Missouri AG’s new cold case unit announces charges in a 1986 murder from Franklin County

Missouri

ST. LOUIS – Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt announced Thursday a new unit has been formed in his office to tackle cold case homicides in Missouri.

Schmitt also announced the new unit charged its first murder case from July 1986.

Kenneth Avery has been charged with second-degree murder in the killing of Kristen Edwards. He’s being held on a $500,000 cash-only bond.

According to the Franklin County Sheriff’s Office, Kristen Edwards’ husband, Mark Edwards, came home on Saturday, July 5, 1986 to find his wife missing. Her purse was located in the couple’s truck, which had been parked in the driveway, a meal was left half-eaten, and the television was left on.

“Three days later, Kristen’s body was found partially covered in sticks in a heavily-wooded area outside of Sullivan. She had been violently assaulted and strangled to death with a pair of sweat socks. Kristen’s hands were tied behind her with a t-shirt,” Schmitt said.

The autopsy determined she died by ligature strangulation.

Schmitt said when the unit started looking into the case again, they located an eyewitness who said Edwards and Avery were found spotted near a log cabin. New evidence found there led to charges that were filed against him Dec. 1.

The attorney general said his office, the Franklin County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office, and the Franklin County Sheriff’s Department worked together to investigate and bring charges. 

“Good things happen when people collaborate. And I think this is a great step for bringing justice to Kristen,” Franklin County Sheriff Steve Pelton said.

Schmitt said the cold case unit will be part of his office’s criminal division. The unit will work with local prosecutors across the state to take a fresh look at cold case homicides, investigate those cases, and seek to bring charges in the appropriate cases.

“Tragically, Missouri has dozens of murder cases across the state that have remained unsolved for decades. Those victims must not be forgotten,” Schmitt said.

The unit will be lead by Tom Dittmeier and Dean Hoag, two highly respected and experienced prosecutors with roughly 90 years of combined experience in prosecuting violent crime in Missouri.

“The biggest thing we’ve got going for us now is the DNA testing is so sophisticated and, in many of those cases, there’s still evidence that can be tested by DNA,” Dittmeier said.

With renewed attention to unsolved crimes from the past, there’s new hope for justice and peace in the future.

According to our news partners at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Kenneth Avery was charged with first-degree murder in Edwards’ death back in 1987. However, the case was dismissed before trial after Avery was transferred to Osage County. It’s unclear why that happened.

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