Mack Ray Edwards (1918-1971) was an American serial
killer. He murdered at least six children in Los Angeles County between
1953 and 1970.
Mack Ray Edwards was born in Arkansas. He moved to Los
Angeles County in 1941. As a heavy equipment operator contracted by
Caltrans, he worked on freeways. The body of one of his victims was
found underneath the Santa Ana Freeway, and he claimed to have disposed
another of his victims under the Ventura Freeway.
Edwards killed three children from 1953 to 1956, and
three more in 1968 and 1969. In 1970, Edwards and a teenage male
accomplice kidnapped three girls from their home in Sylmar. When the
girls escaped, Edwards surrendered to police and confessed to molesting
and murdering six children.
After three bodies were recovered, Edwards pleaded guilty
to three counts of murder and was sentenced to death.
On October 30, 1971, following two unsuccessful attempts,
Edwards committed suicide by hanging himself with a television cord in
his cell in San Quentin.
Edwards was convicted of the murders of three children:
* Stella Darlene Nolan, age 8, of Compton, who
disappeared June 20, 1953.
* Gary Rochet, age 16, of Granada Hills, who was found after having been
shot to death on November 26, 1968.
* Donald Allen Todd, age 13, of Pacoima, who disappeared May 16, 1969.
Edwards confessed to three additional killings. Because
the bodies of the victims were not recovered, he was never officially
charged with these murders:
* Don Baker, 13, and Brenda Howell, age 11, of Azusa, who
disappeared August 6, 1956. Howell was Edwards' sister-in-law.
* Roger Madison, 16, of Sylmar, disappeared December 16, 1968.
Edwards may have committed other murders, but his own
account was inconsistent: while in prison he claimed to have killed 18
children, but in an interview with the Los Angeles Times he said the
number was only six. The 12-year span between Baker's and Howell's
disappearances and Rochet's shooting has led investigators to suspect
Edwards may have claimed more victims in between.
As of March 2007, the Los Angeles Police Department is
investigating the possibility of Edwards' involvement in the
disappearance of Tommy Bowman, 8, of Redondo Beach, who disappeared in
Pasadena on March 23, 1957. Author Weston DeWalt was researching the
Bowman disappearance when he noticed the similarity between a photo of
Edwards and a sketch of Bowman's abductor. DeWalt was later shown a
letter from Edwards to his wife in which Edwards states that he "left
out" Tommy Bowman from his confession to police.
Edwards is also considered a suspect in the
disappearances of Bruce Kremen of Granada Hills and Karen Lynn Tompkins
and Dorothy Gale Brown of Torrance. Kremen, 6, disappeared from a YMCA
camp in Angeles National Forest on July 12, 1960. Tompkins, 11,
disappeared on August 18, 1961. Brown, also 11, disappeared on July 3,
1962. She had been molested and drowned. Her body was recovered from the
ocean off of Marina Del Rey.
Mack Ray Edwards
Authorites did not relize that they had a
serial murderer in their midst when Mack Ray Edwards walked to the front
desk of a Los Angeles police station on March 5, 1970, handed the
suprised duty officer a loaded handgun, and confessed to the triple-kidnapping
of three young girls that had occurred on the previous day. Two had
already escaped and the other was recovered safely when Edwards directed
officers to the Angeles National Forest where she awaited.
Edwards was not finished confessing. He
immediately detailed his six previous murderers of children. Edwards told
authorities he killed Stell Nolan, 8, in 1953, and had committed the
double-murder of Don Baker, 13, and Brenda Howell, 11, in 1956. Edwards
insisted that he had not killed again until his slaying of 16-year-old
Gary Rochet in November of 1968. The child-killers last two victims were
Roger Madison, 16, just three weeks after Rochet, and Donald Todd, 13,
on May 16, 1969. Edwards led detectives to Nolan's remains, but was
unsuccessful in locating where he had disposed of the bodies of his
other five victims.
Though detectives scoffed at Edward's
suppoised twelve year hiatus from killing, the murderer insisted there
were no more victims and demanded immediate execution after being
sentenced to death for three of the murders. Unable to wait his turn,
Edwards took his own life on his third attempt on October 30, 1971.
Edwards, Mack Ray
A native of Arkansas, born in 1919, Edwards moved to Los Angeles in 1941, logging one arrest for vagrancy that April, prior to finding work as a heavy-equipment operator. In that role, he helped build the freeways that made L.A. famous, and by early 1970 he was a veteran on the job, married and a father of two, the very model of blue-collar propriety. If anyone suspected his involvement in a string of brutal murders spanning sixteen years, they kept the secret to themselves.
