Posted Friday, July 31, 2009 --- 10:00 p.m.
When Helen Milligan of Ohio saw coverage of the arrest of Edward Edwards on the web, she was absolutely stunned. She contacted NBC 15 News and told us Edwards stayed in her Ohio home in the 1970s when she was a teenager.
In a phone interview from Ohio she told me, "He was a nice guy. He was someone you wouldn't mind having as a next door neighbor. He was a husband, he was a father, he was articulate."
Helen's parents had invited Edwards, who was around 40 at the time, to stay with them after he had spoken at their church. Edwards spoke to church youth groups like Helen's about prison life, and staying out of trouble. He said he had spent 16 years in prison or reformatories. She said, "Edwards believed that prisoners could be reformed, and felt that there was a need for our society to pursue this." She added that Edwards told her, "He had committed every crime except rape and murder" in his younger years.
We have learned Edwards was on the FBI's Ten Most Wanted Fugitives List in 1961, and that he claimed he was sent to prison for bank robbery.
He told Helen that a prison guard turned his life around. When he got out of prison, Edwards recorded an album titled, "Build a Fire in the Person and Not Under Them". He hoped it would steer kids away from a life of crime.
Helen sent us an audio clip from the album in which Edwards says,
"If you continue in crime now, or upon your release from prison, the only thing you'll gain is 6-feet of ground over your head, or spending the rest of your life in a penitentiary."
In the autobiography on the album cover, Edwards says he was arrested by Portland, Oregon police in 1960 on suspicion of double murder....and broke out of jail the next day. He doesn't say why or if those charges were dropped., and Friday night we could not confirm the 1960 homicide arrest with authorities in Oregon.
We've also learned that In 1972, Edwards wrote a book called "Metamorphosis of a Criminal", and at one point even appeared on the game show, "To Tell the Truth."
Helen is shocked to learn Edwards is now charged with the murders of Tim Hack and Kelly Drew in 1980. "I'm saddened by it. I had always hoped he had not returned to a life of crime. Three or four years after he left our home, our family never heard from him again, and I often wondered what became of him. "
When I asked her if, looking back, it frightens her to know this man now charged with a double homicide stayed in her home, she said, "Yes. It does....and to know that I too at the time was not much younger than these kids were who were murdered....that's alarming to me."
Milligan hopes this arrest gives the Drew and Hack families the closure they have needed all of these years.