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George O'Connor interview

Friday, May 11, 2012 – 11:48 p.m.

George O’Connor is Veronica Smith’s husband. Detectives Armstrong and Murphy interviewed him on the first floor of his residence on the night he found his wife’s body. The interview was recorded on a portable tape recorder with the witness's knowledge and consent.

Participants:

  • Detective T. Armstrong
  • Detective S. Murphy
  • George O’Connor

Detective Murphy: Hello, Mr. O’Connor. Thank you for taking the time to talk with us. We understand that this will be difficult, and we’ll try to be mindful of your feelings and make this as painless as possible.

George O’Connor: Thank you. I would like to get back to Haley as soon as possible. She’s a mess, and I just got her to sleep. I’m not sure how long she’ll stay that way.

Detective Murphy: All right. Please state your full name and address for the record.

George O’Connor: I am George Lee O’Connor and my address is 142 Colonial Road, Oxford.

Detective Armstrong: How long have you lived in Oxford, George?

George O’Connor: Most of my life. I grew up here and attended college here at Ole Miss. I moved to Atlanta and worked there for a couple of years. I moved back here in 2007 with Ronnie and Haley.

Detective Murphy: Why did you choose to work in Atlanta?

George O’Connor: Most of the openings in the career path I chose require an applicant to have two to three years’ experience. I applied online to several, and SEDC was the first company to contact me with an offer.

Detective Murphy: What does SEDC stand for?

George O’Connor: Southeastern Data Cooperative.

Detective Armstrong: Interesting.Where are you employed now?

George O’Connor: Yes, I work at the University. I am a .NET Developer.

Detective Murphy: What does that entail?

George O’Connor: I’m responsible for converting data from specifications and problem statements to computer code to solve business or technology problems. I’m also responsible for updating programs.

Detective Murphy: How long have you and Veronica been married?

George O’Connor: Our anniversary was 9 days ago… 6 years. How is this going to help you to find Ronnie’s killer? Please, please, we are wasting valuable time.

Detective Armstrong: Calm down. Let’s get to it then. How was your relationship with your wife?

George O’Connor: It was wonderful. We were happy. Neither of us had any complaints. Life with Ronnie and Haley was the life I wanted.

Detective Armstrong: Had Veronica seemed depressed recently?

George O’Connor: Not really. She was worried about some things that involved her work, but all in all, she was able to think positively and she stayed upbeat.

Detective Murphy: Did your wife have any enemies?

George O’Connor: Not sure if enemies is the proper word, but she was being sued.

Detective Armstrong:By whom?

George O’Connor: Kenneth Lemmons. His wife was one of Ronnie’s patients, who died very unexpectedly during a routine procedure. That had never happened before, and Ronnie was devastated.

Detective Armstrong: Did he sue anyone else or just your wife?

George O’Connor: He was suing the hospital as well as Ronnie’s practice and her partners.

Detective Murphy: Any other enemies?

George O’Connor: Again, not really an enemy, but she does have an ex. Wallace Smith, Haley’s so-called father.

Detective Armstrong: I take it you don’t care for Mr. Smith?

George O’Connor: Not at all. He is absent from Haley’s life. When he does schedule to spend time with her, he very seldom shows up. Haley used to cry when he didn’t show, but she’s gotten to the point where she never asks about him.

Detective Murphy: How did your wife feel about this?

George O’Connor: She couldn’t understand how a parent could go so long without seeing their child. I wanted to adopt Haley, but Wallace wouldn’t give up his rights. Neither Ronnie nor I were happy about it, and we let him know.

Detective Armstrong:How did he respond to your “letting him know”?

George O’Connor: He laughed it off. He didn’t care what we thought or wanted. Oh God! Now that Ronnie is gone, he will probably get custody of Haley.

Detective Murphy: Now is not the time to be thinking about that, George. Is there anyone else we should know about?

George O’Connor: Someone was sending her threatening text messages.

Detective Armstrong: What kind of messages?

George O’Connor: You mean what did they say in them?

Detective Murphy: Yes.

George O’Connor: I remember one said "You know what you did, you bitch." Another said something like she was being watched and one said "How dare you?" There were more, but I can’t think right now.

Detective Murphy: How did Veronica react to these messages?

George O’Connor: At first, she thought someone was kidding around with her. But when they just kept coming, she thought it was someone who really didn’t like her. She said it was probably one of the women who worked at the hospital.

Detective Armstrong: Did she say why she suspected one of them?

George O’Connor: Not really, just that a couple of them weren’t fond of her because she didn’t have time to chitchat with them. She overheard a conversation once where they were talking about her being "high and mighty."

Detective Murphy: Do you know these women’s names??

George O’Connor: No I don’t. Sorry.

Detective Armstrong: You said that your wife had business partners. How did they get along?

George O’Connor: I think they were all a little short with each other because of the malpractice suit. Maybe you could ask them?

Detective Murphy: Maybe we should. What are their names?

George O’Connor: Hilton Burns and James Mendoza.

Detective Murphy: Is there anyone else? Anyone who had a problem with Veronica?

George O’Connor: Maybe you should talk with her sister, Elizabeth. She watches Haley for us every now and then when we need someone. She’s fine around me and Haley, but she always seems on edge around Ronnie. I don’t think she’d hurt Ronnie, but she may be able to help. You know how girls talk and they were on the phone a lot.

Detective Murphy: George, could you go over the events of the day and evening for us? Tell us everything you remember. Take your time.

George O’Connor: OK. Ronnie called me and said she was going to leave work early to pick up Haley from school and help her get ready for the dance tonight. She also reminded me to pick up a nice corsage for Haley at the flower shop.

