The Sweetheart Killer

Date Published 08.07.09
One of the strange results of DNA technology advancement is that it means a lot of tired old men suddenly have to pay for their sins from thirty, forty, fifty years ago.  The rage that led them to do whatever horrible thing they did back then is long gone, replaced by love for their grandchildren.  Violent fists have given way to oxygen tanks.  Bodies are falling apart from age.  Memories are murky.  The only thing untouched by time is that single piece of evidence preserved in a lab somewhere, waiting for science to catch up.  It did, and now suspects in the coldest of cold cases, so close to making it to the finish line without punishment, are being pushed into courtrooms in their wheelchairs.

Take a story now unfolding in Wisconsin.  Last October, the state received funding to pursue old, unsolved cases.  In Jefferson County, a low-key rural area west of Milwaukee, the Sheriff’s Department felt they had the perfect case for review, one that had wrenched the community and puzzled investigators for nearly thirty years:  high school sweethearts who vanished outside a dance hall one summer night and were later found murdered in the woods.

On Saturday night, August 9, 1980, Timothy Hack and his girlfriend Kelly Drew, both 19, went to a wedding reception at Concord House in the town of Sullivan.  Hack and Drew were country kids.  He was a budding farmer; she had just graduated from beauty school.


Tim Hack and Kelly Drew

The couple had plans to meet up with friends at a nearby carnival so they didn’t stay long at the reception, maybe a half hour, enough time to have a drink.  Witnesses saw them leave, but no one came forward later to say they’d seen them outside.  It was a muggy night, and the wedding guests mostly stayed inside the dance hall.

Hack and Drew never made it to the carnival.  They never made it home.  Their families reported them missing the next day.  Hack’s Olds Cutlass Supreme was found in the Concord House parking lot, locked, his wallet still inside.

A massive search, one of the largest in Wisconsin history, was organized.  A few days after the disappearance police began to find disturbing things on the side of the road --- Drew’s pants cut from the ankle to the groin, rope, a strange piece of yellow tubing, and more bits of torn clothing.

Two months later, squirrel hunters stumbled upon Drew’s naked body in some woods bordering a cornfield.  Hack’s body was found 100 feet away.  Though the bodies were badly decomposed, a forensic exam concluded that Drew had likely been sexually assaulted and strangled.  There appeared to be ligature marks on her ankles and wrists.  Hack had been stabbed in the chest and back.

Leads went in all different directions.  One theory was that the killer was someone known to the couple, perhaps an acquaintance of Hack’s.  Or maybe it was a high profile serial killer, someone like Henry Lee Lucas.  He was ruled out.  Other tips came trickling in.  Witnesses reported that the Concord House handyman had a bloody nose around the time the couple went missing.  He was interviewed and insisted he’d gotten the injury while deer hunting.  Investigators moved on.

Ten years went by.  Twenty.  The case loomed large in investigator’s minds.  They wanted to solve it.  In 2007, evidence was resubmitted to the state crime lab.  For the first time the lab was able to isolate DNA from an unknown donor.

The DNA hit generated publicity.  The publicity stirred up memories.  People made calls.  One tip about a suspect seemed promising.  Investigators tracked the lead, researching the suspect’s background.  They got excited.  In June, they traveled to Louisville to interview the man.  He said he didn't remember the couple.  Or maybe he did.  Maybe he was at Concord House that night having a beer at the bar.  The investigators asked him if he’d ever been deer hunting.  Deer hunting?  No, he said. 

Wrong answer.  Because twenty-nine years ago when he was asked about his suspicious bloody nose, he said he was deer hunting.

It was the handyman.  His name is Edward Wayne Edwards.  He’s 76, obese and infirm, an old man with oxygen tubes up his nose.  He agreed to give a DNA sample.

It was a match.


Edwards, then and now

Edwards apparently didn’t make a strong impression as a suspect the first time around because he’d only been in town for two months.  He was a drifter, an odd job guy who lived at various campgrounds for months at time.  He moved with his family out of the area shortly after the murders.  He was forgotten.

Which is too bad, because a deeper look into Edwards’ background would have uncovered some relevant information.

Edwards was a career criminal, a thief, forger and law enforcement impersonator whose involvement in bank robberies and other crimes landed him on the FBI’s Ten Most Wanted List in 1961.

More significantly, twenty years before the murders Edwards had been a suspect in an eerily similar case in Portland, Oregon. Larry Peyton and Beverly Allan, both 19, were teenage sweethearts who were murdered while they were parked on a lover’s lane during the Thanksgiving holiday weekend of 1960.  Peyton was found in the car.  Like Hack, he’d been stabbed repeatedly.  Allan was found a month and a half later.  Like Drew, she’d been raped and strangled.

