BY PAUL BRADLEY
RICHMOND TIMES-DISPATCH STAFF WRITER
Oct 2, 2005
So fond is he of the institution of marriage that the Alexandria man has exchanged vows seven times in the past 40 years.
But Charles Edward Hicks' proclivity for romance has left not only a trail of broken hearts and unpaid debts but trouble with the law. According to court records, four of those marriages took place while Hicks was married to somebody else.
In July, Hicks was indicted by a Fairfax County grand jury on a felony bigamy charge, a rare crime punishable by a minimum of two years in jail and a maximum of 10.
Late last month, however, Hicks avoided going to trial, seeming to slip through a loophole in Virginia law. The quirk led prosecutors to drop the bigamy charge against him, though they reserved the right to charge him again.
Meanwhile, authorities in Chesapeake are investigating Hicks and considering whether he can be charged with bigamy there. Chesapeake police have been in contact with Fairfax authorities and with two of Hicks' wives.
Today, he remains married to two women: Julie Flint-Hicks of Layton, Utah, and Sandra Goldin Hicks of Fairfax.
Or does he?
Undisputed, according to a marriage license, is the fact that Hicks married the former Julie Flint on April 15, 1997, in California. It was his sixth marriage. They have not divorced.
Also undisputed, according to documents, is that Hicks married the former Sandra Goldin on May 26, 2003, in the Bahamas. That would seem to mean that Hicks' marriage to Goldin qualified as bigamy.
But not so fast. In the eyes of Virginia law, Hicks and Flint might not ever have been legally married.
That's because court documents and marriage licenses show that when the couple wed in 1997, he was still married to his fifth wife, Rose Marie Sewell. They wed in 1995, and their divorce became final May 6, 1997 -- three weeks after Hicks married Flint.
Under Virginia law, if someone who is already married weds a second time, the two-timer is guilty of bigamy. But that second marriage is considered invalid -- in this case, that means the marriage to Flint.
So if a person marries a third time after the first marriage has been dissolved, bigamy doesn't apply. That's because the first marriage (to Sewell) had ended, and legally speaking, the second marriage (to Flint) doesn't count. That would leave the third marriage (to Goldin) intact.
That doesn't mean Hicks is off the hook, however. Because he and Flint lived for about a year in Chesapeake, he could be charged there.
Bringing bigamy charges is rare in Virginia. A computer search of 20 years of Times-Dispatch archives found the paper reported on 18 cases statewide in which people were accused, indicted or convicted on bigamy charges. Fifteen were men and three were women. Most punishments involved jail terms of less than a year.
Neither Hicks nor his lawyer, Richard S. Simpson, returned phone calls for this article. Simpson has said that Hicks "is dealing with some scorned women who are very angry."
To that, Goldin said: "We're scammed, not scorned."
Both Goldin and Flint are moving to have their marriages annulled -- Flint in Utah and Goldin in Fairfax. Both want their marriages with Hicks behind them, and both want to see Hicks jailed.
Flint said she was forced into bankruptcy and lost her car after debts Hicks had accrued on her credit cards went unpaid.
"He has done this time and time again," Flint said.
Goldin said she had to refinance her home to cover the debts racked up during her marriage to Hicks.
Goldin, who met Hicks on an Internet dating site, said, "He's an Internet predator. He targets women. He'll keep on doing it."
The women didn't always feel that way. Both said they fell hard for Hicks, whom they described as intelligent, charismatic and fun.
"He makes you feel like you're the only woman in the world," Flint said.
Goldin, a 49-year-old federal government employee, was living in Fairfax, he in Chesapeake, when they met online. For their first date, they arranged to meet in Richmond. They hit it off immediately.
Hicks said nothing of his wife in Chesapeake and said he had been married once before, Goldin said. She was impressed that he worked for the Army Publishing Directorate and held a low-level security clearance. He frequently traveled to Northern Virginia on business and to see Goldin.
"I've been around this town long enough to know what a security clearance means," she said. "I thought he was on the up and up."
They boated together, went fishing. Even before Hicks moved to Northern Virginia, Goldin took in his two teenage children into her town house. The couple married in 2003 in the Bahamas, where they had bought some property, looking forward to retirement together.
She had no idea he was married to someone else until April. It was then that she called the Internal Revenue Service to inquire about an overdue tax refund.