On March 5, 1970, three girls, ages 12 to 14, were abducted by burglars from their home in Sylmar, a Los Angeles suburb. Two escaped from their captors, but one was still missing the next day, when Mack Edwards entered a Los Angeles police station, surrendering a loaded revolver as he informed the duty officer, "I have a guilt complex." Edwards named his teenage accomplice in the kidnapping, and directed police to the Angeles National Forest, where the missing girl was found, unharmed. Before authorities could take his statement down, the prisoner informed them there were "other matters" to discuss.
As homicide detectives listened, dumb-struck, Edwards voluntarily confessed to half a dozen murders, dating from the early 1950s. Stella Nolan, eight years old, had been the first to die, in June of 1953. Abducted from her home in Compton, she had never been recovered, and her fate remained a mystery for sixteen years, until a killer's conscience led him to confess.
Mack's second crime had been a double-header, claiming 13-year-old Don Baker and 11-year-old Brenda Howell, in Azusa, on August 6, 1956. Once again, the bodies were missing, no solution in sight before Edwards surrendered himself to police.
According to the killer's statement, he had sworn off murder for a dozen years, returning with a vengeance in the fall of 1968. Gary Rochet, age 16, had been shot to death at his home, in Granada Hills, on November 26, and Roger Madison, also 16, had vanished in Sylmar three weeks later.
The last to go was 13-year-old Donald Todd, reported missing in Pacoima on May 16, 1969.
On March 7, 1970, Edwards led officers into the San Gabriel Mountains, seeking the graves of two victims, but altered terrain foiled the search. He had better luck four days later, directing his keepers to a section of the Santa Ana Freeway, where the skeletal remains of Stella Nolan were unearthed from an eight-foot-deep grave. Edwards maintained that Roger Madison was buried beneath the Ventura Freeway, but authorities declined to plow the highway up in search of clues. The crimes, Mack said, had all been motivated by an urge for sex.
With Edwards safely under lock and key, police voiced skepticism at the 12-year gap in his "career," suggesting that there might be other victims unaccounted for -- a body-count of 22, in all. Responding from his cell, the killer adamantly stuck by his confession. "Six is all there is," he told reporters. "There's not any more. That's all there is." Before his trial, he twice attempted suicide, slashing his stomach with a razor blade on March 30, and gulping an overdose of tranquilizers on May 7.
Charged in three of his six confessed crimes, Edwards was convicted and sentenced to die after telling the jury, "I want the chair; that's what I've always wanted," Immediate execution was his goal. As Edwards told the court, "My lawyer told me there are a hundred of men waiting to die in the chair. I'm asking the judge if I can have the first man's place. He's sitting there sweating right now. I'm not sweating. I'm ready for it."
Ready or not, Edwards was faced with the prospect of mandatory appeals, conscious of the fact that no California inmate had been executed since 1967.
On October 30, 1971, he cut the process short, using an electric cord to hang himself in his death row cell at San Quentin.
Michael Newton - An Encyclopedia of
Modern Serial Killers - Hunting Humans
"I Have a Guilt Complex"
Katherine Ramsland - Truetv.com
On March 5, 1970, the parents of three girls who
lived in Sylmar, California, just outside Los Angeles, found the girls
missing. They search everywhere, calling friends and their school, but
no one knew where they were. From all appearances, someone had broken
into the home, perhaps to burglarize it, and seemed to have taken the
Two escaped that day, returning home to report that
two men had kidnapped them, but the third child remained missing. Before
the police were able to work up an investigation, however, a man entered
the LAPD station and went to the front desk. He gave the police a loaded
revolver and announced that his name was Mack Ray Edwards. He reportedly
said, "I have a guilt complex," as recorded by writer Michael Newton. He
admitted to the kidnapping, turning in his accomplice, and gave police
directions to where the still-missing girl could be found in the Angeles
National Forest. As officers went to get her (she was unharmed), Edwards
admitted that he had other matters to discuss with them as well.
The girl turned out to be remarkably lucky, as these
"other matters" involved a series of sex murders. Since 1953, Edwards
claimed, he'd been killing children. His first victim had been an 8-year-old
girl, Stella Nolan, whom he'd kidnapped. This murder was followed three
years later by two in one day: Don Baker, 13, and Brenda Howell, 11.
Apparently, Edwards was bothered by his offenses and over the next few
years had tried to control himself.
Yet compulsion will have its way. In 1968, across a
period of three weeks, Edwards killed two 16-year-old boys, shooting one
of them in the boy's home. The following year, Edwards grabbed and
slaughtered a 13-year-old. Now, he said, he'd intended death for this
girl that he'd spared. He offered to show officers the others' graves
but warned that some would be difficult to find.
First, they located Stella's skeletal remains, buried
in a surprisingly deep grave, but they refused to break up the highway
asphalt under which Edwards said another victim was buried. In fact,
several of the missing victims might have been thus erased, because
Edwards had worked for the highway department and knew where new roads
were going to be laid. It was a simple thing for him to dig a shallow
grave the night before.
