Edward Wayne Edwards
The Ultimate Serial Killer
After his mother perished from a gunshot wound to the stomach when he was only five years old, and then his foster mother died a short time later, Edward Wayne Edwards was sent to an orphanage for juvenile delinquents. As a result of that, and being abused by members of clergy in the process, he became a career criminal of epic proportions. He committed countless offenses as time went on, and in his early twenties Edwards escaped from jail. He eventually even wound up on the FBI’s notorious most wanted list in 1961. Ed was arrested the following year, then paroled in 1967, and so on and so forth. As he went from one institution to another, Edwards met a number of devious souls along the way. The point is that some of those people influenced him, and he also had a tremendous impact on them, as well.
For instance, at different points Ed Edwards served time with Charles Manson and Jimmy Hoffa, among others. What I’m getting at is that, he got to know some of recent histories strangest characters. This was tremendously important because during one of those encounters, Ed inspired Manson to want to kill prominent white people in such a way that it would implicate black revolutionaries to then incite a race war. In so doing, Ed planted the seed for Helter Skelter in Charlie that eventually lead him to create hippie-assassins and orchestrate the tragic Manson Family murders.
As a uniquely deviant criminal mastermind of the highest caliber, Ed Edwards really only killed people when he thought he could get away with it. He especially loved setting people up for murder and confusing the authorities, like with his roles in the infamous Black Dahlia cold case and the Zodiac Killer mysteries. The truth is that he was responsible for so many horrific things that have become legendary for one reason or another. There is really no way to fully understand the shear magnitude of evil that Ed actually brought into the world.
Sometimes history is stranger than fiction, and this guy’s particular biography ranks right up there with the craziest of all. It couldn’t be any more fantastic, a bastard child of the Great Depression began killing people when puberty hit but didn’t get charged for murder until more than sixty years later when he was finally convicted of murder. That’s quite impressive, and utterly terrifying. Ed was completely proficient, prolific, and profound. Although his body count numbers in the hundreds, God only knows how many lives he really destroyed.
It all began in 1945 when Ed ran away from the orphanage and learned about a serial killer making headline news in Ohio. This inspired Edwards to go to Illinois in search of prey, as a kind of copycat. Then, on June 5th of that year, he claimed his first victim. She was a 43 year old woman named Josephine Ross, and Ed Edwards stabbed her and cut open her throat. Then, he washed the corpse and taped up the wounds, leaving the body in a bathtub.
Five months later, Ed shot Frances Brown in the head, repeating his disposal ritual by washing the body and sealing up the wounds with tape, leaving another body in yet another bathtub. Then, he wrote the following words on the wall above her bed with lipstick:
For heavens sake catch me before I kill more I cannot control myself
Then, at the end of the first week of January in 1946, when he was only 12 years old, Ed lured a 6 year old girl named Suzanne Degnan into the basement of her family’s home while her parents slept. After that, he killed and dismembered her in a wash basin, and left another message as a clue for the authorities. This time the lipstick statement read:
Stop me before I kill more
This case was particularly interesting because Ed had specifically targeted Suzanne based on something her father had done. When Edwards was in the Parmadale Catholic Orphanage things got really bad after funding to the facility was cut, and as it turned out Mr. Degnan was the man responsible for making that all-important fiscal decision. So, in reality parts of Suzanne were strewn throughout the sewers of Chicago, merely out of spite for her dad.
Nonetheless, in the end, William Heirens took the fall as the “Lipstick Killer”. That was because having no other leads to go on, the cops decided to just run with him as their main suspect. So, Heirens ended up becoming the victim of coercive interrogation and vicious police brutality, ultimately serving sixty-five years for crimes he didn’t commit, only to die in prison at age 83 having been wrongfully accused. Meanwhile, Ed made his way back home from Chicago to Akron, with no one the wiser. More importantly, Ed realized that other people could easily be blamed for his actions.
So, to establish his presence in the area as an alibi for what would come next, in October of 1946 Ed was caught vandalizing a church in Ohio. However, by January of the following year he had made his way to California. Then, on Wednesday the 15th, he killed Elizabeth Short in Los Angeles, in what became known as the “Black Dahlia” murder.
By that time, the cops were already getting better at solving crime, and they almost suspected Ed, but not quite. You see, he and Elizabeth had taken a photo together in a booth the day before she died. On top of that, they knew that a young man from Ohio had checked into a hotel room demanding to get a room with a bathtub in it. They were so close to catching him, but the case went cold when they finally ran out of leads. So, Ed went on to kill another day.
