days.

According to Douglas, the commission’s continuation of the suspension was made for an indefinite period of time, pending the outcome of Abernathy’s trial.

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Means may not honor subpoena

THIS IS AN INTERESTING ARTICLE REGARDING THE JUDGE WHO RULED ALL OF THE TESTIMONY IN THE LINDA EDWARDS CASE AS “HEARSAY”.

The Sentinel-Record   8-30-1977

Little Rock (AP) – Judge Henry B. Means of Malvern showed up Monday at the meeting of the committee which is investigating him, but would not say whether he planned to testify Tuesday.

Means came a day early – the committee subpoena in his pocket directed him to appear Tuesday to testify, but he said he came Monday as “an observer at a public meeting.”

The judge came without his lawyer, Ted Boswell of Bryant, who was involved in an unrelated court hearing elsewhere.

Means said he and Boswell would decide later whether the judge would appear as a witness Tuesday, as directed by the subpoena.

Boswell has contended that the committee does not have the legal authority to engage in the investigation under the procedures it is using.

“Nice day today, isn’t it,” Means smilingly replied when newsmen asked if he would testify. With the judge were his wife, Mary, and his court clerk, Pat Lightfoot.

The committee received very little new information of significance. One item showed that Means had known and followed proper procedures for regaining jurisdiction of cases formerly assigned to other judges.

The probe is being conducted by the Committee of Legislative Affairs in line with a resolution adopted by the committee months ago at the request of Rep. William Clark of Sheridan.

The aim of the investigation is to determine whether there is good cause for the committee to recommend to the legislature that Means be removed from office.

The legislature could accept or reject such a recommendation. If the legislature approved the recommendation, the procedures the committee is following call for it to go to Gov. David Pryor for action.

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Committee says: Means’ activities were “indiscrete”

THIS IS AN INTERESTING ARTICLE REGARDING THE JUDGE WHO RULED ALL OF THE TESTIMONY IN THE LINDA EDWARDS CASE AS “HEARSAY”.

The Sentinel-Record   8-31-1977

Little Rock (AP) – A legislative committee concluded late Tuesday that Judge Henry B. Means of Malvern committed “gross indiscretions” by practicing law and plea bargaining while a judge.

These past actions did not constitute good cause for recommending removal from office, but they would if the judge continued them much longer, the committee reported.

Rep William Clark of Sheridan, whose resolution was adopted by the committee earlier this year to start the probe tried to get the committee to vote to start procedures for removal of Means.

His motion got only six favorable votes with 17 against it.

Clark alone voted against the milder report which, in effect, reprimanded Means on the plea bargaining and law practice issues.

The substance of these points was:

Rule 25 of the Rules of Criminal Procedure says judges shall not engage in plea discussions.  The committee said that is what Means did when he told lawyers what sentence he would impose on clients if they pleaded guilty; Means said the rule was aimed at a negotiation process, not against giving factual information to attorneys.

The Canons of Judicial Ethics and the state Constitution prohibit judges from engaging in law practice.  The committee said that is what Means did when he wrote opinions on whether titles to property were legal and sound. Means said the prohibition on law practice was aimed at courtroom activity, not minor legal services.

The action Legislative Affairs capped a month old probe of the 7th Judicial District jurist after controversy erupted Nov 18 over his handling of five drug charges.

Means, a former prosecutor and a judge for 19 years, declined to comment on the committee action or on whether he would cease the practices condemned by the committee.

During his testimony, Means was not specifically asked if he would abandon either practice if the committee censured them, but at one point he was asked how he would react today if a lawyer called and asked what sentence he would impose on a guilty plea.

Means said he thought he would tell such a lawyer goodbye.

The judge and his lawyer, Ted Boswell of Bryant, told newsmen after the committee vote that they would issue a statement in a few days.

Means also declined to comment further on his earlier statements that at one time he had considered making his current term on the bench his last.

The committee voted it findings after a daylong hearing most of which was devoted to questioning Means, who had been subpoenaed to testify.

Means gave probation and fines to four defendants who pleaded guilty in the Nov 18 cases. He dismissed a charge against one who pleaded innocent. More than 200 pounds of marijuana was confiscated.

His handling of these cases and the protest by Pros Atty John Cole of Sheridan over the handling, ignited public pressure for a probe.

Boswell has argued that the committee lacks authority to conduct this kind of investigation. He said Means testimony under subpoena did not mean the judge was surrendering any of those contentions.

One of the major points in the probe was whether Means engaged in plea bargaining in connection with the drug cases. The plea bargaining rule now in use took effect Jan. 1, 1976.

In his testimony Means said he did not engage in any plea bargaining. He said he talked by telephone the day before the trial to two lawyers who represented some of the five defendants.

The lawyer called him, Means said. The first of the conversation took about 7 AM when he was called at his home by state Sen. Harold King of Sheridan,  Means said.  King represented two of the defendants.

King asked what penalty the judge would impose if King’s clients pleaded guilty Means said. I answered him, “What’s the prosecuting attorney, John Cole of Sheridan, recommending,” Means testified.  “and he said the prosecutor would recommend five years with four suspended.”

I thought about it a minute.  Grant county is sort of a poor county and we haven’t had the best success in the world by keepng people in the pententiary so I said, “What about five suspended and a $1000 fine but it would have to approve all of them.”

He said, “Well, I have to confer with the rest of the attorneys and you’ll hear from me later in the day.”

Means said that was about all he could recall of that conversation.

In the evening, Means said he called Cole to bring him up to date. Cole said he woudl object, Means testified.

Minutes later Means said a Texas attorney, Charles Newlin, called to tell him the other defendants would accept the same penatly.

But, Means said, he told Newlin to make a conference call so that Cole, Newlin and the judge could communicate together.

“I wanted John to know what was going on,” Means said. “I felt that I owed him that courtesy.”

He said he was a former prosecutor and it was the duty of the prosecutor to keep the judge advised of developments in criminal cases, but he said he was not blaming Cole for anything.

“I take full responsiblity”, Means said.

The telephone conversations with the lawyer did not break the plea bargaining rule, Means said, because, “If I can’t have a conversation with my lawyer and he can’t ask me what I think, you might as well get rid of the judge and turn the whole thing over to the prosecutor.”

However, Means also said that if a lawyer called him now under circumstances which existed when King called, I probably would tell him good-bye. I’ve had enough trouble over this already.

From time to time Boswell interjected clarifying remarks some of them based on his view that the committee does not have legal authority to conduct this type of investigation.

Sen. Jim Caldwell of Rogers, the co-chairman of the committee, reminded Boswell that the committee rules provide for the lawyer to advise the witness, not to interject testimony.

Means also was questioned by Atty. Gen. Bill Clinton about the manner in which Means had regained jurisdiction over the case involving these defendants.

Because of crowded docket, Means said, he had asked for some help. The Supreme Court assigned Judge Randall Williams of Pine Bluff to handle the drug case Means said.

But later some cases Means was scheduled to hear fell apart or got settled as often happens and the Judge found himself with a couple of days on my hand wehre I could go play golf and let Judge Williams hold court for me so I could hold court for myself.

He said he decided to do it himself and called Williams on the telephone to ask if Williams would like for me to go ahead and preside over the drug case which was pending in Means’ district.  Williams said he would be happy for me to do that, Means said.

Clinton said that C. R. Huie, head of the judicial department of the state government, had testified in an earlier hearing that a judge assigned to a case such as Williams was can not lose juridiction of it unless the court relieved the Judge of the jurisdiction.

That, Huie said, was the only procedure known to him.

He aslo testified, however, that there were no written rules for Judges to follow to get other judges assigned to cases or to regain jurisdiction over them.

Means said he never lost jurisdiction, even when he asked for help, and when the Supreme Court assigned Williams to handle the case.  Boswell answered for Means pointing out that as the elected judge of the 7th Judicial Circuit, Means was vested by law and the constitution with the duty to exercise jurisdiction over cases where were filed in the circuit. This answer by Boswell was a point where Caldwell obliquely admonished him for going beyond the limits set in the committee’s rule about the role a witness lawyer could play during the witness testimony.

Clinton also introduced documents related to a Saline county case where a man was charged with driving while intoxicated in municiple court at Bryant and appealed to circuit court. Clinton said the case occurred 2 1/2 weeks ago.  He seems to be driving at the idea that Means had used poor judgment and perhaps had imposed a sentence lighter than allowed by law.

However, Clinton did not have enough of the document related to the case to spell out how clearly what it had been about or how it had been handled. Means said he could not remember the case at all.  Clinton said he would try to get more information and get further into this matter later on.

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‘Just a tired old man,’ Means’ thinking reason for decision

THIS IS AN INTERESTING ARTICLE REGARDING THE JUDGE WHO RULED ALL OF THE TESTIMONY IN THE LINDA EDWARDS CASE AS “HEARSAY”.

The Sentinel-Record   9-4-1977

Little Rock (AP) – “When it came down to it, I think the committee could see that he was not a criminal, he was just an old man, a tired old man,” said Rep. Doug Wood of Sherwood.

He spoke of Judge Henry B. Means of Malvern.

The idea that Means’ thinking was out of date, but not a matter of willful wrongdoing, was a major reason for a decision not to push for procedures to remove him form office, Wood said.

The Committee on Legislative Affairs made the decision, but did declare that in its judgement Means had committed “gross indiscretions” in two areas. Means disputed both conclusions, which were.

The judge had engaged in law practice in violation of the Code of Judicial Conduct and the state Constitution when he prepared legal opinions on whether titles to properties were valid.

The judge had engaged in plea bargaining in violation of Rule 25 in the Rules of Criminal Procedure when he told two lawyers what sentence he would impose if their clients pleaded guilty.

Past violations did not constitute grounds for seeking Means’ removal, the committee said, but such conduct would constitute removal grounds if he ignored the committee’s warning.

Wood defended the committee verdict.

He said he thought it had, for practical purposes, ended Means’ judicial career, unless the judge could convince voters to re-elect him, despite what had been disclosed.

“I think he ought to retire and I hope that’s what he’ll do,” Wood said.

Means is judge of the 7th Judicial Circuit, which includes Hot Spring, Saline, and Grant counties. He has been judge 19 years, and, earlier was a prosecutor.

As the only lawyer on the 27 member committee when the verdict was reached, Wood was one of the few committee members who understood the legal technicalities which were at issue at many points.

He said in an interview that the plea bargaining violation did not seem to warrant removal because Means simply had continued to give the kind of information he always had given.

“The new rule against plea bargaining did not take effect until Jan. 1, 1976, but the judge had been a judge for 19 years,” Wood said. “It was kind of hard for him to change.

“He just continued to go on as he had before. “He was well set in his ways.

“Maybe he has not adapted to the decade of the 70’s, but is that enough to remove him from office – he was doing something he had always done all his life, and had been reelected for it.”

The issue of Means’ plea bargaining role arose in connection with five drug cases which he handled last Nov. 18.

The judge maintained that he did he did not engage in plea bargaining, but advised a lawyer what sentence he would impose on a drug case defendant, if the defendant pleaded guilty.

However, Means also told the lawyer the same arrangement would apply to the other defendants.

Means said that was different from plea bargaining. He said that in some circumstances a judge must be able to talk to lawyers about such things before the case comes to court.

But, Wood said, the judge should not even answer a lawyer’s question about what sentence would be imposed.

To answer, he said, would open the door to discussion and negotiation. Lawyers, and their clients, will have to wait until they get to court to get into such things, he said.

Were it to be otherwise, Wood said, such question and answer occasions allow a defense attorney and his client the advantage of “knowing what your cards are going to be before you get your hand.”

“The point of the jurisprudence system is this: If he’s guilty, let him plead guilty. But if he’s not guilty, let him plead not guilty, and take his chances in court,” Wood said.

He said the committee’s action, in effect, sent a message to all judges about how at least one legislative body views the questions of law practice and plea bargaining.

If any other judges have conduct like that of Means, they have been given fair notice that some legislative disapproval could be expressed, and that a committee investigative framework has been set up and could be used again.

Furthermore, Wood said, some legislation may develop, but that would be in the Judiciary Committee jurisdiction.

He said he hoped there might be a bill to clear up the matter of outside law practice by a judge. Such a bill could declare that the definition of law practice would include, but not be limited to, certain particular acts, including the preparation of title opinions.

Even though, the Committee on Legislative Affairs did not have many lawyers (it had two when the probe began), nor was it assigned to the judicial area, this committee probably was the proper committee for this work, Wood said.

“After all, on of the issues was whether the legislature itself would be asked to render a verdict on Means by way of legislative impeachment or legislative address. I think it was the right committee,” he said.

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Means won’t seek reelection: Cites health, family as reasons

THIS IS AN INTERESTING ARTICLE REGARDING THE JUDGE WHO RULED ALL OF THE TESTIMONY IN THE LINDA EDWARDS CASE AS “HEARSAY”.

The Sentinel-Record   9-24-1977
Associated Press

MALVERN, Ark – Judge Henry B. Means of Malvern, circuit judge of the 7th Judicial District, announced Friday that he will not seek reelection in 1978.

In a prepared statement means said, “Although I have received more solicitations to seek reelection for another term than I have at any other time, I make this reluctant decision not to seek another term as circuit judge.

“The recent ordeal that I have been subjected to has convinced me that it would be in the best interest of my health and for my family to announce to you that I will not seek reelection.”

Means has served as judge of the seventh district, which includes Saline, Hot Spring, and Grant counties, for 19 years.

In November 1976 Means presided over a case involving five defendants accused on drug charges. Four of them pleaded guilty. Means imposed only fines and probation as their penalty. Means dismissed the charge against the fifth defendant, who pleaded innocent.

In subsequent federal court trials the four who pleaded guilty were convicted. The fifth was acquitted.

Pros. Atty. John W. Cole of Sheridan strongly protested Means’ handling of the case in court, and was cited for contempt by Means.

Publicity about the incidents, including Cole’s protest, led to a public outcry among some citizens of the district against what Means had done. Representative William Clark of Sheridan filed a resolution this year with the legislature’s Interim Committee on Legislative Affairs calling for an investigation by the committee to see if it should recommend to the legislature that Means be removed from office for good cause.

The majority of the committee agreed to undertake the investigation. The state attorney general acted as legal counsel.

The investigation continued for several months, and included several hearings. Finally, the committee voted to conclude that Means had committed “gross indiscretions” by rendering title opinions on land ownership for a savings and loan association of which he was a director, and by engaging in discussions which resulted in the fines and probations.

The committee said those actions had not been serious enough in the past to justify removal from office, but they would be in the future if Means continued them.

In his statement released today, Means said, “I do not intend to do any title examination for the First Federal Savings and Loan Association of Malvern until my retirement from the bench.

“I take this action to avoid unnecessary criticism or embarrassment to that outstanding financial institution, and not because of any belief on my part that I have violated any law or standard of ethics in having done this very limited title work.”

Prior to his election as circuit judge, Means served four years as prosecuting attorney for the district. He has also served as city attorney and later as municipal judge of Malvern.

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Linda Edwards’ remains are buried

City Digest
Sentinel-Record 10-9-1977

Linda Edwards burial
Linda Edwards burial

Former Garland County Sheriff’s Deputy Linda Louise Edwards who was apparently murdered on Aug. 22, 1976 and whose remains were found on Jack Mountain in February, was buried in Greenwood Cemetery Saturday morning with only family and close friends present.

Garland County Sheriff Leon Barlow who served as a pallbearer and other officers attended the services.

“I think the family was relieved because she has finally been put to rest,” Barlow said Saturday afternoon. “After all her remains have been through, it’s comforting to know she has finally been given a permanent resting place.”

Only about 18 persons attended the services and Barlow, Chief Deputy Tony Robbins, Lt. Jim Taylor, Lt. Roy Smith, Sgt. Don Diggs and Deputy Jay Sexton were the pallbearers.

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Arkansas news: Means ‘unable’ to hear cases

THIS IS AN INTERESTING ARTICLE REGARDING THE JUDGE WHO RULED ALL OF THE TESTIMONY IN THE LINDA EDWARDS CASE AS “HEARSAY”.

The Sentinel-Record   10-17-1977

MALVERN, Ark (AP) – The state Supreme Court will be asked to furnish judges for Circuit Court Judge Henry B. Means’ district since the judge says he will be unable to hear any more cases this year.

Means has issued a statement through his court reporter, Pat Lightfoot, says he will be unable to hear more cases due to his illness. He said he was under advice from his physician.

Means’ 7th District includes Hot Spring, Saline, and Grant counties.

The statement by Mrs. Lightfoot did not specify any illness which resulted in Means being advised to discontinue hearing Circuit Court cases.

However, during a recent legislative hearing concerning Means, the judge said he was a heart patient. Means recently announced that he would not seek reelection next year and would return to his private law practice after his current term ends.

An investigation by a legislative committee spanned four months this summer and resulted from a controversial drug case at Sheridan last November in which Means presided over.

During the investigation Means and his attorneys contended the committee had no power to conduct such an investigation. The committee voted to censure Means and stated that if he continued to practice law or plea bargain, it would be regarded as grounds for removal from office.

Means has been 7th District Judge for 19 years and has never had opposition. Before becoming a judge, he was a prosecuting attorney.

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Means still has judicial obligations

THIS IS AN INTERESTING ARTICLE REGARDING THE JUDGE WHO RULED ALL OF THE TESTIMONY IN THE LINDA EDWARDS CASE AS “HEARSAY”.

