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Interview: Vanessa Palmer, Franklin Enterprises

Saturday, January 16, 2010 - 9:30 a.m.

During the search of Devlin Beauchamp's residence, thirteen letters addressed to Devlin Beauchamp on Franklin Enterprises, Inc. letterhead were found in the desk in the study [Room #2-1]. Following up on those letters, Detective Sam Murphy contacted Ms. Vanessa Palmer, the person who signed the letters, via telephone at Franklin Enterprises headquarters in New Orleans, Louisiana.

Det. Sam Murphy
Vanessa Palmer

Det. Sam Murphy: Ms. Palmer, this is Detective Sam Murphy with the Yoknapatawpha County Sheriff's Department in Oxford, Mississippi. Your name has come up in an ongoing investigation. I'd like to ask you some questions.

Vanessa Palmer: Yes, of course, Sheriff.

Det. Sam Murphy: I'm not the Sheriff, Ms. Palmer. I'm a detective with the Sheriff's Department.

Vanessa Palmer: Oh. I'm sorry, Detective.

Det. Sam Murphy: Not a problem. Ms. Palmer, are you acquainted with Mr. Devlin Beauchamp of Oxford, Mississippi?

Vanessa Palmer: Why do you ask?

Det. Sam Murphy: Ms. Palmer, please. If you could just answer my question. This is part of an official investigation.

Vanessa Palmer: Yes, I'm acquainted with Mr. Beauchamp.

Det. Sam Murphy: And when was the last time you spoke with him?

Vanessa Palmer: Around three weeks ago. We spoke briefly on the phone.

Det. Sam Murphy: I see. And what was that conversation regarding?

Vanessa Palmer: We were discussing a possible joint business venture.

Det. Sam Murphy: We have evidence you've been communicating with Mr. Beauchamp since October 2009. Was all of that communication related to this possible business venture?

Vanessa Palmer: If you don't mind me asking, Detective, how do you know how long I've been speaking with Mr. Beauchamp and of what interest is it to you?

Det. Sam Murphy: Ms. Palmer, why do you suppose you haven't heard from Mr. Beauchamp in three weeks?

Vanessa Palmer: The last time we spoke, he said he needed some time to think over what we'd talked about and he'd get back to me when he'd reached a decision. Since I haven't heard from him yet, I assume he's still weighing his options.

Det. Sam Murphy: Is there some reason you're being so coy about what you and Mr. Beauchamp were discussing?

Vanessa Palmer: Detective, let me put my cards on the table. I'm sure you don't intend to, but you're putting me in a difficult position. Any communications that might have gone on between Mr. Beauchamp and my firm would be part of a strictly confidential business negotiation. We have a very clear reciprocal non-disclosure agreement in place.

Det. Sam Murphy: Well, Ms. Palmer. Let me put my cards on the table. The reason you haven't heard from Mr. Beauchamp is not because he's still considering the terms of whatever deal you were discussing. It's because Mr. Beauchamp was murdered on January 2nd. My questions are part of the investigation into his death.

Vanessa Palmer: Oh my god!

Det. Sam Murphy: So you see why it's important that you answer my questions. Surely, the restrictions of your non-disclosure agreement are not binding beyond the death of one of the parties.

Vanessa Palmer: What happened?

Det. Sam Murphy: Mr. Beauchamp was bludgeoned to death in his home.

Vanessa Palmer: Oh my god...

Det. Sam Murphy: Ms. Palmer? Are you all right?

Vanessa Palmer: What? Oh. Oh yes. What's happened to the restaurant?

Det. Sam Murphy: Excuse me?

Vanessa Palmer: Home Plate. The restaurant. What's happened with it? Is it still open?

Det. Sam Murphy: Well... yes, it is.

Vanessa Palmer: Oh good... good.

Det. Sam Murphy: Uh... Ms. Palmer, you seem a little more concerned about the restaurant's fate than Mr. Beauchamp's.

Vanessa Palmer: Oh, of course it's terrible what happened to Mr. Beauchamp. But you have to understand, I have a lot on the line with this deal. If it falls through... well, let's just say it would be very bad for me professionally.

Det. Sam Murphy: I see. Maybe now you'd like to tell me exactly what kind of deal you and Mr. Beauchamp were discussing?

Vanessa Palmer: Well... I don't know what it could hurt now. You will try to keep the details confidential unless it's absolutely necessary, won't you?

Det. Sam Murphy: I can't make any promises, Ms. Palmer. You understand, of course.

Vanessa Palmer: I suppose so.

Det. Sam Murphy: So, Ms. Palmer? The deal?