She was told the IRS applied the money to a tax lien from Hicks' 1999 joint return with Julie Flint. She called Flint, who told her she was still married to Hicks. Goldin kicked him out, changed the locks on the town house and went to police.
Since then, Goldin has waged a campaign to bring Hicks to justice. She and Flint have become friends. She has traced the information on Hicks' earlier marriages and flagged his ads on Internet dating sites. She has pressed police and prosecutors and pitched the story to the media.
"It is mind-boggling to me that in Virginia, my marriage may still be legitimate," Goldin said. "I'm determined to end his predatory career. I don't want him to do to another woman what he did to me."
The Man Who Married Too Much
Va. Wife Discovered Utah Wife and More
By Tom Jackman
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, July 1, 2005; B01
Ed Hicks is married to two women: one in Fairfax County and one in Utah. He previously has been married to at least five other women in this country, and, three times, he did not manage to get divorced from one before hitching up with another.
Hicks, 61, is "in love with love," according to a profile he posted on a dating Web site. Current and ex-wives describe him as romantic, handy around the house, a smooth talker. One woman continued to live with him after they were divorced.
He was "the first man I ever fell in love with," said Sharon Hicks Pratt, 60, of Las Vegas, the second of his former wives and the mother of his first child. While living in California, the two took motorcycle rides along the coast every weekend, Pratt said. Hicks built a brick wall outside their home, installed lawn sprinklers, redecorated the bathrooms and served as a father to the three kids she had before she met him, she said.
"He could be a real nice husband," Pratt said. "But he just has to have more than one woman."
Sandra Goldin Hicks, his Fairfax wife, found that out the hard way in April, when their tax refund check was redirected to pay off a tax lien from his marriage to Julie Flint Hicks, 43 -- his wife in Layton, Utah.
Sandra Hicks went to Fairfax police and showed them a copy of Julie Hicks's marriage license. They charged Ed Hicks with bigamy, a rarely used felony count that in the case of conviction carries a minimum two-year prison sentence. Hicks has a date today in a Fairfax courtroom.
After the discovery, Sandra Hicks began digging into her husband's past, working backward from ex-wife to ex-wife. The last three wives have formed a support circle of sorts, commiserating with one another and warning Ed Hicks's new romantic prospects of his secret past.
"I had already picked up on some of his lies and was a blind fool to his cheating," said Sandra Hicks, 49, who married Ed Hicks two years ago. "But he, in his charismatic, smooth way, was always able to explain it away."
Ed Hicks has been officially single between marriages only for periods of eight days, six days and 13 months, court records show. He has three children and has had nine stepchildren.
He lived in the Hybla Valley section of Fairfax with Sandra until April, when she booted him out of their townhouse. He declined repeated requests for an interview.
According to Hicks's résumé, obtained from Sandra Hicks, he is a publications analyst for the Army and works with a low-level security clearance at the Hoffman Complex in Alexandria. He has worked as a civilian for the military for most of his career.
"He was so much fun," said Julie Flint Hicks, his Utah wife. She met him at her job in the early 1990s when both were living in California, and after a chance meeting several years later, they began dating. She said Ed Hicks told her that he had been married once before, to the mother of his two children, and that he had bachelor's and master's degrees. All false.
The two went on only one formal date, Julie Hicks said, because Ed was raising two children. Instead, they stayed in and watched television mostly.
"It didn't really bother me because he was a good dad, he was watching out for his kids," Julie Hicks said. "If you had asked me then, 'Does he love me?' Oh, yes, there is no doubt in my mind.
"It was so strong. Then one day, it turned off. It was just weird. I don't know why."
They had been married four years and were living in Chesapeake, Va. Julie Hicks's parents in Utah were both ill, and she made plans to go there to help them. One morning, as she was getting ready to leave, she found a typed letter on her pillow from her husband, telling her, "It is not working out." Julie Hicks went to Utah and never returned to Virginia. She also never divorced Ed Hicks.
While Julie Hicks was in Utah, Ed Hicks moved on to Sandra Hicks, whom he met through an Internet dating site. Ed Hicks began driving to Northern Virginia to date her, not mentioning his wife in Chesapeake.
"I loved him. I wanted to be his wife, I wanted to share a lifetime with him," said Sandra Hicks, who took in his two teenage children and helped support them even before their father had moved in with her. The two went fishing, traveled together and bought property in the Bahamas. Sandra Hicks said she paid for everything.