The Sentinel-Record   10-18-1977

Little Rock (AP) – Circuit Court Judge Henry B. Means of Malvern has not given up all of his judicial duties and may later preside over some cases, a state judicial official said Monday.

C. R. Huie, executive director of the state Judicial Department, said Means signed an order Monday as judge.

Means also is thinking about asking a doctor why he shouldn’t go ahead and preside over some jury trial cases which are pending, Huie said.

Last week, Means issued a statement through his court reporter, Pat Lightfoot, saying that on doctors orders he would not hear anymore cases this year.

Because of a heart condition, the doctor told Means to avoid pressure situations such as court trials.

But Huie said Means told him later that perhaps the doctor did not realize how easy it was for Means to preside at a jury trial after serving as judge for nearly two decades.

Huie said Means has an appointment with the doctor at the end of this month and plans to see if it might be okay for Means to continue to preside over jury trials.

No trials are scheduled for the district – the 7th – this week, but several are on the calendar for next week.

If those trials are held as scheduled, some current or former judge will be brought in to hear them or the lawyers of the district will be asked to choose someone among themselves to preside, Huie said.

Means will know by the end of the month whether he will be able to preside on subsequent case, Huie said.

Substitute judges will be chosen from among the district lawyers, or transferred in from the ranks of other active judges, so long as Means remains the official judge, even though he becomes inactive, Huie said.

If Means resigned, another person could be appointed judge and an election could be held to fill the vacancy.

Earlier this year, Means announced he would not seek reelection. That came after a four month legislative inquiry concluded that he had engaged in “gross indiscretions.” These consisted of practicing law by rendering title opinions and by telling defense lawyers in a controversial drug case what sentence he would impose if the defendants pleaded guilty.

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Investigation of Means comes to formal close

THIS IS AN INTERESTING ARTICLE REGARDING THE JUDGE WHO RULED ALL OF THE TESTIMONY IN THE LINDA EDWARDS CASE AS “HEARSAY”.

The Sentinel-Record   10-21-1977

Little Rock (AP) – The investigation of Judge Henry B. Means of Malvern has come to a formal close.

The probe ended when the investigating committee adopted a written version of its conclusions criticizing Means.

The Committee on Legislative Affairs said Means committed “gross indiscretions” in writing legal opinions and in telling a defense lawyer the sentence he would give before a defendant pleaded guilty.

Atty. Gen. Bill Clinton, legal counsel for the committee during the four month investigation, prepared the report and presented it to the committee at Thursday’s meeting.

The judge’s lawyer, Ted Boswell of Bryant, was not at the meeting, nor was the judge.

The report was adopted on a voice vote. No one dissented.

Boswell maintained in earlier proceedings that there was no  such constitutional procedure as the one the committee was following. The written report presented an 1839 precedent Clinton’s staff had found.

The precedent was under a different Constitution than currently governs Arkansas, but the provisions in question were alike.

The report said the actions by Means were sufficient grounds for asking the legislature to ask Gov. David Pryor to remove the judge from office under an address provision of the Constitution.

The address provision is different from an impeachment proceeding according to the precedent cited by Clinton.

The committee decide, however, that it would not recommend that the legislature “address” Pryor for the removal of Means.

The report said instead that continued conduct of the sort criticized by the committee could make the committee change its mind.

Means has said he would not continue that conduct.

He also has announced that he will not seek re-election next year. He is the judge of the 7th Judicial Circuit, which includes Hot Spring, Saline, and Grant counties.

The legal opinions concerned the validity of titles to land. Means wrote more than 400 of the opinions over a three-year period and was paid about $17,000 for his work. He did the work for a Malvern savings and loan association. The code of judicial ethics forbids judges from engaging in law practice. the committee decided the writing of the legal opinions was the practice of law and Means therefore was in violation of the code.

The matter of revealing the sentence prior to receiving a guilty plea constituted plea discussions in violation of the code of criminal procedure the report said. The code provides for plea discussions between defense lawyers and prosecutors, but not with judges unless both the prosecutor and the defense are present.

Means recently indicated that because of poor health he would need help to handle cases in the district, and might not be able to carry out trial duties at all the remainder of his current term.

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Abernathy trial date to be set

City Digest
The Sentinel-Record 11-3-1977

Hot Spring County Prosecuting Attorney John Cole said Wednesday the trial date for Hot Springs Police Lt. Thurman Abernathy will be set either this month or next month.

He said a pre-trial conference will be held in either November or December, at which time a trial date will be set.

Cole, however, said he is almost certain the case will not be tried until February because another murder trial has been scheduled for late January.

Abernathy, who has been suspended indefinitely from the police department, is accused of killing Garland County Deputy Linda Edwards.

Mrs. Edwards was reported missing in August 1976 and her skeletal remains were found in February on Jack Mountain in Hot Spring County.

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Abernathy murder trial set

City and State Digest
The Sentinel-Record 12-16-1977

The first-degree murder trial of Hot Springs Police Lt. Thurman Abernathy has been set for Feb. 22 in Hot Spring County Circuit Court.

Abernathy is charged in the death of Garland County Deputy Linda Edwards, whose skeletal remains were found in February scattered over Jack Mountain in Hot Spring County. She had been missing since August 1976.

Mrs. Edwards reportedly was four months pregnant at the time of her disappearance.

Hot Spring County Prosecuting Attorney John Cole Friday said he has set aside two days to try the case but said the proceedings could run longer.

Abernathy, who is free on $50,000 bond and on indefinite suspension from the Hot Springs Police Department, had been the prime suspect since the inception of the case but he was not arrested until July.

Mrs. Edwards was reported missing Aug. 22, 1976, after she failed to return to her babysitter to pick up her two children. Her parked car was found on Arkansas Highway 290.

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Abernathy to be arraigned Thursday

City and State Digest
The Sentinel-Record 12-21-1977

Hot Springs Police Lt. Thurman Abernathy will be arraigned on a first-degree murder charge Thursday morning in Hot Spring County Circuit Court.

Abernathy is accused of killing Garland County Deputy Linda Edwards, whose skeletal remains were found scattered over Jack Mountain in Hot Spring County in February. She had been missing since Aug. 22, 1976.

The case is scheduled for trial Feb. 22.

Abernathy is free in lieu of $50,000 and on indefinite suspension from the Hot Springs Police Department.

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So, open the grave

Arkansas Times  7-26-2007

After 30 years, a murder victim’s son mistrusts officials’ reluctance.

 By Mara Leveritt

Arkansas Times Cover
Arkansas Times Cover


Mike Fletcher was a young investigator for the Arkansas State Police in 1976, when he was assigned to investigate the disappearance of Linda Edwards, a Garland County deputy sheriff.

Toby Edwards, the deputy’s son, was just 6 the next year when wolf hunters found his mother’s partially buried remains scattered on a wooded hillside several miles south of Hot Springs.

Toby was a cynic by 7. That’s when Lt. Thurman Abernathy, the chief narcotics officer for the Hot Springs Police Department, was charged with Linda Edwards’ murder. The following year, Toby’s mistrust became set in stone when the murder charge against Abernathy was dropped.

Today, 31 years after she went missing, what happened to Linda Edwards remains one of the most famous cold cases in Arkansas police history. As Fletcher recently put it, “It is somewhat unique in that the victim and the ‘person of interest’ both worked in law enforcement.”

Fletcher is a captain now, a troop commander in the patrol division of the State Police. He insists, “There has never been one moment in 30-some years that I thought this case would go unsolved.”

“As recently as a year ago,” he says, “we received a phone call that gave us some information about this case. Some important, very crucial information. Why did that person call? They said they wanted to get it off of their conscience.”

Lt. Glenn Sligh, the current commander of the Criminal Investigation Division, which maintains control of the case, elaborates: “We’re of a strong opinion that there are people out there who have been told critical information by the party or parties involved. And a lot of these people are getting close to the end of their lives. They may be thinking about not wanting to die without disclosing something that could be of help.”

“We’re betting on human nature,” Sligh adds. “Human beings have a need to confess. Whoever was involved in this is 30 years older, if they’re still alive. That’s a long time to carry a guilt that’s this heavy.”

While Toby Edwards considers Fletcher “a straight-shooter,” he’s far from convinced that other officials, to this day, want to see his mother’s killer brought to justice. Edwards suspects that the investigation into her murder was obstructed three decades ago and that it is still being blocked today.

Whether or not he’s right, extraordinary circumstances explain his bitter opinions.

As Edwards acknowledges: “Pretty much everywhere I went, everybody told me it was a cover-up by the police department. That does shape an individual’s mind.”

He remembers, for example, being in the fourth grade and going with a cousin to visit his mother’s grave. A patrol car eased through the cemetery and pulled to a stop near the boys. When the officer asked them what they were doing, Edwards nodded towards his cousin. “We’re going to visit his aunt’s grave,” he answered.

The response was reflexive.

“I didn’t know,” he says now, “if he was going to pull me up and cap me off like they did her. I didn’t trust any of them.”

Linda Louise Ockert Edwards was 29 years old, divorced and the mother of three in March 1976, when Garland County Sheriff Leon Barlow hired her as a deputy, to work as dispatcher. Until then, Edwards — 5-foot-5, about 110 pounds, with hazel eyes and dark blonde hair — had tended bar at Hot Springs nightclubs, primarily the Black Orchid.

“She came in and applied,” Barlow remembers. “She had kids. She wasn’t married. She had no income.” When her background check came back clean, Barlow says, “I told my chief deputy, ‘Tell her we’ll give her a week’s trial.’ ”

He was glad he made the decision.

“She did a dandy job.”

Edwards had been attending Garland County Community College and was within a semester of graduating when she went to work for the sheriff. She needed the steady salary.

Her oldest child, born with Down syndrome, had been adopted by a family better able to care for him. That left 6-year-old Toby and his 4-year-old sister, Kim, living with their mother in rooms Edwards rented in the home of her friend, Mary Patterson.

With the sheriff’s job it looked like life might get easier. But a month after Edwards began working for Barlow, a doctor confirmed that she was pregnant. Four months later, she vanished.

The last time Toby saw her was Aug. 21, 1976, a Saturday. Edwards left work, went home to eat, and told Toby and Kim that they were going with Patterson to see a movie.

Edwards drove Patterson and both women’s children to the Paramount Theatre, but Edwards did not go in. She gave Patterson $15 for tickets, popcorn and — in case she wasn’t back in time — cab fare home.

According to notes made later by investigators, Edwards told Patterson she was going to meet Abernathy. She had not returned when the movie ended.

At 9:30 the next morning, after Edwards still had not come home, Patterson called a mutual friend, Sara Edwards (no relation). A little after noon, Sara Edwards called Sheriff Barlow to report Linda Edwards missing.

That evening, Edwards’ 1972 white Chevrolet Impala convertible was found locked and abandoned beside Highway 290 southeast of Hot Springs near what is known as Fish Hatchery Road. The area around the car was searched for days but, while no trace of Linda Edwards was found, investigators quickly zeroed in on Abernathy as a suspect in her disappearance.

Here lies one of the first places where doubt begins to cloud Toby Edwards’ view of the investigation. Sheriff Barlow acknowledges that, “back then,” political tensions strained the relationship between his office and the Hot Springs police. Still, he expected them to cooperate in the investigation when one of his deputies turned up missing. Barlow says that they did not.

The former sheriff says that “in the beginning,” police officials refused to make Abernathy available to be interviewed. “They don’t want one of their officers to be in trouble, of course,” he says, “but we had a hard time even questioning him.”

Fletcher contests that recollection. “I was there,” he says. “At the time, the chief of police and the chief of detectives were 100 percent cooperative with us.”

Fletcher concedes, however, “I think there were some people who had some information at the time who could have come forward and didn’t.”

That’s putting it mildly, in Barlow’s view. “We weren’t getting any cooperation out of the city — not the police chief, the mayor or the municipal judge,” he says. “They were trying to keep us from talking to Mr. Abernathy.”

In the 31 years since Edwards disappeared, Abernathy has spoken little about the case. He still lives in Hot Springs. He did not respond to a telephone message requesting an interview for this story.

“A week before she disappeared,”Barlow says, “she told me she was pregnant and who the father was.” Soon after the discovery of Edwards’ car, Barlow requested assistance from the State Police.

Thurman Abernathy
THURMAN ABERNATHY: The former police lieutenant, once charged with Linda Edwards’ murder, still lives in Hot Springs.

Fletcher, who was then with the State Police Criminal Investigation Division, and other officers of the agency’s major case squad converged on Hot Springs. They combed through Edwards’ possessions and conducted hundreds of interviews.

They learned that Linda Edwards was a gregarious person. She’d shared the intimacies of her life with several friends, all of whom, according to investigators’ notes, told essentially the same story:

While she had worked as a bartender, Edwards had an affair with Abernathy, who was married. They’d called it off and Edwards had stopped using a contraceptive. But in early 1976 the affair was resumed, resulting in Edwards getting pregnant. The baby was due in December.

On July 6, about seven weeks before she disappeared, Edwards wrote a lengthy letter to a friend who had recently moved from Hot Springs. It dealt almost entirely with her concerns about Abernathy and her pregnancy.

“Emotionally, I’m fine now,” Edwards wrote. “But for about a month there, I didn’t think I’d make it.” She then described the night she told Abernathy that they “had a problem.”

“That night wasn’t too bad. I had realized before he’d be upset so I was fairly flexible. But a few nights later we really had a bout. He drew his hand up. I really thought that night I’d had it. He swung me around the kitchen several times.

“Of course, I was entirely unreasonable with him that night, and he was furious with me. He finally decided he wanted me to get an abortion.”

Investigators learned that Edwards had scheduled the abortion but backed out. She wrote that Abernathy “was very mad, scared and upset… . This was one week ago…”

Nevertheless, she asked, “Don’t let yourself feel bad or hurt for me, because I’m on top of it now. Okay?”

Edwards explained she believed that Abernathy’s rage was fueled by the “fear of his baby touching his heart.” Since coming to that realization, she wrote, “I no longer fear Thurman.”

Friends told investigators, however, that as Edwards’ pregnancy progressed, the couple’s fights intensified. One of Toby’s teachers told investigators that, on the Friday night before Edwards disappeared, she’d seen her with a man in a blue car that was parked on Central Avenue. The teacher said the two were shouting at each other.

On Saturday, Aug. 21, Edwards talked with friends about an announcement in that morning’s paper that Abernathy had been promoted to lieutenant. One friend told the investigators, “She knew he was going to be making more money and still wouldn’t help her. This is when she really started getting mad.”

“She was determined-mad,” the friend said. “Not shaking mad but flat mad. She told me what she was going to do. She said he was going to get a divorce and marry her and give the baby his last name or she was going to see a lawyer on Monday and have her name changed to Abernathy.

“I told her to be careful. ‘With what you’re going to lay on him, he might hurt you.’ She said, ‘He won’t hurt me.’ I said it was like backing a tiger into a corner.”

Edwards reportedly would not listen. “Even with their arguments,” her friend told police, “she trusted him implicitly. He was like a god to her. He never once told her he loved her.”

An investigator also wrote that the friend commented: “She had very long fingernails. Looks like she would have scratched someone if they had molested her.”

A phone log at the police department showed that Edwards placed a call to Abernathy at 8:25 p.m. She later dropped by another friend’s house to report that Abernathy had told her, “Let me take care of a couple of people and I’ll get back to you.”

State Police investigators finally interviewed Abernathy on Aug. 27, six days after Edwards’ disappearance. Maj. W.A. Tudor, head of CID for the Arkansas State Police, conducted the interview in the presence of Hot Springs Police Chief Bob Griffith and Assistant Chief Marvin Owens. Notes from the session indicate that Abernathy refused to sign the form acknowledging that he’d been advised of his rights.

Under questioning, Abernathy confirmed that he had agreed to meet Edwards that night.

According to State Police records, made available by the former sheriff, Abernathy said he met Edwards at a gas station, and the pair then moved to the parking lot behind the Baptist church on Central, across from Oaklawn Park.

Abernathy said the two talked for 10 to 15 minutes “about his work, the promotion, the extra money that the promotion would bring, and other general topics.” A summary of Abernathy’s statements noted: “She did not mention to Abernathy that she was pregnant and she appeared ‘alright’ to him at that time. Abernathy drove away and left her parked on the lot behind the church.”

According to Abernathy, that was the last time he saw Linda Edwards. He told investigators that, after leaving Edwards, he met with the patrol officer on duty that night and sent him home at midnight — three hours early — because the officer had visiting relatives and “nothing was happening” in town.

“He told me that, if I didn’t have anything going, to shove off,” the undercover officer who was patrolling with Abernathy told investigators.

“Whose idea was it for you to go home at midnight?” they asked.

“Lt. Abernathy’s,” the officer answered.

“Had you asked him to take off early?”

“No.”

After dismissing the other officer, Abernathy told investigators, he continued to patrol the city alone. He said he made contact with no one, in person or by radio, except to purchase a pack of cigarettes.

Fletcher cited in one report the time when Abernathy dismissed the other officer and the time he checked off-duty. “That’s two hours and 13 minutes,” he wrote, during which Abernathy’s whereabouts could not be confirmed.

Another variation from routine that Abernathy acknowledged was that he “took the police unit to his residence, where he kept it the remainder of the night.” He explained that, on the night Edwards disappeared, he’d taken his police car home because his family was having trouble with one of its other cars.

