Special Report: Plans to exhume 1977 Arkansas murder victim’s body are ‘underway’

Special Reports

HOT SPRINGS, Ark. – A poem titled “New Lite” sparks memories of an old, dark secret.

The secret starts in the wooded terrain of Jack Mountain in Hot Spring County, where hunters found the remains of Linda Edwards back in 1977.

At the time, Edwards had been missing for months. She was a newly-sworn in deputy at the Garland County Sheriff’s Office; one of the first women to earn such a position.

Since the discovery of her remains, at least one detective has stayed on the case: her son, Toby.

Toby occasionally reverts back to the poem his mother wrote, which stirs up emotions and anger about the standstill the investigation into her death has endured.

“Being a hamster on a hamster wheel,” Toby says. “Just can’t get anywhere.”

He keeps a box of case files with photos and other mementos from his mother.

At the time of Linda’s disappearance, reports indicate that she was pregnant.

Documents also timeline an on-again, off-again affair with a married Hot Springs city cop: Thurman Abernathy.

“He didn’t want her to have the kid because he was up for a promotion to lieutenant,” Toby claims.

In interviews with detectives, Abernathy says the last time he saw Linda was about a week before she went missing. After she disappeared, detectives noted how clean Abernathy’s car was.

Toby, age 6 at the time, says he vividly recalls a final conversation between his mother and Abernathy in the parking lot of a grocery store.

“It was dusk, and Thurman rolled up in his duty car,” Toby says. “They were talking back and forth, and I wasn’t really paying attention, and then it got heated and I’m standing up right beside her in the chair, in the seat and I heard her say…’This baby has as much right to live as any other child’… and I’m paraphrasing.”

“And she just sighed real big and said ‘Thurman, I can’t do this here,'” Toby continues.

Reports confirm Abernathy was arrested in connection to Linda’s death, but a lack of evidence resulted in the case getting dropped.

Abernathy has never been charged with any related crime.

He’s maintained his innocence for more than 40 years.

We reached out to Abernathy by phone at his Hot Springs home.

Abernathy handed the phone to his wife, who then told us that Thurman is 80 years old now and suffering from Alzheimer’s.

We reached out to the Hot Spring County prosecutor, who would be the one to bring forward any charges in the case.

She told me in an e-mail that most of my questions “will not be answered because they relate to the evidence or persons of interest.” But, she did confirm plans are underway to exhume Linda’s remains for further DNA testing.

“When it does unravel, it will unravel,” Toby says.

Toby is left in the same spot he’s been in since the 70s with more questions than answers and haunting memories of the day he, his sister and his dad learned mom was gone.

“It just, it was a tough day for all three of us,” he says.

For now, Toby finds himself going back to that poem, which is also inscribed on Linda’s headstone.

There is hope now that maybe one day, evidence from beneath the grave could shed new light.

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