Sheriff's deputies investigate death of Benton City man

September 9, 2013 

BENTON CITY -- A disabled Benton City man known to friends as a good neighbor and Christian was found dead Monday in a church parking lot.

Benton County sheriff’s investigators believe it was a homicide, but no one had been arrested by Monday night.

A neighbor found Mike Edwards, 55, dead near a shed outside the Assembly of God Church on North River Road and called authorities at 7:35 a.m.

What appeared to be a brown mustard-colored, late ’60s Ford Mustang was parked at the back of the church lot with the driver’s side door open. A red baseball cap was on the ground nearby.

Sheriff’s officials would not discuss Edwards’ injuries “due to the nature and severity of the crime,” a release said. An autopsy is planned this morning, said Coroner John Hansens.

“I don’t see how anyone can take someone’s life like this,” Edwards’ friend Serina Miles told the Herald.

She said he lived on Social Security and was in constant pain from a bone disease. He used medical marijuana to ease his pain, she said.

Deputies taped off all the church property, as well as the yard of a nearby home in the rural residential neighborhood, while they searched for clues to his killer. Some residents watched from their driveways and yards. A few rode by on horseback.

“It’s a blow when you see something like this,” said Ivan Rhoades, a Benton City man and church member. He was at the church Monday with his son, Tracy Rhoades.

Edwards lived in a fifth-wheel RV at Elm Grove RV Park, about a mile south of the church. His trailer was surrounded by crime scene tape Monday, and investigators were interviewing people, as Miles and other neighbors consoled each other nearby.

Miles said she lived next to Edwards for several years before recently moving out of the trailer park. Still, she visited him regularly.

She said she and other neighbors had adopted him as part of their family. He always was willing to help her or anyone else, whether it was fixing a lawnmower or entertaining her grandchildren.

“He’d always treat the kids to Popsicles,” Miles said.

Edwards was interested in old cars and devoted to studying his Bible and caring for his dogs, which included two Chihuahuas and a golden lab, Miles said.

He was married but his wife moved out a few months ago, Miles said. She said Edwards’ son lives outside the area. She said she spoke with him Sunday about making sure he watched out for himself.

Investigators asked anyone with information about Edwards’ death to contact the Benton County sheriff’s detectives division at 509-735-6555 or call the nonemergency dispatch number at 509-628-0333.

-- Ty Beaver: 509-582-1402; tbeaver@tricityherald.com; Twitter: @_tybeaver

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