Editor's note: This story was originally published on May 5, 2010

For 33 years, Tom Lavaco thought he saw his brother's killer in almost everyone he met.

That changed this week.

Police have put a face and a name to the person suspected of killing William ''Billy'' Lavaco, 21, of Doylestown, and his girlfriend Judith Straub, 18, of Sterling, in August 1977.

Edward Wayne Edwards, 76, is awaiting trial in Wisconsin in a similar double homicide.

On Tuesday, Summit County Prosecutor Sherri Bevan Walsh and Norton Police Chief Thad Hete announced that Edwards confessed to the murders of Lavaco and Straub.

Edwards, who was born in Akron and lived in Doylestown from 1974 to 1978, bragged about his life of crime in a 1972 autobiography and claimed to be rehabilitated. According to police, he recently told another inmate at Dodge Correctional Institution in Waupun, Wis., that he was ''especially proud of getting away with the Norton murder.''

In a letter received by authorities April 9, the inmate wrote that Edwards boasted repeatedly and in great detail about the murders.

Straub and Lavaco had been dating eight months when Straub's car was found in the parking lot of Silver Creek Metro Park on Aug. 7, 1977, her purse and shoes inside. Family members gathered in the lot the next day as Norton police, aided by a National Guard helicopter, searched the high weeds.

There, they found Lavaco and Straub, lying on the ground, shot at point-blank range with a 20-gauge shotgun.

Tom Lavaco had to face his mother with the news.

''I remember my mom's reaction when I had to go back to the car and tell her they found them,'' Lavaco said. ''I've never seen anybody so hurt. I'll never forget that.''

Police found no weapon or motive. Straub's purse, containing $400, was untouched.

For Tom Lavaco, sleepless nights turned into months and then years. He was afraid to leave his wife and infant son for fear the killer had a vendetta against the family.

For his sister, Kathy Cardinal, the loss was personal. She and Billy were thick as thieves growing up, and stayed close in adulthood. Billy loved Judy, she said. ''I could tell.''

''When he died, I wanted to die with him,'' Cardinal said. ''Almost every day I think about it. I've always prayed, 'Please, Lord, if he never gets caught, make him think of what he's done.' ''

Cardinal echoed her brother's frustration at rumors surrounding the murder. They said people were more than happy to share bits of misinformation with the grieving siblings.

Police eventually charged a Wayne County man a few years after the murder. But a Summit County grand jury refused to indict him because of a lack of evidence.

CONFESSION REPORTED

Thirty-three years later, Edwards reportedly confirmed that authorities had the wrong man. In failing health, Edwards sent his own letter to Walsh's office, inviting investigators to question him about the murders.

He ended the letter by saying that if he were indeed interviewed, police would want to ''stick a needle in his arm.''

Norton Detective John Canterbury and Summit County prosecutor's investigator Mark Anderson took Edwards up on his offer.

Last week, they visited him in Wisconsin. Edwards reportedly repeated his confession face to face.

Hete said there's more work to do before authorities can charge him.

''We're always skeptical when someone is willing to admit involvement in a double homicide,'' Hete said. ''But if you look at his life, what he's been involved in, what he's been suspected of and charged with, he's a likely suspect.''

Edwards is scheduled for trial in June in the 1980 Fort Atkinson, Wis., murders of Tim Hack and Kelly Drew, both 19, who disappeared after a wedding reception. Their bodies were found three months later in a wooded area a few miles from the reception hall.

Evidence revealed that Hack had been bound and stabbed. Drew had been sexually assaulted and strangled.

Last July, Edwards' DNA was found on Drew's clothing. He was arrested in Louisville, Ky., where he was living with his wife, Kay, and was extradited to Wisconsin.

This week, Hete sent clothing and other evidence to Ohio's Bureau of Criminal Identification and Investigation for analysis. While he hopes for a DNA match with Edwards, his investigators would still like to talk to people in the area who knew Edwards around the time of the murders.

OTHER CASES

Authorities say Edwards might also be responsible for a similar killing in Oregon but they would not elaborate. In one part of his 1972 book Metamorphosis of a Criminal, Edwards puts himself at the scene of a 1960 double homicide in Portland.

Edwards is also a ''person of interest'' in the Geauga County killing in 1996 of Daniel ''Danny Boy'' Edwards, Sheriff Daniel McClelland said.

Daniel Edwards legally changed his last name from Gleackner after moving in with Edward Edwards and his wife. Five months after changing his name and a year after moving in with the Edwardses, Daniel Edwards disappeared.

A year later, hunters found his remains buried behind a cemetery, McClelland said. He had been shot to death.

After his body was found, Edward Edwards cashed in an insurance policy he had taken out on the young man. Shortly later, he moved.

McClelland said Geauga County detectives also interviewed Edwards in Wisconsin.

''He made no statements that we would consider an admission,'' McClelland said.

Akron had also looked at Edwards as a suspect in the 1979 cold case of North Hill teens Mary Leonard, 17, and Ricky Beard, 19. The teens were last seen Aug. 24. Their remains were found six years later about six miles from where the car was discovered at Northampton Road and Portage Trail. A backhoe operator made the discovery while digging a trench on park land.

It was determined that Leonard had been stabbed in the chest and shot and Beard had been shot multiple times.

Akron police said they cannot place Edwards in the area at that time and he is no longer a suspect.

Edwards, who was born in Akron, spent 16 years in prison by the time he was 37.

FREQUENT MOVES

Authorities said the family moved every few years and is known to have lived in Florida, Arizona, Colorado, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Oregon, Georgia, Oklahoma and Kentucky.

Retired Akron Beacon Journal reporter Richard McBane was covering courts when Edwards contacted him with a book idea. McBane refused at first to have anything to do with Edwards' story. He later agreed to edit the book, insisting Edwards write it himself.

''This was his confession, his Metamorphosis of a Criminal. He talked about how he was on the FBI's 10 Most Wanted List and how eventually the feds caught him in Atlanta and how a guard in Leavenworth set him on the pathway to an honest life,'' McBane said.

The full title of the book is Metamorphosis of a Criminal: The True Life Story of Ed Edwards. It includes his stories of theft, fraud, accident scams and a bank robbery in Akron. The book, which includes numerous newspaper clippings, also portrays him as a con man and a ladies' man who even tried being a pimp.

''I believe it was largely the truth,'' McBane said.

After the book was published in 1972, Edwards became the darling of the lecture circuit, giving motivational talks to students and youth groups.

McBane said he next heard from Edwards 10 years later, in a letter from Western State Prison in Pittsburgh, asking for money to help appeal his case. Edwards was convicted of renting a furnished home, selling the furniture and then setting the house on fire.

Several years later, Edwards called McBane to tell him he was all right. That was the last time McBane heard from him.

The man McBane called handsome, charming and a ''manly man'' is now overweight and bald. Edwards is being treated for diabetes, pulmonary disease and heart ailments, according to the Wisconsin State Journal. He is on oxygen and uses a wheelchair.

''We'll have to wait and see how all this unfolds,'' said Jeff Straub, who was 9 when his sister was killed. ''I have heard so many rumors over the years, hopefully it will be an accurate conclusion and we can have some closure.''

Anyone with any information about Edwards or the crime should call Norton police detectives at 330-706-0084, ext. 28 or 37.