However, that was put on hold in June of 1947 when Ed was sent to Saint Gerard’s Catholic Reformatory in Pennsylvania. There he was first diagnosed as a sadomasochist. He remained in their custody until April of 1950, and then he joined the Marines in June. By September he had gone AWOL, and he killed again within months of that. On March 25th of 1951 Ed claimed another victim in Florida, shooting Romeo Beaudry four times in front of a gas station.
By April 25th of 1952 Ed was back in jail, this time for impersonating an officer. This is when he first met Charles Manson. However, by October of 1953 Ed was already out of prison. So, on April 6th of 1954 Ed killed Dorothy Howard, a nineteen year old girl in Colorado. Then, Manson got paroled in May and Ed went back to Ohio. On July 4th, in Cleveland, Edwards murdered Marilyn Sheppard. He beat the pregnant woman to death in her own bed, while her husband was asleep on the couch in another room. To make matters worse, on July 13th, Ed mailed a letter to Dr. Sheppard claiming that he would confess to the crime in exchange for twenty-five thousand dollars.
Then, a month later Ed kidnapped and murdered an eight year old boy named Jimmy Bremmers in Iowa. His body was discovered by a county crew on assignment building a fence on September 29th of 1954 in a pasture north of Sioux City. The corpse had been decapitated and the skull was crushed. The hands had also been removed, but they were never found. In typical fashion, someone else became a scapegoat.
On March 3rd of 1955, an unstable man named Ernest Triplett was charged for Bremmers murder. So, Ed returned to Akron as he always did. There he burglarized a home, while being a fugitive from Texas, and escaped from the courtroom. Then, he flew to California under an assumed name and kidnapped a fourteen year old girl named Stephanie Bryan. After he killed her, he buried her remains on Burton Abbot’s property, setting him up in the process. Then, on May 2nd he mailed Dr. Bryan a ransom note.
Later, back in Iowa on June 17th, a jury found Triplett guilty of the Bremmer murder, in the second degree, and he was given a life sentence. He was sent to Fort Madison State Penitentiary on July 7th. Three days later, Ed abducted Donna Davis from Sioux City. Then, he took her across state lines to Nebraska, where her body was found the following day. Meanwhile, Ernest served as Ed’s patsy, doing time while the real killer was on the loose.
As if that wasn’t bad enough, Edwards manipulated the press and the police. He was a master psychopath who could assume any identity that he wished, and people fell for it all the time. Ed was able to insert himself into situations and he loved returning to the scene of the crime. This time he took a reporter and a photographer from the San Francisco Examiner with him to Abbot’s cabin where the Bryan girl was buried. The greatest serial killer of all time just couldn’t get enough of this kind of thing. Ed even taunted the authorities with letters, as he loved to do.
A month or so later, Ed met a young runaway named Verna Doe and they ended up in Idaho together. There in Idaho Falls, Ed met a Mormon girl named Jeanette White and began to stalk her at the drive-thru where she worked. Then, he killed Verna and left the state on October 14th of 1955. A couple days later, Ed killed three boys in Illinois at Robinson Woods Park. At which point he stripped them naked and laid them out on display in the sign of the cross.
Ed just couldn’t get Jeanette out of his head, so he went to claim her as his own. He returned to Idaho on October 20th and kidnapped her. Then, he threatened her life and forced her to marry him under an assumed identity. Regardless, on their way to Chicago, Edwards stopped and entered the home of the chief of police of Grinnell and beat the man’s wife and set their child on fire. Then, on the 22nd, Ed and Jean attended the funerals of Robert Peterson, as well as Jon and Anton Schuessler. Those were the three boys that Edwards had killed in Robinson Woods Park, just a few days earlier.
Ed returned to Nebraska in December of 1955, and on the 10th he shot a nineteen year old girl named Carolyn Nevins. By January, he had made his way to Montana. In Great Falls, he executed Patty Kalitske and Duane Bogle on their knees, on a lovers’ lane in Sun River. Then, on February 7th of 1956, Edward and Jeanette traveled to San Francisco. Ed had gone there to mail a letter to a judge, but while he was in town he couldn’t help but rob a few people and burglarize a couple places. Eventually, he was forced to flee California though, so Ed ended up in Montana in March. However, on the 6th he was arrested in Billings and sent to Deer Lodge Prison.
He was paroled and sent to Portland, on June 25th of 1959, and the state of Oregon placed him on probation for a pending armed robbery from four years earlier. So, at one point, he was on parole in Washington and Montana, and on probation in Oregon, all at the same time. With Jeanette out of the picture, in November of that year, Ed married a woman named Marlene Harmon in Washington, and he never informed his parole officer of that fact. Then, more than a year later, in December of 1960 in Portland, Oregon, Ed was questioned as a suspect in a Thanksgiving Day lovers’ lane murder in Forest Park.
