Author delves into parents’ mysterious deaths to help others cope with violent loss at La Jolla event

Loren and Jody Edwards as seen just prior to their fateful voyage to the South Pacific. Courtesy

If you go
What: Larry Edwards signs copies of ‘Dare I Call It Murder?: A Memoir of Violent Loss’
When: Noon, Sunday, Sept. 22
Where: Warwick’s bookstore, 7812 Girard Ave.
Info: (858) 454-0347 or warwicks.com

River of Remembrance Ceremony
What: Honors survivors of violent loss
When: 10 a.m. Sept. 21
Where: Crime Victims Oak Garden, Cara Way off Scripps Poway Parkway
Info: bit.ly/violentloss

Author delves into parents’ mysterious deaths to help others cope with violent loss

By Pat Sherman

Though more than three decades have passed, San Diego writer Larry Edwards will never forget the day his parents and two siblings set sail from San Diego, heading off on a much anticipated, high-seas adventure. The trip would result in the violent, unsolved deaths of his parents, Jody and Loren Edwards.

Larry Edwards will sign copies of his new book, “Dare I Call It Murder?: A Memoir of Violent Loss,” 12 p.m., Sunday, Sept. 22 at Warwick’s books in La Jolla. The memoir is Larry’s ongoing attempt to set the record straight about his parents’ deaths, and to help others manage the loss of a loved one from a murder or violent crime.

Author Larry Edwards aboard "Spellbound," the ship on which his parents died in 1978. Their violent deaths remain a mystery to this day. Courtesy

The Edwards’ tragic voyage

A carpenter by trade, Loren Edwards sold the house he built and raised his family in to finance the boat he would help construct for the 1977-’78 South Pacific excursion.

“My parents basically had all of their savings sunk into that boat,” said Larry, who was 28 at the time. “They were initially headed to the Marquesas Islands, then Tahiti and points beyond.

“We had some issues in the family, like any family can have, and my father thought that by taking the cruise it would bring us all together into one big, happy ‘Brady Bunch.’ ”

The opposite occurred.

Larry Edwards sailed the boat from Seattle to San Diego with his parents. They were later joined in San Diego by his brother, Gary Edwards, and half-sister, Kerry Edwards.

Over the course of two months in San Diego, during which the family prepared itself and the boat for the voyage, tensions between Larry and his brother grew to a fever pitch, and Larry backed out of the trip.

“We came close to having a fist fight and I said this isn’t worth it to me,” Larry said. “I could see that it was not going to be a pleasant trip if the two of us were on the boat together. My dad would not tell my brother he couldn’t go, so I left the boat.”

A family friend, Lori Huey Oskam, took Larry’s place.

Two months later, Larry received a call informing him that his father was dead and that his sister had suffered a fractured skull and concussion.

"Spellbound," the ship Loren Edwards built for the trip that would lead to his tragic 1978 death.

Soon after, he learned that his stepmother, who raised him as her own, also was dead.

Larry Edwards never believed the account his brother, Gary, told the FBI and reporters — that his dad fell and hit his head on the ship’s steering wheel, and that his mother was so distraught that she later committed suicide aboard the ship, shooting herself with a gun Gary purchased in Seattle before they left.

“My mother asked my father not to allow my brother to bring the gun on the boat,” Larry said. “There were problems on the boat. My father alluded to them in his journal and my mother told friends, who were on other boats traveling to roughly the same destination, that she was considering leaving the boat in Tahiti if my brother did not leave.”

Gary Edwards told the FBI that he, his sister and Oskam buried the bodies at sea so they wouldn’t decompose before they landed in Tahiti.

Though the FBI focused on Gary as their prime suspect, he was never charged or prosecuted, partially because there were no bodies and thus no forensic evidence.

Larry’s sister, Kerry, initially said she did not remember much due to her head injury, while the family friend claims to have slept through the ordeal. However, Larry said his brother’s radio communications with other boats at the time contradicts his later FBI testimony.

“Kerry later testified under oath that (my brother) assaulted and raped her — which triggered the violence on the boat. We have her on the record as has having stated that, but she still refused to tell us anything more, in terms of the deaths of our parents.”

Larry Edwards

Larry, who has since been diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, said he began writing the book 10 years ago, though was prompted to finish it after an account of his parent’s deaths was published by crime writer Ann Rule, which he felt was inaccurate.

“She did not talk to me or other members of my family about the story while she was writing it,” Larry said. “All the news she had was almost 30 years old. The so-called facts in those articles really came from one source — and that was my brother.”

Larry isn’t the only one in his family who doesn’t believe his brother’s account. He has two stepsisters, both of which were adults at the time of the trip and had obligations that precluded them from going. Neither believe Gary Edwards’ story.

Larry said he hasn’t seen nor heard from Gary or Kerry in more than six years. The last time he saw Gary was at a family funeral at which Larry said they exchanged “very few words.”

Though he said he hoped Kerry would “eventually come forward and tell the truth about what happened on the boat,” Larry said that when he approached her in 2004 about participating in the book, she declined.

Dealing with the loss

Larry, a former San Diego Magazine business editor and member of the La Jolla Writers Group, said the broader theme of his book is violent loss.

Larry Edwards will read from his book, 12 p.m. Sept. 22 at Warwick's bookstore in La Jolla.

“My broad objective is to generate public awareness and discussion of violent loss and what happens to survivors of violent loss and to fulfill an unmet need for therapists to provide services for them,” he said.

“My story is not entirely unique — just look at what happened in Washington, D.C. a few days ago,” Larry added, noting this month’s massacre at a Washington, D.C. Navy yard that left 13 dead. “There are people who die violent deaths every day and (the survivors) have to deal with the same issues I’ve had to deal with.

“This causes what they call ‘traumatic grief’ and ‘complicated bereavement.’ … It can cause families to disintegrate, like mine did; it can cause relationships to deteriorate. It’s especially intense when there’s no perception of justice having been done. … It just compounds the anger and the depression and the depths of the emotions.”

Larry Edwards will take part in a public ceremony honoring the survivors of violent loss, 10 a.m. to noon, Saturday, Sept. 21 at the Crime Victims Oak Garden, on Cara Way off the Mercy Road exit of Interstate 15. The event will be at the site where former CHP officer Craig Peyer murdered Cara Knott in 1986. It is held in observance of National Day of Remembrance for Murder Victims (Sept. 25).

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Posted by Pat Sherman on Sep 19, 2013. Filed under A & E, Books, Featured Story. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

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