East Nashville murder victim remembered as selfless, a healing presence to those suffering with addictions
The Rev. Dr. Brice Thomas knew something was amiss when Alan Edwards didn’t show up to church this past Sunday.
“He teaches adult Sunday school,” said Pastor Brice. “It was uncharacteristic of him to not show up without letting any of us know.”
Later that day, police were called to Edwards’ home where the 61-year-old East Nashville resident was found murdered by his housemate, Clint Osborn, a 28-year-old who Edwards had been mentoring and at times casually referred to as his adopted son.
The last time Brice recalls speaking with Edwards was Wednesday evening last week.
The two had collaborated in recent weeks to identify and interview a new music director for the Holy Trinity Community Church, where Brice is the lead pastor and Edwards was a parishioner. The candidate they selected was to appear at the service on Sunday, in something of an audition for the role.
Friends of Alan Edwards became concerned on Friday and then Saturday when their attempts to contact him went either unanswered or appeared in language (as texts) that was unrecognizable. Two specific incidents raised flags around Edwards’ network. First, on Friday a team of landscapers who’d agreed to begin work at Edwards’ home arrived but were sent away by Osborn. Then on Saturday, a friend who had left his pet in care of Edwards arrived to retrieve the dog — similarly, he experienced a terse exchange with Osborn. The friend, a man named Denny, reported that Osborn told him Edwards wasn’t feeling well and wasn’t interested in receiving guests at that time.
“Apparently this young man was using Alan’s phone to answer texts as if it were Alan,” said Pastor Brice, “but it all seemed quite strange, not exactly the way that Alan would talk.”
On Sunday when Denny had yet to receive a reply from Edwards, he reached out to Pastor Brice, where he knew Edwards attended church. Brice decided he would stop at Edwards' home that day. When he arrived, the police were already there. Edwards' friends had tried, again unsuccessfully, to contact him and when Osborn refused to answer the door, they called the police.
"I showed up and stayed there for a couple hours,” he said. “[The police] didn’t have much to tell us at that point. They said they were interviewing this young man. They found a young girl in the basement of Alan’s home being held against her will. Detectives began taking our statements and then applied for a search warrant.”
Unbeknownst to Brice and the victim’s other gathered friends, officers had discovered Edwards’ decomposing body in the house. The search warrant, then, would grant them permission to officially search the house for clues to the murder.
“The police told us at that time that they were most likely turning this into a homicide investigation,” he said. “At this point we were kind of confused because we didn’t have any idea that anything was inside the house that would give them any idea what had happened.”
According to a Nashville police statement, “blood was visible and there was an odor of decomposition. Edwards’ body was discovered in a basement closet stuffed into a large plastic container that had been covered and duct taped. He appeared to have been stabbed to death.”
Though the two were familiar, Pastor Brice said he did not know Osborn well.
“I don’t know a lot about him,” he said. “I had conversations with Alan on several occasions. We would host singles gatherings and small bible study groups at his house and this young man was always there but always kind of in the shadows. He didn’t really participate. He wasn’t fully integrated, I think, into a lot of Alan’s life outside of his work with his community of addictions. Alan would refer to him as his adopted son, someone that he was trying to be a father figure to, a presence to help this young man deal with his own addictions. I trusted Alan. I trusted that he knew what he was doing. But it was odd, we weren’t able to get very close to this young man, to befriend him in a way that Alan had.”
Edwards’ church community, led by Pastor Brice, had originally planned to avail the Holy Trinity location so that parishioners and community members could congregate, mourn, and remember Edwards on Monday afternoon. They soon realized that Edwards’ recovery community had already initiated a memorial of sorts at Edwards’ home. They agreed immediately to join them there.
“He hosted AA meetings in his home,” he said. “I know that he was involved in being a healing presence to people who suffer from addiction, so many people from his AA group decided to show up at Alan’s home and set up a memorial. We spent several hours at his home.”
“It’s a tragic story,” the pastor added. “We as a community are just shocked and stunned. Alan was such a significant part of our church community. He was so very well loved, so active, so excited about how things were evolving and growing at the church and so excited to be part of that. It’s a devastating loss to us and it’s going to be very hard, but we’re a community of faith that loves each other and love Alan and we’re going to do our best to celebrate his life and make sure his death is not in vain.”