By April Ed was back to his old tricks, only this time in Texas. Out of spite for Christianity, the day before Easter in 1960, Ed kidnapped a beauty queen named Irene Garza in McAllen. On the 19th, her purse and a shoe were found on the side of the road. Two days later, her body was found in a pond with a photograph viewer. Following this, the police received an anonymous letter claiming that it had belonged to Father John Feit. She had given confession to him at 7:30 on the 16th, so he was the last person she was known to have been with before going missing. Ed even put altar candles at the scene on her body, and he had molested her and mauled her face. As a result, Feit became the main suspect, just as Edwards had planned.
Back in Oregon, on November 27th of 1960, Ed murdered Beverly Allen and Larry Peyton on a lovers’ lane, as he was prone to do. Then, the next day, he was caught at the crime scene and questioned by the authorities. However, they eventually let him go. They did catch back up with him though on December 9th, when they arrested him as a suspect in the double murder. Of course, being who he was, Ed simply escaped from the Portland jail and fled with his wife across the country. That lasted up until they were finally apprehended in Georgia in January of 1962. He didn’t get out until September 20th of 1967, when he was released from Lewisburg Federal Prison.
In having become dependent on using his wife as an alibi, and having someone in his corner who couldn’t testify against him, Ed had remarried by July of 1968. This time it was in his home town of Akron and her name was Kay Hedderly. Over the years, Edwards moved continually, often leaving her behind for long periods of time. After the Sheriff’s Office in Portland indicted the Jorgenson brothers for Ed’s murder of Beverly Allen and Larry Peyton, he became emboldened. So, on December 20th, he became the Zodiac Killer.
In California, Ed approached David Faraday and Betty Jensen in a car parked on lovers’ lane on Lake Herman Road, within the city limits of Benicia. After killing David, Ed shot Betty in the back five times. Then, he struck again on July 4th of 1969, when he shot two more teenagers. Ed attacked Michael Mageau and Darlene Ferrin in the parking lot of Blue Rock Springs Park in Vallejo. Then, in thinking he had killed them both, Ed called the police and said:
I want to report a double murder. If you go one mile east on Columbus Parkway to the public park, you will find the kids in a brown car. They were shot with a 9mm Luger. I also killed those kids last December.
On August 4th of 1969, on the anniversary of his mother’s death, Ed sent his debut letter as the Zodiac. He traveled back and forth from California to Ohio, being an infamous killer and a family man, respectively. Two months after sending the letter, he went back and killed a cab driver named Paul Stine in San Francisco. Ed hailed the ride at Mason and Geary Streets, with the intended destination being Washington and Maple Streets, but they didn’t make it there. After killing Stine, three witnesses watched Ed from about fifty feet away as he wiped down the taxi. They even called the police telling them to look for a 30 year old white male, with a stocky build, reddish-brown hair worn in a crew cut, heavy-rimmed glasses and dark clothing.
Several weeks later, on October 13th, Ed mailed the infamous Dripping Pen card, after the third killing in the series. Then, he returned to Kay in Akron, but on November 9th he went back to California to mail the Bus Bomb letter and cipher. Then, he went to his family in Ohio. Then he took a trip to Los Angeles and killed again. On November 21st of 1969, Ed murdered two teenagers named Doreen Gaul and James Sharp. He then left a Zodiac letter among Gaul’s possessions with their bodies in an alley between Arapahoe Street and Magnolia Avenue. Then, he went back home to his wife, who was none the wiser.
Throughout the late sixties and early seventies, Ed traveled across the country killing people while Kay stayed home to raise their three children. He told his family that he was a truck driver for a local company in Akron, which he actually had been after getting out of Leavenworth, but he had long since been fired for stealing a truckload of tires from them. In this way, he kept his family in the dark for years on end, all the while terrorizing America with his bizarre style of murder sprees and ritual killings.
As part of the overall method to his madness, on November 27th of 1969, Ed visited Pennsylvania State College and murdered Betsy Ardsma in the university library. This was the nine year anniversary of the murder of Beverly Allen. Note that there initials are the same. All of this held special significance to Ed. That’s why he stabbed Betsy on the day after Thanksgiving, exactly nine years after killing Beverly. Edward Wayne Edwards was a highly ritualistic obsessive-compulsive sociopath who murdered repetitively.
