In her final breath, Marcia Edwards hastily inscribed the name of her assailant. A single pull of the trigger had left her lifeless in the comfort of her living room. As the essence of life slipped away, she may have faintly perceived another terrifying gunshot. Outside, the malefactor had ruthlessly extinguished the life of her spouse, Robert Edwards.
Nevertheless, even in the face of impending demise, Marcia mustered the strength to guide a pen across a notepad, etching a name onto its pages Joe Edwards. Joe is merely eighteen years old. He was their adopted son.
This revelation would prove to be the investigators’ most significant lead regarding the identity of the slayer. Even after the passage of four decades, it remains their most valuable clue.
Ever since that fateful day, Joseph Sinnott Edwards has evaded capture, becoming a fugitive of the law. Despite a generational shift in the investigative team, the specter of the Edwards still looms in the detective room.
“This case has endured incessantly,” asserts Sergeant Earl Dutko, the diligent detective assigned to the investigation.
Driven by an unwavering determination, the law enforcement agency has made the decision to re-examine the evidence sealed within bags for nearly thirty years. Although Edwards vanished without a trace, advancements in technology may empower the police to traverse time and rekindle the pursuit through DNA analysis.
To aid in this endeavour, the police have acquired new assistance. A few weeks prior, they managed to locate Joe Edwards’ biological mother. Scientists will strive to match her genetic profile with any traces found at the scene of the crime. If a correlation is established, the path illuminated by the computer could potentially lead them to Edwards.
The possibility of an arrest looms large. Primarily due to the dying testimony of his adoptive mother, who pointed an accusatory finger at him three decades ago. Now, his birth mother joins the quest to track him down.
Joe Edwards was a source of trouble from the moment Marcia and Robert Edwards welcomed him into their rustic abode in Pontiac, situated approximately fifty miles East of Peoria. In 1977, they adopted the thirteen-year-old from the nearby Salem Children Home in Flanagan. Police have refrained from divulging comprehensive details regarding the Edwards’ family life. However, it appears that the couple had been childless, with hardly any known relatives residing in the vicinity.
Law enforcement agency portrayed the couple as amiable and compassionate individuals. Nevertheless, for reasons unknown to them, thirteen-year-old Joe Edwards developed an immediate antagonism towards Marcia Edwards. His animosity grew to such an extent that he eventually resorted to physical violence against her.
Soon his rage fueled by mysterious motives, extended outward. In 1978, he vandalized a residence still under construction. On another occasion, he even attempted to take his own life.
During the early stages of the murder investigation, the police stated that Edwards had dabbled in satanism. He engaged in acts such as devil worship and the sacrifice of small animals. However, no conclusive links were ever established between these activities and the homicides.
As time progressed, Edwards began experiments with drugs, including various unidentified pills, according to law enforcement. His parents made concerted efforts to guide him onto the right path. They even send him to a renowned treatment center in North Dakota. Unfortunately, he absconded from the facility and found his way back home.
Undeterred in their quest to aid him, the couple suggested that he enroll in another clinic in Chicago. Though reluctantly, he acquiesced. He fled once again, returning to Pontiac with an even greater ferocity than before.
On January 20, 1983 the eighteen-year-old Edwards entered his parents’ dwelling. Joe accompanied with a male acquaintance armed with a 9mm semiautomatic pistol. He perpetrated the murders. He shot his Marcia in the living room and then swiftly gun down his father, who sat behind the wheel of his Lincoln Continental. In the wake of the tragic events, Joe Edwards vanished, along with the firearm (which the police never recovered) and unidentified companion.
Edwards left behind Marcia on the brink of death. Summoning the last vestiges of her strength, Marcia seized a notepad and hastily inscribed a brief note. She had been shot by her son, who arrived in the company of the unnamed friend. With that final act, Marcia succumbed to her wounds.
The police pursued several leads and interviewed countless individuals. Edwards found himself on the most wanted list of FBI. Yet, as the calendar turned to 1984. A ten-count indictment for murder was filed against him, he remained elusive.