While investigators had initially had difficulty
believing Edwards when he'd come in with his announcement, they were
soon doubtful in the opposite way: they did not believe that he'd
stopped himself as he claimed for over a decade, but he was adamant that
he'd confessed to all the murders. It was also apparently true that he
was somewhat conscience-stricken because before his trial he attempted
to kill himself twice in his cell. He also told the jury he wanted to be
executed. He got his death sentence, but the appeals process was too
slow for him, so he finally succeeded in taking his life on October 30,
1970, by hanging himself with an electrical cord.
Another killer turned himself in only after he'd been
suspected in several incidents, and apparently he wanted to clarify his
agenda. Or, he wanted to use a confession as a way to prove his
Dig Begins For Serial Killer's
Victim, 40 Years Later
by Steve Proffitt - NPR.org
October 6, 2008
Alongside a freeway near Los Angeles on Monday, law
enforcement officials are hoping to locate the remains of 15-year-old
Roger Madison, the likely victim of a serial killer.
If their excavation is successful, they will
complete a story that began almost 40 years ago. On the afternoon of
Dec. 16, 1968, Madison left his home in Sylmar, an L.A. suburb, and
was never seen again.
Two years later, a highway construction worker
named Mack Ray Edwards turned himself in to the police. He confessed
to the murders of six children — including Madison, according to
author Weston DeWalt, who is writing a book about Edwards and his
"Mack Ray Edwards had a relationship with [Madison's]
family, had dinner in their home," says DeWalt. "Roger Madison trusted
Mack Ray Edwards. And Mack Ray Edwards lured him into an orange grove,
and stabbed him multiple times, and killed him."
Edwards told police that he buried his victims
along freeways at highway construction sites where he was working,
using the heavy equipment he operated as part of his job. After his
confession, Edwards led police to the sites where he had buried three
of his victims. Their bodies were recovered; he was convicted of those
crimes and sentenced to death. But the three other bodies, including
Madison's, were never found.
Shortly after his conviction in 1971, Edwards hung
himself with an electrical cord in his cell at San Quentin prison.
When he died, so did efforts to find his other victims' bodies.
Digging Up The Past
Then, just three years ago, DeWalt shared his
research about Madison's disappearance with L.A. Police Detective
Vivian Flores. Others had been intrigued by the case, but when Flores
learned that the teen's body had never been found, locating him became
her personal mission.
"I think a lot of people take missing persons as
very trivial," she says. "You know, kids that run away and then come
home. He didn't come home. He never came home."
DeWalt and Flores began interviewing survivors.
Madison's parents were dead, but a brother and three sisters survived.
They obtained DNA samples and talked to people who had worked on the
construction crew with Edwards. They read and re-read his confession.
They pored over old, yellowed documents, construction plans and
Finally, they settled on a spot along an offramp on
the Ventura freeway. They brought in a team of cadaver dogs. All four
dogs indicated they detected human remains in a specific area.
Then, with the help of forensic archeologists, they
used ground penetrating radar. It revealed what the experts called
anomalies. They recommended an excavation.
Along with units from the LAPD and Ventura County
Sheriff's Department, a special unit from the FBI was to assist in the
excavation Monday. More than 100 people — highway workers, law
enforcement officers, forensic experts and archeologists — were to
begin what could be the end of a three-year effort by DeWalt and
When asked why she devoted three years of work to
finding the body of a boy who died 40 years ago, whose parents are
dead and whose killer is dead, Flores looks a little incredulous.
"Does that mean that I forget about that child that
never came home? No. We have an obligation. He deserves," she wipes
away a tear, "just as much as much as all the other homicide victims,
to be found, and to be brought back to his family.
"I have a child. If he went missing, I can't fathom
[him] being missing for 40 years. This mother and father had to live
with that. Not knowing where their kid was. We have to test our
knowledge and our expertise and just work it, as best as we can. I do
it for these kids. I do it for my kid. I do it because I care."
Workers could find remains within hours — or it
might take weeks. If they come up empty, it's likely that DeWalt and
Flores will go back to their documents, re-examine their research, and
continue their search until the body of that teen, who disappeared on
that fateful winter day, is found.
Searching for Tommy
Kenneth Todd Ruiz - Pasadena Star-News
October 14, 2007
Fifty years after Tommy Bowman vanished from an
Upper Arroyo Seco trail, Pasadena police have relabeled the case a
homicide. Cold-case detectives believe Tommy was the victim of Mack
Ray Edwards, as suggested earlier this year by local author Weston
DeWalt and a team of investigators from other law-enforcement
But now, as DeWalt seeks to fill the gaps in
Edwards' criminal biography, Pasadena's prime suspect falls under
suspicion of unsolved crimes from Santa Barbara to Tijuana, prompting
police to consider the unsettling possibility he might have murdered
the most children in state history.
