Boyhood: The Making of a Sociopath

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Edward Wayne Edwards was not born with that unusual name at all. The story is a bit convoluted, because Edwards apparently lied about his birth name and several other key details in his book. He was born Charles Edward Meyers in Cleveland, Ohio on June 14th in 1933. His mother was unmarried, and he never knew his father. For many years he was told the he didn’t have a mother, and that Lilian Meyers–his real mother–was his “aunt”. Why a family would lie like this to a kid is anyone’s guess, but suffice it to say that poor Ed probably didn’t feel genuine attachment to anyone from the very beginning. He was an illegitimate child born during the height of the Great Depression, not the most fortunate start. His mother yearned for someone to rescue her from her predicament, but that person never came.

It’s thought that most personality disorders develop when a person is still very young, and that our basic personality type begins to gel even before we learn language. Whatever happened to poor “Chuckie” during the very first years of his life could not have been good, but it was about to get much worse.

Edwards describes how his mother, desperate for attention, shoots herself in the stomach with a rifle when he was just five years old. She dies of gangrene three days later in august of  1938. He is adopted by Mary Ethel and Fred Edwards, and given the name Edward Wayne Edwards. Reeling from the death of his mother, Edwards now is forced into a new identity. Throughout the decades to come Edwards would use dozens of aliases; he would pretend to be a minister, a federal law-enforcement agent, or a doctor of Psychiatry all to get close to his victims.

Unfortunately for young Ed, things were not about to get any better. His new step-father was an abusive alcoholic, and within two years Mary Ethel Edwards would succumb to multiple-sclerosis and become bed-ridden. Although the first chapter of the book is meant to elicit pity from the reader, Ed later admits that his grandmother “could not control him”. He had probably begun to show behavioral problems by this time. So Edward, with no one left to care for him, was shipped off to Parmadale orphanage in Parma, Ohio.

According to Edwards, the orphanage was run by a group of sadistic nuns and one pedophile priest. The nun in charge of Edwards was particularly cruel and did not tolerate bed-wetters. Edwards had picked up this secret shame as he was trying to cope with his hopelessly unstable environment. His punishment began with public humiliation and quickly escalated into beatings with a stick. Today we would call that assault, but back in those days it was pretty much expected from the sisters. When the beatings didn’t cure his bed-wetting sister Agnes Marie lined the whole dorm of kids up and had them take turns giving Ed a kick in the ass. Nothing seemed to work, and perhaps Edwards found some other way of getting the attention he desperately craved, but he never does say what got him to stop wetting the bed.

He does tell us when he began stealing. Another boy had a birthday and shared some of his cake with everyone except Ed. Now this is the Great Depression, so the kids only ration out part of the cake and save the rest for later. When everyone is called for dinner Ed stays behind in the shadows. He gets the cake out of the other kid’s locker and proceeds to stuff handfuls of “sweet revenge” into his mouth. Of course he gets caught, and sister Agnes Marie beats on him until he confesses; at which point she leaves the room and suggests the other boys mete out their own punishment on poor Ed. He determines that no matter what, he MUST escape. An amusing side-note is that his love for cake and sweets finally contributed to his death. He died of complications from diabetes.

 

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Edwards at eight

“Occasionally, my foster mother and my foster grand

mother would visit me in the orphanage, and bring me a

couple of bags of candy and some fruit. But after they had

gone, Sister Agnes Marie would seize my goodies, saying,

“Ed, you’re a bed-wetter. You don’t deserve all these nice

things. So you take one piece of each, and we’ll divide the

rest among the other children.””

-Ed Edwards, “Metamorphosis of a Criminal”

 

Edwards tried to escape many times from Parmadale, hitch-hiking or hopping a train to his grandmother’s house in Akron. She would bring him back to the orphanage and he would escape over and over. Finally, his grandmother was bringing him back to Paradale yet again and an exasperated sister Agnes says they can’t take him back. She gloats in her moral condemnation; explaining that Ed is stealing, and he’s a bad influence on the other boys. Ed actually feels happy for the first time in a very long time, he is finally going to be free of the horrendous orphanage! His grandmother was no doubt the opposite of happy as it was clear she wanted nothing to do with him.

