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Rita Pearce follow-up interview

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Monday, October 15, 2012 – 9:30 a.m.

Rita Pearce owns real estate company Pearce Brokers. In a recent interview, Elliott Owens claimed that Annette Wyatt was planning to go to work for Rita and had been giving Rita information about Harte Agency clients and properties. Detectives Murphy and Armstrong re-interviewed Ms. Pearce at the Yoknapatawpha County Sheriff’s Department. The interview was recorded with witness’s knowledge and consent.

Participants:

  • Detective S. Murphy
  • Detective Armstrong
  • Rita Pearce

Detective Murphy: Good afternoon, Ms. Pearce. Thanks for coming down. And if you’ll remember, I’m Detective Murphy. This is Detective Armstrong.

Rita Pearce: Of course.

Detective Murphy: Would you please state your name and address for the record?

Rita Pearce: Yes. Rita Pearce. 615 Tyler Avenue in Oxford.

Detective Armstrong: Ms. Pearce, can you elaborate on your relationship with Annette Wyatt?

Rita Pearce: What do you mean? I already told you that we didn't really have a relationship. We just knew each other because we were in the same line of work.

Detective Armstrong: It has come to our attention that Annette Wyatt was planning to leave her agency to come work for you. Tell us about that.

Rita Pearce: Oh. Well, yes, in fact, I did offer Annette a position with our agency. Actually, I had asked her numerous times over the years, but she had always refused.

Detective Murphy: What changed this time?

Rita Pearce: I don't know. She just called me one day this summer out of the blue, and said, “I’m ready to work for your firm.”

Detective Murphy: When was that?

Rita Pearce: In July. I’m not sure of the exact date, but it's been several months. I had met with her several other times to talk about it, and she told me that she had to finish up some business before she could make the switch to my firm.

Detective Armstrong: Why didn't you tell us that in your previous interview?

Rita Pearce: I didn't think it had anything to do with anything.

Detective Murphy: You didn't think Annette Wyatt leaving her firm to come to work for you had anything to do with her death?

Rita Pearce: No! Well, I can't imagine why it would.

Detective Armstrong: And she didn’t tell you why, after all of these years, she wanted to finally come work for you?

Rita Pearce: No.

Detective Murphy: You never asked?

Rita Pearce: No. I didn’t really care. I mean, I was just glad that she came to work for me.

Detective Murphy: What about all those clients that we mentioned in our prior interview with you – Lyle Rogers, Ginny and Mitchell Hankins, and Patti Thompson? All of those clients were previously with the Harte Agency before they came to you.

Rita Pearce: So? Clients change firms all the time. It’s just part of the business.

Detective Murphy: You told us that you didn't know where they came from nor why they chose your firm.

Rita Pearce: I didn't know. This is all news to me.

Detective Murphy: Ms. Pearce, I find that really hard to believe.

Rita Pearce: I don't like the direction that these questions are going.

Detective Armstrong: We're asking tough questions of everyone. If you answer them honestly and without leaving any details out, well, then you should have nothing to worry about.

Detective Murphy: Did your employees know that Annette Wyatt was coming to your firm?

Rita Pearce: I don’t think so. I can’t say for sure. As far as I know, Annette hadn’t said anything to anybody there. She was waiting to make a formal announcement.

Detective Armstrong: I'd like to talk about the clients your firm took away from the Harte Agency for just a moment.

Rita Pearce: We didn't take any clients. They came to us of their own accord.

Detective Armstrong: But you knew where they were coming from.

Rita Pearce: They could have come from anywhere. Detective, I told you before. I don't ask my clients where they were beforehand or why they chose my firm.

Detective Armstrong: So you had no idea they all came from the Harte Agency?

Rita Pearce: No. None.

Detective Murphy: Did you know that we have spoken to all of those clients?

Rita Pearce: They’re all very nice people.

Detective Murphy: Every single one of them told us that you contacted them and lured them away from Harte.

Rita Pearce: Of course I spoke to them, but they’re mistaken if they think that I contacted them.

Detective Armstrong: All of them?

Rita Pearce: If what you say is true.

Detective Armstrong: Is it possible you’re mistaken?

Rita Pearce: Well, I’m not perfect, so I guess it’s possible.

Detective Murphy: Do you think anybody from the Harte Agency knew where those clients had gone when they left Harte?

Rita Pearce: I don't know. But if any of my clients were leaving me, I'd want to know why and I’d want to know where they’d gone.

Detective Murphy: Do you think someone from Harte could’ve tracked that information down?

Rita Pearce: I don't know. I don't keep tabs on the Harte Agency.

Detective Murphy: Well, didn't Annette ever mention any of those people to you when you had all these meetings with her?

Rita Pearce: No, she never did.

Detective Armstrong: So Annette never told you that Jeff Harte asked her to find out why those clients left?

Rita Pearce: No.

Detective Armstrong: And she never mentioned that everyone at the Harte Agency knew she was conducting the investigation?

Rita Pearce: No. Well, she never said anything about that.

Detective Armstrong: And she didn’t tell you who was helping her with the investigation?

Rita Pearce: Someone was helping her?

Detective Murphy: You can see why it’s difficult for us to believe that you didn’t know anything about any of this. Why deny it now? Are you hiding something else other than the fact that you were in collaboration with Annette Wyatt?

Rita Pearce: I don’t know what you mean.

Detective Murphy: Did something else happen? Did Annette change her mind?

Rita Pearce: Change her mind? About what?

Detective Murphy: Did Annette decide to stay with Jeff Harte after all? Because it would be easy to see how that could make you angry, maybe even angry enough to lash out in the heat of the moment.

Rita Pearce: Why are you saying this? Am I a suspect in Annette's murder?

Detective Murphy: Should you be?

Rita Pearce: No. I didn’t kill Annette. I wouldn’t. Do you treat everyone this way? Well, I can see why you haven’t made an arrest yet.

Detective Armstrong: We're just trying to get as much information as we can so we can find out who killed Annette.

Rita Pearce: Well, I can’t help you with that. I don’t know who killed her. Is there anything else?

Detective Murphy: That’s all for now. Thanks, Ms. Pearce. We will be in touch.

Interview ends - 9:54 a.m.

 

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