Ailing Ky. con man admits murdering young couples in Wis., Ohio after saying he was reformed

JEFFERSON, Wis. (AP) — A young Edward Edwards once told a nun he wanted to be crook. After a stint on the FBI's Most Wanted List and time in prison, he said he wanted to be reformed.

Instead, he now says, he became a murderer.

The ailing 76-year-old former con man, who once described himself as a cross between John Dillinger and Don Juan, admitted from his wheelchair Wednesday to killing a young Wisconsin couple in 1980. Edwards also agreed to plead guilty Friday to fatally shooting a young Ohio couple in 1977.

He was being transported Thursday to Summit County, Ohio, where he was to enter his guilty pleas in court on Friday.

All four slayings came years after Edwards claimed to have turned his life around and started talking to others about avoiding a life of crime.

"It's just one more step on the way to hell for him," Patrick Hack, brother of 19-year-old victim Tim Hack, said of Edwards' confessions.

Edwards, of Louisville, Ky., was arrested last July after DNA connected him to the deaths of Hack and his 19-year-old girlfriend, Kelly Drew. The couple disappeared from a Wisconsin wedding reception in August 1980. Their bodies were found weeks later in the woods. Investigators believe Hack was stabbed and Drew strangled. Drew's clothes and underwear were slashed to ribbons.

In April, Edwards confessed to Ohio authorities that he also shot Bill Lavaco, 21, of Doylestown and Judith Straub, 18, of Sterling in the neck at close range and left their bodies in a park in August 1977.

His attorney, Jeffrey De La Rosa, said he didn't know if more details ever would become known. Patrick Hack said he didn't need to hear more.

"If he told you something, would you believe him?" he said.

Born in Akron, Ohio, in 1933, Edwards wrote in his 1972 autobiography "Metamorphosis of a Criminal" that he spent his early years being beaten by nuns in an orphanage. When a nun asked him what he wanted to be, he told her, "'Sister, I'm gonna be a crook, and I'm gonna be a good one."

Ruggedly handsome and just as cunning, he traveled the country in the 1950s, hitchhiking, forging checks and having sex.

According to his book, he escaped from jail in Akron in 1955 by pushing past a guard and fled across the country, holding up gas stations for money. He never wore a mask because he wanted to be famous.

In 1961 he landed on the FBI's Ten Most Wanted Fugitives List. He eventually was captured in Atlanta.

He said a guard at the federal prison in Leavenworth, Kan., turned his life around. When paroled in 1967, he remade himself into an inspirational speaker and eventually married.

In 1980, he began working as a handyman at the reception hall where Hack and Drew were last seen. Investigators questioned him shortly after the couple disappeared, and he abruptly left the state. He drifted to Pennsylvania where he burned down a rented house and in 1982 was sentenced to more than 2 years in prison for arson.

His movements in the 1990s remain a mystery. Police in Louisville said he moved into a trailer park on the outskirts of town in 2000. A woman who answered the phone at the trailer home Wednesday declined to comment and hung up without identifying herself.

Wisconsin investigators submitted DNA taken from semen found on Drew's pants to state analysts in 2007. They matched it to DNA from Edwards in June 2009. Police have not said what led them to obtain DNA from him.

Edwards suffers from diabetes, is confined to a wheelchair and often showed up at court hearings hooked to an oxygen tank. He's been getting medical treatment at a state prison in Waupun.

A grand jury in Ohio indicted Edwards Wednesday on two counts of aggravated murder in Lavaco and Straub's deaths. He signed a deal agreeing to plead guilty to all four homicides and entered his plea to Hack and Drew's deaths in a Wisconsin courtroom.

Ohio prosecutors plan to seek two consecutive life sentences. He'll then be sentenced for the Hack and Drew homicides in Wisconsin, where he faces two mandatory life sentences.

Then he goes back to Ohio to start serving his time.

De La Rosa said Edwards signed the agreement to spare his wife, his family and the victims' families from sitting through a trial. Drew's brother, Mike Drew, said he was surprised but glad.

"I was hoping it would come to this," Mike Drew said.


Richmond contributed from Madison, Wis. Associated Press Writer Thomas J. Sheeran contributed to this report from Cleveland.