Text from dead woman’s phone number leads to arrest

Unaware of the grisly fate that had befallen Lisa Spence, police investigating her disappearance had her cellphone number assigned to a new phone and sent a text message to their main suspect.

“Just wait til I got better,” the message read.

It worked, police say: Minutes after they sent the message, Paul Edwards, 44, got into his mother’s car and drove to several South Florida locations, one of which would later lead police to Spence’s decapitated body.

Edwards was arrested Wednesday on one count of first-degree murder. On Thursday he was ordered held without bail.


Police accuse him of stabbing Spence, his girlfriend, more than 33 times, cutting off her head and stuffing her body into a barrel, which was found two months later in northern Miami-Dade County.

The head remains missing.

Authorities outlined the investigation in an arrest warrant.

Spence, 35, disappeared Oct. 7, and was last seen at the beauty-supply shop where she worked. After her disappearance, according to the warrant, Edwards sent several text messages from her phone to convince her friends and family she had suddenly left town and gotten a new job.

No one believed it. It was not Spence’s habit to send text messages, friends and family told police. And there was no way she would let her daughter’s 18th birthday pass on Oct. 14 without calling her in Trinidad and Tobago.

Spence’s friends told police she was planning to move out of the Miramar apartment she shared with Edwards but didn’t want to gather her belongings while he was home. And, the warrant said, he had been calling in sick all week.

Spence was a native of Trinidad and Tobago who moved to Florida about four years ago to join a boyfriend from her Caribbean homeland, family members told police.

She worked as a cashier at the beauty-supply shop and at a convenience store.

The arrest warrant contains 10 text messages sent from Spence’s cellphone to her brother after her disappearance.

“I am sad because I will miss Paul,” one message said. “With all that happened he was still good to me in the end.”

The messages indicated Spence was in the Jacksonville area -- “i don’t really know d place,” one said -- but records showed her cellphone never left South Florida, according to the warrant. Edwards’ cellphone was always close to her cellphone, police said.

Police decided to prod Edwards on Nov. 5 by having Spence’s cellphone number assigned to a new phone and using it to text him.

Edwards was apparently unaware that police followed him to several locations, including northern Miami-Dade County, the warrant states.

On Dec. 16, police returned to an address in Miami Gardens and searched a vacant field. Two police dogs that specialize in detecting human remains led police to a sealed, 55-gallon barrel.

The barrel was taken to the Miami-Dade Medical Examiner’s Office, where it was opened. Spence’s remains were inside.

Blood matching the victim was also found in the apartment Edwards and Spence shared and in the back of a rented Toyota Highlander that Edwards admitted driving around the time of Spence’s disappearance, the arrest warrant said.

One of Spence’s friends told police he had seen a similar-looking barrel in the apartment Edwards and Spence shared. Spence would occasionally use the barrel to ship items to Trinidad, the friend said.