Vol 1: Spellbound‎ > ‎Read‎ > ‎

Ch 19: (In)famous

By the time I was thirteen, my life finally had a bit of normalcy to it.  I attended Washington Middle School and my mom purchased a home near Green Lake. We didn’t move again. We traveled to San Diego to visit Uncle Larry periodically.  I remember one trip when he took me to Disneyland around Christmastime.  He was stout with a short black beard and hair streaked with grey. To me, he looked like a young Kris Kringle.  We had a fun time together, and I always looked forward to our visits.  These are the family memories I try and hold onto, rather than all of the turmoil the events on the Spellbound brought to my life.  

Like all teens, I wanted more disposable income, so I found a part-time job after school and on the weekends at a bead store in Fremont.  I sorted beads arriving from all over the world.  It was mundane work, but not too bad, as a couple of my friends from school also worked with me.  We joked a lot together.  Chatting made the time pass quickly.

One day, I was speaking with the owner of the bead store in her office.  She asked me about my family heritage.  My dark hair, complexion, and English name often caused people to ask me about my ethnicity. “What an interesting last name,” she said. “Is that your mother’s or father’s? 

“Oh, my father’s,” I replied, looking longingly at the door, ready to join my friends in a discussion of the latest middle school gossip.

“What was your mother’s maiden name?” she asked. 

 “Edwards,” I replied, and turned to go. 

“Wait,” she ordered. “Do you mean Edwards, from the couple who were killed on the Spellbound in the South Pacific years ago?” 

“Yes,” I stammered, “you remember that?”

“Of course I do,” she replied. “How horrible it must have been for your mother to lose her parents like that, to have her brother turn on her sister and then her parents.” After a pause, she went on, “What happened to your family? “Do they still speak to each other? Was your uncle ever convicted?”  

After I recovered from my shock of how quickly the past could engulf and take over the present, I told her that my mom had not spoken to her brother since the accident.  Nor had she spoken to her sister Kerry for a couple of years.  As to my uncle being convicted for murdering his parents, no he wasn’t.  The incident on board the Spellbound is one of the many unsolved FBI cases.   I ran from the office as fast as I could without seeming rude.  She never got around to the question I am sure she was originally going to ask.

My mom told me about the media frenzy the Spellbound incident created. I just never really understood what she meant until that day.  Now I can see, looking at the old newspaper articles, the Edwards family was in the news almost weekly for the first year after the accident.  I found articles from the Seattle Times dating eight years after the event.  And then nothing.  I knew there wasn’t an article about an arrest or a breakthrough, but I still hoped I would find something when I flipped through the old newspaper articles.

How could Gary creep into my life again?  He was so ever-present in my early years.  I thought I was rid of him.  The only time I felt his presence was during my mother’s annual phone calls with Larry on the anniversary of my grandparents’ death.  How could he reach into the here and now when things seemed normal, reducing me to a helpless child so quickly?  I usually didn’t tell my friends about my grandparents. What would I say: “By the way, my grandparents died when I was four and the FBI suspected my uncle, and possibly my aunt, were somehow involved.  My uncle now lives in California, happy as a clam, and my aunt lives in Washington with her son as if the tragedy never occurred.” 

I haven’t seen Gary since the day he showed up at my aunt’s house many years ago.  My family doesn’t speak to him.  He has never bothered to tell us a believable story about what happened.  Perhaps he is scared?  Loren’s side of the family believed his rendition of the events: Loren died from an accident and Jody shot herself.  I spoke to Loren’s sister, Vivian, in preparation for writing this book and she still believed what Gary said to be true.  The inconsistencies and other problems did not bother her. Gary, she said, simply could not have had any involvement in the death of his parents. The last time my family saw Gary was at Vivian’s husband’s funeral.  Of course, the Edwards kids largely avoided each other, my uncle Larry and my mom banding together on one side, and Gary siding with the Edwards family on the other.  It was interesting to me that a cousin noticed this and asked why.  He didn’t know about the tragedy on the Spellbound.  I later discovered that most of my extended family does not know about how my grandparents died, nor why my immediate family no longer speaks to each other.  It is one of those things we just don’t talk about.

After the funeral, I realized my uncle Gary will always be with me, and this is why I wrote this book.  I want to believe the other side of my family, that this was a bizarre accident, that my family is normal, and just had a bit of misfortune.  This would be better than believing that my uncle possibly murdered his parents and that my aunt Kerry and her friend Lori were somehow involved.  I want to know why my favorite fun-loving aunt hasn’t told the truth for more than 30 years.  To this day, she won’t tell us what happened.  I saw the fear in her eyes when I interviewed her for this book.  She drove me around town at a leisurely pace so we could talk, but I noticed her knuckles were white as she gripped the steering wheel.  What does she fear? How people might look at her after the truth comes out?  The wrath of her brother?

Lori is out there, too. She likely knows what happened but refuses to face her past.  I found her and talked with her for this book.  Rather than make an appointment, I just showed up on her doorstep.  She was surprised but talked freely about what happened to my grandparents . Lori told me that Jack had visited her for years after the event to see if she would tell him anything new.  She said she had nothing to say to him. She was young and naïve back then.  Lori told me now that she is the age Jody was when she died, she thinks there is no way Jody could have killed herself.  But what else could have happened, she wondered out loud.  Only what she now has allowed herself to believe. I suspect the truth hurts too much for her.

Lori agreed to let me read through her journals, notes, and testimony to the Grand Jury, and then almost immediately changed her mind.  She then removed all information about herself from the Internet (which is how I found her).  I was surprised by this and her change of heart.  I think she knows deep down what happened, at least to Jody, and she is scared even after all of these years.  Of what, I don’t know.  It could be her own guilt, Kerry, or perhaps Gary.

I hoped I could convince her to finally seek the truth that lies buried within her.  She has enjoyed 30 years of a good life – more years than my grandmother.  Lori can no longer hide behind the claim that she is a naïve and scared young girl.  She is in her early 50s now and it is time for her to finally do the right thing, even if it is difficult for her.  She owes it to Jody, the person she once called “Mom.”

What makes a person hold on to a secret for so long? Perhaps one of you have a small clue that is the missing link that will connect all of the pieces together.  A clue that will help me and my family understand what happened to Jody and Loren Edwards on that long weekend so many years ago on the Spellbound in the South Pacific.  Did Gary, Kerry, and Lori really turn from a loving son, daughter, and friend to murderers, or was this really just a tragic weekend at sea?  You decide . . .