Edwards would like us to think that his life of crime was preordained, due to his troubled child hood. The fact is, not all sociopaths suffer abuse or neglect, and most everyone that does survives it with their conscience intact. Ed already had a fractured sense of identity, and a complete lack of conscience.

Back in Akron, Ed soon got himself into trouble, stealing bikes and pulling fire alarms. One of the hallmarks of those with antisocial personality disorder is that since the person has no conscience, he feels that rules and laws don’t apply to him; and often gets into trouble with the police. This next snippet explains why later in life Edwards would set up somebody for one of his murders and then stand around and watch the mobs form and the pitchforks come out:

“I loved to watch the fire trucks… I loved to hear the sirens. But

most of all, I enjoyed seeing the confusion and the crowd because

it meant that, INDIRECTLY, I was being noticed, since it

was I who had caused all the hubbub. I could hear them

talking about the inconsiderate bastard who had sent in the

alarm, and how they wished they could lay their hands on

him. The more the crowd discussed me, the more I turned in

false alarms. They were stoking the fires of my desire for

attention.”

-Ed Edwards, “Metamorphosis of a Criminal”

Ed soon learns how to create impressive alibis for his petty crimes. He was in his grandmother’s house upstairs helping her hang wallpaper, when he ran downstairs to “make a sandwich”. While his grandmother thought he was raiding the fridge he bolted outside and set his neighbors van on fire with an improvised Molotov cocktail, then ran back inside the house, slapped together his sandwich and bounded up the stairs to eat with granny while he waits for the fire engines to come. Before long, Ed winds up in a reform school in Pennsylvania, over 300 miles from Akron:

 

“Though I hated the school, I did gain an education of sorts. I learned what burglar’s tools

were, how to “hot wire” a car so that no keys were needed to

start it, how to pick locks, and how to forge checks. I

learned how to avoid being caught by the police by setting

off a false alarm away from the scene of the crime, thus

deflecting the cops down a blind alley. I learned how to

jimmy a window and a door, and how to crawl through a transom.

I was all set to tackle the world. Some day people would

hear of Ed Edwards, master criminal.”

-Ed Edwards, “Metamorphosis of a Criminal”

 

Lock-picking turns out to be a rather useful skill, and REALLY important later in our story. He also learns to manipulate the cops and lead them “down a blind alley”, which is again worth noting for later. Now, around this time he goes through another series of escapes, and John Cameron theorizes that he begins to kill during one of his stints on the lam. He would have been around twelve-years-old.

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Into the Abyss

“Truth is stranger than fiction, but it is because fiction is obliged to stick to possibilities; Truth isn’t.”

-Mark Twain

 

Cameron’s website was incredible. He claimed that a man named Edward Wayne Edwards had killed over and over again for 66 years and had only been arrested for murder in 2009, when he was 76-years old. Edwards eventually admitted to a double murder in Wisconsin in 1977 when he was in his forties, a double murder in Ohio in 1980, and the killing and mutilation of his adopted son Danny Gloekner for  the life insurance money in 1996 when Edwards was 63.

ColdCaseCameron.com contains an enormous amount of information on Edwards, overwhelming in fact. The shear number of killings was staggering, but what was even more unbelievable was that the murders were some of the most notorious and highly publicized killings of the last half century. Many of these cases had already been “solved” and dozens of men were incarcerated over the decades, if not executed.

One of the first guys to pay for Ed’s sick compulsion to kill was William Heirens, who was convicted in 1946 for the “lipstick killer” murders in Chicago that Ed had committed according to Cameron. Eerie messages written in lipstick were found at the crime scenes. In the stampede to justice that the horrific killings and mutilations generated, Heirens pleaded guilty to spare himself the death penalty. He remained in prison, proclaiming his innocence until his death 66 years later. Edwards ironically had died in jail as well just a year earlier.

