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UNSOLVED: The Horrific 1986 Killing of Shawn Edwards 

More questions than answered.

Shawn Edwards with his brother
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  • Shawn Edwards with his brotherPhoto Credit: Times Herold

On a cold January night in 1986, 14-year-old Shawn Edwards sat in his living room watching a scary movie while his mother went to bed. When she woke up around midnight and came to check on him, he was gone without a trace. The school janitor found his body lying outside Middletown High School, beaten and stabbed repeatedly. The officer in charge called the vicious murder “unlike any other I’ve seen.”

In 2022, the popular Crime Junkie Podcast featured the tragic murder in a two-part episode that brought new light and attention to what was, by then, a nearly-forty-year-old cold case. Shawn Edwards was a pretty typical 14-year-old. He played football and had dreams of his future. His family and friends said that he was good-natured, with few rivals and without an enemy in the world. And yet, toward the end of his short life, something had been bothering him.

Shawn’s friends said that he was afraid for his life, and that he had started carrying a knife for protection. And yet, no one knew the cause of Shawn’s fears, or who or what he needed protection from. When his body was found that chilly January morning, he had been badly beaten, and stabbed repeatedly. Yet police were baffled, with few leads to go on, and no motive that they could determine for the vicious attack. Indeed, no one knew what had lured Shawn out of the house in the first place. When his mom last saw him, he had been safely watching TV in the living room.

According to his mother, Shawn had never before left the house in the middle of the night. So, what prompted him to do so this time? Especially if, as his friends claimed, he was already concerned about his safety? Unfortunately, we may never know.

Who killed Shawn Edwards? 

photo of Shawn Edwards

In the weeks and months following the discovery of Shawn’s body, police chased down many tentative leads. There was nothing at the crime scene to suggest who had slain the boy, or why. Shawn’s father, Melvin, was divorced from Shawn’s mother, but he is who she called when Shawn went missing. Melvin went out looking for Shawn that night, though some reports claim that he first had coffee in a café.

Melvin became one of the prime suspects, as much for lack of any others as for any better reason, and police eventually compelled him to take a polygraph test. According to information presented on the Crime Junkie Podcast, authorities believed that Melvin was not telling the truth when he said that he had no knowledge of the crime. However, no further evidence came to light linking him to his son’s murder.

Others questioned included a mysterious “Mr. Fig,” whose car was seen idling in a parking lot near Shawn’s house on the night that he was killed. All these leads, as well as many other tips, ultimately brought the police to a dead end, however. They could find nothing to link anyone to the violent death of Shawn Edwards – and no one seemed to know why he had been killed, or what he had been doing that night.

A reward was offered for information about Shawn’s death, even as his family laid his body to rest on a cold and rainy January day. “We haven’t ruled anything out,” Lt. Charles C. Dino is quoted as saying, in a newspaper article dated January 21, 1986. “How can you rule out anything, if you don’t have anything to begin with?” Unfortunately, as frustrated as authorities might have been at that time, just days after Shawn’s murder, they were bound for much more frustration in the years to come.

Timothy Fairweather's confession

timothy fairweather
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  • photo of Timothy Fairweather

    Photo Credit: Times Herald / Eric Kleiger

In 1992, what seemed to be the first real break in the case finally came, some six years after the fact. Timothy Fairweather had been 15 years old at the time that Shawn was killed and yet, in 1992, he told police that he was there that night. That he had seen his two friends, Joey Selgado and Eddie Devlin, kill Shawn Edwards. The reason? A Columbian drug dealer simply called “Nelson.”

According to Fairweather’s confession, Joey Selgado had planned the killing because Shawn was somehow “messing up” Nelson’s business. The solution had been to get the boy out of the way, permanently. There was just one problem: police could find no evidence to support Fairweather’s claims and, furthermore, Fairweather himself later stated that he had actually lied in his confession, trying to appease the authorities. His lawyer even showed that Fairweather wasn’t even in town on the night that Shawn Edwards was killed.

Though Timothy Fairweather was initially charged with murder following his confession, his subsequent retraction, coupled with evidence brought by his lawyer and a polygraph test that helped to clear his name, all suggest that Fairweather’s account of the killing was as fictional as he eventually claimed, leaving police back at square one, and the murder of Shawn Edwards no closer to being solved.

The search for answers continues

Unfortunately, though there have been numerous tips and leads in the case, none have ever gone anywhere. Shawn appeared to have no enemies, and there was no discernable motive for the crime. No one seems to have known what he was doing outside his house that night, or what, if anything, he might have become involved in that led to his violent death.

The case technically remains open, though it has been quite cold for a very long time now, and the odds of finding any new leads are slim. Nonetheless, authorities insist that the case is still under investigation, and anyone with any information is encouraged to contact the Middletown, New York police department.

“Just trust in God and justice will come,” Reverend Jesse A. Wilkerson Jr. said during the funeral for Shawn Edwards all the way back in 1986. For those the young man left behind, justice has been slow in coming indeed. But perhaps they still have hope or faith that one day they will find answers to their many questions, if not the closure they seek.