Mack Ray Edwards


Mack Ray Edwards

Classification: Serial killer
Characteristics: Rape
Number of victims: 6 +
Date of murders: 1953 - 1970
Date of arrest: March 5, 1970 (surrenders)
Date of birth: 1919
Victims profile: Stella Darlene Nolan, 8 / Gary Rochet, 16 / Donald Allen Todd, 13 / Don Baker, 13, and Brenda Howell, 11 / Roger Madison, 16
Method of murder: Shooting
Location: Los Angeles County, California, USA
Status: Sentenced to death 1971. Committed suicide by hanging himself in his cell in San Quentin on October 30, 1971

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.

Known Victims

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.

Possible Victims

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"

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 girls.

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 innocence.

Dig Begins For Serial Killer's Victim, 40 Years Later

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 victims.

"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 weather reports.

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.

The 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 Flores.

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

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 agencies.

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 Edwards killed.

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 him.

Upward of 20, Roberto recalled with certainty.

Grisly calculations

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 eight?

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 highway.

"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 clean it.

"The sum of all our investigative leads have been evaluated to a blank," concluded a police summary of the extensive investigation.

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 nearby mall.

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.

Unforgotten Children

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 something else."

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 records.

Cases closed?

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 Department.

"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 -- victims.

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 1962.

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 plaid shirt.

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 bombshell.

"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 killing Tommy.

"That right there puts me over the top," Flores said. "If he didn't know about Tommy Bowman, he wouldn't have mentioned it."

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 police

A researcher finds clues that revive decades-old cases of missing Southland children

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 children."

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 widow's home.

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 Fernando valleys.

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 13-year-old friend.

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 victims.

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 construction.

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."

Mack Ray Edwards

October 6, 2008. Mammoth Lakes Sgt. Paul Dostie, left, and forensic anthropologist Dan Larson from Cal State Long Beach join several dozen local, state and federal authorities and other forensic scientists in the search for the remains of 16-year-old Roger Dale Madison.

Larson uses a probe to dig up dirt in an area beside what are now the southbound lanes of 23 Freeway at the Tierra Rejada Road exit. The effort is expected to take anywhere from days to a week or more to complete.

Law enforcement agencies band together in hopes of bringing closure for Madison’s surviving
family members.

Caltrans officials Christina Ruano and Doug Failing look at the pictures of missing people possibly killed by Mack Ray Edwards. Edwards, who killed himself in prison years ago, confessed in 1970 to killing six children. He later told a jailer the real number was closer to two dozen.

Sherry Barlow, 50 and her daughter Rebekah Kelton, 19, flew from McAlester, Oklahoma to California on Oct. 9 to visit the site where authorities are searching for the body of her brother, Roger Dale Madison, who has was killed in 1968. Barlow says she is grateful for everything that's being done whether they find Roger's body or not.

Known Victims

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.

Possible Victims

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.

Bruce Kremen, 6, disappeared from a YMCA camp in Angeles National Forest on July 12, 1960.

Karen Lynn Tompkins, 11, disappeared on August 18, 1961.

Dorothy Gale 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.