A report on the interview noted: “Maj. Tudor asked Abernathy if Mrs. Edwards had put any pressure on him during their meeting on the night of Aug. 21 to leave his wife and marry her. His response was, ‘No more than usual.’ When he was asked to be specific about the conversation with Mrs. Edwards, he refused to discuss it further. The interview was concluded and Lt. Abernathy resumed his normal police duties.”

Tudor’s own report on the session noted, “Lt. Abernathy refused to submit to a polygraph examination under any conditions and regardless of the questions asked.”

On the same day that investigators questioned Abernathy, they also examined his undercover police car: “Hot Springs Police Dept. Unit 128, a 1973 Dodge Polaris four-door, blue in color.”

They reported: “The entire vehicle seemed to have been cleaned. On the rear view mirror were milky looking marks that appeared that the rear view mirror had been wiped with a damp cloth but not dried. All the windows appeared to have the same markings on them. We were unable to obtain any prints or discern any prints on any parts of the interior vehicle. The entire interior seemed to have been cleaned recently.”

Linda's Legacy
LINDA’S LEGACY: This poem written by Linda Edwards is inscribed on a monument marking her grave.

For relatives of Linda Edwards, the situation was surreal. Was she dead? No one knew for sure. No body had been found.

Toby and Kim’s father, Ray Edwards, took the children to live with him. He told them their mother was on vacation.

Abernathy continued to run the city’s narcotics squad. Barlow considered the situation a disgrace. The family of Linda Edwards had trouble with it, too. The missing woman’s brother, Roy Ockert, of Jonesboro, understood that Abernathy must be presumed innocent, especially because no one knew that a murder had even been committed. Nevertheless, Ockert believed that an officer of the law should be required to cooperate in a criminal investigation.

He wrote to Sam Stathakis, then-chairman of the Hot Springs Civil Service Commission, asking that, because Abernathy had “refused to answer questions that might help in the investigation,” he be suspended from the police department.

While still unsure about Linda Edwards’ fate, Ockert wrote, “Family and friends have made every possible effort to cooperate with authorities and we have reason to fear for our own safety, as well as that of my sister.”

But nothing happened. Mayor Tom Ellsworth cited court decisions which had held that an officer could be dismissed from the police force if he refused to cooperate in a criminal investigation — unless he was a suspect in the case. In that situation, the mayor said, the officer had a constitutional right to refuse.

The circumstances bothered Sheriff Barlow enough that he wrote a letter to then-Gov. David Pryor complaining that the city might be dealing with “a cover-up and a hush-hush attitude for the protection of others who may be fearful of their own exposure to illicit deeds and activities.”

Parts of the sheriff’s letter were quoted in news reports. Unbeknownst to Toby Edwards at the time, his stepmother was clipping such articles from the paper for when he and his sister got older.

In February 1977, the missing-person case became one of murder when hunters working with dogs found scattered human bones that turned out to be those of Linda Edwards. The state medical examiner ruled that she had died from blunt trauma to her head.

Several rings and items of clothing were found with the remains. But three important items were not. Edwards was believed to have been carrying a blue denim purse at the time of her disappearance, as well as her Garland County deputy sheriff’s badge, Number 137, and her official identification card. Those items remain missing.

The location of the remains, in Hot Spring County, put the case in a new jurisdiction. The State Police remained on it as investigators, but if anyone were to be tried for Edwards’ murder, it would now be in Malvern, not in Hot Springs.

Abernathy was charged with the murder in July 1977, 11 months after Edwards’ disappearance, by then-Prosecuting Attorney John Cole. Abernathy immediately posted the $50,000 bond.

And, now that he had been charged, the police department suspended him.

But the case against Abernathy was entirely circumstantial. There was no witness, no murder weapon, no confession and no physical evidence linking him to the crime. Abernathy hired Little Rock attorney Jack Holt Jr. to represent him, and in a preliminary motion Holt argued that almost all the evidence the state planned to introduce — evidence claiming that Edwards was pregnant by Abernathy, that the couple had been arguing, and that she intended to confront him on the night of her disappearance — could not be presented at trial because it was hearsay.

The Sixth Amendment grants every defendant the right to confront his accuser. If statements made by Linda Edwards were presented by her friends in court, Abernathy would not be able to challenge Edwards about them because, of course, she was dead.

In August 1978, two years after Edwards’ murder, Judge Henry B. Means agreed with Holt, ruling that most of the state’s evidence was inadmissible. When Cole appealed to the Arkansas Supreme Court, the high court agreed that most of what the state planned to introduce was indeed barred because it was hearsay. Importantly, however, the justices ruled that, because of an exception to the state’s hearsay rules, testimony regarding the fact that Edwards planned to meet Abernathy on the night that she was killed would be admissible.

Former Garland County Sheriff Leon Barlow
BARLOW: Says police didn’t cooperate.

The case was sent back to Hot Spring County. And here’s where the saga takes another turn — one that would compound Toby Edwards’ mistrust.

While the matter was on appeal, John Cole was elected to a judgeship. Responsibility for Linda Edwards’ case passed to the new prosecuting attorney, Dan Harmon, who would later be sentenced to prison for running a drug racket from his office.

Harmon dropped the murder charge against Abernathy, announcing that he would leave it to a grand jury to decide whether new charges should be filed. In March 1979, Harmon announced that a grand jury had found the evidence insufficient and returned a no true bill, declining to indict.

Abernathy asked to be reinstated as a police officer. He wrote in a letter to the Hot Springs Civil Service Commission that, as a result of the grand jury’s decision, he felt he had been “completely exonerated.”

But that was not exactly the case. Not being indicted is not the same as being tried and acquitted. While Toby Edwards believes that a jury might have considered even the limited evidence against Abernathy sufficient to return a guilty verdict, if Harmon and the grand jury believed otherwise, they were ethically bound not to engage in what might have amounted to malicious prosecution.

Additionally, the grand jury’s refusal to indict kept open the possibility of a trial in the future, if more evidence were to surface. Had Abernathy been tried and found not guilty, he would be immunized against ever being tried again by laws against double jeopardy.

With the murder charge against Abernathy dropped, the Hot Springs Civil Service Commission voted unanimously to reinstate him to the police department.

“The man was suspended because he was charged with a crime and as far as we are able to understand, he is no longer charged,” City Attorney Curtis Ridgway told a reporter. “There is no active investigation into the matter and we have no choice.”

Abernathy was paid $14,664 in back wages, but the day he returned to work, Police Chief Grover Douglas demoted him to sergeant for “conduct unbecoming of a police officer.” With that, Abernathy resigned from the force.

“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,” he told the chief in his resignation letter. “… 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.”

Twenty years passed. Abernathy took another job. People got on with their lives.

“You never can accept something like that,” Roy Ockert says, “but you eventually have to accept that there’s nothing else you can do.”

As a child, Toby Edwards had accepted that there was nothing he could do. But as an adult he began to think otherwise.

He explains, “For a while, I just kept trying to push it to the back of my mind — just trying to live with it. But it’s not happening like that. Life began telling me, ‘Take care of it.’ ”

By 2000, Edwards was 30, married and a parent himself. Knowing that, years ago, Ockert and other relatives had been allowed to see the file on his mother’s murder, he asked State Police officials to let him now see it himself.

To his dismay, they refused. They told him, as they told this reporter, that the case remains open and under active investigation.

Toby Edwards and his sister next decided to pin their hopes on DNA analysis, the great forensic tool that was not available when their mother was murdered. In 2004, they began seeking a court order to have her remains exhumed.

They were told that, though Linda Edwards is buried in Garland County, because investigators were claiming the investigation was still open, a motion seeking the exhumation would have to be filed by Eddy R. Easley, the prosecuting attorney for Hot Spring County.

Edwards says he and his sister signed paperwork requesting the disinterment in August 2004. He says that Easley’s chief deputy, Richard Garrett, assured them that the necessary documents would be prepared, though that “could take a couple of months.” In the nearly three years since then, they say, nothing has been done.

Edwards says that Easley has not responded to repeated phone calls seeking an explanation as to why the family’s request has languished. Easley did not respond to phone messages left with his office seeking comment for this article, either.

Toby Edwards recognizes that an exhumation and DNA analysis might be a long shot. After all, Linda Edwards’ remains had been scattered by animals and exposed to the elements for six months.

Still, he notes that his mother was buried in a sealed coffin that was placed inside a cement vault. He says records indicate his mother’s fingernails were included among the buried remains.

But long shot or not, what he can’t understand is why, after 30 years, any state official would object to a reexamination of the remains — especially if the state would not have to bear any cost.

In 2005, Toby Edwards says, a producer for the television show “A&E Cold Case Files” offered to pay for the exhumation and examination, with the intention of airing a show about the case. A&E later lost interest, however, after being denied access to State Police files.

Edwards feels caught in a runaround. He notes that the Hot Springs Civil Service Commission explained its reinstatement of Abernathy as a police officer by claiming that he no longer faced charges and there was “no active investigation into the matter.” Yet now he is denied records because police and the prosecutor claim, as Garrett wrote to this reporter, that the case remains “under active investigation.”

Even that, however, does not explain the prosecutor’s apparent resistance to opening Edwards’ grave. Lacking a response from Easley, the only explanation for the prosecutor’s inaction on that request came from Lieutenant Sligh of the State Police.

“With the prosecutor and the court,” Sligh says, “the sanctity of the grave and respect for the deceased is so strong, we want to make sure that everything else has been exhausted.”

Toby Edwards is fed up. After 30 years, he thinks the investigation qualifies as being exhausted. As for the sanctity of his mother’s grave, he believes it would be better honored if her killer were brought to justice. Though he is not sure what he can do, he has vowed to keep trying to make that happen.

Years ago, he had a monument placed on Linda Edwards’ grave, inscribed with a poem she’d written. It began: “Are you held by the past? Oh, let it go! Let it go!”

Edwards wants to, but he can’t.

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Posted in 2007 | 3 Comments

Letter to the editor – Vicky

The Sentinel-Record   8-8-2007

Still seeking justice

Dear editor:

Almost 31 years have passed since Linda Edwards was brutally murdered. The family is still trying to see this case solved and their mother’s murder brought to justice. We understand that it is at the sole discretion of the prosecutor to try this case based on evidence in the case file and new information that has appeared.

Please go to http://www.lindaedwards.com for phone numbers to the prosecutor and senators.

Please contact these individuals and ask them to follow through on prosecuting the guilty. These are elected officials. Linda Edwards was a deputy sheriff. One of their own. They should desire to see her vindicated.

Also, if you have any information at all, please contact us.

Thank you,
Vicky Edwards
Hot Springs

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Posted in 2007 | Leave a comment

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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Letter to the editor – Toby

The Sentinel-Record 8-22-2007

A grim anniversary

Dear editor:

Disappearance, homicide – sounds like something out of a soap opera. Unfortunately, these affected my life by the age of six.
At six years, I experienced life in a way that no child should ever have to experience it. My mother, Linda Edwards, didn’t come home one night 31 years ago. One night stretched into six long months; six months of thinking she was on vacation. Six months of waiting for her to come back any time to take me home. Six months of fruitless hope because they found her remains, tossed like trash, on Jack Mountain outside beautiful Hot Springs.

Now, 31 years later, the person responsible is still free. Free, not because there isn’t enough evidence to take the case to court, not because every single avenue has been exhausted, not even because people are not interested, free because the prosecutor has the sole discretion to determine if it’s worth taking to trial or not.

There is a Web site, http://www.lindaedwards.com. dedicated to my mother. It includes phone numbers to the Hot Spring County prosecutor; state police and other individuals, as well as many of the news articles and case facts. If you remember anything or just want to encourage the prosecutor to take this to trial, please contact us either via the Web site or at the phone numbers listed. Thirty-one years is too long to wait for justice.

Toby Edwards
Hot Springs

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Letter to the editor

Thank you to the following newspapers for publishing our Letter to the Editor:
8-22-2007

Batesville Daily Guard
Newport Daily Independent
Texarkana Gazette
The Sheridan Headlight

Dear Editor:

Murder, lies, sex…sounds like something out of a soap opera. Unfortunately, this affected my life by the age of 6. At 6 years I experienced life in a way that no child should ever have to experience life. My mother didn’t come home one night. One night stretched into 6 long months. Six months of thinking she was on vacation. Six months of waiting for her to come back any time to take me home. Six months of fruitless hope because they found her remains, tossed like trash, out on Jack Mountain outside of beautiful Hot Springs, AR. Now, 31 years later, her murderer is still free. Free, not because there isn’t enough evidence to take the case to court, not because every single avenue has been exhausted, not even because people are not interested; free because the prosecutor has the sole discretion to determine if it’s worth taking to trial or not.

There is a website at http://www.lindaedwards.com/ dedicated to my mother that includes phone numbers to the Hot Spring County prosecutor, state police and other individuals as well as including many of the news articles and case facts on the murder. If you remember anything or just want to encourage the prosecutor to take this to trial, please contact us either via the website or at the phone numbers listed. Thirty-one years is too long for a murderer to go free.

Toby Edwards

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COLD CASE: Possible witness emerges, Ex-deputy sounds off in murder case

By JAMES JENNINGS
The Sentinel-Record 8-28-2007

A potential witness has decided to come forward in a 31-year-old murder cold case.

Byron Rhodes
Byron Rhodes

After reading an Aug. 22 story in The Sentinel-Record about the unsolved homicide of Linda, Edwards, Carter McCaslin, a former captain of the Garland County Reserve Deputies, decided to break his long silence. On Friday, he gave a sworn affidavit in the office of Byron Rhodes, the attorney for Toby Edwards, Linda Edwards’ son.

Edwards, a former Garland County Sheriff’s Department dispatcher, 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.

“Once I read this thing about the judge saying that this lady or sister or friend said that she heard (Linda Edwards) say she was going to meet (a Hot
Springs police lieutenant) was hearsay, well, what I got is not hearsay,” McCaslin said in his statement.

The lieutenant he was referring to was a man with whom Edwards was having an affair and whose child she was allegedly carrying.

The police lieutenant subsequently was charged with her murder, but charges were dropped in August 1978, after 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.

McCaslin recalled working with Edwards and said they had a conversation about a mobile home he had available to rent and that she was interested in it.

When he told her he needed a deposit to hold the place, she said she was going to meet the lieutenant that night.

“It was common knowledge at the sheriff’s department that she was having an affair with him,” McCaslin said in his statement. “She made the statement
to me at that time that she was pregnant with his child and was meeting him that night and could have the money for me the next morning.”

McCaslin said that at 9 a.m. the next day, he saw the lieutenant meeting with a sheriff’s department detective at the Sand’s Restaurant.

He said they were “sitting in a back booth with their heads real close together having a very serious conversation.”

He added that he did not think much about it at the time, not knowing that Edwards was missing.

“They just looked like they might have been out all night working,” McCaslin said. “They looked tired and weren’t neatly dressed.”

When McCaslin arrived for work, he found out Edwards was missing. He said he mentioned what he saw to some other deputies and was told to “just keep my mouth shut and stay out of it.”·

In a telephone interview Monday, McCaslin recalled that he approached the sheriff’s detective about his conversation with Edwards, but the detective
told him, “I don’t need to talk to you at all.”

“In my opinion, he is the key to this whole thing,” McCaslin said Monday.

Rhodes said that after he took the sworn statement, he forwarded it to Hot Spring County Prosecutor Eddie Easley. Hot Spring County is prosecuting the case because Edwards’ remains were found in February 1977 on Jack Mountain.

Easley said Monday that because this is still considered an open case, there is little he can say about it.

“We did receive the statement this morning,” he said. “We will turn it over to the state police to follow up and check out the information.”

Toby Edwards said he hopes that McCaslin’s coming forward will spur other possible witnesses to do the same.

“I am very grateful for the witness coming forward,” he said. “I feel there are others who still have reservations or are struggling with coming forward. Hopefully others will follow suit.”

Easley agreed, saying, “It’s possible that it could lead to others coming forward.”

Rhodes expressed hope that this statement could be a missing link investigators need.

“This could be the breakthrough the authorities need to finally, finally, finally solve this 31-year-old murder mystery,” he said. “My clients now expect this terrible unsolved murder in our town to be “Solved one way or the other, sooner rather than later, and the guilty finally brought to justice.”

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Letter to the editor

Thank you to the following newspapers for publishing our Letter to the Editor on August 28, 2007

Batesville Daily Guard
Newport Daily Independent
The Sheridan Headlight
The Standard – Amity, Glenwood

Thank you for printing our previous letter regarding Linda Edwards. Several people have called with information. Our attorney has been able to take sworn statements that will assist the prosecution. I would like to thank these individuals for their concern and their time. I know there are others out there who are struggling to come forward. Please contact us. No detail is too small. Phone numbers to our attorney and investigator are listed at http://www.lindaedwards.com/.

I remember very little about my mom and I appreciate all the people who have called or written to tell me how much she loved us and how nice she was to everybody. I have few specific memories of her. I remember how the sun shone through her hair and made her look like an angel. I remember how she hid the gun so I couldn’t play with it and I remember one man coming to the house while she cried and told him she was pregnant with his friend’s child. My regret now is that I was too young to foresee the future and prevent her untimely death.

Today, I only want to see the person or persons who killed her and her baby receive their just compensation for this evil crime.

Toby Edwards

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Female deputy is missing

Publication Unknown  8-24-1976

HOT SPRINGS, Ark. (AP) – The search continued today for a female deputy of the Garland County sheriff’s office who has been missing since Saturday.