Cameron claims Edwards committed everything from the 1947 Black Dahlia murder in Los Angeles, to the Zodiac killings in the San Francisco bay area. He  framed Kennedy scion Michael Skakel for the Halloween murder of Martha Moxley, killed Jimmy Hoffa, Laci Peterson, and Jon Benet Ramsey. Edwards supposedly was responsible for the Atlanta child murders in the eighties for which Wayne Williams was convicted. He killed Chandra Levy, planting her skull in a public park while her parent’s were on Oprah begging for her safe return. The list went on and on. To cap it all off, John Cameron believes Edwards was responsible for the anthrax letters mailed in 2001, which killed five people. The F.B.I. closed the case on the anthrax scare, naming Dr. Bruce Ivans–who had died from a drug overdose on July 27, 2008–as the culprit.

I decided to read Cameron’s book, to get more of an understanding of how he arrived at his sometimes wild but often perfectly sensible claims. After binge-reading the book into the wee hours, it became clear that there was a certain pattern of behavior to all of these seemingly unrelated murders. The giveaway was that Edwards was a writer; he liked to compose messages after his murders that would taunt the police, media, or victim’s families and lead them in all different directions. In the vast majority of the cases Cameron theorizes that Edwards was involved with, there would be some tell-tale message left at the scene or sent in the mail that would leave clues as to the killer’s true identity. The zodiac killer sent letters to the media or police for years after the murders stopped, taunting them to identify him. The hand-written notes had all been written in felt-tip-marker and in each letter the killer obviously changed his handwriting to avoid detection, just as with the Jon Benet ransom note.

If indeed Edwards was a full-blown sociopath–and I believe he must have been– then other people were just objects to him, to be manipulated and toyed with for his own demented pleasure. He displayed absolutely no empathy and instead demonstrated contempt and disgust for his victims, their families, and the police. He appeared to think that all of his crimes were just a big sadistic game, and he was the puppet master. He thought that he was untouchable, and even god-like.

Meanwhile, social media is having a field day with the Steven Avery connection, and much of the jabber was not favorable to Mr. Cameron. He was labeled a book-peddling-crackpot who saw Ed Edwards everywhere from the grassy knoll to the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

I needed to hear as much as I could from Ed Edwards himself, so I started reading his autobiography “Metamorphosis of a Criminal” which was published by a real live publishing company back in the 70’s and purported to tell how Edwards was rehabilitated from a life of crime to become a family man and a respectable member of society. Incredibly, he even appeared on TV’s “To Tell The Truth” promoting the book. It was all just a fable.  While the writing at first seemed pretty unremarkable, the book would contain the blueprint for all of Edwards’ murders to follow as well as the reason he started killing in the first place. Behind the facade of a “bad guy gone straight” tale was something much more terrifying: the tragic story of a soul lost forever and the genesis of a cold-blooded methodical serial killer that was almost never caught.

Introduction

January, 2016. Like many, I had recently binge-watched the Netflix documentary series “Making a Murderer” and was fascinated by the amazing film-making and the true-to-life characters. The absolute brutal and feckless nature of today’s criminal justice system was on full display since the first episode. Many people where left wondering “did Steve Avery really kill Teresa Halbach? If not, then who did?”

A news item came up online that mentioned a cold-case investigator who had an alternative suspect in mind, a serial killer. This ex-cop was the same guy I remember a couple years ago saying an intruder had committed the horrific Jon Benet Ramsey murder on Christmas day, 1996. At that time I believed that there could certainly be some truth to his claims, with the bizarre ransom note that seemed to implicate the Ramsey’s and the unusual placement of the body in the basement. Jon Benet was strangled with an improvised garrotte with much more force than was necessary to kill her, ending any payoff for the “kidnapper”. The body had been moved before it could be examined by crime scene investigators. It just seemed weird.

John Cameron was once a detective in Great Falls, Montana where he claims this same killer committed an unsolved double-murder in 1956. Cameron retired from the police department and now works full-time researching cold-cases. He had a theory that a diabolical serial killer unlike the world has ever seen was responsible for Halbach’s murder, and incredibly, that he liked to set other people up for his sinister executions! The online article led to Cameron’s website, and it was there my strange journey began.