Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Serial Killers Who Surrender

"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 eight-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.

Don Baker
Don Baker

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.


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