Authorities said they had no idea of her whereabouts.

Linda Edwards, 29, was reported missing by a woman hired as a babysitter to take care of her children. She also was reported missing by Sara Edwards, with whom she lives. The Edwards women are not related.

Sgt. Roy Smith of the sheriff’s office said today a search of an area where the woman’s car was found Sunday turned up nothing. “We had several leads of persons seeing people of her description, but so far nothing has panned out,” said Smith.

The car was found parked off Arkansas 290 about 18 miles southeast of Hot Springs.

Smith said State Police lab technicians had been asked to examine the car and the FBI may be asked to enter the case.

“We don’t have any evidence to indicate foul play, but we’re not ruling it out because there’s some reason why she’s not showing up,” said Smith.

(Mrs. Edwards is a sister to Roy Ockert Jr., editor of the Batesville Guard and Weekly Record. Mr. Ockert is vacationing in Florida with his family.)

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Woman deputy vanishes; search is underway here

The Sentinel-Record   8-24-1976

LINDA EDWARDS . . .Sheriff's office file photos
LINDA EDWARDS . . .Sheriff’s office file photos

A search was underway late Monday for a Garland County Sheriff’s Deputy who has apparently been missing since mid-weekend, Deputy Roy Smith of the Sheriff’s Department reported.

Missing is Linda Edwards, a woman in her mid-twenties, who worked as the day radio operator at the Sheriff’s Department.

Smith said that the Garland County Mounted Patrol and Rescue Squad were dispatched to an area off Highway 290 near the Carpenter Dam Road to look for the woman.

Smith said her unoccupied vehicle was found along Highway 290 and that the search is initially being confined to that area.

Smith described the woman as having blonde hair, hazel or blue eyes, being about five foot, ten inches tall, and weighing between 110 and 120 pounds. She was last seen wearing a black knit sweater and light colored trousers.

Smith said the deputy left two children with a baby-sitter Saturday and was not expected back until Sunday.

“We have no idea where she was going. We’re searching the area where we found the car,” he added.

Chief Deputy Tony Robbins said that the Sheriff’s Department became alarmed when the woman did not show up for work Monday morning.

“She hasn’t been seen since late Saturday night about midnight. We have reason to believe something happened to her. She hasn’t returned to work, but left two children with a babysitter and was expected to return Sunday,” he said.

“We are now in the process of searching the woods,” said Chief Robbins.

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Search continues for missing deputy

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.

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Radio operator still missing: ASP enters search for deputy

By Larry Ault
The Sentinel-Record  8-26-1976

The Garland County Sheriff’s Department Wednesday called the Arkansas State Police Criminal Investigation Forces into the search for a missing female deputy.

Deputy Linda Edwards, a 29-year-old radio operator who has been with the department for the past six months, turned up missing during the weekend and has remained missing despite wide spread publicity regarding her disappearance.

Sheriff’s Deputy Roy Smith said Wednesday that the Sheriff’s Department had requested the assistance of the Arkansas State Police because the state police forces simply had more resources to call upon during an investigation of this scope.

Deputy Smith asked that anyone who traveled in the vicinity of highway 290 between Highway 171 and Highway 7 South on the night of August 21 call the Sheriff’s Department.

Smith said the department wanted to question anyone who may have driven the highway between the hours of 1:00 a.m. and 6:00 a.m. on August 21 in an effort to determine just when Mrs. Edwards’ car was abandoned on the highway.

The only substantial lead which the Sheriff’s Department reported related to the abandonment Edwards’ vehicle which was found on Highway 290 in the Red Oak Community.

Following a futile manhunt in the Red Oak Community by officers of the Garland County sheriff’s department, Smith said an initial investigation by the department indicated the need for additional manpower.

Criminal investigator Mike Fletcher of the Arkansas State Police said in a telephone interview that after receiving the request from the Sheriff’s Department for the assistance of the Arkansas State Police he called the ASP’s special Major Case Squad.

Sgt. Fletcher said that the squad is comprised of trained investigators who are assigned to different areas of the state has the local emergency needs require.

“I am now in the process of reviewing the information related to her disappearance,” said Sgt. Fletcher.

Sgt. Fletcher said that the Major Case Squad would confer with him regarding the available information relating to Mrs. Edwards disappearance.

“We’re starting from scratch,” said Sgt. Fletcher, adding that it appeared the case would be an involved assignment for him.

In addition to the request that the Criminal Investigation Forces for the Arkansas State Police be brought into the investigation, the Sheriff’s Department had also requested that a special lab crew be dispatched to Hot Springs area to inspect Edwards’ vehicle.

Although the car was initially found locked and abandoned on Highway 290 near Hot Springs, it has since been stored at a private garage in the resort community where it was to undergo the lab tests. No report on the outcome of those tests has been made available.

Mrs. Edwards was last seen Saturday. Her disappearance became apparent when she failed to pick up her children, who were left with a baby sitter Saturday.

The Garland County Sheriff’s Department became alarmed when Mrs. Edwards failed to report to work Monday morning. The Sheriff’s Department and the state authorities are now into the fourth day of the investigation into the missing sheriff’s deputy.

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Authorities stymied in disappearance case

The Sentinel-Record 8-27-1976

Law enforcement authorities in Arkansas Thursday were unable to make any substantial advances in the investigation into the disappearance of a female Garland County Sheriff’s Deputy.

Missing since last weekend is 29-year-old Linda Edwards, who had worked at the Garland County Sheriff’s Department for six months as a radio operator.

Sgt. Mike Fletcher of the Arkansas State Police Criminal Investigation Unit said there had been “no change” in the status of the investigation.

Chief Sheriff’s Deputy Tony Robbins said that apparently no new information which he could make public has come to the attention of the local authorities.

Deputy Robbins added that Mrs. Edwards, who is a divorced mother, apparently told no one where she was going Saturday prior to her disappearance.

When asked if it was likely that the woman had become “embarrassed” because of the publicity surrounding her disappearance and was refusing to surface, Deputy Robbins said he believed this was unlikely.      .

No reason for her disappearance has been established by law enforcement officers, who are continuing to probe the mysterious disappearance of the female sheriff’s deputy.

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Police Personnel Promoted

The Sentinel-Record 8-28-1976

THURMAN ABERNATHY FLOYD ORRELL JOHN NOONER JIMMY COLLIER
THURMAN ABERNATHY                     FLOYD ORRELL                         JOHN NOONER               JIMMY COLLIER

Four members of the Hot Springs Police Department have received promotional appointments, according to police chief Grover Douglas.

The officers were selected from both the 1976 and 1977 eligibility lists, Douglas said Friday.

Promoted to lieutenant were former sergeants Thurman Abernathy and Floyd Orrell.

Promoted to of sergeant were former patrolmen John Nooner and Jimmy Collier.

Abernathy, who currently heads the narcotics unit of the criminal investigation division, has been a member of the police department since June of 1967. He is married to the former Judy Loy of Hot Springs and is the father of three children, Tony and Tina (11 year-old twins), and Floyd, age 6.

Orrell is a detective in the criminal investigation division and has been with the department since September of 1967. He is married to the former Donna Siniras of Helena, Montana. The couple has a total of six children: Mrs. Debbie Coones of Hot Springs, 19; David Ray Garner, 15; Rebecca Garner, 14; Randy, Sabrina, and Floyd Orrell, ages 12, 7, & 5.

Nooner, a former Malvern police officer, joined Hot Springs Police Department in September of 1967. He is married to the former Brenda Walker of Hot Springs and is the father of three children: Kimberly, 12; Julie, 10; and John Michael, 7.

Collier has been with the department since June of 1970 and is married to the former Carol Cahill of Hot Springs. The Colliers have a son, James Allen, age 4.

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Search goes to the air

By DENNIS WOOTTON
The Sentinel-Record   8-29-1976

State police, now conducting the investigation into the disappearance of a Garland County Sheriff’s deputy, took to the air Saturday in an attempt to more thoroughly search the area where the missing officer’s car was found.

Missing over a week now is Linda Edwards, 29, who had worked as a radio dispatcher in the sheriff’s office for the past six months. The divorcee and mother of two apparently left her home last Saturday without telling anyone where she was going. Her car was located later near Carpenter Dam Rd.

Sgt. Mike Fletcher, Arkansas State Police Criminal Investigation Division, said Saturday the search “didn’t turn up anything new” despite assistance from the Arkansas National Guard in the form of the helicopter and pilot. Accompanying Fletcher on the airborne search were ASPCID chief Major W.A. Tudor and investigator Bill Bounds.

Arkansas Game and Fish Commission boats were also utilized in the search as were those of the sheriff’s department. Deputies participating included Johnny Morrow and David Schumaker.

Asked how the investigation was progressing, Fletcher said, “We don’t know anything new. We’re just running down leads, conducting interviews and doing a lot of legwork.”

No reason for the mysterious disappearance has been established by law enforcement officers continuing the probe into the bizarre case.

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Family ‘fearful’ over fate of missing woman deputy

By MELNDA GASSAWAY
The Sentinel-Record 8-31-1976

The Garland County Sheriff’s Department and Arkansas State Police Monday reported no new developments into their investigation of the Aug. 21 disappearance of Linda Edwards, 28.

The missing woman’s brother, however, pieced together a personal profile of the deputy whose automobile was found abandoned Monday, Aug. 23, along Highway 290 near Carpenter Dam Road.

Roy Ockert Jr., managing editor of the Batesville Guard and Record, has described his only sister as “independent,” adding, “I never was real close to Linda – the last time I saw her was around Christmas.”

Ockert has been in Hot Springs since Thursday, Aug. 26, when he was first notified of his sister’s disappearance. The former Sentinel-Record staff writer gave a biographical sketch of Mrs. Edwards who was employed by the Sheriff’s Department as day radio operator.

“Her full maiden name is Linda Louise Ockert,” he said. “She was born Oct. 16, 1946 in Hot Springs. Her father, Roy Ockert Sr., a labor union official, lives in Lake Oswego, Ore.”

The editor said his father’s reaction to the news about Linda was “just like that of all of us – very sad.”

“We don’t understand it and we’re naturally fearful,” he noted.

Ockert explained that he, his wife, Pat, and their children had been on a camping trip to Florida and didn’t hear about Linda Edwards’ disappearance until almost a week after it was reported.

“We left here a week ago Saturday,” he went on, “and came back through late Thursday. The authorities called within an hour of our arrival. They’d been trying to contact us, but couldn’t and that’s understandable. Camping like that, we didn’t know where we were going from one day to the next.”

He continued the profile. “Linda’s mother is Mrs. Gladys Irene Browning of Hot Springs. She works for Weyerhaeuser. The police distributed a description, but we have one that’s a little different. We think she’s five feet six inches tall, about 110 pounds, with hazel
eyes and blonde hair. The other description reported she was five feet 10 inches – she’s no where near that tall.

“Linda attended Jones Elementary School and Central Junior High. She went to Hot Springs High for one year, but graduated high school in Michigan where her ‘father was living at the time. She came back to Hot Springs in 1966 and has been here ever since.”

Ockert said his sister attended Garland County Community College for a year and a half. “We don’t know if she was planning on going back or not since she was working for the Sheriff’s Department,” he said.

Linda Ockert, her brother pointed out, was married to Raymond Edwards, of Hot Springs in 1968. They were divorced in 1973. They had three children: Oscar (Sonny) Edwards, 8; Toby Edwards, 6, and Kim Edwards, 4.

“We’ve been told that Linda enjoyed her work, that she liked this job more than some of the others she’d had,” Ockert stressed.

“Everybody I’ve talked to said she did a good job. I do not believe she ran off or did harm to herself. Judging from what we’ve been told, though, the circumstances don’t point to that.

“Linda valued her children and her car very highly. I don’t think she would’ve left either. The children are staying with their father now. They don’t really know anything about all of this. They think their mother’s on vacation.

“Her kids were her life. That’s why it’s so hard for us to understand what’s happened.”

Roy Ockert plans to remain in Hot Springs “another day or two” and come back on weekends as the situation warrants.

“I’ve been out searching the woods myself,” he said, “but there’s really not much I can do. The authorities are doing a very thorough job and they know more about cases like this than I.

“The worst part of it all is not knowing. If you know what happened you can accept it. Not knowing anything, we can’t even begin to accept it.”

Sgt. Roy R. Smith of the Garland County Sheriff’s Department reported “lots of response” to previously published news articles about Linda Edwards and he said, “We’ve had a lot of leads and it takes time to check them out.”

Of Mrs. Edwards, Smith remarked, “She was a good worker, she was good on the radio. And she was dependable. I never heard anyone in the department say anything derogatory about her.”

Linda Edwards, Smith went on, was a likeable person who seemed relatively cheerful and generally wore a smile, “even on her grumpy days.”

“I didn’t know her well enough to say whether she’d confide any problems in a co-worker,” he observed. “I don’t know if she was a strictly private person or not.

“That’s the sad thing. That a group of people can work together every day and still not know anything more about each other. It really is a sad thing.”

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Behind the news: Editor views crime from side of victim

By Roy Ockert Jr.
Batesville Daily Guard 9-1-1976

AFTER WRITING HUNDREDS of impersonal crime stories over some 18 years as a journalist, this editor has felt, really for the first time, the terror of being a victim. If the reader will forgive some personal experiences, we’d like to share some observations from this viewpoint.

Returning to our childhood home of Hot Springs last Thursday from a week’s vacation in Florida, we scarcely had time to unload the camping trailer before receiving an ominous phone call from a State Police criminal investigator, who wanted to talk with us. Minutes later, we learned that my sister, Mrs. Linda Edwards, a dispatcher and deputy for the Garland County sheriff’s office, had been missing since the previous Saturday night (Aug. 21).

Our Florida trip had represented a break from my habit of trying to make certain someone knows my whereabouts at all times. Since my mother and younger brother had gone with us, the authorities had been unable to contact us – similar to the countless emergency message situations we’ve heard over police monitors almost daily. We didn’t even know where we would be from one day to the next. We would soon regret that situation and vow to stay in touch.

By the time we could be reached, a massive investigation had been mounted and many news reports spread, which we had managed to miss. We do not regret the authorities’ decision to release reports of the investigation before contacting the victim’s family in this case because they had gained many leads that might otherwise have evaporated. And our anguish would not have been greater if we had read a newspaper story or heard a broadcast before that late-night visit from the police.

Linda, a 29-year-old divorcee, had last been seen about 11 o’clock that Saturday night when she left her two young children with a baby sitter, saying she was going to meet a man she had been seeing. Her car was found Sunday parked along side a quiet lake-area road, several miles south of town. There was no sign of foul play, but to this point we do not know where she is or what happened to her.

The investigation by the State Police Criminal Investigation Division and Garland County sheriff’s department has included more than a hundred interviews, five days of searching the dense woods near where the car was found by people on foot, mounted deputies and even National Guard helicopters, roadblocks and boat and scuba diving searches of the nearby lake. The editor has spent the last few days walking the woods, wanting to find his sister, but not wanting to. Sunday I dragged out my brother’s rusty motorcycle to go up all the rocky logging paths in the vicinity, all the time wishing I’d spent a fraction of this much time with her in recent years. Although the woods could hide almost anything, we no longer believe Linda is now in the area, if she ever was.

For various reasons our family does not believe did harm to herself or ran away, despite her personal problems, which were beyond normal. Instead, we believe she was the victim of what may be the most horrible kind of crime – a murder in which the victim cannot be found. The authorities say they don’t know and obviously can’t prove that a crime has even been committed. They have several suspects, they say, but lack the main evidence. For her family and friends the horror is in the waiting and not knowing what to prepare for.

The authorities have poured every resource they have into this case, and the experience has only served to reinforce our firm conviction in strong, well-trained, professional law enforcement agencies. Without that, our laws mean little. Our only complaint is the neglect of the victim’s family by the authorities. After that first visit by two secondary law enforcement officials, we have not been contacted by any official to tell us of progress or lack of progress. Our only official information has come as a result of our own efforts, sometimes coming after some friend or acquaintance brought one of the many rumors circulating to our attention. Compassion should be a characteristic of law enforcement.

We have also gained a new perspective on the effect of news reports on the family of a crime victim. We have always been reluctant to contact families in such circumstances, but we now have a better understanding of why some families contact us – to gain information, make corrections or even suppress facts. Our opinion has been solidified that law enforcement agencies should be honest with news organizations during an investigation and that the news organizations should be willing to withhold information that might affect the investigation adversely. They should follow the case closely enough, though, that at some point they can question objectively a poorly conducted investigation. This can only be done if the officials and press cooperate.

We must be at least as organized and prepared as those who commit crimes.

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Rumors to the contrary, Linda Edwards unfound

The Sentinel-Record 9-2-1976

Despite rumors to the contrary and numerous telephone calls, missing Garland County Sheriff’s Office Deputy Linda Edwards has not been found, according to Sheriff Leon Barlow.

He said Wednesday night that numerous calls had been made within the previous two days to the sheriff’s office and to his home. The callers apparently had heard rumors that Deputy Edwards had been found dead.

Barlow said rumors concerning the disappearance apparently have been broadcast on Citizens Band radio, adding, “Plenty of rumors go around, but I don’t know how this one got started.”

He said the callers have been asking if the rumors are true or have assumed they are true and asked where she was found.

He said that investigation into her disappearance, which apparently occurred a week ago Sunday, is continuing.

