Edwards detailed villainous journey

Edwards detailed villainous journey


By PATRICIA SIMMS | psimms@madison.com | 608-252-6492

In January 1962, detectives busted down the door of Ed Edwards' two-room rental in Atlanta, scooping up one of the FBI's 10 Most Wanted Fugitives and his 19-year-old wife, Marlene, without a fight.

After buying a 1958 Cadillac, Edward Wayne Edwards, 28, still had most of the loot from a $7,700 bank robbery in his hometown of Akron, Ohio, a few days before - the last in a series of increasingly violent crimes across the country that started with burglaries and car thefts as a teenager.

"Though I didn't know it then, my criminal career was over," Edwards wrote of the arrest in an autobiography years later.

But it wasn't.

By December 1982, he was cooling his heels in a Pennsylvania prison after an arson conviction for burning down a house he'd been renting.

Last month, Edwards, now 76 and living in Louisville, was charged on DNA evidence with the 1980 double homicide of Jefferson County sweethearts Kelly Drew and Timothy Hack. Police say Drew was probably strangled and sexually assaulted while Hack was stabbed to death.

Edwards is expected to make his initial appearance in Jefferson County Circuit Court this week.

Fast-talking drifter

For much of his life, Edwards was a fast-talking drifter with an interstate rap sheet, who attracted a breathtaking number of women to his exploits. Like Bonnies to his Clyde, they hitched a ride on his crime spree, according to newspaper stories from the time.

He broke out of jails at least twice - once in Portland, Ore., and once in Akron.

It was a correctional officer in Leavenworth Federal Penitentiary who helped him turn his life around, Edwards wrote in his 1972 book, "Metamorphosis of a Criminal: the True Life Story of Ed Edwards." For a few years, Edwards even supplemented his living with lectures about his transformation from criminal to family man.

An Akron film producer bought the movie rights to Edwards' book in 1974, the Akron Beacon Journal reported, listing Edwards' occupation at that time as "a distributor of Sentry-Sonic burglary alarms." There's no record a movie was ever made.

But Donald Shoemaker, a reviewer for the Southern Sociologist in August 1973, said the book should more appropriately have been called, "Confessions of an Egomaniac."

Dick McBane, a now-retired Akron Beacon Journal reporter who edited Edwards' book, said the facts in it were verified as much as possible.

"Over the years, he never actually told me an outright lie," McBane said last week. "Some of the things were sort of unbelievable, but there was always a little nugget of truth, greatly embellished. He was always after things that would be an easy buck."

Edwards wrote that in 1967, he met the late, fabled labor leader Jimmy Hoffa while they were both serving time in Lewisburg Federal Penitentiary in Pennsylvania, and Hoffa helped him get paroled by arranging a teamsters' job for him in Akron.

‘An Arabian sheik'

The book records at least four marriages, including one to his current wife, Kay. One ended in an annulment, one in divorce, and one wife was abandoned on her wedding night in Texas. Edwards wrote he married Peggy, a Houston woman, on a Saturday afternoon only to take her car later that night and run off to Jacksonville, Fla., with another woman named Donna.

"He went through women like an Arabian sheik," McBane said.

In his book, Edwards reports fathering at least one child out of wedlock with a woman he dumped in Denver, and four children with two of his wives. Six of the book's chapters are named after women he dated.

At one point in the mid-'50s, he said he wanted to kill his wife, Jeanette, who divorced him while he was in prison in Montana but decided to come back later "and maul her face enough so that people would throw her peanuts if she happened to be at a zoo." It's not known if he ever followed through with the attack.

In Akron, he reported buying a few engagement rings on credit. "I found that engagement rings opened the doors to bedrooms," he wrote.

He described a beating he gave one lover, then wrote: "Rape is a crime I never had any use for. I don't believe it's necessary. There are too many women around, both married and single, who will go to bed with you for the asking ... It takes somebody very low indeed to rape a woman."

Shortly after he escaped from an Akron jail in 1955, he said he picked up a plain, pudgy waitress called Martha in Buffalo and turned her out as a prostitute in Wilmington, N.C. She walked out eventually. "I was glad my career as a pimp was over," Edwards wrote. "It offended my sense of decency."

Cruel childhood

Edwards reported a childhood that "almost pre-ordained" a life of crime. He said he was born to an unwed mother in Akron and was told his mother was his aunt. "I didn't find out until I was 16 years old that I was my aunt's illegitimate child," he said.