Then, shortly before their second anniversary in May, she called the IRS to find out why they hadn't received their tax refund. She was told it had been applied to a tax lien from his joint return in 1999 with Julie Hicks.
She contacted Julie Hicks and learned that she was still married to Ed Hicks. Then Sandra Hicks checked the Internet and found he was still looking for women to date. She kicked him out April 13 and went to police six days later.
In addition to the trail of broken hearts and financial problems that current and ex-wives say Ed Hicks has wrought, his legacy includes an abandoned son, who is living in Las Vegas. At 32, Christopher M. Hicks, his son with Sharon Hicks Pratt, is working his first job and getting his life in order after years in foster care, street gangs and prison. He hasn't seen or spoken to his father in 20 years.
"I don't know what I would say to him," Christopher Hicks said. "I think maybe if he would have taken care of me, I think we both could have bettered each other. Maybe we wouldn't have been in this [mess]."
Hicks was 21 and in the Air Force in California in 1965 when he first got married, to a woman with four young children. Over the next four decades, he would impose strict rules on how his households should be run, inflict occasional beatings on the kids, according to his first son and his stepchildren, and start dating other women while he was still married.
Sharon Hicks Pratt, his second wife, was then Sharon Tealer and the half sister of his first wife. They had Christopher while Hicks was still married to his first wife.
"Everything he did was romantic to me," Pratt said.
Then, she said, she caught him cheating. Hicks was on to wife No. 3, taking young Christopher with him to Washington state and refusing to disclose his whereabouts, Pratt said.
Hicks invited his third wife, Monica Marschall Hicks, and her friend Johnette Erlandson, to live with him. This, in turn, led to Erlandson becoming wife No. 4, though Hicks hadn't divorced his third wife, according to court records.
Ed and Johnette Hicks had two children together in the mid-1980s. Even after they divorced in 1994, they continued to live together for several years, she said. "He's just a very charismatic individual," said Johnette Hicks, now 45.
The pattern continues to this day: A seemingly normal relationship begins between a single, working woman and a divorced man with two children, followed by a quick trip to the courthouse for a civil ceremony. No mention of any existing marriages from Hicks and not much financial contribution from him, either, his recent wives said.
"I just think he wanted control," Johnette Hicks said. "He looks at his women and his children as his possessions."
Julie Hicks said that after she and Ed Hicks grew close in the mid-1990s, even as he was married to his fifth wife, he moved all of Flint's furniture into his new home in California without telling her. At first, she said, she was taken aback. But she saw it as a romantic gesture and moved in with him.
Their wedding was a brief courthouse ceremony. By 2000, they had moved to Chesapeake and their relationship had soured.
"I ended up having to declare bankruptcy and I lost my car," Julie Hicks said, after her husband ran up credit card bills and failed to make payments.
By early 2001, Ed Hicks was looking around again and posted his profile on the Internet. That's when he met wife No. 7: Sandra Goldin, a technical writer and former teacher.
"He has an aura of magic about him that is mesmerizing," she said. They went fishing and took vacations together. Sandra Hicks said she, too, always paid for both of them. They married in a civil ceremony in the Bahamas.
As with all of Ed Hicks's marriages, the magic quickly wore off. Sandra Hicks said debt collectors soon began appearing at her door.
After learning about the Utah wife, she checked the Internet. There he was, trolling, Sandra Hicks said. She threw him out and had to take out a home equity loan to repay the debts her husband had incurred.
"That's my money, and I'll never see it," she said. "And I don't want to see it as long as he gets thrown in jail."
Even after he was arrested in late May, Hicks did not stop looking for love. Sandra Hicks said he has dated a woman he met online and has been chatting online with at least four other women -- three of whom are fictitious characters created by his Fairfax wife.
"He was charming, he was accommodating, he seemed to be who he said he was," said one of the women Hicks has dated several times in recent weeks, until she was alerted to his history by his current wives. Hicks told her he was 52, had graduated from California Polytechnic State University and had been married only twice -- all false. She and Sandra Hicks were particularly impressed by his government security clearance, thinking it signaled a level of verified integrity.
"I know men," said the woman, who requested anonymity to protect her privacy. "You usually can pick up red flags. But him . . . God, he talks good."
Staff researcher Bobbye Pratt contributed to this report.