He was larger than life.
To his children and grandchildren, the students he taught and coached throughout his 30-year career, and his wife of 42 years, John Timothy Edwards was the man they all looked up to.
When the people responsible for taking his life 12 years ago today on Bear Mountain left him face down in the dirt with his throat cut, they didn’t just kill a man, they killed a dream.
Edwards was living his, with his college sweetheart wife, Lynn, in the home they built together on the ranch they retired to in 1995 after careers as educators in Arizona.
It was dusk when Tim was heading home to his ranch, Montaña del Oso, after stopping to have a holiday drink with a friend. He had been in town running errands — picking up groceries for the New Year’s Eve party he and Lynn had planned with friends, and hauling a load of hay back up to the ranch in his pickup.
He called Lynn and told her he was about 30 minutes from home.
An hour passed.
Getting worried, Lynn headed down from the ranch to see if she could find him, thinking he might have broken down. She found his truck, but no Tim.
“I drove up, his lights were on, but the truck was off,” she said. “I honked my horn, and when he didn’t appear I went over to the passenger door and knocked on the window.”
The overhead light was out on that side of the truck, but she could see her husband was not inside, so she continued down the mountain to Alabama Street in town. With still no sign of her husband, Lynn turned around and headed back up to the ranch. When she got to his truck again she stopped.
“This time I went over to the driver’s side and opened the door and I saw his phone sitting on the console, and I knew he wouldn’t have left his phone,” she said. “I very slowly headed back to the house, thinking maybe he fell.”
By the time she got to the gate of their property, she called her friend Pattie in town and told her to get a flashlight and head up. Grabbing one herself, she headed back to Tim’s truck.
“This time, I went into the woods. When I turned around, my flashlight picked up his glasses, and as I got close, I could see the blood — lots and lots of blood. Then I went into the woods and started shining the light everywhere and that’s when I found him.”
She ran back to her car to call 911 — amazingly she had a signal — before going back to her husband.
“God intervened on my behalf because they would never, ever have let me see him,” Lynn said. “He was face down. His coat was pulled up where they dragged him. I just rubbed on his back and talked to him and got to say my goodbyes to him.”
Twelve years later, Tim’s murder remains unsolved. But the Grant County Sheriff’s Office says his case has not been forgotten. Over the years, they have followed up on every lead, Sheriff Raul Villanueva said. The last one was two years ago. Detectives have traveled across the state — to Santa Fe, Santa Rosa, and more — following up on tips. Early on, several people were investigated, one person was even charged, but later those charges were dropped due to lack of evidence.
Tim’s case has been aired on “America’s Most Wanted” at least three times — in 2006, 2007 and 2009 — but at that time the case was focused on finding a woman who was considered a person of interest. She was found, questioned, and released. The FBI even briefly looked at the case, but then decided they didn’t have jurisdiction, according to Frank A. Fisher, public affairs officer with the Albuquerque Division.
“Tim’s death has devastated our family,” said Lynn. “It’s horrible enough to lose someone you love, but it really has been hard on the family. He was bigger than life to those grandchildren and my son and daughter,” she said. “The ranch had been the family dream for 15 years.”
Lynn stayed on at Montaña del Oso for seven years after Tim was killed. She finally sold the ranch in 2012, and returned to Arizona.
But every family gathering, all the stories that have been told, all the cherished memories that are shared, are of times on the ranch. Even the very youngest grandson, who was born in October of the year Tim was killed, has memories of the ranch through pictures and stories passed down.
“I would take pictures all year long that I wouldn’t share with the kids,” said Lynn, “then at Christmastime I would make an album and special card for them.”
Tim’s friends in Silver City still mourn their friend, whom they called “Okie,” a nod to his Oklahoma upbringing, and wonder why the case was never solved.
“We have always thought it was tragic that it has not been resolved,” said Dave Ogilvie, who ranches two spreads over from where Tim and Lynn did.
He said most folks in the close-knit ranching community knew Tim fairly well.
“He was just the nicest fellow and would do anything for you and help you out,” said Ogilvie. “He was a good neighbor.”