Arkansas State Police now head the investigation with a team led by Maj. W.A. Tudor, chief of the Criminal Investigation Division of the state police. Barlow said the sheriff’s office is assisting in the investigation, with two men assigned to the case.

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Officials fear deputy dead, ask for help

By STEELE HAYS
Democrat Staff Writer 9-4-1976

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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Woman deputy missing almost two weeks: Public help is sought in search for Linda Edwards

By LARRY AULT
The Sentinel-Record   9-4-1976

The Garland County Sheriff’s Department and the Arkansas State Police Friday requested aid from the general public in the search for missing Deputy Sheriff Linda Edwards.

The search for the missing deputy sheriff has been underway for almost two weeks, however authorities have reported no new leads into the whereabouts of Deputy Edwards.

Mrs. Edwards worked as a radio operator at the Sheriff’s Department for six months.

Deputy Roy Smith said that the disappearance of Mrs. Edwards continues to baffle authorities, who have continued their search, despite the lack of tangible information regarding her disappearance.

“There have been a lot of rumors circulating about her, but most of them have not been true,” said Deputy Smith.

Sgt. Mike Fletcher of the Arkansas State Police said authorities have simply “run out of all leads.”

“There is nothing to indicate her whereabouts, whether she’s alive or dead,” said Fletcher.

Sgt. Fletcher said if any private citizen has information regarding Mrs. Edwards’ disappearance, that information and identities will be kept in strict confidence.

Deputy Smith said that both the Sheriff’s Department and the Arkansas State Police are appealing to the people of the state of Arkansas to assist in the search for Mrs. Edwards.

Deputy Smith said a special appeal for assistance is being directed at the residents of Hot Springs and Garland County.

Deputy Smith described Deputy Edwards as a white female, age 29, with blond hair, brown eyes, approximately 5 feet, 6 inches tall, and weighing 130 pounds.  Deputy Edwards had a “slender build,” said Smith.

Deputy Edwards was up approximately four-and-one-half   months pregnant and has two small children at home he said.  She was last seen at approximately 12:50 a.m. Aug. 22 in Hot Springs, authorities reported.

The missing deputy was last seen wearing a black knit top and light colored slacks.  Her car was found abandoned on Highway 290 southeast of Hot Springs on Aug. 22.

Deputy Smith said an intensive search and follow up of all investigative leads has so far failed to reveal the whereabouts of Deputy Edwards.

The Garland County Sheriff’s Department and the Arkansas State Police are asking that all citizens looked in the area around their homes for any clues which might lead to the whereabouts of the deputy.

Deputy Smith also urged that citizens check any abandoned houses, wells, or any place that could contain any of her personal belongings for any clues which might help the authorities locate her.

“If anyone should find Deputy Edwards or any evidence connected with her disappearance, please notify the Arkansas State Police, Troop K at Hot Springs, or the Garland County Sheriff’s Department immediately,” said Smith.

“Please do not disturb any articles that are found or the place that they are found in.  If there is any information that a person would like to give and remain confidential, contact Garland County Sheriff Leon Barlow or Sgt. Fletcher with the Arkansas State Police,” said Deputy Smith.

Deputy Smith said that the authorities believed that the public at large could be helpful in locating Mrs. Edwards, if she is in Garland County.  Deputy Smith said that since Garland County is physically such a large area, that it is almost impossible for the authorities to comb every area where the woman might be found.

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Local comment: As painful as death?

The Sentinel-Record 9-10-1976

One of the most distressing aspects of the disappearance of Linda Edwards is the eruption of rumors about her absence.

The young Garland County Deputy Sheriff has been missing for sometime now and the stories that seem to be common public knowledge about her are numerous.

Investigating officers even released the information that the divorcee is apparently pregnant. Perhaps the public needs to know this or perhaps it was necessary to the investigation to tell it, but on the surface it seems like an invasion of  privacy to display such intimate details for her family and friends and neighbors to have to deal with.

Do residents of Little Rock and Mount Ida really need to know she is or was carrying a child?

Rumors swirl viciously about her private life and point accusing fingers towards at least one man who was said to be her lover. Names are named and the rumors and reputations are destroyed. Guilt is assessed whether or not it’s earned.

Perhaps Linda Edwards is dead.

Perhaps she was murdered.

But ‘perhaps’ isn’t good enough.

There still remains the chance that she is alive, and until a crime is proven it is almost as painful as death to hear her discussed and discussed and discussed.

If she is alive, could she return voluntarily to the community now that she is public property?

It’s time to leave Lind Edwards alone until her fate is known.

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Missing deputy search goes on

The Sentinel-Record 9-10-1976

Garland County Sheriff’s Deputy Roy Smith said Thursday that the search for a missing 29-year-old female deputy sheriff is continuing; authorities are not expressing any hope, however that the woman will be found.

Missing for over two weeks is Linda Edwards, a female radio operator at the Sheriff’s Department for the past six months.

The search for the missing deputy has been extended to include state authorities, however, despite a concerted search for the woman, no substantial leads have developed which might lead authorities to discover her whereabouts.

“As far as the investigation is concerned, we’re still working on it,” said Deputy Smith, adding that most of the investigation recently has been handled by the Arkansas State Police.

While the authorities are not giving up hope of locating the missing deputy, they have suggested that they fear her fate may not be good.

Recent aspects of the investigation have centered on locating a body rather than locating the whereabouts of the woman.

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Edwards hunt reward fund is established

The Sentinel-Record 9-23-1976

A reward fund of at least $1,000 is being established to aid in the investigation of the disappearance of Garland County Deputy Sheriff Linda Edwards.

Mrs. Edwards, 29, disappeared on the night of Saturday, Aug. 21. Her car was found parked in a rural lake area off Arkansas 290, southeast of Hot Springs.

While authorities have found no evidence of foul play, they fear that Mrs. Edwards has been murdered, according to her brother, Roy Ockert, Jr., who announced the establishment of the reward fund.

Ockert, who is managing editor of the Batesville Daily Guard and Weekly Record, said the reward will be paid to any individual or organization providing information that leads to Mrs. Edwards’ whereabouts.

“The Arkansas State Police and Garland County Sheriff’s office have made every possible effort to find my sister, and they are continuing to do so,” Ockert said, “but we hope this reward fund will encourage others to help us search for her or to provide information that might aid in the investigation.”

Mrs. Edwards reportedly left her children with a babysitter about 11 o’clock on the night of Aug. 21. Authorities indicate they have interviewed persons who saw her as late as midnight or 1 a.m. the next morning, Ockert said, and her car was seen in the spot it was eventually recovered as early as 1:30 a.m.

Ockert said the reward fund, if not used for that purpose within a reasonable time, will be converted to a trust fund for Mrs. Edwards children.

He asked that anyone with information about Mrs. Edwards immediately contact Garland County Sheriff Leon Barlow at 321-2683 or State Police Sgt. Mike Fletcher at 262-1814. Sources will remain confidential.

Contributions to the fund can be made through Barlow or mailed to the Linda Edwards Reward Fund, Arkansas Bank and Trust Co., Hot Springs, ARK, 71901.

Mrs. Edwards, who had been a radio dispatcher for the sheriff’s office since January, was described as being about 5’6″, 110-120 pounds, hazel eyes and blonde hair. She was last seen wearing a black sweater and beige pants.

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Reward fund started for missing deputy

Batesville Guard 9-23-1976

HOT SPRINGS – A reward fund of $1,000 is being established to aid in the investigation of the disappearance of Garland County Deputy Sheriff Linda Edwards.

Mrs. Edwards, 29, disappeared on the night of Saturday, Aug.21. Her car was found parked in a rural area lake area off Arkansas 290, southeast of Hot Springs.

While authorities have found no evidence of foul play, they fear that Mrs. Edwards has been murdered, according to her brother, Roy Ockert Jr., who announced the establishment of the reward fund.

Ockert, managing editor of the Batesville Daily Guard, said the reward will be paid to any individual or organization providing information that leads to Mrs. Edwards’ whereabouts.

“The Arkansas State Police and Garland County Sheriff’s office have made every possible effort to find my sister, and they are continuing to do so,” Ockert said, “but we hope this reward fund will encourage others to help us search for her or to provide information that might aid in the investigation.”

Mrs. Edwards reportedly left her children with a babysitter about 11 o’clock on the night of Aug.21. Authorities indicate they have interviewed persons who saw her as late as midnight or 1 o’clock the next morning, Ockert said, and her car was seen in the spot it was eventually recovered as early as 1:30 a.m.

Ockert said the reward fund, if not used for that purpose within a reasonable time, will be converted to a trust fund for Mrs. Edwards’ children.

He asked that anyone with information about Mrs. Edwards immediately contact Garland County Sheriff Leon Barlow at 321-2683 or State Police Sgt. Mike Fletcher at 262-1814. Sources will remain confidential.

Contributions to the fund can be made through Barlow or mailed to the Linda Edwards Reward Fund, Arkansas Bank and Trust Co., Hot Springs, Ark. 71901.

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Grand Jury talks ‘Linda’

The Sentinel-Record 10-5-1976

The Garland County Grand Jury met Monday at the Garland County Court House.

It was reported that the grand jury investigated, among other things, the disappearance of Garland County Sheriff’s Deputy Linda Edwards.

Ms. Edwards has been missing for approximately six weeks. Even though a reward was offered for information which would lead to her being found, the investigation into the disappearance of the deputy sheriff has revealed no substantial leads.

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In loving memory of Linda Edwards

The Sentinel-Record 10-16-1976

In loving memory, birthday
In loving memory

 

In loving memory of Linda Edwards on her 30th birthday today

Wishing we could share it with her,

Her family 

We still have hope and determination that truth and justice, in this free and open society, will prevail.

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* ATTENTION TAXPAYERS

TWO IMPORTANT QUESTIONS OF COMMUNITY VALUE?

STATEMENT

The Sentinel-Record 11-1976

If you are arrested, one of the first things you are asked to do by a Policeman, Sheriff or Deputy, or Judge is to take a lie detector test.

A. In the interest of helping solve the mystery of the missing female Deputy Sheriff, is it asking too much to have all of our law enforcement officials to take a lie detector analysis on this case?

B. We spend approximately $876,200 per year on salaries for law enforcement in Garland County. (Not including the Prosecuting Attorney, Judges, & Clerks). Deputy Linda Edwards and the case of Dr. Carson are now 4 months old. How many other unsolved murders does Garland County have?

WATCH FOR AD NUMBER 3

PAID FOR BY BILL MEARS

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Hunters urged to look for evidence of Edwards

The Sentinel-Record 11-5-1976

Arkansas State Police Criminal Investigator Mike Fletcher said Thursday that local law enforcement authorities have requested hunters participating in deer season activities next week to be on the look-out for any evidence which might reveal the whereabouts of missing Garland County Sheriff’s Deputy Linda Edwards.

Deputy Edwards, age 29, has been missing since Aug. 22 when she failed to return to pick-up her children, who had been left with a baby-sitter.

Her car was found abandoned near Hot Springs in the Carpenter Dam Road area.

Investigator Fletcher said that law enforcement officials fear that Ms. Edwards has been a victim of foul play. Noting that no apparent reason for her disappearance has been determined. Sgt. Fletcher said that law enforcement authorities are asking deer hunters to check the forests and woods for any evidence of Ms. Edwards.

Fletcher said that all investigative leads have come to an end. He said any additional information which might lead to her whereabouts will be kept in the strictest confidence. Fletcher said any information about the missing deputy should be relayed to the Garland County Sheriff’s Department, to Sheriff Leon Barlow, or to Troop K of the Arkansas State Police.

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Linda: search continues

By NANCY BRITT
The Sentinel-Record   11-24-1976

The disappearance 12 weeks ago of Garland County Sheriff’s Office Deputy Linda Edwards remains unsolved according to law enforcement officials while her family remains in somewhat limbo, feeling there is nothing left they can do.

Mrs. Edwards, the mother of two young children, left them with a babysitter on Saturday, Aug. 21 and said she would be back for them that night. She never showed up and her locked car was found the next day on Arkansas 290, southeast of Hot Springs.

Various investigations have taken place since that time including efforts by the sheriff’s office, state police, and the Garland County Grand Jury. However, various officials say they haven’t been able to come up with anything concrete on her disappearance, even proof that any crime took place.

The final report of the current grand jury is due by the end of this year, and is expected in late December.

In the meantime, law enforcement officials are keeping the case open. Sheriff Leon Barlow said Tuesday, “The investigation continues to some extent, but we’ve about run out of leads. Anything we get we check, and review past information to see if that develops anything. So far, there is nothing to prove any crime was committed, although there are suggestions that there may have been.”

Mike Fletcher, locally-based criminal investigator for Arkansas State Police, said the file on Linda is still open, and that any new information will be investigated.

While progress toward finding out what has happened to Linda is stymied, the family has attempted to adjust as best as possible. Her children, ages 4 and 6, now live with their father, Linda’s ex-husband. They live in Hot Springs, and have recently moved to a new location for better care of the children, according to Linda’s brother Roy Ockert of Batesville (and formerly of Hot Springs).

Ockert said Tuesday, “I don’t think anybody has much hope (of seeing Linda alive again). If there were a clue to surface that some crime had been committed, it would be some help, but as far as I know, there is none. It’s just a missing person. We’ve had a great number of reports since a reward (for information leading to her disappearance) was offered, but I don’t know of any which have actually helped.”

He said the family is in limbo, feeling there is nothing they can do, adding, “We feel the Arkansas State Police and the sheriff’s office have done all they can that we know of. Members of the family, including me, have personally made an effort to assist, including contacting those who saw her last.

“A number of persons saw her that day, and we’ve had some contact with most of them, trying to see that people come forward if they know anything. We’ve felt that there were some instances where we didn’t get the complete truth, but that’s just a feeling. You don’t just vanish from the face of the earth, yet we’ve contacted just about everybody we know to contact.”

Ockert said Linda’s children know that she has disappeared – “in essence what we do” – but they’re too young now to fully understand. He added, ” The later effect is what we’re concerned with; they’ll be growing up without a mother. My mother (who lives in Hot Springs) has taken care of them quite a bit while their father works, and I believe they’re in some type of daycare.”

Concerning general family reactions, he said that for his and Linda’s mother, “it’s very hard to accept. We’ve accepted that we won’t see her, but we don’t understand about what’s happened. We’ll likely have to go through all the agony again. Hopefully that will be soon – the longer it goes on as is, the less chance exists of finding out what happened.”

Other accomodations to Linda’s absence have included those at the sheriff’s office, where Linda was a radio operator. A shifting and increase in staffing was necessary, as a patrol officer took on radio duty and part-time operator went full time.

The latter radio operator, Deputy Lance Ragsdale, said, “You can’t dwell on things like that (filling the spot of someone whose whereabouts nobody knows), but I’ve probably thought about it some. You have to figure, if not me then somebody else, and actually not fully that since I was working here anyway. Time heals, you know, and people here don’t talk or think about it much now.”

The children’s possessions are with them, Ockert said, while the family is in the process of filing an action in Garland Chancery Court to appoint a trustee to take charge of Linda’s effects.

As investigation goes on in limited fashion, Ockert said, “I have been satisfied with the cooperation of the sheriff’s office and state police, but the city administration has not been altogether helpful. I have at some times had difficulty finding out information I thought might be helpful – mostly problems of getting information to look at. I don’t know about beyond that. In one instance, it took several calls and a trip to Hot Springs to find out some information of public record. (Police) Chief (Grover) Douglas was helpful on that.

“I don’t want to make a big to-do on that item – it didn’t turn out as helpful as I hoped it might – but at a time like that such a thing shouldn’t wind up taking three to four weeks.”

Ockert also said he had asked the Civil Service Commission here for help – some type of inquiry – but had gotten no response, “only what I heard through other people.”

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Means gave lenient drug treatment, says U.S. attorney

The Sentinel-Record   12-2-1976

THIS IS AN INTERESTING ARTICLE REGARDING THE JUDGE WHO RULED ALL OF THE TESTIMONY IN THE LINDA EDWARDS CASE AS “HEARSAY”.

Little Rock (AP) – U.S. Atty. W. H. “Sonny” Dillahunty said Wednesday “some lenient treatment” apparently was received from Circuit Court Judge Henry B. Means of Malvern by four drug case defendants.

Means imposed only fines on four defendants who pleaded guilty to possession of marijuana with intent to deliver. He dismissed the charge against a fifth man who pleaded innocent.

Police said the case involved 250 pounds of marijuana.

Dillahunty said he wouldn’t say Means was wrong in his handling of the case, “but I would say the individuals seemed to receive some lenient treatment.” He said he didn’t think the punishment was adequate.

He said he had asked the U.S. Justice Department for permission to file federal charges against the men, but Washington had not replied yet.

Citizens of Hot Spring, Grant and Saline counties have hired Little Rock attorney Cliff Jackson to help them find a way to remove Means from office.

A public hearing will be held Thursday night at the Malvern High School. Petitions calling for Means’ resignation are to be circulated at that meeting.

In addition, the committee that is working to remove Means has opened a bank account at Sheridan to finance its efforts. The group also has started a fund-raising drive.

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Grand Jury submits year end report

The Sentinel-Record  12-23-1976  
By LARRY AULT

The 1976 Garland County Grand Jury Wednesday submitted its year end report to Garland Circuit Judge Henry M. Britt, making several comments regarding the “outside employment” or “moonlighting” by governmental employees.