Detective Murphy: What kind of dance?

George O’Connor: Haley and I went to a Father-Daughter dance that her Girl Scout troop was having.

Detective Armstrong: Her father wasn’t able to make it?

George O’Connor: She didn’t ask him. She asked me. She thinks of me as her dad, and she is my daughter.

Detective Armstrong: What happened next, George?

George O’Connor: When I got home from work, I could see them through the front window. It was a sight for sore eyes. I could hear music playing, and Ronnie and Haley were slow dancing in the living room. They were laughing and having so much fun. How are we going to make it without her? I’m sorry. I need a minute.

Detective Murphy: Whenever you’re ready.

George O’Connor: Thanks. I went inside and got dressed, and then we took some pictures. As Haley and I were leaving, Ronnie hugged us both and whispered in my ear that she might go have a couple of drinks with some friends while we were out. She stood outside waving at us until we were out of sight.

Detective Murphy: Did she mention the names of the friends?

George O’Connor: No.

Detective Armstrong:Did you talk to Ronnie anymore that evening, on the phone perhaps?

George O’Connor: No. I wish I would’ve called. Maybe I could have prevented this all from happening?

Detective Murphy: George, tell us what you did when you returned home.

George O’Connor: Haley was really excited to tell Ronnie about the dance. We were voted King and Princess of the dance. We had a solo dance after the crowning. Haley was so proud. She couldn’t wait to show her mom the crowns, and take some more pictures.

Detective Armstrong: What made you decide to go upstairs?

George O’Connor: As I said, Haley was very excited to see her mom. Her car was in the garage, so we knew she was home. She wasn’t in the living room or kitchen, so we figured she was in the bedroom. Haley ran in the door first. She jumped on the bed and just started screaming. It was awful.

Detective Armstrong: Haley touched your wife?

George O’Connor: Yes, that’s when she screamed. I saw the bag over Ronnie’s head... I knew she was gone, but I checked her pulse anyway. I picked Haley up off the bed and took her into her room, and I made the call to 911.

Detective Murphy: Did either of you touch anything else in the room?

George O’Connor: I don’t think so. I don’t know, maybe.

Detective Murphy: How would you describe your wife’s state of mind that evening?

George O’Connor: She was fine, excited for Haley and I. A little tired, but in a good mood. Why does that matter?

Detective Armstrong: Did you notice anything unusual or out of place in the bedroom, other than your wife?

George O’Connor: No.

Detective Armstrong: Did you see anything on the nightstand beside the bed?

George O’Connor: No?

Detective Armstrong: There was a note, George. We’d like you to look at it.

George O’Connor: Can I take it out of this plastic?

Detective Armstrong: No.

George O’Connor: This is bullshit! Ronnie felt bad about what happened, but not like this. She didn’t write this.

Detective Murphy: We have to consider the possibility that she took her own life. This note could be evidence of that George.

George O’Connor: No! She did not kill herself. She would never do that.

Detective Armstrong: Most of the loved ones involved in suicide cases say that, George. What makes you so sure?

George O’Connor: We were happy! She was happy. She would never do that to her child, to me. She wasn’t that kind of person. We had plans. In fact, we just paid for a cruise we were going to take this summer. We were trying to have another child. Someone did this. Oh my God.

Detective Armstrong: Maybe the lawsuit was getting to her?

George O’Connor: I was the one concerned about that. She remained very levelheaded and kept telling me that everything would be OK.

Detective Murphy: What about the suit concerned you?

George O’Connor: I just worried about what-ifs: would I be able to support the family if worse came to worse. We both had decent careers and loved the lifestyle we were used to. I was worried about the financial aspect mostly.

Detective Armstrong: George we need to talk to Haley, with you present, of course.

George O’Connor:No! I just got her to relax right before I sat down with you. Please give her more time. She’s just a little girl, and she is so sensitive right now. Please.

Detective Armstrong: We need to talk to her soon, George, and you do know that you can’t stay here tonight. We’ll need to know where you plan to stay.

George O’Connor: How about tomorrow? Can we let her rest tonight? I’ll wake her after I gather some personal items, and I guess we’ll stay at the Holiday Inn for now.

Detective Armstrong: I’ll go with you, just take what you need for now.

INTERVIEW SUSPENDED – 12:11 a.m.

INTERVIEW RESUMED – 12:24 a.m.

Detective Armstrong: So if we could just go over what just happened for the record, I escorted you upstairs to collect some personal items. Is that correct?

George O’Connor: Yes.

Detective Armstrong: Could you describe what happened after we got upstairs?

George O’Connor: After gathering a few personal items for Haley from her room, I went into my closet to get some clothes, and I saw that Altoids tin on the floor. I didn’t touch it, and I called for you to come see it.

Detective Armstrong: You are 100% sure that the Altoids did not belong to anyone in your household?

George O’Connor: Absolutely. I have never seen it before.

Detective Armstrong: Perhaps a house guest dropped it there accidentally?

George O’Connor: We don’t have visitors who would go into our closets. I got my suit out of that closet to wear to the dance. It wasn’t there then.

Detective Armstrong: How can you be so certain that your wife didn’t drop it or put it in there? She was home after you left.

George O’Connor: That is not Ronnie’s. I am positive. Someone was in this house!

Detective Armstrong: OK. We’ll look into it.

Detective Murphy: Thank you for your time. If you think of anything else, don’t hesitate to call us.

George O’Connor: You’re welcome.

Interview ends: 12:30 a.m.

Countdown until the next investigation begins

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