Centre Ridge Brothers Mourned by Community
, By Bonnie Hobbs, May 1, 2003
The Connection Newspapers, http://www.alexandriagazette.com/article.asp?archive=true&article=18390&paper=62&cat=104
“Flowers and notes from grieving friends adorn the steps of the Nokesville home where three Centre Ridge Elementary brothers were shot to death.
The front steps of the Nokesville home where three Centre Ridge Elementary brothers were shot to death last week by their father have become a makeshift shrine.
They're covered with flowers and notes from grieving friends, mourning the tragic deaths of Bradley, Ryan and Kyle Edwards, ages 9, 7 and 5, respectively. They were in grades four, one and kindergarten.
One especially poignant note, unsigned and dated Sunday, April 27, reads, "Lord, please bless these children and let them be together in heaven. Please give them a chance at this life again, with people that love them in a healthy way."
The tragedy was actually a triple murder/suicide. Prince William County police say that, after killing his sons, Robin Edwards, 37, turned his shotgun on himself. Police found all four, last Wednesday night, April 23, after the boys' mother called, alarmed to discover that they hadn't gone to school that day.
"The parents had recently separated, about 2 1/2 weeks earlier, and had been sharing custody," said police spokeswoman Kim Chinn. Those who knew Edwards said he was devastated when his wife left, moving to Centreville with the children, and it's the only possible motive they can fathom for his horrendous actions.
Their mother, Debra Edwards, works and had to leave the boys with a babysitter before school. Chinn said their father picked them up at the babysitter's house in Centreville, that morning, telling her he'd drive them to school. Although the family had lived in Nokesville, Robin Edwards' mother, Thelma, lives in Centreville's Knolls of Newgate community and the boys had attended Centre Ridge since Bradley was in kindergarten.
Chinn said Edwards had no history of domestic abuse and his wife "never had any qualms about leaving the kids alone with him because it wasn't an issue." So when he picked them up at the babysitter's, said Chinn, "Nobody thought anything of it."
But around 8 p.m. that night, Debra Edwards called the police. "The grandmother was supposed to pick up the oldest child at school, during school hours, to take him somewhere," said Chinn. "The school said he wasn't there, and she was surprised because her picking him up had been prearranged."
The grandmother then discovered that none of her grandsons had gone to school, that day, and told their mother. By that evening, after repeatedly phoning her husband and getting no answer, she contacted the police. She and some officers went to the Nokesville home on Greenwich Road, off Vint Hill Road in an older, rural section of Prince William, where the family had lived for 8 1/2 years.
BUT POLICE WERE UNABLE to get inside or see in the windows, so Debra went back to Centreville, got the house key and returned. This time, said Chinn, "We left her to wait at a store up the street — thank God. I don't know if the officers had a gut feeling, or what."
When the police entered the small, white, wood-frame home, they found the three children dead, all in the same bedroom, on the floor. Chinn said they died of gunshot wounds, as did their father, who police found in his bedroom. She said his wound was "apparently self-inflicted."The Northern Virginia medical examiner, Frances Field, performed autopsies on the bodies, the next day, but Chinn said Tuesday that she didn't have any information about the times of death and couldn't provide anymore specifics about the nature of the injuries.
Centre Ridge Principal Joyce Dantzler learned of the tragedy, Thursday morning, April 24 and, reeling from the shock, sent home a letter to the parents of every student. (Besides English, it was also translated into Spanish, Korean and Farsi). She didn't go into detail about how the boys died, but told parents it would be best if they were the ones to break the news to their children.
She told parents symptoms of depression to watch for in their children, in reaction to the tragic loss of their classmates. Advising them to "offer care and comfort," she added, "Sometimes, just listening to their concerns and sharing your own sadness is enough."
On Friday, school social workers and psychologists were at Centre Ridge to offer support to staff and students. "This morning, you could see kids were upset, going into the school," said school-system spokesman Paul Regnier, that day. "[But] the crisis response team is trained and experienced."
Regarding the deaths, he said, "It's obviously a terrible thing — it's difficult to understand how this could have happened. They were all wonderful, beloved kids. It is just insane."
Robin Edwards' employers, Skip and Jean Fairall, owners of Air Distributing Co. — a heating and air conditioning business in Manassas — were equally saddened and puzzled. He was a service/installation technician there since November 1994, and the Fairalls called him an "excellent employee — well-liked. He was a gentle, soft-spoken man."