"Everybody needs to know about Mack Ray, who may be
one of the most prolific child killers in history," said Pasadena
police Detective John Dewar. "DeWalt's done a magnificent job, and I
have to give him credit for everything we've been able to do up to
this point. I'd hire him any day as a detective here."
Although Pasadena's new cold-case unit shares
DeWalt's belief about where Tommy's body could be buried, the 63-year-old
investigative journalist has added six more children he suspects
Dead man's trail
What began as a study of how the Bowman family
survived without ever knowing 8-year-old Tommy's fate has turned into
a macabre puzzle for DeWalt.
Every hunch that becomes a theory and arouses law-enforcement's
interest is a new piece to fill out the portrait of Edwards, whose
life ended 36 years ago with the
killer hanging from the end of a television power cord on San
Quentin's death row.
In recent months, DeWalt's added a jailhouse
exchange with Charles Manson, a dead girl in a muddy Mexican creek
and more children who just seemed to have vanished as more chilling
stops along the decades-cold trail he's felt pulled along for the
past three years.
"Cold-case detectives have a unique capacity to
walk those trails, and I have learned a great deal from them during
the course of my research," DeWalt said. "The trick for me ... is how
to to leave the those trails behind when you go home at night."
In 1970, Edwards confessed to the murder of six
children: Stella Darlene Nolan of Norwalk; Donald Baker and Brenda
Howell of Azusa; Gary Rocha of Granada Hills; Roger Madison of Sylmar;
and Donald Allen Todd of Pacoima.
A heavy-equipment operator, Edwards reportedly
chose victims near the highways and freeways he was building, where
some of their bodies are believed buried.
"His (method) was to have the kill site picked out
and the burial site picked out ahead of time, and they had to be close
together," DeWalt said.
Then and as now, police believe there were many
more murders he never owned up to. But with few living witnesses who
knew Edwards — reported to have been an amicable loner — establishing
the extent of his criminal career has been difficult.
Eighteen was the number he gave one of his jailers
but refused to repeat under subsequent interrogation.
Apart from Edwards' widow, whom police have
interviewed several times during the past year, at least one person
remains alive who heard much more.
Neither police nor DeWalt would identify their
source beyond his first name — Roberto.
A minor at the time of his unrelated arrest,
Roberto was locked in a Los Angeles County Jail cell, flanked by
Manson on one side and Edwards on the other.
Manson would offer him a cigarette, then threaten
to kill him minutes later, according to DeWalt.
Edwards was consistently friendly, according to
that account, but no less frightening. He'd keep Roberto awake at
night talking about the different children he'd murdered.
DeWalt said he asked how many stories Edwards told
Upward of 20, Roberto recalled with certainty.
In March of this year, police detectives went on
the record with their belief that Edwards abducted Tommy Bowman along
Altadena Drive on March 23, 1957.
They also were giving serious consideration to
DeWalt's suspicions that Edwards might also have killed Bruce Kremen
in Angeles National Forest, as well as Karen Lynn Thompkins and
Dorothy Gale Brown of Torrance.
Doing the grisly math, that's 10 children Edwards
is either known or suspected of killing.
If Roberto's account is true, who were the other
Having convinced police he was right about Tommy
and possibly others, DeWalt hopes detectives will now review six other
unsolved crimes he suspects may have been Edwards' victims.
"The issue, in my mind, is that in these cases, he
should be considered a suspect," DeWalt said Friday.
As his theories lead him north into Ventura and
Santa Barbara counties, and south to the Mexican border, DeWalt has
received mixed responses from various agencies.
A Santa Barbara County sheriff's detective said
they were working with DeWalt regarding the 1964 disappearance in
Goleta of Todd Eugene Collett, 3, but referred inquiries to a
spokesman who did not respond to calls for comment.
Nearby, Santa Barbara police Lt. Mark Vierra said
they've ruled out Edwards as a suspect after DeWalt brought him to
their attention in the case of Ramona Irene Price, 7, who disappeared
while walking unsupervised on Sept. 2, 1961.
Edwards made regular visits to the area after a
longtime friend moved to Goleta in late 1959 to work as a maintenance
man near two major construction projects — a housing tract and a
"Certainly, Edwards is someone we should have
worked at and we had to listen to what Mr. DeWalt had to say about him,"
Vierra said. "Our stance was that he would not be a person of primary
interest to us. We think that the two people we looked at ... are
probably our primary suspects."
Two convicted sex offenders, Raymond and William
Panno, admitted under a voluntary, sodium-pentathol-fueled interview
that they saw the 7-year-old from their vehicle and paused to urge her
away from the side of the road that day.