The grand jury touched upon the mysterious disappearance of Garland County Sheriff’s Deputy Linda Edwards, but noted that because of a lack of evidence, the case would be turned over to next year’s grand jury for the purpose of a continued investigation.

The grand jury returned “no true bills” in two criminal cases under investigation. Those cases involved charges of wrongdoing levied against Mrs. Inez Brown, former director of Arkansas Revenue Department here. She was dismissed in connection with funds which turned up missing in the office. The other case revolved around the alleged double voting by Margaret Martin, a member of the Hot Springs district Six School Board. The grand jury found no evidence to substantiate criminal charges in either case.

The grand jury report was typical of the reports in recent years, but provided some commentary relief to several controversies in the Hot Springs area.

The grand jury addressed the problem of Hot Springs Police Officers holding “outside jobs” which might be considered a conflict of interest.

In the body of the report, the grand jury stated that it was recommending that the City of Hot Springs and Garland County require employees to contract not to engage in any employment of either of these governmental agencies that might appear to be a conflict of interest.

The grand jury noted that in its investigations, it had found that inflation and government budgets and today’s economy frequently require government employees or a close member of his or her family to hold a second job or make an investment to supplement their income.

The recommendation that conflict of interest type situations be avoided was made “with intent of protecting the reputation of public employees so that no hint of conflict of interest might be attached to an employee in connection with a second job or outside investment.”

Circuit Judge Britt noted that law enforcement officers are not always compensated with “adequate pay” but are also placed in a position in society of not being able to “do certain things because of their jobs.”

Judge Britt noted that when law enforcement officers or members of their families must secure outside employment in order to make a reasonable living, that it is almost impossible to police those jobs for possible conflicts of interest.

While the grand jury was in session, it heard testimony regarding shortages of public funds, voting irregularities, and a missing person. The grand jury noted that approximately 75 per cent of the burglaries in this area are drug related, consequently, it recommended that additional manpower be made available immediately to better control drugs and narcotics here.

The grand jury noted that the Hot Springs Police Department needs additional manpower to do more surveillance and investigation, so that additional arrests leading to convictions may be made.  This might be accomplished by placing a higher priority on criminal law enforcement, noted that jury.

The grand jury recommended that all private clubs and bars be checked by law enforcement officers and agents of the Alcohol Beverage Control Commission on a regular basis to verify  that all guests are of the proper age and are complying with the law.  The grand jury noted that it does not intend for its recommendation to be taken as a form of official harassment of the clubs.

The grand jury recommended that all law enforcement agencies and security personnel in Garland County initiate a procedure whereby law enforcement officers are authorized to carry only the specific weapon and serial number registered at the office of the Chief of Police or the Garland County Sheriff.

The grand jury also recommended that the Hot Springs Civil Service Commission consider a regulation to be enacted by ordinance if necessary, requiring a Civil Service employee, if requested, to tak a polygraph test, testify, or give testimony in an official investigation conducted by employees department, a law enforcement agency, or before a county, State, or Federal Grand Jury.

The jury noted that failure to testify would constitute grounds for dismissal or other disciplinary action.

“We realize that they would want an opinion from the City Attorney and the Attorney General as to the constitutionality of the proposed regulation prior to passage,” noted the jury.

The grand jury recommended that the 1977 grand jury contact the present jurors to discuss some of the areas and fields that have been investigated and require additional investigation.

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Time for the other shoe to drop

Viewpoint: Local comment
The Sentinel-Record   12-31-1976

Chief of Police Grover Douglas recently initiated disciplinary action against several of his officers. He indicated the officers acted in such a way as to deserve punishment.

Any such move on his part will draw criticism so he is to be commended for taking the action which he felt was necessary.

It’s time now for him to take action in another matter involving one of his men.

From the start, a city policeman has been under scrutiny concerning the disappearance of Garland County Deputy Sheriff Linda Edwards.

The officer’s name has been bandied about in rumors which hurt both the man and the department.

During the course of the investigation the officer refused to take a polygraph test even though State Police investigators requested it of him.

He then reportedly refused to talk to the Garland County Grand Jury when he was questioned in the matter.

As a private citizen he has the right under law to do both things, but as a law enforcement  officer, he does not.

It is now time for Chief Douglas to insist that the officer either take the lie detector test or face disciplinary action.

This is not to say that the officer is guilty of anything.

No crime has been proved in the Edwards matter. But the officer has left himself and the department wide open for continued rumors and perpetual criticism by not submitting to the polygraph test.

Chief Douglas is apparently interested in maintaining the integrity of the department. To do so, he must take appropriate action concerning the officer who has repeatedly refused to cooperate with an investigation in which he is personally involved.

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In Memoriam

ARKANSAS SHERIFF and deputy page 20

The Arkansas Sheriffs’ Association wishes to express its sympathy to the family and friends of the following law enforcement officers who passed away this past year. These men and women were dedicated officers and served the people of their respective communities well. They will be greatly missed, but not forgotten.

LT. ED WORRELL

Lieutenant Ed Worrell, age 28, of the Texarkana, Arkansas, Department of Public Safety, was killed at Texarkana on February 3, 1977, while answering an alarm at a Texarkana business. Lt. Worrell and Officers Paul Howell and James Clark responded to the alarm and during the minutes that followed. Lieutenant Worrell was killed and Officer Clark was wounded. Officer Howell escaped without injury.

Lieutenant Worrell was employed by the police department on October 1, 1970.

Lieutenant Worrell was one of the most liked officers in Arkansas and as Captain Jimmy Cowart, Commander of the Texarkana Police Department’s Public Safety Division said, “His men would have followed him anywhere.” Willis B. Smith Jr., Director of-the State of Arkansas Department of Public Safety, who was formerly Texarkana City Attorney, and who knew Lt. Worrell, introduced a resolution in the Arkansas House of Representatives saluting him for his bravery and devotion to duty. Hundreds of his fellow officers from over the state attended his funeral to pay their last respects for a man who served his department, fellow officers and his community in the best traditions of law enforcement. The City of Texarkana, the Department of Public Safety, his fellow officers and his family have lost a brave and dedicated public servant.

EARL E. LADD

Earl E. Ladd, aged 87, of Danville, a Yell County official for 36 years, died May 13th.

Mr. Ladd retired in 1956 as county sheriff, an office he had held for 14 years.

Before being elected sheriff, he had served as county judge, treasurer and assessor. Mr. Ladd was never defeated in a county election.

He had taught in public schools in Yell County before entering politics and was a businessman and rancher.

He was a lifelong resident of Yell County, a Mason and a member of Danville United Methodist Church.

LINDA LOUISE EDWARDS

Linda Louise Edwards was employed at the Garland County Sheriff’s Department March of 1976, where her duties were clay radio operator. Linda was good at her job as she was even tempered and had tons of patience with the many difficult calls and demands of her that the job brought. Linda helped the Criminal Investigation Division with several investigations. Linda did her work well until she met with her untimely death August 22, 1976.

MARVIN RICHIE

Marvin ‘Richie, age 49, Magazine City Marshal, was shot to death on June 29, 1977 by two men he had gone to assist with’ car trouble. Mr. Richie was in his third year as Marshal.

Mr. Richie, a 12-year veteran of the United States Navy, was a native of Kansas City, Missouri. He was a member of the Arkansas Valley Peace Officers Association and the United Methodist Church.

Mr. Richie is survived by his wife Catherine and two daughters, Virginia and Patty.                                      .

The citizens of Magazine and Logan County have lost a friend, a dedicated public servant and a well-respected law enforcement officer. His acts of kindness and assistance to his fellow men were traits that made Marshal Richie the outstanding person that he was.

ABE PIPKIN

Abe Pipkin, a Beebe City Policeman for the past 5 years, was shot to death at Beebe on April 5, 1977. Officer Pipkin was on night duty in the downtown area when he was killed. Officers theorized that he surprised burglars in the act of robbing a local drug store. We extend our sincere sympathy and. prayers to this dedicated Servant of the people.

HUBERT (BILL) PAYNE

Hubert (Bill) Payne, Chief of Police of Dermott, was shot and killed on August 29, 1977, while making an arrest on a minor charge by a man he had arrested several times in the past.

Chief Payne retired after 20 years in the United States Army, most of which time was spent in the Military Police. He became a policeman at Dermott in January of 1969 and was made Chief in March of 1970.

Chief Payne was a popular, able and efficient officer and was well respected in the community. We extend our sincere sympathy to the family and friends of this loyal and dedicated officer.

HERMAN J. MINDEN

Arkansas State Trooper Herman J. Minden, aged 38, of Clarksville died December 7. He had been stationed with Troop J of the Arkansas State Police at Clarksville for five years and previously had served at Little Rock and Pine Bluff.

Minden had been a trooper for the past 12-1/2 years. He was a native of Charleston, a graduate of Charleston High School and a Roman Catholic.

SGT. KELLY RAY PIGUE

State Police Sgt. Kelly Ray Pigue, 38, a desk sergeant with the Highway Patrol Division at Forrest City, was killed on December 8th when Pigue’s car collided with a tractor-trailer truck at the junction of U.S. Highway 64 and state Highway 193 seven miles west of Wynne.

The tractor crossed into the east-bound lane and collided with Pigue’s vehicle, the State Police said.

Sgt. Pigue joined the State Police on Nov. 1, 1966. He was promoted to Sergeant on Dec. 28, 1976.

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Womans World

September 21, 1993
as told to C. Shauck

A READER’S STORY

Kim Smoke was four years old when her mother was murdered. She never got over the loss. Instead, as a troubled teenager, she turned to drugs to numb her pain . . . until one day she realized she had to turn her life around – to make her mother proud.

If Mama can see me now, I know she’s smiling.

Kim Visiting Moms Grave
Visiting her mother’s grave helped Kim come to terms with her painful loss and get on with her life. She finally felt at peace.

When I hold my nine-month-old daughter Ashley, I feel so complete. Being a mother is the most important thing in the world to me, yet at times I can’t believe I really am a mother. I’m lucky just to be alive.

When I was a teenager, I was so grief-stricken over my own mother’s death that I nearly destroyed myself with drugs. Yet it’s only because of Mama that I’m here today to love my little girl and feel joy. Like a ‘guardian angel, she’s been watching over me.

My mother disappeared when I was only four years old. I remember the night she left me and my six-year-old brother Toby with a baby sitter, promising us she’d be back soon.

But Mama didn’t come home that night. When she hadn’t returned by the next morning, the baby sitter called the police. They contacted my dad (he and Mama had been divorced for three years), who picked us up and took us-to his house.

Confused and frightened, I cried, “Where’s Mama?” Gail, my step mom, tried to comfort me, but I pushed her away. “I want my Mama!”I cried.

When my mother hadn’t returned for several days, Dad finally told me that she was lost and the police were looking for her. A year later, a hunter found her body. My father told me she’d died in an. accident.

Without Mama, I felt lost. Because I was the baby in our family, Mama had doted on me. She would dress me up and take me for rides in her convertible to show me off.

She was a dispatcher in the sheriff’s office. Because she wore a uniform and a badge, I’d always thought that she was the sheriff. I was so proud.

Kim and Ashley
Happy at last: Kim and Ashley share a joyful moment.

Dad wouldn’t let me go to the funeral. I know now that he was trying to protect me, but perhaps if I’d seen where she was buried, I might have understood her death better.

When I was eight, I came home from school one day and demanded to know why some of the kids whispered and pointed at me. I was so insistent that Gail took out an envelope filled with newspaper clippings.

Although I didn’t understand every word, I did realize that mama hadn’t died in an accident. Someone had hit her over the head and killed her.

Her boyfriend – a married co-worker – had been arrested, but because of a lack of evidence, he’d never stood trial. One article reported that Mama had been four months pregnant when she died.

Perhaps because he was older, Toby was able to accept Mama’s death better than I was. Although he missed her, eventually he got over his grief. I, however, became difficult and rebellious. I wouldn’t listen to anyone _ especially Gail.

“Just leave me alone!” I’d yell at her. “You’re not my mother!”

Hoping for a fresh start, Dad moved us from Arkansas to California. But I just couldn’t leave my problems behind.

I started running away from home when I was 13. I never got far, but I kept thinking that if I could get back to Arkansas, I’d find Mama. I couldn’t believe she was gone forever.

At 15, I began drinking and using marijuana and methamphetamine.

I missed Mama so much. All I had to remember her by was a framed picture and a few poems she’d written before she died.

A line from one poem stuck in my mind: The past is done; let it go. I wished that I could forget the past, but I didn’t think I could ever get over my mother’s death.

By the time I was 16, the drugs had begun to wear me down. I was 5 foot 8 and weighed only 88 pounds. I didn’t care if I lived or died. Finally, my dad forced me to check into a rehabilitation center.

Part of the treatment involved group therapy. At first, I sullenly listened to everyone talk. I didn’t say anything because I didn’t think anyone could understand how I felt. But my counselor kept asking me about my mother until one day I finally broke down.

“She’s dead!” I sobbed. “Someone killed her and I’ll never see her again!”

Maybe it was saying it out laud, or seeing the sadness in everyone’s eyes, but I finally believed that Mama was really gone.

After 10 months at the center, I went home. Two weeks after I was released, I refused drugs offered to me at a party. I pictured Mama smiling at me. I smiled too, thinking how proud she would be.

As time passed, I realized that Gail had never tried to take my mother’s place. Once I stopped pushing her away, she became my best friend. We began having fun together, going shopping and out for Chinese food. She even helped me get a job where she worked.

When I was 18, we moved back to Arkansas. I avoided visiting Mama’s grave because I thought it would be too painful.

But then one day, I was thinking about Mama when I again recalled the line from’ her poem: The past is done; let it go.

Feeling as though she was trying to tell me something, I drove to the cemetery. Kneeling in the grass by her grave, I felt at peace for the first time since her disappearance.

“I love you, Mama

Since that day, I met and married my husband Timothy. And last October, I gave birth to our daughter, Ashley.

We live in a cozy house in the woods. I know that if Mama can see me, she’s smiling. I’m finally happy.

Kim and Ashley 2
“Ashley is the light of my life. Yet sometimes I can’t believe I’m a mother. I’m just lucky to be alive.”

putting the past to rest

Kim Smoke’s need to visit her mother’s grave and say a formal goodbye was natural and healthy, says Gloria Kardong, M.D., a psychiatrist on the clinical faculty at Stanford University.

When young children who lose a loved one aren’t given the opportunity to express their grief – or aren’t old enough to put their feelings into words or even to understand their pain – they often carry the heartache with them as they mature.

“The pain doesn’t just go away,” says Dr. Kardong. Those who have experienced childhood trauma need to symbolically put the past to rest, as Kim did.

“A ritual (such as visiting a parents grave) helps a person release the pain and allows them to go on with their life,” she says.

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Family Asks To Exhume Murdered Mother

 Chris Shaw, Reporter KTHV 8-27-2004 Transcript

More than 28 years after Linda Edwards was brutally murdered, her children ask to have her body exhumed in hopes DNA can help catch her killer.

Toby Edwards calls it a long shot, one he and his sister Kim have to take.

Thursday they signed paperwork giving the approval to have their mother’s body exhumed. It’s just the latest and perhaps last chance to catch her killer. A county judge will have the final say on whether or not the exhumation takes place.

August 22, 1976 Linda Edwards left her two children at home to go to work at the Garland County Sheriff’s Department. Six months later, hunters found the skeletal remains of the single mother in the woods on the south side of Jack Mountain in Hot Spring County.

Thurman Abernathy, an investigator with the Garland County Sheriff’s Department at the time, was charged with the murder, but the charges were later dropped. No one else was ever arrested in Edwards’ death.

No matter how hard he tries, Toby Edwards can’t brush aside his feelings.

“Deciding to go through with this, it was a very hard decision,” he says.

The decision to exhume his mother was made out of hope. “For any DNA evidence they could possibly find,” Toby Edwards says.

That technology wasn’t available 28-years ago. There was no evidence where the body was found and because Edwards’ body was in the woods for six months before it was discovered, her son knows there might not be enough DNA left to make it possible now.

“Even if nothing comes out of it, if I do everything I possibly could do, maybe I can move on,” Toby Edwards says. Which has been hard for Toby and Kim. When they visit Linda’s headstone, they read a poem she wrote. The first line, ‘are you held by the past?’ is eerily similar to the lives they’ve been leading and the unanswered questions about her violent death.

“I think she struggled too,” Toby Edwards says. “And that’s what keeps playing in my mind, the struggling. And nobody should have to go through that and it’s just time for something to happen.”

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Mom’s Letter (typed)

This letter was written on July 6, 1976.  Please email any corrections/omissions.  Thanks. [pg 1]

Dearest Kathy –

Finally managed to get a hold of some paper and plop my body down and get a pen in hand – so here I am.
So very sorry (terrible sorry) sorry I missed (in person) the grandest day of your life-but you know it must not have been meant for me to be there. I ran into so much difficulty. However, I thought of you all day and at the time of your wedding God was spiritually inspiring another thru me. So that made me feel even closer to you. You know I love you and don’t think you could have chosen a better man to share your life with. I am so happy for you. And Jim, of course. His choice was the best, also.

