James Francis Edwards made his first apperance in court in connection with a 1990 murder at the Hall of Justice building on Monday. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)

James Francis Edwards made his first apperance in court in connection with a 1990 murder at the Hall of Justice building on Monday. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)

Murder suspect arrested after three decades was known for ‘lying low’

An elderly man who was arrested for murder last week after three decades on the lam seemed to have a propensity for disguising his identity, even before he was wanted in the homicide.

James Francis Edwards, 70, was already known for “lying low” when police first accused him of shooting and killing a man outside a soup kitchen in the Mission District in November 1990, according to court records filed by the District Attorney’s Office.

At the time of the shooting, witnesses told police that Edwards would wear disguises, had identification cards under different names and was evading arrest in an unrelated theft case.

Prosecutors say he had California driver’s licenses under the aliases Peter Paul Provost and Robert Charles Edwards.

“He had demonstrated the ability to use false identifiers to disguise his true identity,” Assistant District Attorney Nathan Quigley wrote in a newly filed motion seeking to detain Edwards without bail.

That tendency appears to have still been on display when authorities caught up with Edwards last week while conducting a welfare check on another person in Southern California.

Prosecutors say Edwards falsely gave his name as “Wayne,” but responded, “Oh, that” when told he was being booked on a warrant from San Francisco for murder and a gun charge.

Edwards made his first appearance in the case on Monday afternoon in San Francisco Superior Court. Wearing orange jail garb at the Hall of Justice, he pleaded not guilty to the charges.

His attorney with the Public Defender’s Office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The District Attorney’s Office has asked the court to hold Edwards in custody without the option of bail ahead of trial, arguing that Edwards is a threat to public safety.

Prosecutors say Edwards was living at the charitable organization Martin De Porres House of Hospitality on Nov. 5, 1990, when another resident, 46-year-old Lamar Vaughn, was gunned down out front.

Police found Vaughn on the sidewalk at 225 Potrero Ave. early that morning with a single gunshot wound to his forehead. He was later pronounced dead at San Francisco General Hospital.

Court records show police interviewed other residents at the nonprofit who colored in a picture of what may have happened.

One witness said Edwards and Vaughn were living together at the charity. While Vaughn was openly gay, the witness said Edwards was “having problems identifying who he was sexually.”

Another witness told police he saw Vaughn yelling at a man to “get out of here” that morning while carrying a piece of wood. He then heard a gunshot but does not appear to have seen the shooting.

A third witness said he actually saw the shooting. The witness said Vaughn was holding a piece of wood to his side when Edwards pulled a gun out of his sweatshirt and shot him.

It’s unclear what Edwards has been up to for the last three decades.

He was arrested by the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Office last Wednesday on the 1000 block of Casitas Pass Road in the city of Carpinteria, according to authorities.

Prosecutors say he has a criminal history that includes convictions out of Utah from before the homicide in connection with the kidnapping and sexual assault of a 5-year-old girl.

He was also arrested several times in Arizona in the 1980s, including for allegedly being in possession of a gun that was stolen from a bedroom dresser drawer during a burglary.

Edwards remains in custody as of Tuesday. A judge is expected to hear arguments Wednesday over whether he should remain at County Jail pending trial or be released.

mbarba@sfexaminer.com

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