Copyright © 2013 by Larry M. Edwards. All rights reserved. No part of this work excerpt may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the author.
The hefty package arrived.
I had submitted my request to the Department of Justice
under the Freedom of Information Act in October 2002. Fourteen months of
letters and phone calls later, the report emerged from the FBI’s byzantine
I ripped open the package as I carried it to my office and plopped into a chair. The title page read:
FEDERAL BUREAU OF INVESTIGATION
PROSECUTIVE REPORT OF INVESTIGATION CONCERNING
[GARY LEE EDWARDS]
CRIME ON THE HIGH SEAS
Next came interdepartmental correspondence related to the case. The report had been sent to the U.S. attorney’s office in Seattle on February 23, 1981. The cover letter accompanying the report—attention Francis J. Diskin, assistant U.S. attorney—consisted of a single sentence: “Dear Sir: For your information, I am enclosing communications which may be of interest to you.” The letter was signed by Allen P. Whitaker, Official in Charge.
That’s it? These guys need a lesson in marketing.
On March 26, Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael P. Ruark
replied, declining to prosecute, and on April 7 Whitaker wrote to Ruark’s boss, U.S. Attorney John Merkel, saying: “We will continue to investigate this case . . . and intend to have a Visual Investigative Analysis (VIA) chart prepared to assist in demonstrating the facts in this case which we feel will support a decision to prosecute.”
I flipped through the pages of the report, a bittersweet blend of excitement and dread playing tug-of-war with my mind. The report began with a narrative summary of the case and a list of witnesses recommended for testifying at the trial.
Seeing my name on the witness list startled me, and a
tingling of realization swept through fingers, hands, arms, and up into my
shoulders, neck, and face. Those calculating bastards! I thought back to the day I stood on the deck of the Spellbound, an observer to the FBI agents’ further questioning of Gary as he walked them through the bloody events that had taken place there. The FBI had orchestrated my presence so I’d have to testify against my own brother.
Yet, shouldn’t I be grateful? I was the only person outside of law enforcement to hear or have knowledge of my brother’s statements to the investigators.
The other witnesses included Kerry, the neurosurgeon who treated Kerry’s skull fracture, an agent from the FBI’s Behavioral Science Unit, and the attorney who handled the “slayer” motion. The final witness was a family friend who would testify as to Gary’s behavioral patterns during his “formative years” as well as to Mom’s emotional stability following the death of her first husband.
Why not Lori? I wondered. Then I recalled her
“meteorite” theory regarding Dad’s death.
I turned to the evidence form. When I read the final word in the description, I shivered as if the temperature had just dropped:
Title and Character of the Case:
UNSUBS: Loren Edwards (Deceased)
Joanne Hazel Edwards (Deceased)
CHS - Murder
I learned later that “UNSUBS” stood for unknown subjects of the investigation; the “CHS” referred back to the title page: Crime on the High Seas. I needed no explanation of the word “murder.”
The evidence list included a blood-stained deck plate, a blood-stained strip of wood, a Crescent wrench, a stainless steel winch handle, two glass slides, and one Walther PPK 9mm semiautomatic pistol (along with a report stating that the gun had been tested and it “exhibited no defects which would produce an accidental discharge”). A paltry assemblage, but the boat had been cleaned by hotel workers.
Additional items included my parents’ journals, my father’s diary, the Spellbound’s logbook, and a tape recording of radio communications from the Spellbound on February 24 and 25, 1978, and “notes regarding same.” I found reports from forensic examinations of the gun, hair, and fiber collected from the boat. However, the evidence that would reveal how my parents had died—forensic reports on the bodies—did not exist.
The case file contained reports from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms regarding Gary’s purchase of the pistol, confirming what an FBI agent had told me earlier and had been reported in newspapers at the time: that Gary had lied about where he got the PPK—a pistol also known as the “James Bond gun.”
In its report on the condition of the Spellbound, the FBI wrote that a visual examination of the outside wheel disclosed “no apparent damage” to any of the six-inch wheel spokes. “No evidence of any tissue, hair, or blood-like stains were [sic] observed on the wheel spokes, the wheel itself, or on the nut in the center of the wheel,” which Gary had suggested might have caused Dad’s severe injury.
The agents had found evidence of “blood-like spots” and
“hair or fibrous material” in and around the cockpit and inside the cabin.
“Inside the salon, a blood-like stain was located under the seat cushion of the couch located against the aft cabin wall. . . . The stain was 12 ¾ inches in length . . . a heavy four-inch-long, half-inch-wide coagulated section of that stain . . . was lifted. These stains . . . also show reddish stains appearing on the cushioned back of the couch over the seat. Additionally, reddish stains appearing on the back edge of the seat cushion can also be observed.” A number of these samples were identified as human blood, head hair, and head-hair fragments.
Another report in the file stated that a friend of my
parents, upon hearing of my father’s death, had contacted the U.S. Coast Guard in Seattle “to assist her in warning Jody Edwards of the danger she was in.” The woman said “she wanted Jody ‘to lock [Gary] up in one of the rooms’ aboard the vessel until help arrived.” But the woman never spoke with Mom.
I also found a letter from Factor-Newland, sent to the FBI in 1985, saying the movie production had been dropped. The fuckers. Couldn’t be bothered to inform me. At least now I can write about my parents’ deaths.
The final page described a phone call received by the FBI on October 26, 1993. The female caller claimed that “Loren and Joanne Edwards were murdered while aboard their sailboat, the ‘Spellbound,’ . . . and advised this has been bothering her and she didn’t know if it would do any good at this point to report it but was willing to take polygraph . . .”