Gregory Edwards, who changed his plea from not guilty to guilty on first degree murder charges at the beginning of the month, was sentenced to 25 years to life in prison for killing Korrina Dee Nicholas, a 27-year-old who was sexually assaulted and killed in Santa Barbara in 1992.
Edwards, with evidence stacked against him, changed his plea during a hearing which was supposed to set a trial date. He was arrested in March 2006, almost 15 years after the murder took place. A cold case division was formed some years ago at the Santa Barbara Police Department, and in reopening some of the cases, detectives at the department submitted to the state DNA evidence collected from the site near Las Positas and Cliff Drive. Later, they received a call from Department of Justice officials who said they had a match with a prisoner from San Quentin Prison. In accordance with a 2004 state law, felony convicts must submit DNA samples to the state, which Edwards did when he was taken to jail on a theft-related offense, leading to the connection. The Santa Cruz native was apparently working as a gardener in Santa Barbara at the time of the killing, but never considered a suspect.
Nicholas left behind five children, three of whom live in California, and two who were adopted. A letter written by Nicholas’s mother, who now lives in Florida and still has Nicholas’s ashes with her, was read by her daughter Nichole Tennant, who was two years old when her mother was killed. “He will be judged when he comes face-to-face with the Lord,” the letter said. Tennant said after that her “emotions were everywhere” being so close to the man who killed her mother. “It was really hard to look at him and not just scream,” Tennant said. Edwards, wearing a County Jail issued orange shirt and blue pants, showed little emotion at the defense table during the proceeding, looking straight ahead as Nicholas’s family read letters and spoke. He showed no emotion or change in the look of his face Jamie Cordova, a niece of Nicholas’s, 27, is at the age her aunt was when she was killed. “There’s relief and disbelief,” she said. “It’s comforting that he’s going to pay for this crime.” “The family is just relieved and there can be that peace there that he’s no longer out there.”
Edwards will be eligible for parole at 16 years and eight months behind bars. “Thank God for DNA,” Senior Deputy District Attorney Joyce Dudley said. “I think there was overwhelming, compelling evidence.” Dudley also revealed Thursday what Edwards claimed to be the motive for the killing. He said that he had taken drugs from the victim without paying, and, fearful she would tell her dealer he had done so, decided the easiest thing to do would be to kill her. “She didn’t live the greatest lifestyle but was a really good mom,” said Tennant, adding that all the photos she has of her mother show the woman smiling.
“He not only brutally murdered a young woman, he also mortally wounded an entire family,” Dudley said.