Of the more than 400 pardons former Gov. Matt Bevin issued in his final moments in office, at least three were Daviess County cases. Two of the pardons were for relatively low-level drug and burglary convictions.
But one of the pardons shocked and disappointed the Daviess County officials who handled the case.
Irvin Edge was found guilty of murder and sentenced to life in prison in 1993 for arranging the death of Charles Westerfield, Edge's business partner. Edge, who is now 71, had his sentence commuted by Bevin and has been released from prison.
Bevin's decision, which he did not explain in the order commuting Edge's sentence, flies in the face of the state's parole board. In 2004, the parole board ordered Edge to fulfill his sentence and spend the rest of his life in prison.
"He is out since yesterday," said Major Bill Thompson, head of investigations at the Daviess County Sheriff's Department on Thursday. Thompson was chief of detectives at the Owensboro Police Department and led the investigation when Westerfield was fatally shot at his home in the 1900 block of Venetian Way on March 12, 1991.
Edge, who was a Fordsville resident, and Westerfield, of Owensboro, co-owned a timber company, W.E. Land. But Edge was stealing funds from the business, Thompson said.
"The facts of the case showed Edge had been skimming money from the company," Thompson said.
"Mr. Westerfield had found out about it" and was preparing to inform law enforcement, he said.
In addition, Edge was hoping an insurance settlement on Westerfield through the business would "pay off the debt he'd accumulated," Thompson said.
"We worked this case for three days, night and day, 22 hours a day, going home only to take a shower and change clothes," Thompson said.
An informant contacted OPD and informed them that a Louisville man, Randal Kendrick Murphy, had bragged about "killing a man in Owensboro." OPD detectives went to Louisville, set up a surveillance and were able to record Murphy bragging to the informant about the shooting, Thompson said.
At trial, jurors found Edge guilty of using a go-between, Barry Kent McManaway, to contract with Murphy to kill Westerfield for $5,000. Murphy was found guilty of murder for going to Westerfield's home in Thorobred Acres on March 12, knocking on the door and shooting Westerfield multiple times with a .22 caliber handgun in front of Westerfield's daughter.
Murphy was also sentenced to life in prison and ordered to serve his entire sentence by the parole board. Murphy, who is now 56, is incarcerated at Little Sandy Correctional Complex in Elliott County. McManaway pleaded guilty to a lesser charge of second-degree manslaughter in exchange for testifying against Edge and Murphy.
The investigation "was very thorough" said Tom Castlen, who handled the case as Daviess County's Commonwealth Attorney. "It was one of the best I've been associated with."
Castlen, who later went on to become a Daviess Circuit judge, said he did not understand Bevin's decision.
"My thought is it's terribly disappointing," Castlen said. "I don't think it fulfills the interest of justice, and I'm sorry it happened. I don't know, and I don't think any of us know, the reason behind the commutation."
Of Westerfield's daughter and family, Castlen said, "the trauma that family experienced is terrible and sad."
Thompson said that even after four decades in law enforcement, the investigation that led to Edge's murder conviction sticks with him.
"We became truly close to the family," Thompson said. "It truly surprised me the governor would pardon a man who had a direct impact on so many people's lives ... It's one of those cases you never forget, because it's heartbreaking for the family, and because of the brutality of the way the man was killed.
"It's a shame the governor's staff didn't reach out to family members for a victim impact statement about how this man's actions impacted them," Thompson said.
James Mayse, 270-691-7303, email@example.com, Twitter: @JamesMayse