Whatever happened up on the mountain, whomever he encountered, Tim would not have been confrontational, Lynn said, he would have been friendly.
Friend Harold Bray agreed. Bray, who officiated at Tim’s funeral, said his kindhearted friend was not the type to look for trouble or be aggressive.
“Tim was just a good person. He wouldn’t hurt anybody,” said Bray.
What most folks think happened is Tim came upon some people partying on the forest land he leased for his cattle. That wasn’t unusual, Lynn and others said.
“I think he stopped to say, ‘Hey, you guys behave yourselves, don’t tear up anything,’ or he stopped to see if they needed any help,” said Bray. “That’s the kind of guy Tim was.”
Lynn said she had been with him multiple times when they ran into folks on their land and he was the calm one.
“One time, it was sunset and we were sitting up on our 7,000-gallon water tank — we just climbed up there — and something was whizzing by and I said, ‘Oh my gosh, there are bees up here,’ and Tim grabbed me and pulled me down and said, ‘Those aren’t bees, those are bullets.’ We got down and got on the quad and drove about a mile and we found these two guys shooting off guns and they were drunk and I just went off,” she said.
Lynn began scolding the men, saying, “‘Don’t you know how dangerous that is!’
“And my husband is going, ‘Calm down,’” she said.
“He said to me later, ‘You never want to be upset with people,’” she said.
If people had been partying up on the mountain, Tim might have stopped and said, ‘Hey, guys, have a good time, be careful and clean up,’” Lynn said.
Or it’s possible he encountered someone driving erratically on the narrow mountain road.
“Tim would have been driving very slowly because the truck was stacked up with hay,” Lynn said.
“There might have been a close call on a curve, and he might have stopped and said, ‘Ya gotta slow down, fella,’” said Lynn. “That’s just the way he was.”
But whomever he encountered, there was likely more than one.
“I think someone came up behind him and hit him with a rock,” said Bray. “Tim was a sturdy guy. He was an athlete all his life.”
On athletic scholarship at Southwestern State University in Weatherford, Okla., where he and Lynn met, Tim went on to teach high school on the Navajo reservation in Chinle, Ariz., along with Lynn, and then to teach math and later coach baseball, and teach sailing and swimming at Central Arizona College, where they came to call him the Commodore of the desert, Lynn said.
“People loved him,” she said. “He was this gregarious, outgoing man.”
The college has gone on to sponsor the Tim Edwards CAC Baseball Alumni Golf Tournament fundraiser at the scenic and gorgeous Mission Royale Golf Club in Casa Grande, which this year will be held Jan. 21, 2018.
Drugs are a likely factor in his murder as well. Some think he encountered a drug deal in progress. Whomever he met with meant him no good. Tim, who was 6 feet 4 inches, 219 pounds, was stabbed multiple times and had his throat cut to the point of nearly decapitating him.
Some family members are bitter that the case has not been solved.
“I don’t have the bitterness,” said Lynn. “It’s my job to keep it alive. It’s almost like an obligation. I will do anything to keep this case alive. I need to know exactly what happened.”
It’s been 12 years but Tim’s family and friends have not given up hope that his murderers will be brought to justice.
“We are of faith,” said Lynn. “I know at some point in time the people responsible will be held accountable. There will be a judgment day.
“It was just such a waste, because he was a really, really good man,” said Lynn. “He just had a positive influence on people — even his death has had some positive influence.”
“He was dearly loved,” said Bray.
A new detective will take over the case after the first of the year, Sheriff Villanueva said. He will start from the beginning and re-examine the case and all of the evidence. Somebody knows what happened to Tim Edwards that night on the road to LS Mesa. More than one person was there. Over time, allegiances change, someone’s conscience may begin to bother them.
“If you can get the right person to have a conscience and leak a little bit of information, that would help,” Sheriff Villanueva said.
If you know anything about the murder of Tim Edwards on LS Mesa on the road to Bear Mountain, which occurred in the early evening hours of Dec. 30, 2005, please call the Grant County Sheriff’s Office at 575-574-0100 or Grant County Crime Stoppers at 575-538-5254.
Christine Steele may be reached at christine@scdaily press.com.