27-year-old cold case solved by modern advances in DNA technology
31-year-old Mary Catherine Edwards lived in Beaumont, Texas. She was a well-loved second-grade teacher at Price Elementary School with many friends and a family with whom she remained close.
Edwards was seen leaving work on the evening of Friday, Jan. 13, 1995, at around 5 p.m. According to a report in The Chronicle, she went home, walked her dog as she usually did in the evenings, and poured herself a glass of wine to sip while she called her boyfriend. It is believed that it was the last call she made.
On January 14, 1995, her parents grew concerned that she had not responded to their phone calls and went to her townhouse to check on her. According to a Department of Public Safety press release issued at the time, her father, Lum Edwards, went upstairs and made a gruesome discovery.
The Houston Chronicle reported that the bathtub’s shower curtain had been ripped down. Edwards was leaning over the tub with her head submerged in the water and her legs still out on the floor according to the probable cause affidavit in the case. An autopsy revealed over three dozen injuries to her body consistent with a violent struggle, including finger-shaped bruises on her hips. In her bedroom, the covers had been ripped from her bed.
According to reports in the Beaumont Enterprise, DNA technology was in its infancy in 1995, so while DNA was collected, police were unable to make a match through the existing CODIS database. Even as late as 2006, they were coming up empty-handed. In 2014, when Jefferson County District Attorney Bob Wortham took office, he made the murder of Edwards a top priority.
“The very first day I was sworn in as district attorney, I called [Beaumont Police Chief James] Singletary and asked him to put some people on the Edwards case, because it was such a terrible set of facts. I really wanted to find a way to solve that case.” — Jefferson County District Attorney Bob Wortham
The efforts of Wortham and his department finally paid off. Over 26 years after the discovery of Edward’s murder an arrest was finally made in the cold case. 61-year-old Clayton Bernard Foreman, an unemployed bill collector who had been working as an Uber driver, was charged with the rape and murder of Edwards.
Foreman and Edwards both graduated from Forest Park High School, according to information the police disclosed to News 4 San Antonio. Though they weren’t close friends, they were acquainted on a casual level. Edwards was even a bridesmaid at the marriage of Foreman and his first wife in 1982.
Other classmates told Fox29 that Foreman helped arrange class reunions in past years and was in attendance at the one in 2018, where he had organized the tributes to deceased classmates. They described him as a thoughtful person who they would have never suspected of committing such a horrible crime.
Students remember Edwards fondly. According to a report from Boston25, her identical twin sister, Allison Brocato, was also a teacher in Beaumont. According to the Houston Chronicle, Edwards used to tell her students each fall:
“If you see another one of me walking around somewhere and she doesn’t speak to you, don’t get your feelings hurt. It’s probably my sister.” - Mary Catherine Edwards, speaking to students
Like so many cases in recent years, new advances in DNA technology were responsible for the break in the case. According to KJAS-TV, a probable cause affidavit shows that the testing of DNA taken from evidence gathered in 1995 is what led police to suspect Foreman. Though the DNA from the original case had degraded over time, a small amount was recovered from the remaining evidence by Othram, the lab processing the evidence.
Armed with the new DNA evidence Othram was able to provide, investigators began exploring genetic genealogy in April 2020. They entered the data into GEDmatch, a database used by law enforcement to trace DNA familial connections. This led them to distant cousins on both paternal and maternal sides of Foreman and eventually, to him and his brother. The brother had no criminal history, but Foreman did.
With Foreman’s former connection to Edwards, he became their prime suspect. After collecting articles of trash at Foreman’s home, they tested them for DNA and found it to be a match for the DNA recovered from Edward’s body and other items in her apartment, but that’s not all.
According to KJAS.com, The murder of Edwards was very similar to the 1981 rape of one of Foreman's former classmates. Foreman had met up with the woman while she was stranded at a gas station and offered her a ride. Instead of taking her home, he drove her to a secluded spot, held a knife to her throat, and tied her up with a belt before raping her in his car. In both cases, there was evidence that Foreman may have presented himself as law enforcement and used police tools. Foreman had pleaded guilty to that crime but was only sentenced to three years of probation.
Foreman was arrested in the Edwards cold case on April 29, 2021, in Franklin County, Ohio, and extradited to Texas to face charges, despite his attempts to fight the transfer. In September 2021, Foreman was indicted by a grand jury on capital murder charges. He will stand trial for the rape and murder of Mary Catherine Edwards later this year.