A forensic examination of their car discovered no
evidence of abduction, and even concluded no effort had been made to
"The sum of all our investigative leads have been
evaluated to a blank," concluded a police summary of the extensive
Ramona Price might have been the first child to go
missing in that area in a decade, DeWalt said. After Edwards' 1970
confession, Santa Barbara Police Chief William Hague formally
requested that Los Angeles investigators ask their suspect about Price.
DeWalt, who reviewed records of those
interrogations, said it was never brought up.
But not long after the Pannos said they addressed
the girl, someone saw a girl matching Ramona's description get into a
Plymouth stopped along Modoc Road near La Cumbre Country Club.
Just like the police sketch that proved the crucial
break in solving Tommy's disappearance, a sketch of that car's driver
is what snags DeWalt's attention.
It shows a tall, thin man, 30 to 40 years old, with
his dark hair swept back. Edwards was known to have driven several
Plymouths, DeWalt said.
Vierra said his department would continue listening
and give serious consideration to any new information but acknowledged
that, like most police agencies, "cold-case units are kind of a luxury,
especially to have someone doing it full time."
That's something Dewar in Pasadena understands.
Pasadena police had taken no action on the Bowman case, even after
other agencies publicized their conclusions.
"LAPD and (the Sheriff's Department's) cold case
were both working the Tommy case as a homicide, and we weren't, which
was kind of embarrassing," he said. "We dropped the ball on that
entirely here, so I changed that around."
Edwards also had a friend he would visit in
National City, a small suburb of San Diego. On Jan. 3, 1960, 10-year-old
Mary Lou Olson vanished after telling her father she was walking to a
Her body was found nine days later in a muddy creek
bed just south of Tijuana, an area DeWalt said two people have claimed
Edwards was familiar with.
On Friday, a representative of the National City
Police Department said detectives had looked into Edwards as a suspect
and determined there was no connection.
DeWalt also considers Edwards a "possible" in the
1965 murder of Stephanie Lynn Gorman of Los Angeles, Dixie Lee
Arenen's disappearance from Granada Hills in 1968, and that of Cindy
Lee Mellin in 1970 from Ventura.
The Bowman case is one of the oldest among 130
unsolved homicides being reviewed with renewed vigor by Lt. Kate
Favara of the new cold case unit funded by Pasadena this summer.
As to why such old, cold cases are important, Dewar
looks no further than Tommy's father, Eldon Bowman, who held out hope
for 50 years his son might yet contact him.
"The bottom line is that it's in everybody's best
interest to get the information out about Mack Ray and see if anyone
else can have closure," Dewar said. "There are other families out
there still wondering what happened to their kid."
Last month, Favara and Dewar traveled to Simi
Valley to tell Eldon Bowman they'd reclassified Tommy as a homicide --
and to ask if they had ever fallen short of his needs.
"I never understood how the Police Department could
classify it as a missing (person) when neighbors saw this strange guy,
Mack Ray, following Tommy out of the Arroyo, and even did a composite
drawing," Dewar recounts Eldon saying.
Interviewed Wednesday, Eldon Bowman said he
appreciated the visit.
"They didn't have to," he said. "I've been aware of
what was going on. Probably so - 50 years is a long time to expect
Both Dewar and DeWalt said they've narrowed the
likely location of Tommy's body to two locations - an El Monte
residence or somewhere under the freeway in Pasadena.
"Even his wife never understood why they moved out"
of an El Monte home they'd been at for less than a year, Dewar said.
During part of his career, Edwards worked for Kirst Construction, a
contractor with offices near the west end of Woodbury Road in Pasadena,
near the south end of the parkland where Tommy went missing.
At the time of Tommy's disappearance, nearby
stretches of highway were in various stages of construction.
At the time of Tommy's disappearance, nearby
stretches of highway were in various stages of construction.
Determining those exact locations in March, 1957, has been held up
since this past spring, when Caltrans began searching for project
Kenneth Todd Ruiz -
March 19, 2007
Something terrible happened 50 years ago in
the Arroyo Seco above Pasadena, a mystery coursing through Eldon
Bowman's mind ever since.
On March 23, 1957, his son Tommy, 8, vanished at
the end of a brief hike.
"I'll beat you to the car," Tommy told his two
cousins before scrambling out of their lives forever.
The Redondo Beach boy went around a corner and then
was just gone.
Massive searches were organized. For nearly a week,
police and residents thought they were looking for a lost child.
Stories in the Daily Breeze and newspapers throughout the Los Angeles
region tracked every development.
Weeks later, with all leads exhausted, the crisis
of Tommy's disappearance settled into something of a black hole. There
was nothing more for his parents and siblings to do but return to
their home on Irena Avenue.