Health wise, I think my blood needs some iron. I get tired terribly easily and can hardly get up in the mornings. I’m going to make a doctor’s appointment as soon as I can, as I really don’t know how much of what to take. Otherwise health-wise, I seem to be fine. I’ve gained so much weight you won’t believe it. Remember all those new pants I bought not too long ago? Can’t get into any of them. There are a couple of my old baggy pants I can wear for a short while-but I have to lay down on my back to button them. Sara gave me some, otherwise I’d be wearing skin. My tummy is bulging [pg 2] a little bit but not real bad. I can feel the baby flutter now for the last 2 or 3 weeks. Stout little Capricorn. By the way, I did tell you the baby would be a Capricorn? Ironical, isn’t it? HA! Sometimes, I get the feeling there’s a conspiracy going on!

Emotionally, I’m fine now. But for about a month there I didn’t think I’d make it. By the time Thurman came back to work from school, I was near frantic and expressed the same on the phone when I told him we had a problem. You guessed it, he walked in the door mad before he even knew for sure! (Keep in mind, Kathy, this is all funny to me now and doesn’t hurt a bit. Try to see the humor here because, believe me, there’s plenty of it. Don’t let yourself feel bad or hurt for me, because I’m on top of it now, Okay?) The minute he sat down I jumped in his lap and tried to humor him –of course—there was no way. I had run a million different things thru my mind in the two weeks before trying to prepare myself for whatever his reaction would be. Guess I covered them all EXCEPT for him walking thru the door already mad. Immediately fear gripped me (mind you, I still hadn’t told him what the problem was) and I left his lap and informed him I was to scared to tell him. This made him madder. I finally decided he’d kill me [pg 3] for sure if I didn’t tell him and the only defense I had was if when I told him he’d go into shock. Yep! He did. He was really upset. He was against an abortion-against me giving the baby away-against me raising the baby alone. He couldn’t stand the thought of him not raising his baby. That night wasn’t too bad. I had realized before he’d be upset as I was fairly flexible. But a few nights later we really had a bout. He threw his hand up—I really thought that night I’d had it. He swung me around the kitchen several times. Of course, I was strictly unreasonable with him that night and he was furious with me. He finally decided he wanted me to get an abortion. This was the only way. I made an appointment-but when I did then I got so mad at him I don’t think anything would have stopped me. I called him and told him I wanted to see him. He refused. I told him if he was too afraid to come to me at my house I was not afraid to come up there to the station. Naturally he came and was very sweet. Oh—it went on like this for several weeks. He finally gave me an ultimatum. I didn’t know what to do. I was afraid I’d loose my job—afraid for the trouble he’d go thru not to mention [pg 4] his family—if it got to the wrong person. I finally decided it was my feelings against a whole bunch of other people’s feelings and decided I could handle my own feelings better than all the others’ could theirs. So I set a 3rd appointment—took off work—had the money—and Carol took me to Arkadelphia to have an abortion. I got to the door and all of a sudden nothing in this world mattered but how I felt and what I thought. I never even went inside. That was something I had never believed in. I felt like I was taking an innocent life and come what may I couldn’t do it. I came back to Hot Springs prepared to loose job, friends and even Thurman. But I was going to have my baby. I called him and knew he’d thought I’d went as had told me he had checked on me everyday at work to see if I was okay. Soo poor Daddy had another shock. He was very mad, scared and upset and I knew the things he said came from these negative feelings so I didn’t even get upset. This was one week ago and you wouldn’t believe all the things I’ve gotten from God about Thurman and about me and about the two of us. I’ve felt good mentally and know so much more about this man I love than I ever have. I know what I’m up against now. Fear, Kathy—he is so locked [pg 5] up into fear its unreal. Fear dominates his life. All these years I’ve though I was fighting him when all I’ve been fighting is his fears.. Fears of: Losing material things: what Judy would do; losing his kids: his job: what people would think and say: Fear of leaving that comfortably hole out of life over there and stepping out into life and living and experiencing which involves pain sometimes which is another thing he’s afraid of: Fear of loving: Fear of ?? because loving me would be so easy for him if he’d let himself: Fear of his baby touching his heart. Can you believe all these fears? And they’re all very heavy for him. But—I have enough Love in my heart and now that I understand why he does and says some of the things he does and says—I won’t take them personal and it doesn’t hurt anymore. With God’s help I’ll stay on top of his fears and maybe even someday my love will free him. Like the song says—He ain’t heavy—he’s my brother.

So much good has already come to me from this baby—I no longer fear Thurman—I say what I feel to him and he says what he feels to me. We have expressed our feelings to each thru this like never before. I don’t care what anyone thinks of me [pg 6] anymore. More than ever, I, myself, have lost a lot of fear. I trust more. I understand more. If the baby is a girl I’m going to name here Capri Laura (Capri- the first 5 letters of Capricorn Laura-Thurman’s’ middle name is Lawrence) haven’t got a boy’s name yet. I think she’s a girl anyway! So much has happened since I talked to you. It seems like centuries.

I lost my house—about the same time all this other—which has made me very strong. (all these things at once, that is) I don’t feel bad about the house. I had 2 beautiful years there. Enjoyed it very much. It was never really mine anyway. I feel relieve not to have to worry about it anymore. I stored all my furniture and have been staying with Sara for the time being. She’s helping me organize my financial world and teaching me how to pay bills. I’m doing pretty good, too. I can see a dent in them.

I went to the judge and explained my problems (other than the baby). He advised me to put the kids in a foster home for awhile until I could get on my feet again. I did so for the last two weeks. I’ve been away from them. They’re enjoying themselves. I told them they were going on vacation and they don’t have [pg 7] to go to school. That really made them happy.

Well, that’s about all about me. I can think of for now. Beside my fingers are hurting.

You’ll do just fine as a mother. It’ll take some adjusting and a little trial and error but you’ll be a wonderful mother, Kathy. Because you care. That’s all you need, you know.

Am glad you’re so happy being home taking care of your family. The only thing is I wish your home was Hot Springs way. I miss you so terribly.

I almost called you one night—but never could come up with a number from the operator. Do you have a phone?
Well-write soon
Give Jim my Love
I love you
Linda

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

By DON THOMASON
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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Letter to the editor – Vicky

The Sentinel-Record 9-1-2004

Children seek exhumation

Dear editor:

Twenty-eight years ago, somebody may have gotten away with murder. I can only assume that this person or persons have lived a fulfilling, happy life. I can only assume that they have enjoyed seeing their children grow up and possibly their grandchildren. However, the mother who was so brutally killed 28 years ago did not get to see her children grow up, she did not get to see her only daughter get married and she did not live to see her first grandson born. Why would somebody murder a young woman with children? Was it a crime of passion? Did she have something they wanted? Did she know something they didn’t want known? Whoever is responsible let her children, friends and family think she had just disappeared.

Linda Edwards did not deserve to die the brutal death she suffered; she did not deserve to be dumped in the woods like trash and her murderer or murderers do not deserve to remain free. Her children are now grown. Perhaps with their mother alive, they would never have had to experience the traumas they grew up with, the pain and fear of rejection, and the emotional upheaval they have had to deal with all of their lives.

These children are now adults. They have requested to have the body exhumed for DNA testing. It is time for somebody to step forward and take responsibility for his or her actions. It is time for anybody who remembers even the tiniest thing to step forward so Linda Edwards and her children can get the justice they deserve. Please do not be afraid to do the right thing. Now is the time for this to end!

Vicky Edwards
Hot Springs

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Letter to the editor – Leon Barlow

The Sentinel-Record 9-13-2004

A plea for help

Dear editor:

Twenty-eight years ago this month Linda Edwards was brutally murdered and her body dumped in the woods. To this day, no one has been held responsible for her death. No person has the right to take the life of another human being. The person or persons responsible for this crime should be brought to justice, if for no other reason than the relief of her family.

Her children were about 5 and 6 years of age when this tragedy occurred. They had to grow up without the love of a mother. They now have their own children who are having to grow up without the love of a grandmother. Linda will never have the joy of being a grandmother to them. I can only imagine how Linda’s children felt when their own children were old enough to ask who the lady in the pictures was.

Surely someone has information that would help bring whoever is responsible for this hideous crime to justice.

Please do the right thing and call the Arkansas State Police headquarters here in Hot Springs or Little Rock. Linda’s family would be forever grateful. Even though their mother can never be replaced, they could finally have some peace at the end of this terrible ordeal. They have waited far too long for answers.

Leon Barlow
Former Sheriff

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Editorial: Grief and loss transcend time

The Sentinel-Record 9-18-2004

The public is fascinated with what authorities call “cold cases” crimes that have gone unsolved for months, years, even decades.

And while these subjects make for entertaining television or interesting non-fiction books, they continue to cause great pain for the loved ones of victims.

They also haunt diligent law enforcement officers who never forget these cases and are bothered that they could not resolve them.

Toby Edwards of Hot Springs was only 6 and his sister, Kim only 4 when their mother, Linda Louise Ockert Edwards, a Hot Springs native, was reported missing in August, 1976. According to news accounts and investigative records, Edwards, 29, left her children with a baby-sitter around 11 p.m., Saturday, Aug. 21, and her car was found abandoned Monday, Aug. 23, along Highway 290 near Carpenter Dam Road.

In February, 1977, Edwards’ skeletal remains were found by wolf hunters who discovered them “scattered across the face of Jack Mountain in Hot Spring County.” The state Medical Examiner’s Office ruled that Edwards died from “multiple blows to the head” and reports also stated the former day radio dispatcher for the Garland County Sheriff’s Department was four and a half months pregnant at the time of her disappearance.

Thurman L. Abernathy, former narcotics officer with the Hot Springs Police Department, was arrested and charged in: Edwards’ death (police said they believed he was the father of her unborn child), but the-married father of two was never put on trial. A Hot Spring County Grand Jury dismissed the case due to a lack of evidence.

Now – 28 years later – many of the individuals close to the Edwards’ case have died, retired, moved away or perhaps tried to distance themselves from the truth of the circumstances that robbed small children of their mother and took away their innocence.

But, for Toby Edwards and Kim Edwards-Smoke, troubling questions linger and the determination to find answers has grown even stronger.

The two recently requested that Edwards’ body be exhumed for DNA testing. According to state statute, “the cost of the exhumation and for transportation to and from the place of autopsy shall be borne by the county in which the death occurred.” Sources for The Sentinel-Record this week said Hot Spring County officials have agreed to pay for the exhumation and the DNA testing and that all that’s left is for the Arkansas State Police criminal investigator and Garland County prosecutor to have the order signed by a judge. Understanding that even going to these lengths might not bring justice to this “murder mystery,” Toby and Kim feel it is a step they must take. Smoke recently told a Sentinel-Record reporter, “Actually, the-case was never closed, but it has accumulated a lot of cobwebs.” And Toby Edwards’ wife said, “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 by doing this, if the killer or killers are here, this might stir them up a bit … ”

So much of the success of DNA testing depends on the condition of the person’s remains (whether they were exposed to moisture, etc.). But, Smoke has said that according to Gross Funeral Home records, her mother was buried in a sealed coffin in a cement vault. “Whatever she was buried with then, she still has to this day. So that’s a good thing. I think if she hadn’t been buried like that, they probably wouldn’t even consider exhuming the body.”

Regardless of what happens from here on out, we know Linda Edwards’ life came to a violent end. Surely someone knows something that will help her children and state investigators put this matter to rest.

A lot of time has passed for sure, but then there is no statute of limitations on grief and loss.

MG

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Letter to the editor – Kim

The Sentinel-Record 9-21-2004

A daughter’s plea

Dear editor:

I would like to start out by saying that it is hard for me to write this letter. I have been avoiding the news channels and I have agreed to speak with only one newspaper, this one. I am the daughter of the late Linda Edwards, the lady who was brutally murdered 28 years ago. I have a handful of memories of her before she was murdered. Thank God I could not remember the time she came up missing until about a year later. My life as a child was challenging (if you were to ask my Dad, he probably would say that is an understatement!). My life now is wonderful. I am a grown mother of three. I look down on my children and see their need for me, how I am everything to them. I cannot even imagine that time in my life, how I felt, what was going through my mind when my mother was missing.

Linda Edwards was a person, she was my mother, and this could have been your mother. Even if she were your mother, what happened to her was not right and my feelings would still be the same.

Someone said that they were scared, they have a family now, they are afraid someone would find out it was them that spoke up about the murder. I have a family, too, and I am only guessing that we, you and I, believe in the same God. What will be your excuse to God at Heaven’s gate?

I know you are out there; you know enough to put this person away; please do it.

   Kim Smoke
Bismarck

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Supreme Court Ruling – Lexis Nexis

Supreme Court of Arkansas, In Banc
STATE of Arkansas, Appellant

V

Thurman ABERNATHY, Appellee

No. CR78-146

March 5, 1979.

Defendant was charged with murder.  The Circuit Court, Hot Spring County, Henry B. Means, J, entered interlocutory order ruling that certain evidence to be adduced by State at trial would be inadmissible, and State appealed.  The Supreme Court, George Rose Smith, J, held that: (1) proffered testimony, which involved victim’s statements to witness that victim’s relationship with defendant was sexual, that victim thought defendant to be father of her child and that she had cancelled appointments for an abortion and such witness’ testimony in regard to victim’s repetitions of that which defendant had said would be inadmissible; (2) witness’ proffered testimony that victim had said that she was pregnant would not be relevant absent other testimony which such proffered testimony might corroborate; (3) proffered testimony in regard to victim’s statement that she was going to meet defendant on night of victim’s death would be admissible as evidence of victim’s state of mind, and (4) testimony, in regard to victim’s repetitions of that which defendant had said to her would would not be admissible.

 

Judgment reversed, and cause remanded for further proceedings.

 

West Headnotes

[1] Homicide 203 960

203 Homicide

2031X Evidence

2031X(D) Admissibility in General

203k953 Circumstances Preceding Act

203k960k  Declarations of Victim. Most Cited Cases

(Formerly 203k169(8))

Witness’ proffered testimony to effect that victim had said that her relationship with defendant was sexual, that victim thought defendant to be father of victim’s child, that she had cancelled appointments for abortion and such witness’ testimony in regard to victim’s repetitions of that which defendant had purportedly said, including his statement that he would see the victim after he had taken care of two people, would not be admissible in murder prosecution. Uniform Rules of Evidence, rule 803(3).

 

[2] Homicide 203 960

 

203 Homicide

2031X Evidence

2031X(D) Admissibility in General

203k953 Circumstances Preceding Act

203k960k  Declarations of Victim. Most Cited Cases

(Formerly 203k169(8))

Witness’ proffered testimony that victim had stated that she was pregnant would not be relevant in murder prosecution in absence of other testimony, which such proffered testimony might corroborate, such as proof indicating that defendant might have been father of victim’s child.  Uniform Rules of Evidence, rule 403.

 

[ 3] Homicide 203 960

 

203 Homicide

2031X Evidence

2031X(D) Admissibility in General

203k953 Circumstances Preceding Act

203k960k  Declarations of Victim. Most Cited Cases

(Formerly 203k169(8))

Witness’ proffered testimony that victim had stated that she was going to meet defendant on night of victim’s death would be admissible in murder prosecution as evidence of victim’s state of mind, though such statement by victim might also show that defendant was going to meet victim.  Uniform Rules of Evidence, rule 803(3).

 

[4] Homicide 203 960

 

203 Homicide

2031X Evidence

2031X(D) Admissibility in General

203k953 Circumstances Preceding Act

203k960k  Declarations of Victim. Most Cited Cases

(Formerly 203k169(8))

Witness’ proffered testimony which pertained to witness’ conversation with victim prior to her alleged murder and which primarily related to victim’s repetitions of defendants statements to victim, would not be admissible in murder prosecution.

 

**591 Bill Clinton, Atty. Gen. by Ray E. Hartenstein, Asst. Atty. Gen., Little Rock, for appellant.

Jack Holt, Jr., Little Rock, for appellee.

GEORGE ROSE SMITH, Justice.

The appellee, Thurman Abernathy, was charged with having murdered Linda Edwards on August 22, 1976. (The record leaves some doubt as to year, whether it was 1976 or 1977, but apparently 1976 is correct, for the information was sworn to and filed in July of 1977.) The case has not yet been tried. This is an appeal by the State from interlocutory order holding that certain evidence to be adduced by the State

 

At the trial would be inadmissible. See Rule 26.10 of the 1976 Rules of Criminal Procedure.

 

**592 *219 Defense counsel filed a preliminary motion asking that the testimony of several witnesses for the State be declared to be inadmissible, primarily under the hearsay rule. The State contended that the testimony is admissible under Rule 803(3) of the Uniform Rules of Evidence. Ark. Stat. Ann. s 28-1001 (Supp. 1977). After hearing the court held all testimony proffered by the State to be inadmissible.

 

We begin our discussion with Rule 803(3) itself, which provides Rule 803. Hearsay rule. Availability of Declarant Immaterial. The following are not excluded by the hearsay rule, even though the declarant is available as a witness. (3) Then existing mental, emotional, or physical condition. A statement of the declarant’s then existing state of mind, emotion, sensation, or physical condition (such as intent, plan, motive, design, mental feeling, pain, and bodily health), but not including a statement of memory or belief to prove the fact remembered or believed unless it relates to the execution, revocation, identification, or terms of declarant’s will.

 

This rule was copied from Federal Rule of Evidence 803(3), which in turn was evidently designed to continue in effect the decisions of the United States Supreme Court in Mutual Life Ins. Co. v. Hillmon, 145 U.S. 285, 12 S.Ct. 909, 36 L.Ed. 706 (1892), and Shepard v. United States, 290 U.S. 96, 54 S. Ct. 22, 78 L. ED. 196 (1933).  In Hillmon the court upheld the admissibility of letters written by one Walters, who wrote in one letter: “I expect to leave Wichita (Kansas) on or about March the 5th with a certain Mr. Hillmon.” The court held that the letters were admissible to show that Walters had the intention of leaving Wichita and that therefore a body found several days later at Crooked Creek, Kansas, might have been that of Walters.

