Kentucky man awaiting trial in slayings of 2 Wis. teens also investigated for 2 Ohio homicides

JEFFERSON, Wis. (AP) — Investigators say a former drifter accused of killing two Wisconsin teenagers nearly 30 years ago has confessed to killing another young couple in Ohio.

Edward W. Edwards, 76, of Louisville, Ky., faces two counts of first-degree murder in the deaths of Kelly Drew and Tim Hack in Jefferson County in 1980. He's being held at the Dodge Correctional Institution so he can get medical attention for an array of ailments.

Court documents show an inmate sent a letter to prosecutors in Akron, Ohio, on April 9. The inmate said Edwards told him he was proud of getting away with a double homicide in Norton, Ohio, in 1976.

Edwards sent a letter to Akron prosecutors April 19 saying he understood they were interested in him for a 1976 double homicide in which a man and woman were shot to death in a park.

He said he was getting old and tired and invited investigators to speak to him about the crimes. He said he was in the area when the killings occurred and when investigators were done talking with him they would want to "stick a needle" in his arm — an apparent reference to Ohio's death penalty.

Court documents said there were no double slayings in 1976 in Norton. But investigators believed Edwards was talking about the deaths of William Lavaco, 21, of Doylestown, Ohio, and Judith Straub, 18, of Sterling, Ohio. The couple was found shot dead in a Norton park in 1977.

Edwards' letter included details about the killings that never were public, leading investigators to believe he was mistaken about the year, the documents said.

Ohio investigators visited Edwards last week. Norton Police Chief Thad Hete said Edwards told them he killed the couple. Edwards also allegedly explained why, but Hete declined to elaborate Wednesday.

Hete said detectives are working to confirm Edwards' story. Ohio authorities also are attempting extract genetic material from evidence in their case to run against Edwards' DNA, he said.

"Do I believe he's a viable suspect?" Hete said. "Absolutely, based on where he's been, what he's alleged to have done, what he's a suspect in and what he's been charged with in Wisconsin."

Edwards' attorney, Jeffrey De La Rosa, declined to comment. Jefferson County District Attorney Susan Happ said she wasn't yet sure how the investigation would affect the Wisconsin case.

Lavaco's sister said she's heard rumors about potential suspects before. Kathy Cardinal, of Orrville, Ohio, said she fears Edwards, who wrote a book about his criminal exploits in the 1950s and 1960s, may just want more publicity.

"I just want to make sure that they're (detectives) absolutely, positively sure," Cardinal said. "That's terrible to say. I should be excited."

Edwards wrote an autobiography detailing how he spent the 1950s traveling the country, stealing cars, running scams, robbing gas stations and seducing women. He landed on the FBI's Ten Most Wanted Fugitives list in 1961.

Police captured him in Atlanta 1962. After a stint in federal prison in Leavenworth, Kan., he gave speeches discouraging others from becoming criminals.

Summit County, Ohio, Prosecutor Sherri Bevan Walsh said Edwards got married in the late 1960s. His family moved every few years, drifting across at least nine states.

Wisconsin prosecutors say Edwards was working as a campgrounds handyman near the southeast Wisconsin reception hall where Hack and Drew, both 19, were last seen before they disappeared in August 1980. Edwards was questioned about a month later, then abruptly left the state.

The couple's bodies were found in the woods that October. Hack had been stabbed; Drew had been tied up and strangled.

The case went cold until investigators announced last summer that they had matched DNA taken from Edwards in June 2009 to semen on Drew's pants. Edwards was arrested at a Louisville, Ky., trailer park. Investigators said he acknowledged having sex with Drew but watched as a group of other men stomped the couple to death.

De La Rosa has asked to delay Edwards' trial, scheduled to begin next month, while he reviews hundreds of documents. Judge William F. Hue was expected to rule on the request Thursday.