Five decades later, a Pasadena man obsessed with
ending Eldon Bowman's torment by uncovering the truth behind Tommy's
disappearance has reached grisly and disturbing conclusions about what
happened that afternoon. And the police say he's got it right.
Furthermore, the revelations of author Weston
DeWalt could precipitate breaks in a number of other cold cases
involving child victims throughout Southern California.
After more than two years absorbed in research on
Tommy's disappearance, DeWalt is convinced the boy was abducted that
Saturday evening and murdered by Mack Ray Edwards, then of Azusa,
during the course of a long career as a serial sexual abuser and
murderer of children.
DeWalt is not alone in his theory.
"I absolutely believe he's responsible for the
disappearance of Tommy Bowman," said Detective Vivian Flores of the
Los Angeles Police Department's Cold Case Homicide Unit. "He's gotten
away with it. He can't win and I won't let him."
Not that Edwards is around to take his punishment.
He committed suicide in 1971 in San Quentin state prison.
From 1953 to 1968, Edwards is known to have killed
half a dozen children: * Stella Nolan, 8, was abducted from her home
in June 1953, sexually abused, strangled and left for dead in the
Angeles National Forest. * Donald Baker and Brenda Howell, both 11,
left Azusa on a bike ride in 1956 and never returned. Their throats
were slit and their bodies were dumped off Mount Baldy Road. * Gary
Rocha, 13, was found shot to death in his Granada Hills home in 1968.
* Roger Madison, 16, left his Sylmar home on his motorcycle one month
later and was never seen again. * The body of Donald Allen Todd, 13,
of Pacoima was found shot to death the following spring under a
footbridge not far from his home.
Police now believe he's responsible for Tommy's
disappearance and consider him a "person of interest" in the cases of
up to 13 other missing children.
An end to the crimes
On March 6, 1970, Edwards walked into the LAPD's
Foothill Station with a loaded handgun and turned himself in for
kidnapping three young sisters in Sylmar, where he had been living.
The girls had recognized Edwards and, after two escaped, the killer
knew his years of mayhem were near an end.
Donald Baker was Edwards' neighbor, Brenda Howell
his wife's younger sister and Roger Madison one of his adopted son's
schoolmates. Their bodies were never found.
Edwards confessed to all six murders.
He wanted the death penalty, and a jury delivered
the sentence. But death didn't come quickly enough. After several
failed attempts at suicide, Edwards finally hung himself with a
television power cord while on death row.
Decades after the newspapers and their readers
moved on to new atrocities, there are men and women for whom these
children's names are daily material, their unanswered injustices
stretching through time to demand answers.
There are people like Detective Diane Harris, who
handles missing persons cases for the Los Angeles County Sheriff's
"I keep them in the back of my mind -- they're
always there," Harris said of her child cases. "I can actually even
tell you what their names are without looking at them."
Flores, the LAPD detective, keeps her children with
her at all times. In her LAPD office, at home or in her car, the
detective doesn't let the thick binders with missing children's names
printed on the covers out of her sight.
During the two years of DeWalt's investigation, he
has worked with Harris, Flores and retired homicide investigator Bill
Gleason, now a consultant for the Department of Justice.
"I've never met Tommy Bowman's father, but to find
out what happened, to let him know where his kid is and maybe bring
his body home, is more satisfying," Flores said.
Police, then and today, didn't buy the story
Edwards told them. They believed there were more -- possibly many more
All share the opinion that Edwards abducted Tommy,
and are considering whether he was involved in other disappearances:
Bruce Kremen, 7, from the Angeles National Forest in 1960; and Karen
Tompkins and Dorothy Brown, both 11 and from Torrance, in 1961 and
They were especially skeptical of Edwards' claim to
have stopped killing during the 12-year span from 1956 to 1968.
"I know there are times when they know what they're
doing is wrong, and they don't want to do it, but they have this
compulsion to," Harris said. "He could have been not killing people
during that time frame, but I doubt it."
Making the case
Police say they know Mack Ray Edwards, born in
Arkansas in 1918, sexually molested at least one girl before marrying
a young wife in 1946 and moving to California a year later.
A heavy equipment operator, Edwards worked on
several of the freeways now crisscrossing Southern California.
"It's the perfect place for a man who's a serial
murderer to bury the kids he's killing," Harris said. "He knows where
the holes are, he knows where the concrete is being poured."
Edwards made no mention of Tommy Bowman in his
original confession, but later bragged in prison that his murders
numbered 18, DeWalt said.
Ultimately it was a rough sketch and a bizarre
letter smuggled out of prison before his suicide that convinced DeWalt
that Edwards had killed Tommy.
He made the first tenuous connection between the
two when he came across stories about the murderer.
He had a feeling of d�j� vu when he saw a
photograph of Edwards, and recalled an amateur sketch made at the time
by Claudine Clarke of Altadena.
