Family upset it hasn't been able to bury Benton City murder victim

By Tyler Richardson and Kristin M. Kraemer, Tri-City HeraldOctober 16, 2013 

The family of a Benton City man who was stabbed to death and left behind a shed on a church's property is upset they have not been able to bury their loved one.

Michael Edwards' body has not yet been released by the Benton County Coroner's Office to his family. The 55-year-old was killed Sept. 8 in Benton City.

"We can't tell our pastor when the service will be," said Shelly Edwards of Naches, his sister-in-law. "We can't tell Michael's mother when it will be. I just feel so angry that we can't put him to rest. It's emotional."

The coroner's office won't release the body until it gets permission from the defense attorneys for two men suspected of killing Michael Edwards, said John Hansens, Benton County coroner.

The coroner's office occasionally does not release the bodies of homicide victims until independent tests are conducted.

Noah M. Matlack, 18, and Noel A. Gonzalez, 19, have pleaded innocent to first-degree murder charges. Bail is set at $1 million for both Benton City men.

A third Benton City teen, Tyler Lynn Isom, 19, is charged with first-degree rendering criminal assistance and possession of a stolen gun. Isom allegedly let the teens stay at his home after the killing and kept a stolen .22-caliber Luger semi-automatic pistol.

Prosecutors have been in contact with Michael Edwards' family to ensure them the body will be released once all the necessary tests are done.

Deputy Prosecutor Terry Bloor has talked to both Shelly Edwards and her husband, James Edwards, he said. Bloor understands that they would like Michael Edwards' body released as soon as possible.

"I think they also understand though, that we certainly want to avoid a situation where the body is released and then there might have to be additional tests done after the release," Bloor told the Herald. "And nobody wants to see that situation come into play."

Bloor has explained to the family that the release of the body is being delayed by legal reasons, he said.

"Hopefully, perhaps, the defense attorneys may agree to have the body released before every test is completed, and that's possible," he told the Herald. "We'd certainly hope that that might be what happens."

The Edwards family wants to try and close the wounds left in the wake of the violent death. They say the only way they can begin to do that is by burying him.

"I do not understand why we have to go through this as the grieving family who has lost our family member from a horrific murder," Shelly Edwards wrote in an email to the Herald. "The Edwards family will not rest until justice is served. Right now we simply want our brother's body so we can get through the healing process."

-- Tyler Richardson: 582-1556; trichardson@tricityherald.com; Twitter: @Ty_richardson

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