The case languished until 1988 when “America’s Most Wanted” featured a segment on the case. Although a trickle of tips emerged, the police were no closer to capturing Edwards.
Nearly a quarter-century passed away. Leaving the question of how someone could evade detection for such an extended period. According to the police, there are various possibilities.
Firstly, it is plausible that Joe Edwards is deceased. Perhaps residing in a remote location. Following the homicides, the fate of Edwards and his unidentified accomplice remains shrouded in uncertainty.
Alternatively, he might be living under an assumed identity. Fugitives have long been known to elude the grasp of the law for decades, even indefinitely.
In fact, it is conceivable that he assumed another person’s identity long ago. He spent years incarcerated. This scenario represents an optimal means to evade detection in a cold case. Behind bars, under a false name, the risk of an unexpected encounter with someone from one’s past is nullified.
Presently, the challenge of evading electronic records, social media, and other technological advancements might appear insurmountable to the general public. America is a vast country. Forensic technologies have also substantial progress within the last two decades. Edwards turned forty-eight on May 20th. It’s ample time to evade capture after committing the crime.
Nevertheless, Dutko and his colleagues are hopeful that time now works in their favour. The trial grew cold soon after the murders. But Livingston County Sheriff’s Deputies diligently collected and preserved the evidence from the crime scene. Furthermore, recognizing the potential degradation of physical evidence, particularly biological samples, the department meticulously maintained the integrity of the materials.
“That evidence has been stored for a significant period” Dutko notes. “However, the packaging appears to be in excellent condition.”
This fact is pivotal for the initial phase of the reinvestigation. Presently, the police lack a genetic profile for Edwards. They are gradually progressing in that direction, despite his absence.
Livingston County intends to leverage the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Combined DNA Index System (CODIS), which contains DNA profiles from various local, state, and federal crime labs. These profiles originate from a range of investigations. Several states, including Illinois, collect DNA samples from felons. Although the system is not entirely comprehensive, it provides investigators from any jurisdiction with the means to pursue suspects and fugitives across the nation.
Of course, for the police to obtain a match on Edwards, his DNA profile would need to already exist within CODIS. According to Dutko, this is a plausible assumption for an individual indicted for a double homicide nearly thirty years ago.
“It is reasonable to assume that he has committed further crimes,” Dutko remarks.
However, the question still remains. How can the police obtain Edwards’ profile and enter it into the system? Recently, after all these years, detectives finally located Edwards’ biological mother (though his natural father remains elusive). She had not maintained any contact with her son since his birth and was entirely unaware of the homicides. Nevertheless, she willingly submitted to a DNA test.
It is worth noting that this type of information only permits the creation of a partial profile for the offspring of the mother. Consequently, her profile would not prove useful for comparison with CODIS.
The police will employ the mother’s genetic code to determine if it partially matches the evidence collected at the crime scene. Dutko refrains from discussing the specifics of the materials. He does mention that forensic tests could be conducted on blood samples, fingernail scrapings, and any other items collected from the Edwardses’ residence.
If the mother’s markers partially align with the DNA recovered from the crime scene, it is highly probable that the genetic material belongs to Edwards. This crucial information can then be input into CODIS, significantly aiding the search for his whereabouts over the past three decades.
The crime scene evidence will undergo fresh analysis in the laboratory shortly. The police will review written records to uncover potential leads and insights. Additionally, they hope to create an age-progression photo of Edwards, a step never taken in this case. The closest approximation, a forensic sculpture, was created fourteen years ago. An updated image, reflecting his current age, might assist in identifying Edwards if he is alive and at large.
A sighting, not to mention a conviction, would be a welcome development for the sole surviving relative of the Edwardses. Dutko declines to disclose her name or location, and she has declined interview requests for this story. Nonetheless, she has regularly contacted the police, seeking updates on the case. In this regard, Dutko acknowledges that she has played an invaluable role in keeping the investigation alive, prompting renewed attention from the authorities.