"I studied the sketch; I studied the photographs,"
DeWalt said. "I went from one to the other, warning myself against
what appeared to be too easy a reach."
His suspicion was strong enough to begin looking
into Edwards' history. But police said they needed more than a sketch
with an uncanny resemblance.
While Eldon Bowman and his family retraced their
steps looking for Tommy, the boy had continued south until, adjacent
to the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, he ascended a trail to the west end
of Altadena Drive.
Two witnesses saw a boy believed to be Tommy near
the trailhead on Altadena Drive. Further east, another woman in the
700 block saw a boy matching Tommy's description crying as he walked
eastbound along the street.
Moments later, she saw a "very tan, unkempt man"
matching Edwards' description casting furtive glances side to side and
moving "at a good clip" behind Tommy, DeWalt said.
Across the street, Claudine Clarke reported some
moments later seeing the same man -- but with one discrepancy. Clarke
described a man in a white T-shirt; her neighbor said he was wearing a
In old photographs of Edwards taken before his
surrender, DeWalt said he can be seen wearing a plaid shirt buttoned
over a white T-shirt. He theorized that as Tommy drew closer to
Lincoln Avenue and busier streets, Edwards removed his overshirt to
free his movements and make the abduction.
The investigation's shocker came from a letter
seized in an October search of the home of Edwards' widow.
A coded confession
In a strange "anti-confession" smuggled out of San
Quentin before his suicide, Edwards recanted much of his confession
and said he was taking the heat for a man he identifies only as "Billy
the cripple." Police investigators unanimously dismiss the anti-confession
as an invention born of Edwards' psychosis.
But later in that same letter, Edwards drops a
"I was going to add one more to the first statement,"
DeWalt recounted Edwards writing of his original confession. "And that
was the Tommy Bowman boy that disappeared in Pasadena, but I felt I
would really make a mess of that one, so I left him out of it."
Police believe that is Edwards' coded confession to
"That right there puts me over the top," Flores
said. "If he didn't know about Tommy Bowman, he wouldn't have
Eldon Bowman never stopped wondering what happened
to Tommy, and laments that Tommy's mother, Mary, died several years
ago, still wondering.
After 50 years of unextinguished hope, the 85-year-old
isn't ready to embrace entirely what DeWalt and police now believe
happened to his son.
"It makes the most sense, as much as I don't like
to think about it," said Bowman, who now lives in Simi Valley. "It
isn't finalized, but it probably is the best explanation anyone has
come up with so far."
Long-dead killer back in sights of
A researcher finds clues that revive decades-old
cases of missing Southland children
By Andrew Blankstein - Los Angeles Times
March 17, 2007
Mack Ray Edwards walked into the Los Angeles Police
Department's Foothill station on March 6, 1970, and said he wanted to
clear his conscience.
The 51-year-old heavy-equipment operator calmly told
a detective that he had molested and killed six children over two
decades across Los Angeles County.
Edwards was arrested, pleaded guilty to three of the
slayings and was sentenced to death. Before he was sent to San Quentin,
he made an even more startling admission: He had actually killed 18
children. Detectives began to investigate the claim, but before they
could get more information, Edwards hanged himself with a television
cord in his cell on death row in 1972.
Thirty-five years later, detectives are taking a new
look at Edwards, reopening four missing-child cases from nearly half a
century ago that they believe are tied to him.
In the last six months, police have uncovered a
letter Edwards wrote seemingly confessing to the killing of a Redondo
Beach boy, and have used ground-penetrating radar to check for bodies
buried at his former home in Sylmar. They plan to send corpse-sniffing
dogs to a half-mile stretch of a Thousand Oaks freeway looking for the
remains of another possible victim.
The case has plunged detectives from the LAPD,
Pasadena and Torrance police, state Department of Justice and Los
Angeles County Sheriff's Department into the yellowing case files of
another era. They are trying to track the movements of a serial killer
who died more than 30 years ago, reopening the old wounds of families
who lost loved ones.
Police say their interest was sparked by the efforts
of Pasadena author Weston DeWalt, who was researching the 1957
disappearance of 8-year-old Tommy Bowman in the Arroyo Seco.
While DeWalt was searching old newspapers, a
photograph caught his attention. The black-and-white image, circa 1970,
showed Edwards in handcuffs as he was led into court.
"I looked at it and I thought: This face looks
familiar, but why?" DeWalt recalled. "I studied it for about five
minutes and was struck by the resemblance to a sketch I had seen in a
Pasadena Police Department file."
That sketch was of a man seen following Tommy before
the sandy-haired Redondo Beach second-grader vanished at the head of an
Arroyo Seco trail.
DeWalt, the coauthor of a bestselling book about a
climbing tragedy on Mt. Everest, came across Bowman's disappearance
while researching hiking trails in the Arroyo Seco. He became fascinated
by the case and eventually met with the boy's father and detectives, who
gave him access to old police records.
