Man sentenced to prison for murder of 96-year-old woman

CALDWELL CO., Mo. -- Harold Edwards, Jr. pleaded guilty in connection to a murder near Polo,...
CALDWELL CO., Mo. -- Harold Edwards, Jr. pleaded guilty in connection to a murder near Polo, Missouri, in May 2022.(Caldwell County Sheriff Office)
Published: Nov. 15, 2023 at 4:21 PM CST
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POLO, Mo. (KCTV) - A 29-year-old man in Caldwell County was sentenced to life in prison Wednesday for the May 10, 2022 murder of Lorene Fickness.

Harold Edwards Jr. who was charged with murder in connection with a series of arson, burglary and property damage charges, was sentenced Wednesday. Edwards Jr. previously pled guilty to second-degree murder in addition to three counts of possession of child pornography.

He admitted to killing Fickness with a heavy beveled object and to possessing more than 21 images of child pornography. According to court records, on May 10, 2022, just after 8:30 a.m., investigators were called to a fire at the home of 96-year-old Lorene Fickess off State Route D in Polo, Missouri. They discovered the beloved mother and grandmother did not survive.

“We are happy to see that Mr. Edwards Jr. will be behind bars,” Caldwell County Sheriff Mitchell Allen said. “WE are hoping that this brings some closure to the family members of Mrs. Lorene Fickness.”

READ MORE: ‘She was a wonderful lady’: 96-year-old grandmother who died in apparent Polo arson remembered

In a plea agreement, Edwards and the State agreed to dismiss 13 remaining counts including four additional counts of possession of child pornography, armed criminal action, three counts of second-degree arson, two counts of second-degree burglary, first-degree burglary and abandonment of a corpse.

“I guess I just didn’t expect her story to end this way,” Christal Hicks, the granddaughter of Lorene Fickess, said in May 2022. “She had asked my dad, her oldest son, if he thought that she would make it to 100 and he said, ‘Absolutely, yes.’ Two days later, she’s gone.”

After the first fire, neighbors told investigators a younger black man driving a black Ford Escape with dark tinted windows stopped in the middle of the street almost directly in front of the grandmother’s home. He asked if “everyone was ok?”

While on the scene of the first fire, first responders received another call from employees of the Platte-Clay Electric Company who saw smoke coming from another home on State Route D in Polo. They saw a black Ford Escape with dark, tinted windows parked near the burning home.

Then a third fire was reported by a Missouri State Highway Patrol trooper off at State Route D in Kingston, MO approximately two miles away from the second fire. The upstairs and downstairs drapes were set on fire.

Investigators found video surveillance from a Caldwell County school of a vehicle that witnesses spotted at the fire scenes. Photos of the vehicle were released to the public.

Edwards was arrested and charged June 13, 2022, with arson, burglary and property damage.