Monday, September 13, 2010

Gary Edwards: Botched Investigation in Oklahoma?

At 6:15 p.m. on October 31, 2006, officers from the Marlow, Oklahoma Police Department were dispatched to the home of 25-year-old Gary Don Edwards in response to a domestic dispute reported by Gary’s wife, Heather. The initial officers to arrive located Gary a short distance from the residence. Police reports of the incident indicate that Gary was in an intoxicated condition. He was arrested for public intoxication, taken to the station, and booked in at 6:40.

At 7:09 Gary made a call to his mother, Donna, and told her what had happened. During that call he also complained to her that he thought the officers were stealing his money. He then handed the phone over to Officer James Price, who informed Donna that Gary would be released in 4 hours.

Records show that Gary was placed in short-term holding cell #1 at 7:15. At 7:30, Officer Price performed a routine cell check and noted Gary appeared to be asleep on his bunk, covered by a standard issue wool blanket. At 9 p.m., another officer was placing a prisoner in cell #2 when he noticed Gary hanging from his T-shirt, which was tied to a window grate.

EMS was called and arrived at 9:09. Gary was declared dead and EMS personnel estimated his death had occurred at least 20 minutes earlier. The medical examiner was notified at 9:40 and arrived on the scene at 10:50. Around midnight, Heather Edwards was notified of her husband’s death.

Heather later gave a statement that Gary was unemployed and had been in a state of depression over the recent repossession of his truck, and because he was having difficulty supporting his wife and two young daughters. She said that on the night of his death, Gary asked to use her car. When she declined an argument ensued, during which Gary pulled a gun, leading her to call the police.

On the surface, it appeared that Gary’s dire financial situation and the resultant depression as described by Heather, coupled with the heated argument that occurred earlier in the evening and a trip to jail, could have been too much for him to handle.

However, Donna Edwards and her husband Gary, Sr., weren’t convinced that their son had taken his own life. They began to ask questions and review documents. As their investigation progressed they came to believe that shortly after Gary called Donna from the police department at 7:09, an altercation took place between Gary and one or more officers that resulted in his death.

Among the reasons they think their son’s death was a homicide is a booking document that shows Gary was without physical injury when he arrived at the police station. However, during autopsy, abrasions were reported—although not photographed—on the left shin, left arm, left forearm, two fingers of the right hand, and on the right temple. And at the time of Gary’s funeral viewing, there was clear evidence of a significant injury to the back of his left hand. The autopsy report failed to mention that injury at all.

In 2009, the Edwards’ retained Forensic Solutions, LLC of Sitka, Alaska to do an independent forensic examination. They issued a report highly critical of the investigation into Gary’s death, including the autopsy. Forensic Solutions recommended that its report be given to the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation as the basis for further investigation. They also suggested that Gary’s body be disinterred for a second, independent autopsy. The requests were made, but the OSBI declined to do anything further.

The Edwards family remains committed to finding out what happened to Gary at the Marlow police department that night. But the answers to their questions are hard to come by.

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