"His work has allowed us to go back in time and open
up a lot of windows," said Det. Vivian Flores of the LAPD's cold case
unit. "There's a lot of families who do not know what happened to their
With DeWalt's help, investigators have the first
solid evidence that directly connects Edwards to the disappearance of
the Bowman boy.
After a 2006 interview with Edwards' widow and other
relatives, a family member showed DeWalt a letter from Edwards to his
wife, Mary, when he was on death row.
"I was going to add one more to the first statement"
to the LAPD "and that was the Tommy Bowman boy that disappeared in
Pasadena," he wrote. "But I felt I would really make a mess of that one
so I left him out of it."
Last fall, the LAPD obtained a search warrant and
confiscated the letter as well as photos and other items from his
The break revived painful memories -- but also
offered new hope -- for the boy's father, Eldon Bowman, now in his 80s.
Bowman recalled Friday how the family drove up from
Redondo Beach to Pasadena for a hike and dinner that March day in 1957.
After Tommy vanished, the father refused to go home, searching the
canyon and hillside.
"We went up for an evening's dinner and we stayed for
three weeks, searching round the clock," Bowman recalled Friday, adding
that even today, "Tommy is never far from my mind."
For years afterward, Bowman, the father of two other
children, said he would study the faces of boys Tommy's age, hoping to
recognize his son.
But detectives say they are far from solving Tommy's case and
starting to clear up three others:
* Bruce Kremen, who disappeared in July 1960 from a YMCA camp in the
Angeles National Forest and was never found.
* Two 11-year-old Torrance girls, Karen Lynn Tompkins and Dorothy
Gale Brown, who vanished within a year of each other. Tompkins was never
seen again, but Brown's strangled body was found by recreational divers
July 4, 1962, off Marina del Rey.
Detectives believe the three cases may be connected to Edwards
because the children fit the profile of victims he confessed to killing.
Tompkins' sister, Lori Buck, 45, of Enid, Okla., was only 4 months
old when her sister disappeared while walking home from school. But the
disappearance shattered her family.
"I was sheltered and not allowed to do anything, especially when I
turned 11," Buck said Friday. "My mom thinks Karen's gone. My dad, who
died of cancer, always hoped she would be found."
Detectives have had a difficult time establishing the movements of
Edwards, a construction worker who contracted with Caltrans and other
agencies during the freeway building boom of the 1950s and '60s.
Building on DeWalt's research, police traced Edwards to at least 10
residences around Los Angeles, the South Bay and the San Gabriel and San
Despite the new momentum, detectives say they face obstacles. For
one, files kept on missing children during that era were destroyed after
the children's 18th birthdays, meaning detectives had to build
information about most of the cases from scratch.
Of the six killings Edwards confessed to, the first took place in
1953: Stella Darlene Nolan was an 8-year-old snatched from a refreshment
stand in Norwalk where her mother worked. Within days after Edwards
confessed, police found her remains near a freeway abutment in Downey.
Three years later, he killed his 11-year-old sister-in-law and her
Edwards told police he stopped killing until the late 1960s, when he
moved to Sylmar with his wife, son and daughter.
Detectives recently deployed cadaver dogs and ground-penetrating
radar at his former Ralston Avenue home in hopes of finding possible
In December 1968, he broke into a Sylmar home planning to kidnap a
13-year-old girl but ended up shooting her 16-year-old brother, Gary
Rocha, according to Edwards' confession.
Also that month, 16-year-old Roger Dale Madison, a friend and
classmate of Edwards' son, disappeared from Sylmar. Edwards told police
he stabbed Madison repeatedly while they were in an orange grove before
burying him under the 23 Freeway in Thousand Oaks, which was under
Edwards was working on the project and said he used a bulldozer to
bury the youth. Police plan to search the site soon with dogs and radar.
He also confessed to killing Donald Allen Todd, another neighborhood
boy who was found shot and sexually abused in May 1969.
Edwards told police he decided to go to the Foothill station and
confess after a mistake.
On March 6, 1970, Edwards and a 15-year-old accomplice kidnapped
three sisters, ages 12 to 14, from their Sylmar home. Edwards forced the
girls to write a note telling their parents that they were running away
from home before taking them to a remote area near Newhall.
The girls were former neighbors of Edwards and recognized him. Two
of them escaped and a third girl was rescued; none was assaulted.
Fearing he would be identified, he decided to tell his story to police.
More than three decades later, investigators are trying to fill in
large gaps to provide some measure of closure for families who spent
decades wondering what happed to their children.
"We are depending on jogging people's memories," Flores said. "Edwards
said he stopped. We don't believe him. The question is how many more
victims are out there and who knows something about these cases."