Edwards was born on June 14, 1933, in Akron, Ohio, to a single mother, with his father unknown. When he was two years old, he witnessed his mother commit suicide, and he was subsequently sent to an orphanage located in Parma in 1940. There, he was allegedly physically and emotionally abused. Eight years afterward, Edwards was sent to reform school in Pennsylvania, where he stayed at for two years before returning to Akron and committing a string of burglaries. He was eventually caught and sent to juvenile detention, which he later left when he decided to join the U.S. Marines, being stationed in Camp Lejeune in Jacksonville, North Carolina. However, after finding the military life unsuitable for him, he went AWOL and was later arrested in Jacksonville, Florida, for an unspecified crime, which apparently led to his dishonorable discharge from the Marines. Soon after that, he began working odd jobs and committing a string of various crimes, usually forging checks. On April 1952, Edwards stole a car and attempted to impersonate a Marine, but was arrested for the crimes and sentenced to a federal reformatory in Chillicothe. He was apparently released sometime after, but later arrested again in Akron on burglary charges.While being held on the charges, Edwards managed to escape and fled to Portland, Oregon, where he committed several armed robberies, for which he was arrested for the following year in Montana and sentenced to three years in prison, plus five years of probation. Sometime in 1960, Edwards escaped again; at that same time, he was being questioned for the local murders of a couple, Larry Peyton and Beverly Allan. On November 10, 1961, his name was added to the FBI's 10 Most Wanted list. Sometime during or before his escape from the Portland jail, Edwards had married a woman named Marlene, who would later be arrested alongside him on January 20, 1962, in Atlanta, Georgia. He was later sentenced to sixteen years in Leavenworth Federal Penitentiary, where he allegedly met an unidentified prison guard who "turned his life around"; after being paroled from Pennsylvania's Lewisburg Federal Penitentiary in 1967, he became an inspirational speaker and remarried. In 1972, he wrote an autobiography, which was titled The Metamorphosis of a Criminal: The True Life Story of Ed Edwards; it described his criminal career during that time, the influential factors that led to him pursuing such a career, and his recovery process during and after his federal incarceration. At some point, he and his wife joined the foster family system.
Killings, Capture, and IncarcerationSometime on 1977, 21-year-old William Lavaco and his 18-year-old girlfriend Judy Straub both disappeared and were later found dead on August 8 the same year in Norton, Ohio, having been shot in the neck with a shotgun at point-blank range. Three years later, Edwards found work as a handyman at a Jefferson County, Wisconsin reception hall. At around August 9, Timothy Hack and his girlfriend Kelly Drew, both aged 19, strangely disappeared, having been last seen at Edwards' workplace, which led to him being suspected by the authorities. He subsequently fled the state and went on the run for two years. On October 19, Drew was found strangled to death, and this was followed by the discovery of Hack's stabbed body the following day. Eventually, in 1982, Edwards drifted to Pennsylvania, where he burned down a rental house and was then apprehended, being sentenced to more than two years in prison for arson in December, while he was apparently let off the hook for Drew and Hack's murders. He was then released, to which his activities during the 1990s remained mostly unknown. What is known is that, in 1996, Edwards decided to murder his foster son, 25-year-old Danny Boy Edwards, for his $250,000 insurance. Danny Boy, a soldier in the U.S. Army, was persuaded by Edwards to go AWOL from the Army and took him to the woods near his house in Burton, Ohio. There, he shot him twice in the face, killing him, and left his body in a shallow grave, where it was later discovered by a hunter. Edwards was questioned for Danny Boy's murder, but no charges were filed.
Edwards since then became inactive for his known killings. In 2009, police traced him back to the murders of Hack and Drew, arresting him on July 30. He then contacted Ohio authorities and confessed to the murder of Danny Boy as well as the Lavaco-Straub double homicide. On June 9, 2010, he agreed to plead guilty to all of the murders except for that of Danny Boy. During his incarceration during the trial, his health fell, and he came to suffer from diabetes and other illnesses, up to the point where he briefly needed an oxygen mask. After a lengthy trial, which took place in a Chardon, Ohio court, Edwards was found guilty of the Lavaco-Straub murders and sentenced to life in prison in 2010. He was then sentenced to death by lethal injection on March 8, 2011, for Danny Boy's murder; the sentence was issued by a three-judge panel in Geauga County Common Pleas Court after Edwards declined to present any evidence that would support his defense or even ask for mercy. In fact, he was unfazed by the sentence, as he previously admitted that he welcomed the death penalty. However, Danny Boy's half-sister, Jai-Dean Copley, asked the same panel to spare Edwards's life, citing that to give him the death penalty was just giving Edwards exactly what he wanted. However, the request was turned down, and Edwards' execution was scheduled on August 31. However, on April 7, about a month after his sentencing for Danny Boy's murder, he died at the age of 77 of natural causes in the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction's Medical Center in Columbus, Ohio, having been suffering from leukemia, heart ailments, and diabetes. In the aftermath of Edwards's death, he was assumed by a Great Falls, Montana investigator to be responsible for numerous other murders and serial killer cases (see below), although none of these allegations have ever been confirmed to be true. To date (February 2014), Edwards's final body count remains at five victims.
Edwards usually targeted young couples for his known killings. When he killed Billy Lavaco and Judy Straub, he shot them both in the neck with a 20-gauge shotgun at point-blank range. When he killed Tim Hack and Kelly Drew, he stabbed Hack, while Drew was raped and then fatally strangled. When he killed his foster son Danny Boy Edwards, from which he hoped to gain insurance money, he shot him twice in the face, presumably with a pistol. During his years as a con artist, specific details of his crimes committed during that period have been unspecified, other than he would forge checks.
On Criminal Minds
While Edwards has yet to be directly mentioned or referenced on the show, he appears to have been an inspiration for Caleb Rossmore ("True Genius") - Both were serial killers who shot a couple and stabbed another while copying the Zodiac Killer, and whose M.O. also involved the strangulation of one of the victims. It should be noted that Edwards was living in northern California at the time of the Zodiac killings (which were a main focus of the episode) and was even possibly similar to a physical description of the killer, though these claims were disputed.
- Murderpedia's article on Edwards
- News.com article regarding Edwards's trial
- Examiner.com article on Edwards's trial
- Before It's News article about Edwards and the "Hook Man" myth
- Wisconsin State Journal article on Edwards and possible victims
- Oregon Live article on possible victims Larry Peyton and Beverly Allan
- Los Angeles Times article that mentions possible victims Lloyd Bogle and Patricia Kalitzke
- Ohio.com article on possible victims Ricky Beard and Mary Leonard
- Columbia Tribune article on the case of alleged victim Kent Heitholt
- Crime Magazine article on the case of alleged victim Kent Heitholt
- Robert Keller's blog article on Edwards
- Serial Killers Podcast article on Edwards' death