Skip said Edwards called his supervisor, last Wednesday, asking for the day off for personal business, and nothing in his voice indicated anything was amiss. "He said, 'See ya tomorrow,'" said Skip. "There was no reason to suspect anything like this. We couldn't believe it — we're still in shock. He worked here 8 1/2 years — you get to know someone."
HE KNEW ABOUT THE SEPARATION and said Edwards "had hoped they could work out their differences." Otherwise, he said, he was a "happy-go-lucky, pretty even-tempered fella."
"There was no question that he adored those children," added Jean. "And in all the years he'd worked here, we'd never heard him raise his voice."
However, parents in the Centre Ridge community understandably have a vastly different opinion of the man. "I think it shook me, as a parent — especially because of how it happened — even more than my kids," said one mother who asked that her name be withheld. "And violent death is hard to grapple with."
Sunday, she said her own children — who weren't in any classes with the boys — had so far not shown any signs of being distressed. Her kindergarten son knows about the tragedy, but "it's hard for him to process it." Her fifth-grade daughter was involved in a school musical, Friday night and, said the mother, "I think it was good that the fifth-graders had that to focus on."
"I couldn't bring myself to tell her how it happened — it's such a horrific thing," she said. "I struggled with that, Thursday night." Her heart also went out to Debra Edwards. "The death of one child is hard enough, let alone three. I don't know how she can deal with it."
The woman said she just couldn't understand how a father could do such a thing. "And you wonder what your children think about their own father," she said. "So you just have to keep reassuring them how much they're loved."
She also congratulated Centre Ridge for its handling of the tragedy, saying that everything was in place Friday to help the teachers and students deal with their grief. Another parent, Cathy Greer, said her fifth- and second-grade sons only knew the Edwards boys by face, but were still saddened.
"You had to struggle, as a parent, with your own feelings of grief, first, before you could speak to them," she said. "I had to tell them it was a dad who did it because news was traveling fast. And having two boys, my husband and I were concerned about how they would feel."
"My youngest needed a reason, and I told him some things in life are just unexplainable," continued Greer. "There is no reason why a parent would take a child's life." She said her family prays to God for comfort and strength and has faith that the brothers are in heaven.
IN HER HOUSEHOLD THAT WEEKEND, she said, "We're being more lax about our sons' behavior, and we've done a lot more hugging — just to put this in some perspective and show them their parents love them and this is a safe home and a safe community to live in."
Greer, too, praised Dantzler and the school. "With the sniper and the war, it's been a tough year emotionally for the kids at Centre Ridge," she said. "Mrs. Dantzler has had to deal with one crisis after another. She and the staff have done a superb job to make those kids feel safe and special."
Meanwhile, the scene Sunday at the Nokesville home was heartbreaking. In the backyard dotted with bright, yellow dandelions, several toys seemed to wait patiently for their owners to return. Among them are a small, plastic playhouse, a picnic table, a swing, two baseball bats, a toy lawnmower and a Kawasaki riding toy. A silver-and-red, plastic sword lies in a patch of dirt. Two bicycles poke out of a blue tarp, and a third bike lies on its side in the grass.
Notes left on the front steps were equally heart-rending. A child told Debra Edwards that "Bradly (sic), Kyle and Ryan were really good friends to all of us." Another wrote, "Bradly (sic) was special. He was good at basketball ... and he didn't care if he came out of the game. He always cheered for the team. P.S. Bradly (sic) we love you."
The boys were buried Tuesday at Fort Lincoln Cemetery in Brentwood, Md. Donations may be made to: The Brad, Ryan & Kyle Fund, P.O. Box 116, Greenbelt, MD. 20768.“
“NOKESVILLE, Va. -- A father killed his three sons with a shotgun, then killed himself, police said Thursday.
Robin Edwards, 37, picked up the boys from a babysitter Wednesday and said he was taking them to school. His estranged wife called police when she learned the boys weren't at school.
Prince William County police found the bodies of Edwards and the boys in two rooms of their house. Edwards and his sons Bradley, 9, Ryan, 7, and Kyle, 5, all died from shotgun wounds.
Edwards had arranged with his boss to take Wednesday off, saying he needed to tend to some personal business.
He had recently separated from his wife, Debra, who moved to Fairfax County. “ -- Salt Lake Tribune