From the opinion:

The letters… were competent, not as narratives of facts communicated to the writer by others, nor yet as *220 proof that he actually went away from Wichita, but as evidence that, shortly before the time when other evidence tended to show that he went away, he had the intention of going, and of going with Hillmon, which made it more probable both that he did go and that he went with Hillmon than if there had been no proof of such intention.

 

At common law we reached a similar conclusion, holding to be admissible the decedent’s statement on the day he was killed that he had started to Ravana to see the defendant about a bill of lumber. Sullivan v. State, 17 Ark. 768.286 S.W. 939 (1926), clarified in Hill v. State, 255 Ark. 720, 502 S.W. 2d 649(1973).

 

In Shepard, the second decision by the United States Supreme Court, it was held that a statement about a past event, “Dr. Shepard has poisoned me,” was not admissible. The court explained the distinction.

 

Declaration of intention, casting light upon the future, have been sharply distinguished from declarations of memory, pointing backwards to the past. There would be an end, or nearly that, to the rule against hearsay if the distinction were ignored.

The testimony now questioned faced backward and not forward. This at least it did in its most obvious implications. What is even more important, it spoke to a past act, and, more than that, to an act by some one not the speaker.

 

It will be seen that Uniform Rule 803(3) states the substance of the rules laid down in Hillmon and Shepard.

 

In the case at bar the information alleged that Abernathy murdered Linda Edwards with a blunt instrument on August 22. Apparently the State meant to make its case by circumstantial evidence. The State sought to show, among other things, that Linda had expressed her intention to see Abernathy on the preceding night, before her death. To that end, at the hearing on the defense counsel’s preliminary motion *221 to declare the testimony inadmissible, the State proffered the testimony of Sara Edwards (no relation to the victim). The trial judge **593 held all of Sara’s testimony to be inadmissible.

 

Sara testified that she had known Linda for four years. During the last three of those years Linda had repeatedly said she was in love with Abernathy (who was married) and had a sexual relationship with him. Before her death Linda told Sara that she was pregnant and thought Abernathy was the father of her child. Linda said that Abernathy wanted her to have an abortion, but she didn’t want to. Linda had three appointments for an abortion, but she cancelled all of them and finally said that the baby had just as much right to live as any other baby.

 

Sara testified that Linda told her, on the Thursday before her death, that she and Thurman Abernathy had had a big fight at a parking lot. Sara went on to testify that she saw Linda twice on the final Saturday night before Linda’s death. We quote her proffered testimony, which begins with the first of the two visits on Saturday night.

(Linda) was very mad, very mad, but she was calm, cool mad type, determined mad is I guess the way you would describe it. And she said that she was going to get it straightened out one way or the other that night.’Q Straightened out with who?

A With Thurman, and she said, “If he doesn’t satisfy me I will walk right up to the front door and tell Judy about it.” She said, “He is either going to divorce her and marry me or I am going to see a lawyer Monday morning and have my name changed to Abernathy.” She was very determined. I tried to talk her out of it. I told her she was a foolish girl for doing this. I said, “Be careful.” And she kept saying, “Thurman won’t hurt me. He won’t hurt me.” I said, “Linda, that’s like backing a tiger into a corner.” So she left and came back around eleven o’clock. I was asleep. My children were still up watching T.V. She was in my bathroom, and my

 

kids came and got me and told me she was in there. So, *222 when I walked in, I said, “Have you talked to Thurman?” She said, “Yeah, I did.” She said that he said he had a couple of people to take care of and then he said, “I knew this was going to happen. I knew this was going to happen.” He said, “When I get these people taken care of I will see you.” I said, “Linda, be careful. Whatever time you get through talking to him, you call me.” And that’s the last time I talked to her.

 

[1] For the most part of Linda’s quoted declarations are inadmissible as being statements of her memory about the past, not statements of an existing state of mind. In that category fall the statements that her relationship with Thurman was sexual, that she thought him to be the father of her child, and that she had cancelled appointments for an abortion. Also inadmissible, as hearsay, were Linda’s repetitions of what Abernathy had said, such as his statement that he would see Linda after he had taken care of two people.

 

[2] In a proper setting, Linda’s statement that she was pregnant might be admissible as a statement of physical condition. But in the absence of other testimony which it might corroborate, such as proof indicating that Thurman might have been the father of Linda’s child, the bare statement would not be relevant to any issue in the case. It would be futile for us to speculate about the possibilities that might arise if the case is brought to trial. There is, of course, also the possibility that the evidence, though relevant, might be inadmissible under Uniform Rule 403.

 

[3][4] In any event, the trial court should have sustained the admissibility of Linda’s statement that she was going to meet Thurman that night. That statement falls within Rule 803(3) and is in fact similar to proof found admissible in Hillmon. That the statement may also show that Thurman was going to meet Linda does not, under the majority view, render it inadmissible. See People v. Alcalde, 24 Cal.2d 177,148 P.2d 627 (1944). On the other hand, Linda’s statements when she visited Sara for the second time that night are not admissible, as they were primarily **594 repetitions of what Thurman had said, not statements about Lind’s own state of mind.

 

*223 For the error indicated the judgment is reversed and the cause remanded for further proceedings.

 

HOLT, J,. not participating

Ark., 1979.

State v. Abernathy

265 Ark. 218. 577 S.W. 591

 

END OF DOCUMENT   

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Procedural rulings made in police slayings

By JERRY DEAN
Arkansas Democrat  March 6, 1979

The state Supreme Court Monday issued two procedural rules in cases involving slayings of police officers in Garland and Washington counties.

The court ordered a Washington Circuit Court to allow James Ray Renton, 40, of Denison, Texas, a bail hearing to determine whether he should be released pending trial for the slaying of a Springdale policeman; and it ordered a Hot Spring Circuit Court to allow as evidence testimony given by friend of the second victim, Garland County Deputy Sheriff Linda Edwards.

Renton, formerly on the FBI’s 10 most wanted list, was arrested in May 1977 at Aurora, Colo., and was extradited to Arkansas to be tried for the Dec. 21, 1975, execution style slaying of Springdale policeman John Hussey, 23, at a wooded site off U.S. 71 between Fayetteville and Springdale. Hussey had been handcuffed and shot twice in the head.

Former Circuit Judge Maupin Cummings of Fayetteville had denied Renton’s request for a bail hearing, burden of proving that the presumption of his guilt was not great.  Cummings since has retired and his successor, former Prosecuting Attorney Mahlon G. Gibson, has appointed a special judge to hear the case scheduled for trial April 16 at Huntsville.

In petitioning the Supreme Court for the habeas corpus writ, Renton contended that he was wrongfully denied bail because of a 1975 case in which the court ruled that the mere filing of an information against an accused did not alone satisfy the Fourth Amendment guarantee against illegal detention.

Cummings had denied bail for Renton based on a 1974 case which held that the filing of an information against an accused in a capital case raised enough presumption of guilt that the defendant must demonstrate his own entitlement to bail bond.

The later case, the Supreme Court said, indicated that a person could not be detained indefinitely solely because he had been charged in an information rather than by grand jury indictment.

“The burden is not on the accused to demonstrate his right to freedom,” the court said in an opinion written by Associate Justice George Rose Smith. “It is on the state to demonstrate its right to keep him in confinement…  in a capital case, the state must assume the burden of proving that bail should be denied… otherwise, the accused is subjected to the difficult task of proving the negative, when it is the state which has instituted the prosecution.”

The Supreme Court reversed a ruling by Hot Springs Circuit Judge Henry B. Means that a certain testimony and a prosecutor planned to introduce in the murder trial of Thurman Abernathy was inadmissible because it was hearsay.

Abernathy, who is suspended without pay as a Hot Springs police lieutenant, is charged with murdering Linda Edwards, a Garland County deputy sheriff, in August 1976.

Means had ruled as hearsay the testimony by a woman who knew Miss Edwards to the effect that she had said she was going to meet Abernathy on the night she disappeared.  Miss Edwards’ skeletal remains were discovered by hunters in a densely forested area of Hot Spring county in February 1977.

The Supreme Court, in an opinion by Associate Justice George Rose Smith, ruled Monday that the testimony that Miss Edwards has said she was going to meet Abernathy is admissible because of an evidentiary rule allowing statements of intent.

Other parts of the testimony by Miss Edwards’ friend about their conversations – including reported statements by Miss Edwards that she and Abernathy were involved in a sexual relationship and she was pregnant with a child she believed he had fathered – are not admissible as evidence, the Supreme Court ruled.

Abernathy, who has not yet come to trial on the murder charge, is free on bond

 

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Abernathy: Evidence Reviewed

By BENNIE IVORY
The Sentinel-Record 3-6-1979

Hot Spring County Prosecuting Attorney Dan Harmon said Monday he will have to re-evaluate the first-degree murder case of Hot Springs Police Lt. Thurman Abernathy in view of a ruling in the case earlier in the day by the State Supreme Court.

The higher court ruled Monday that certain testimony ruled inadmissible last year in a hearing concerning the case can be admitted into court.

Then-Hot Spring County Circuit Judge Henry Means ruled in an August hearing that all of the testimony of Sara Edwards was inadmissible, saying it was hearsay.

The prosecutor is basing much of its case on similar testimony.

Abernathy is charged in the death of Linda Edwards, a Garland County sheriff’s deputy who disappeared Aug. 22, 1976. Parts of the woman’s skeletal remains were discovered by hunters in a heavily-wooded area in Hot Spring County several months after her disappearance.

Abernathy, who is free on $50,000 bond, was placed on indefinite suspension from the police department without pay after his arrest in June, 1977.

In the August hearing, Sara Edwards, who is not related to the dead woman, testified that Linda Edwards told her she was going to meet Abernathy on the night she disappeared.

The Supreme Court ruled that testimony should have been ruled admissible.

However, the court also ruled that other testimony by Sara Edwards could not be admitted into court.

That testimony included statements that Linda Edwards had said she allegedly had been sexually involved with Abernathy, who is married, and was pregnant by him.

The Supreme Court said since there was no proof to corroborate the testimony that she was pregnant by Abernathy, it could not be ruled admissible.

Sara Edwards had also quoted Linda Edwards as mentioning comments made to her by Abernathy following a meeting between the lieutenant and Linda Edwards on the night she disappeared. Those statements also were ruled inadmissible.

Harmon declined to comment on the ruling late Monday afternoon, saying he had not seen the ruling.

Harmon, who took office in January, said he is not totally familiar with the case and needs to review it before responding.

“I need to review the ruling to see where that puts us (the prosecution),” he said. “I would be afraid to comment without reviewing this thing carefully.”

Little Rock lawyer Jack Holt, Jr., who is representing Abernathy in the case, said he feels the ruling was “99 percent” in Abernathy’s favor.

“As I understand the ruling,” he said, “the court said they would permit some hearsay testimony. The court said the statement of Linda that she was going to meet Thurman that night was admissible to show a pre-existing state of mind. I would say the ruling was 99 percent in Thurman Abernathy’s favor.”

Holt said the Supreme Court based its ruling on an out-of-state case. He said in that case the jurisdictional court held that some hearsay can be admitted under rare circumstances to show a pre-existing state of mind.

Holt said he has no idea whether Harmon will try the case but will consult with him sometime this week.

He said if Harmon decides to prosecute, he will ask for the earliest possible setting for the trial.

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Decision in Abernathy Case Expected

By BENNIE IVORY
The Sentinel-Record 3-16-1979

Hot Spring County Prosecuting Attorney Dan Harmon said Thursday he will confer with the Arkansas State Police before deciding whether to try Hot Springs Police Lt. Thurman Abernathy on a first-degree murder charge.

“I haven’t had an opportunity to get with the state police investigators,” said Harmon. “I will try to get with them next week. I think we will probably have some sort of announcement shortly. But I haven’t made any decision.”

Abernathy is charged in the death of Linda Edwards, a Garland County Sheriff’s Deputy who disappeared on the night of Aug. 22,1976.

He was arrested in June, 1977, after parts of the woman’s skeletal remains were found by hunters in western Hot Spring County.

Abernathy, who is free on $50,000 bond, has been on indefinite suspension from the police department without pay since his arrest.

Harmon, who took office in January inherited the case from former Hot Spring County Prosecuting Attorney John Cole, who filed the charge but is now the circuit judge in that county.

Cole will have to disqualify himself from the bench, if Harmon decides to prosecute Abernathy.

The case was set for trial last August but was delayed when Cole appealed a ruling by then-Circuit Judge Henry Means in a preliminary hearing concerning the admissibility of certain prosecution testimony.

Means ruled that all of the testimony of Sara Edwards, who described herself as a close friend of the dead woman, was inadmissible. He said it was hearsay.

In the hearing, Sara Edwards testified Linda Edwards told her she was going to meet Abernathy on the on the night she disappeared.

The Supreme Court last week said that testimony should have been ruled admissible.

However, the court also ruled that other testimony by Mrs. Sara Edwards could not be admitted into court.

That testimony included statements that Linda Edwards had said she was sexually involved with Abernathy, who is married, and was pregnant by him.

The Supreme Court said since there was no proof to corroborate the testimony that Linda Edwards was pregnant by Abernathy, it could not be ruled admissible.

Sara Edwards had also testified that Abernathy wanted Linda Edwards to have an abortion against her wishes. She said Linda Edwards told her she and the lieutenant had had several arguments about her refusal to get an abortion.

The prosecution is basing much of its own case on statements Linda Edwards made to other persons prior to her death.

Harmon said the ruling was not definitive but it appears to limit the states case.

“It didn’t really decide anything,” he said. “It left the only thing admissible, under the circumstances of the hearing, the very limited testimony of the lady that the victim was going to meet Abernathy. It appears to limit us very much.

He said the ruling placed the state in a dilemma of having to wait until the trial begins to determine whether the rest of the testimony can be admitted.

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Decision in Abernathy case is expected today

City and State Digest
The Sentinel-Record 3-23-1979

A decision on whether Hot Springs Police Lt. Thurman Abernathy will be tried on a first-degree murder charge is expected to be announced today at 1:30 p.m. press conference at the Hot Spring County Courthouse in Malvern.

Abernathy is charged in the 1976 death of Linda Edwards, a Garland County sheriff’s deputy whose skeletal remains were found in western Hot Spring County several months after her disappearance.

Abernathy, who is free on $50,000 bond, has been on indefinite suspension from the police department without pay since his arrest in June, 1977.

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Will request grand jury probe: Prosecutor to nol pros Abernathy case

By BENNIE IVORY
The Sentinel-Record 3-24-1979

MALVERN– Seventh Judicial District Prosecuting Attorney Dan Harmon said Friday he will nol pros a first-degree murder charge against Hot Springs Police Lt. Thurman Abernathy then submit the case to the Hot Spring County Grand Jury for consideration.

The announcement of the unusual legal maneuver came in a press conference called by Harmon in the Hot Spring County Circuit Courtroom.

He said he will file the motion to nol pros the charge next week and hopes to submit the case to the Grand Jury within the next few 30 to 60 days.

Abernathy is charged in the 1976 death of Linda Edwards, a Garland County sheriff’s deputy, whose skeletal remains were discovered by hunters in western Hot Spring County in early 1977.

He has been suspended without pay since his arrest in June, 1977. He is free on $50,000 bond.

Harmon said he based his decision largely on a recent state Supreme Court ruling in the case, which, in effect, limited the prosecution’s case against Abernathy,

“I reached that decision after careful consideration in view of the Supreme Court ruling,” he said. “We have less evidence now than we did when the charge was filed.”

The Supreme Court earlier this month ruled that certain testimony ruled inadmissible last year in a hearing concerning the case can be admitted to court.

Then-Circuit Judge Henry Means had ruled that all of the testimony of Sara Edwards, who is not related to the dead woman, was inadmissible because it was hearsay.

In the hearing, Sara Edwards testified that Linda Edwards had told her she was going to meet Abernathy on the night she disappeared on Aug. 22, 1976. The Supreme Court said the testimony should have been ruled admissible.

However, the court also said that other testimony by Mrs. Sara Edwards could not be admitted into court. That included statements that Linda Edwards had said she was sexually involved with Abernathy, who is married, and was pregnant by the lieutenant.

The Supreme Court said since there was no proof to corroborate the testimony that she was pregnant by Abernathy, it could not be ruled admissible.

The Garland County Grand Jury investigated the case in 1976 before the victim’s body was found but took no action.

Harmon said he feels “insecure” with the case but would feel more comfortable going into the trial with the weight of a Grand Jury indictment behind him.

“If the Grand Jury returns an indictment, we will proceed to trial as soon as possible,” he said. “And if they return no indictment, we will not proceed to trial unless there is some additional evidence uncovered or produced in the case.

“I think the state police and other law enforcement agencies did a thorough and fine job investigating this case.”

Harmon speculated the Grand Jury proceeding will take about two days and indicated he will not subpoena Abernathy to appear before the panel.

He also said Circuit Judge John W. Cole, who filed the charge against Abernathy when he (Cole) was the prosecutor, will have to disqualify himself from the case and a special judge will be appointed to empanel the Grand Jury.