Fugitive from justice caught in Upshur

ROCK CAVE – West Virginia State Police arrested a Rock Cave man Sunday who is facing 15 felony charges related to the alleged sexual assault of a juvenile female relative, police said.

Kent Wayne Edwards, 58, formerly of Santa Rosa County, Fla., was arrested on charges of being a fugitive from justice, a felony, at his residence on the Holly Grove Road in southern Upshur County.

Edwards is facing 10 felony counts of sexual assault on a victim under the age of 12, a capital offense in Florida, as well as five felony counts of lewd and lascivious behavior on a victim under 16 years of age, according to the file in the Upshur County Circuit Clerk’s Office.

Sgt. Jeffrey Clay with the Buckhannon detachment of the WVSP issued a press release late Sunday stating that officers took Edwards into custody at his residence without incident that evening.

Edwards is currently being held in the Tygart Valley Regional Jail on a $500,000 cash-only bond – set by Magistrate Mike Coffman – as he awaits an extradition hearing.

A warrant for Edwards’ arrest was issued Friday in the First Judicial Circuit Court in Santa Rosa County, Fla. The attached affidavit, filed by Detective Larry Tynes, a deputy with the Santa Rose County Sheriff’s Office Major Crimes Unit, states that Tynes recorded a sworn audio and video statement from the alleged victim, who is now 14 years old.

In the statement, taken Nov. 15, 2013, the alleged victim says Edwards allegedly began sexually abusing her when she was 7 years old, and that the abuse continued for two years until she was 9 years old, from 2006 through 2008, when Edwards moved out of state.

The alleged abuse occurred either at Edwards’ house or in Edwards’ car when the alleged victim stayed there, which was, according to the complaint, on “most weekends from 2006-2008,” the complaint states.

The alleged victim told investigators that from 2006-2008, she was forced to perform a sex act on Edwards “at least” three times; that he once performed a sex act on her; and that he touched her genital area “at least” six times. Edwards also allegedly touched himself in front of the child “more times than she can remember,” according to the complaint.

“The victim recalls the first time the defendant told her ‘I could get in trouble and go to jail for this,'” Tynes wrote in the complaint. “The victim later stated, after each time she was sexually abused, the defendant would tell the victim ‘don’t forget to keep our secret or remember our secret.’ The victim also stated the defendant would usually give her ice cream after he had sexually abused her.”

The complaint states that the victim did not gather enough courage to tell her mother about the alleged sexual abuse until several years after it had ended. By that time, she had reportedly begun cutting herself “with a razor and a thumbtack” and was suffering from depression due to the alleged abuse, the report says, going on to note that the victim is currently being treated for those problems.

When reached by telephone Monday, Clay, the investigating officer with the WVSP, said Edwards told officers he had been living at his residence for some time.

“He said he owned a house up there in Holly Grove for several years,” Clay said. “It took us several days to apprehend him because he was working out of town, but we got him on Sunday when he was home.”

Clay said the warrant was issued in Santa Rosa County, Fla., on Friday, Dec. 27, and he believed Edwards had been living in West Virginia long enough for relatives in Florida to know of his whereabouts.

“That’s not who we want around here,” Clay said, referring to Edwards. “We don’t want people hiding in West Virginia and thinking they’re safe.”

Contact Katie Kuba by email at Follow her on Twitter at IMT_Kuba.