Edwards was questioned in the case but never arrested.  He went on to lead a transient lifestyle marked by crime and deception.  He was obviously clever, at one point he apparently posed as a psychiatrist in Minnesota and made a living counseling real clients. 

In 1972, after a stint in jail, Edwards published an autobiography, titled “Metamorphosis of a Criminal.”  The book follows Edwards’ bleak childhood in orphanages through his adventures in crime.  His angle now was rehabilitation.  He spoke at juvenile detention centers and schools, talking about his experiences as a reformed criminal.

A clever killer of young couples who needs to communicate through writing?  That sounds familiar.

The Zodiac, an infamous serial killer who preyed on couples in Northern California in the late 1960s, has never been identified.  Some people believe the now-deceased Arthur Leigh Allen was the Zodiac, but there’s ample evidence, including DNA, that he was not.


Zodiac sketch

Is Edwards a possible Zodiac suspect?

Victims

Both targeted young couples, a relatively rare victim type.  Zodiac in particular went after couples parked in lover’s lanes, such as in the Portland murders. 

Military ties

There’s reason to believe the Zodiac had ties to the military.  Navy is the most often cited guess.  His hair, his shoes, and even some of his phrasing in letters suggested someone with a military background.  I’ve always thought it more likely his military affiliation was troubled, such as someone who had been found unfit to serve, or was dishonorably discharged, or went AWOL.  The Zodiac often taunted authorities in his letters, which would be unusual for someone fully engaged in the military.

Edwards served briefly in the Marines but then deserted.  He liked to wear his uniform with fake ribbons in order to con people.

Intelligence, the need to communicate, delusions of grandeur 

Despite many misspellings, which some feel were deliberate, the Zodiac had almost a compulsion to communicate, writing copious letters to the police and newspapers.  He was very controlling in his communications and liked to reflect on what inspired him to murder.

With the help of a co-author Edwards wrote an autobiography about his life of crime.  Edwards had about a fifth or sixth grade education; his skills in grammar and spelling were probably poor though his need to communicate was clearly great (the book is over 400 pages).

Edwards has been described as controlling.  He liked to be the center of attention, touring the country and talking about himself and his experiences.

Description

Witnesses most often describe the Zodiac as being about 5 '8" with a medium to heavy build.  Edwards is 5'8" with a heavy build.

Age

Nancy Slover, the former Vallejo Police Dept. switchboard operator who spoke with the Zodiac early in the morning of July 5, 1969, said he sounded like he was 35.  Edwards was 36 at that time.

Deer Lodge

When the Zodiac first approached victims Bryan Hartnell and Cecelia Shepard at Lake Berryessa, he said he was an escaped convict from Deer Lodge prison in Montana.

I recalled that one report mentioned Edwards had spent some time in prison in Montana.  Using Google Books, I searched his book, "Metamorphosis of a Criminal," for the phrase "Deer Lodge." 

He mentions his experience serving time at Deer Lodge on several occasions.

Edwards had at least one prison escape in his background.

California

Can Edwards be placed in California during the time of the Zodiac murders?  He was paroled in 1967.  The Zodiac murders in Northern California began in 1968.

Edwards mentions California in his book.  California is one of the states where he reportedly lived for a time.

********

The most obvious problem with Edwards as Zodiac is motive.  There appears to be a sexual element to Edwards' murders.  It may be that he fixated on a young woman and didn't mind killing her boyfriend, too.  The Zodiac was different.  He didn't rape his female victims.  He was rageful but detached, using, for the most part, a gun to methodically fell his victims.

Still, Edwards' DNA should be checked against the Zodiac's. 

Because, in the end, it's now the killers' own genetic profiles that are bringing justice to long unsolved crimes. 

On a Jefferson County message board locals recalled Hack and Drew's murders, how it terrified the community, the sadness still felt years later.  High school friends reminisced about good times with the couple.  Amid the memories a lone comment stuck out, unusual, stark and true.

“Wow,” the anonymous poster wrote, “science is amazing.”






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RT @emilynussbaum: The artful @hodgman's straightforward case for Hillary: https://t.co/ijA8xHJ8Tm
@Twaikuer @pattonoswalt @daveanthony Know what he does believe in? PAC $. Took 10K from HRC pac 2006. That means he's in her pocket.#BSLogic
@Twaikuer @pattonoswalt @daveanthony Good one. Unfortunately Bernie on record as not believing in charity.
@johnlevenstein Thanks for asking, btw. That's the kind of elevated discourse missing lately. A lot of mud slinging. #I'mNotAboveItEither
@johnlevenstein Can't convey it all thru Twitter but yes, she has flaws. Too poll-driven, burned needed bridges, trouble owning mistakes.