InDepth with Brad Byrd: Pardons and outrage


Brad Byrd: Our attention tonight is on one of those pardons issued for an Owensboro man convicted of the 1991 murder of his business partner. Irvin Edge, who is now 71-years-old, was released from prison Thursday after his sentence was commuted by Bevin. He was found guilty of murder and sentenced to life in the killing of Charles Westerfield. Investigators say Edge was stealing money from the timber company he and Westerfield owned. Westerfield found out. And Edge had a hitman kill him.
Joining me tonight is Major Bill Thompson, lead investigator at the Daviess County Sheriff’s Department. He was the chief investigator in this case for the Owensboro Police Department. Major Thompson, thank you very much for joining us tonight. You had no idea this was coming, but you are beside yourself.

Major Thompson: I was amazed, truly shocked when I heard the news yesterday morning. When I came to work, my Sheriff informed me that he had been notified by a local circuit court judge that Mr. Edge had been released. That was the first indication that I had, any inclination at all, that Mr. Edge was going to be released.

Brad: And, you talked to the family.

Major Thompson: I did, I did. My first thought was to the Westerfield family. I have kept in contact with the family. Ever since then, we have developed a close friendship, with both the daughter and the widow of Mr. Westerfield. My first thought was, “Oh my. How are they going to take this?” and “What has the governor done?”

Brad: I can’t imagine how they took that.

Major Thompson: They were devastated. They were devastated. When I called the daughter to inform her, they had already heard. Talked to her husband, husband said that she’s basically in shock. That she was in her room uncontrollably sobbing. She was just beside herself. She couldn’t believe it.

Brad: This was a crime involving money, betrayal, conspiracy, deception. Walk me through this web of deceit that ended with the death of Mr. Westerfield.

Major Thompson: Mr. Westerfield and Mr. Edge were coworkers at an aluminum mill in Hancock County. Because of their friendship and working there together, they also founded and started a timber logging company. They were basically buying lumber from local famers or land owners, harvesting that timber and selling it to make a profit. In the course of the business, Mr. Westerfield discovered that there was money missing from the company. Mr. Westerfield approached Mr. Edge about his feelings about the allegations about the money missing and actually gave him a period of time to come up with the money and make things right or he would tell law enforcement. He would go to law enforcement.

Brad: Then what happened.

Major Thompson: Mr. Edge went to work and contacted another man at work. He told him he wanted Mr. Westerfield killed, that he owed him money, he wanted him killed. A deal was struck that Mr. Westerfield would be killed.

Brad: This happened right at his home.

Major Thompson: That’s correct.

Brad: And there was a knock on the door.

Major Thompson: Yes. It’s a nice, populated area in Owensboro. If I recall, it was 8:30 or 9 at night. There was a knock on the door. Mr. Westerfield’s daughter, who I spoke of earlier, she was 17, 18 at the time. But I recall knock on the door, she went to the door and hollered, “Who there?” Someone hollered through the door, “It’s the boogey man.” She hollered at dad. Mr. Westerfield actually went to the door at that time and opened the door. When he did, the man yelled, “Told you it was the boogey man.” At that time, he fired point blank into Mr. Westerfield striking him several times and killed him. At the same time that was happening, Mr. Westerfield’s daughter was standing as close as you and I are. You can imagine how devastated she was witnessing what she did.

Brad: The family is still in the Owensboro area. We’re not sure, but he is not in the area?

Thompson: “I understand that when he was released he was going to a major city in Kentucky.

Brad: Governor Bevin on Twitter said that America is a nation that is established with an understanding and support for redemption and second chances. What do you think about that?

Thompson: “I’m going to weigh my words carefully. I know that the families of the victims of the men that he pardoned do not have a second chance. They do not have an opportunity to speak with their loved ones or reciprocate the love or forgiveness that the Governor says that he has. There’s a difference in forgiveness and going against the justice system, the complete justice system. I wish I could understand, I wish I could explain why he did that, why he released these men. I don’t have that in my knowledge, I don’t know why he did that, I can’t answer that.

Brad: Major Thompson, you’ve been in law enforcement for 45 years now. You’ve seen a lot in your time, you’ve carried a lot of memories with this and particularly this crime because these were two men who were apparently friends.

Thompson: They were friends, they were co-workers, their families were friends. Edge knew that his daughter would be there when Murphy knocked on the door. They had dinner together, the families were friends, they had picnics together. Ate together. Edge knew exactly what he was doing and knew he would be home when Murphy knocked on that door. In spite of all that, in spite of their friendship, he went ahead and did that. He didn’t care.

Brad: You have been a part of the justice system for so many years. Decades. What’s your faith in the justice system now? Is that a fair question?
Thompson: It is a fair question. My faith in the justice system is high as it was yesterday, last week, the day before. The justice system did its job. The justice system convicted guilty people and sent them to jail. Governor Bevin is the one who let down the justice system. I think was a slap in the face to the justice system, to the jury system, to law enforcement, to prosecutors, to everyone that has knowledge of not only this case, but the other 300 cases statewide that he has pardoned and let people go.
Brad: What would you tell former Governor Bevin? If you could see him face-to-face right now?
Thompson: You know Brad, I don’t like talking politics or about politicians. It’s probably a good thing I can’t see the Governor right now in person. I would ask him the same questions I guess that you have asked me. Why did you do this? I expect it would not be a pleasant conversation.
Brad: You are continuing your career now with the Daviess County Sheriff’s Department. Are you changing your thoughts about what you are doing right now after seeing something like this happen?
Thompson: No. I know  that I developed a friendship with the victim’s family. Not only this murder but other heinous crimes I have investigated. I try to keep in touch with a lot of past victims. I try to show compassion toward those victims. I think I have done that by following up with the families, again over all those years keeping up with the Westerfield family.

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(This story was originally published on December 13, 2019)

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