Vanessa Palmer: Of course. We were trying to negotiate a franchising deal with Mr. Beauchamp to open additional locations of Home Plate around the southeast. We'd paid him for a six-month exclusive right to the franchising option. So he wouldn't negotiate with other firms at the same time, try to pit us against each other in a bidding war. You understand.

Det. Sam Murphy: Were any other companies talking with him that you were aware of? Did you have some cause for concern in that area?

Vanessa Palmer: The first time Mr. Beauchamp and I spoke, he told me he'd had inquiries from other companies over the years, more so recently.

Det. Sam Murphy: And that's why you decided to pay him for the exclusive right to negotiate with him?

Vanessa Palmer: Of course.

Det. Sam Murphy: How much did you pay him for that right?

Vanessa Palmer: Fifty thousand dollars.

Det. Sam Murphy: Really? And how did Mr. Beauchamp's business partner, Carl Dixon, fit into this deal?

Vanessa Palmer: Uh... well, that was a little awkward and it heavily influenced our decision to keep the negotiations strictly confidential. And frankly, in my opinion, it's also why Mr. Beauchamp kept stalling on acceptance of our offer. We intended to buy Mr. Dixon out. We didn't feel his participation gave the venture any added value.

Det. Sam Murphy: "We" being?

Vanessa Palmer: Sorry? I don't understand.

Det. Sam Murphy: Who was the "we" that considered Mr. Dixon superfluous?

Vanessa Palmer: Oh. Franklin Enterprises, of course.

Det. Sam Murphy: Of course. So, what was the status of the deal when you and Mr. Beauchamp last spoke?

Vanessa Palmer: We'd sent him a revised proposal and he was considering it. I could fax you a copy of that proposal, if you need it.

Det. Sam Murphy: Is that the one dated December 14, 2009?

Vanessa Palmer: Yes, it is. You already have a copy then? So why are you asking me all these questions?

Det. Sam Murphy: What I would like from you, Ms. Palmer, are copies of all the correspondence Mr. Beauchamp sent to you. Could you fax me those?

Vanessa Palmer: Actually, there aren't any. Mr. Beauchamp refused to put anything in writing. I think he was uncomfortable with that because of the situation with Mr. Dixon. So we sent letters and faxes to him, though he'd asked us to be discreet when committing details to paper. But his only communication with us was by telephone. That was the way he wanted it.

Det. Sam Murphy: How convenient. So really, we only have your word for it that Mr. Beauchamp was even considering this deal. Isn't that right? How do we know that Franklin Enterprises wasn't just inundating him with offers that he was simply ignoring?

Vanessa Palmer: Well, he did accept the fifty thousand dollars from us. And he did sign the non-disclosure agreement. And I'm sure we could provide records of phone messages from Mr. Beauchamp. What's your point, Detective? I don't think I care for your implications.

Det. Sam Murphy: To your knowledge, was Mr. Dixon aware of your negotiations with Mr. Beauchamp?

Vanessa Palmer: Certainly not. That would have been very... inopportune.

Det. Sam Murphy: I'm sure. When did you intend to discuss this business deal with Mr. Dixon?

Vanessa Palmer: Oh, not until after we had Mr. Beauchamp's signature on the dotted line.

Det. Sam Murphy: That's a little cold-hearted, isn't it? Just shutting Mr. Dixon out like that?

Vanessa Palmer: That's hardly my concern, Detective. This is business. There's no money to be made in sparing people's feelings.

Det. Sam Murphy: Of course. Ms. Palmer, I don't have anything else to say to you at the moment. However, we may need to reach you for follow up questioning in the future. Can we reach you at this same number in New Orleans?

Vanessa Palmer: I'm afraid I do have to travel from time to time on business, Detective. I can't guarantee I'll always be reachable here at the office.

Det. Sam Murphy: Let me put it this way, Ms. Palmer. If we need to talk to you, we'll contact your New Orleans office. If you're not there, you get back in touch with us immediately, no matter where you might be. I wouldn't want to be forced to issue a warrant for your arrest as a material witness in a homicide investigation.

Vanessa Palmer: Are you trying to intimidate me, Detective?

Det. Sam Murphy: I'm just trying to make you aware of all the possibilities, Ms. Palmer. Are you clear on the importance of making yourself available if we have additional questions?

Vanessa Palmer: There's no need to take that tone with me. I'm not one of the dim-witted local yokels you're used to dealing with, Detective. I understand what you're saying.

Det. Sam Murphy: Be sure that you do. We'll be in touch.

Vanessa Palmer: Just one more thing, Detective, if I may.

Det. Sam Murphy: What is it?

Vanessa Palmer: Do you happen to have Carl Dixon's telephone number?

Det. Sam Murphy: Try calling Information.

Interview ends: 10:00 a.m.