Shortly after Edwards' birth, his mother was jailed for stealing, then a few years later committed suicide by shooting herself, Edwards wrote.

Sent to a Catholic orphanage near Cleveland by his foster parents when he was 7, he reported being a bedwetter who suffered at the hands of strict nuns. He was expelled from school in the sixth grade, he said.

His later life was nomadic, and he usually had a woman in tow. He wrote, "Verna and I spent two months traveling around to various cities. When we ran short of money, I either cashed a bad check or stole auto parts from gas stations while the attendant was busy servicing my car."

At the time the book was written, Edwards was lecturing as a crime expert. The book also gave advice to women: "Do not visit bars and restaurants alone, and be extremely careful about drinking with strangers. Cases of attack and murder resulting from new-found bar friendships are frequent. Remember, a lot of times a woman's scream is her best weapon."

No red flags?

Without a boasting autobiography to chronicle them, Edwards' later years are more obscure.

After the book came out, McBane said, Edwards left Akron for Florida.

By the summer of 1980, he and his family were in Wisconsin, living in a campground near the Concord House, just east of Johnson Creek. Jefferson County authorities interviewed him while investigating the killings of Drew and Hack that August but reported finding "no red flags."

The next time McBane heard from him was a letter from the Pennsylvania prison sometime in the mid-'80s - Edwards asked for money to appeal. The next time, in the mid-'90s, McBane said Edwards called him from the Cleveland area, where he said he was living happily with his wife and children.

He moved to Louisville sometime around 2000, authorities there said.

Now suffering from diabetes, leukemia and heart ailments, Edwards is on oxygen and uses a wheelchair. Police expect to bring him from Louisville to Wisconsin this week. His precarious health is making the transfer difficult and could cost Jefferson County thousands of dollars.

It's not known how he'll plea in the case. But writing in 1972, years before the murders, Edwards said he wasn't proud of his past. "Today I hope that people will accept me for what I am as well as for what I used to be."

State Journal reporter George Hesselberg and the Akron Beacon Journal contributed to this report.


Edward Wayne Edwards: Timeline of his life

June 14, 1933: Born in Akron, Ohio.

December 1935: Mother committed suicide.

1940: Sent to orphanage in Parma, Ohio.

1948: Sent to reform school in Pennsylvania.

1950: Returned to Akron, started committing burglaries; left juvenile detention to join the Marines; went AWOL from Camp LeJeune, N.C.; arrested in Jacksonville, Fla.; dishonorably discharged from the Marines.

April 1952: Sentenced to a federal reformatory in Chillicothe, Ohio, for two years for impersonating a Marine and interstate transportation of a stolen car.

April 1955: Broke out of Akron jail while being held on burglary charges.

1956: Caught in Montana after a series of armed robberies, sentenced to Montana State Penitentiary in Deer Lodge.

July 1959: Released in Montana, taken to Portland to stand trial for two armed robberies in 1956, sentenced to five years of probation. 1960: Broke out of jail in Portland, where he'd been arrested for turning in a false fire alarm. Questioned in connection with a double murder of a young couple. Traced to Colorado, where he cashed some checks on a Portland Bowling Club of which he was a member.

Nov. 10, 1961: Added to FBI's 10 Most Wanted fugitives list. A federal warrant charged him with unlawful interstate flight to avoid confinement after a robbery conviction.

Jan. 20, 1962: Captured in Atlanta with wife, Marlene.

May 18 1962: Sentenced to 16 years in Leavenworth Federal Penitentiary.

1967: Transferred to Lewisburg Federal Penitentiary in Pennsylvania; paroled from federal prison.

1971-1973: Touring as a speaker on prison reform, published book on his rehabilitation into a family man

September 1980: Left Wisconsin after being questioned about the Hack/Drew murders.

December 1982: Incarcerated in Pennsylvania prison near Pittsburgh, convicted of arson.

July 1986: Released from Pennsylvania prison.

July 30, 2009: Arrested in Louisville, Ky., for 1980 murders of Timothy Hack and Kelly Drew.

Sources: Akron Beacon Journal, Associated Press news clippings, ôMetamorphosis of a Criminal,ö Pennsylvania Department of Corrections, Multnomah County ( Ore.) District Attorney's office, and other research by the Wisconsin State Journal.




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