He really seemed to enjoy the recognition his Zodiac character was getting at that time. On December 16th he mailed another letter, only this time from Fairfield, California. Then, Ed stepped it up a notch and on March 22nd of 1970 he terrorized a pregnant woman and left her alive to describe him. He even sent in a letter taking credit for it as the Zodiac. On April 20th he mailed a thirteen character identity cipher to the authorities. About a week later he sent in the Dragon card. He even mailed a letter to the San Francisco Chronicle in July of that year, and by September he was killing again. This went on for quite some time.
By February of 1972 Ed was itching to kill again. So, he perpetrated the legendary Highway 101 Killings. On the 4th, he murdered a couple of teenagers named Yvonne Weber and Maurine Sterling in Redwood City, California. Then, he killed Kim Allen on the 4th of the following month. After that Ed also took the life of young Jeanette Kamahele in Santa Rosa on April 25th. Then, he just went home to his wife and kids in Ohio, like he always did.
This is when Ed peaked and finally figured out how to get the recognition he so desperately craved. This would finally be his year. In October it all came together. Edwards published an autobiography and he even appeared on TV with popular celebrities. At one point, he shared a stage with Alan Alda on the game show To Tell The Truth, where Ed talked about being on the most wanted list and suspected in a double murder. All the while he was doing the 101 killings. Unbeknownst to anyone, he ended the lives of several girls north of San Francisco on the highway, throughout the end of that year and on into the next.
After spreading his carnage in states across the land, on August 1st of 1973, Ed decided to try something new. He mailed a Zodiac letter from Albany, New York, threatening to start killing. Then, he headed west, killing others along the way to pass the time. However, none of these were actually Zodiac murders. Back home, Ed forced his small children to watch the movie Exorcist. Then, in January of 1974, he went to California again and mailed the famous Exorcist letter as the Zodiac. This went on and on, with other things like the Red Phantom card, and others.
Then, in late July of 1975, Ed called up an old friend to arrange a meeting in Michigan. Jimmy Hoffa was intrigued by the whole thing, so he agreed. He hadn’t really seen Ed that much since they did time together at Leavenworth several years prior to that. Granted, Jimmy did get Ed a job at one point, but they weren’t all that well acquainted. Nonetheless, Hoffa agreed to meet with Edwards at a restaurant, to find out what he had to say. They both loved a good scam, but after Ed got Jimmy into the car with him, it was all over.
Ed had carried a grudge toward Hoffa ever since he called him a “homo” in 1967, but Jimmy Hoffa had no idea that Edwards was about to claim another victim in his epic reign as the ultimate serial killer. Not surprisingly, after he disposed of the remains, Ed went home and called the FBI with a hot tip on a high profile murder. At that point, two agents were quickly dispatched to question him, but he just talked about stuff like the mob’s involvement, and what have you. After that, Ed even went to Illinois and did an interview with the Chicago Tribune on August 5th. He was so maniacally brazen in that way.
At the end of January in 1976, the FBI held a conference in Michigan on the disappearance of Hoffa and Ed attended in disguise. Then, while he was in the area Edwards wanted to commemorate the occasion, so he killed people. Ed began the Oakland County child murders in the middle of February, when he brutally murdered a 12 year old boy from Ferndale. The battered body of Mark Stebbins was found in a snow bank in a parking lot where Ed laid him out, after sexually assaulting him with something and then strangling him to death. This led to a spree in the area.
Then, in 1977 Ed finally committed a murder that would actually catch up to him, eventually. On August 8th in his hometown of Akron Ohio, Ed killed Judith Straub and Billy Lavacco on a lover’s lane, once again on the anniversary of his mother’s death. This would become two of the five cases for which Ed would be prosecuted. The sad thing is that the young couple had only been together about eight months when Ed abducted them and forced them to get on the ground in a field where he shot them both in the face with a shotgun at pointblank range. A few family members and some local members of the community gathered in the lot the next day as police, and a National Guard helicopter, searched through the high weeds to find them.
The third and fourth victims for which he would get convicted were Kelly Drew and Tim Hack, from another double homicide, in Wisconsin in 1980. As was often the case, Ed had been questioned at the time, but there was no basis to hold him. It wouldn’t be until almost thirty years later that they would find a connection that could be established by way of genetic testing. However, the nail in the coffin of Ed’s career was the result of his own children, one of which tipped off the police.
Edwards also recently confessed to the murder of Danny Boy Edwards who was a kind of adopted son of Ed’s. Danny Boy had lived with Ed and Kay for years. Then, Edwards just killed the poor guy in 1996 as part of a scheme to get a quarter of a million dollars in insurance money. He went on killing for years on end, after doing away with a member of his own extended family. For that, Ed was ultimately sentenced to death in March of 2011. Only he died in prison of natural causes a month later, never having been fully brought to justice.