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Criminal Justice Update

Tenacity, technology trip up serial murderer

For more than half his life, Robert Edwards evaded justice. But law enforcement’s persistence and the continuing evolution of DNA technology finally put him behind bars for the rest of his earthly existence.

Edwards, 68, was convicted July 14 of killing Alma Lake in 1991 and killing and raping Michelle Dawson-Pass in 1996. Both central Ohio women were strangled. In August, Edwards was sentenced to life in prison without possibility of parole for 45 years.

“At the end of the day, there is no such thing as a cold case,” Attorney General Dave Yost said, “just a case in which the next lead is waiting to be found. And in this case, the key lead was found because of advances in DNA technology and investigators who never gave up.”

A turning point came in 2020 when the sheriff’s offices in Franklin and Licking counties asked the Cold Case Unit at the Bureau of Criminal Investigation to take a fresh look at both cases.

BCI’s Laboratory conducted advanced DNA analysis on evidence collected at both scenes. But the DNA profile they developed did not match any in the FBI’s Combined DNA Index System (CODIS), which contains DNA profiles of convicted felons or anyone arrested and charged with a felony.

Investigators then began searching the database to see whether they could link the DNA profile to any possible biological relatives, which ultimately led them to Edwards in March 2021.

Edwards denied knowing the victims, but a DNA sample taken from him confirmed a direct match between Edwards and the DNA left on the victims.

“This is a great example of never giving up and law enforcement agencies working together and sharing resources,” Franklin County Sheriff Dallas Baldwin said.

Lake’s nude body was found on June 3, 1991, in Urbancrest, in southwest Franklin County. She was 30. More than five years later, Dawson-Pass, 36, was found dead in Granville, in Licking County.

“This case was solved by boots on the ground, directed by scientists in the lab,” Licking County Sheriff Randy Thorp said. “I appreciate the collaboration and coordination from BCI to solve this case.”
Edwards may have been involved in other sexual assaults or homicides. Agencies that believe they have additional information related to him should contact BCI at 855-BCI-Ohio or