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Witness Interview: Rita Ashbury, found the body

Monday, January 14, 2002 - 9:55 a.m.

This witness, who discovered the body, was interviewed in her office at Blaze Art and Media, which is in Building 2 of Oxford Centre, adjacent to the crime scene. The Reporting Officer, A.L. Quinlan, conducted a preliminary interview. The Reporting Investigators, Det. Sam Murphy and Det. Ted Armstrong, conducted a formal interview when they arrived on the scene. This interview was recorded on a portable tape recorder with the witness's knowledge and consent.

TA = Detective T. Armstrong
SM = Detective S. Murphy
RA = Rita Ashbury

SM: Could you state your name and address for the record please?

RA: Rita Ashbury. 254 Rebel Drive.

SM: Thank you. Can you tell us how you happened to be here this morning?

RA: I work here at Blaze Art and Media. We're in advertising. I'm the office manager.

SM: Okay. Now, if you would, please tell us what happened when you arrived today.

RA: Sure. I came to work this morning. I was running a little late. I usually like to be here around 8:00, but my sister and I stayed up later than usual last night so I overslept a little. So I didn't get here until about 8:20. I usually like to get here by 8:00, especially on Mondays to get ready for the week. But I got here about 8:20. Did I say that already?

TA: Yes, ma'am. It's all right. Try to relax a little and just tell us what happened.

RA: Okay. So I got here and I parked in front because I was in a hurry. I was going to move my car back to the parking lot in back later. So then I walked into the atrium to go in the door to the second flood there and I was digging around in my purse for my office keys. I was having a hard time finding them. I hate being late. Everything's so much harder when you're rushing.

SM: We can sympathize, Ms. Ashbury. Did you see the body while you were walking up to the door looking for your keys?

RA: Yes. Well, no. Sort of.

SM: What do you mean?

RA: Well, I hadn't found my keys by the time I got to the door, so I put my purse down on the railing so I could really look for them. While I was digging in my purse, I saw something strange over in the middle of the atrium out of the corner of my eye. So I looked over there and I realized it was a person.

TA: Was the person moving or doing anything?

RA: No, she was just lying there, which was weird because you don't normally see people lying in the atrium any time of the day and certainly not first thing in the morning. And not when it's cold like today. It's got to be cold lying on the cement like that.

SM: What did you do after you saw the person lying there?

RA: Well, I looked at her a little closer. I walked down the skywalk some to get closer to where she was, and I saw all this blood around her head and she wasn't moving, and so I thought she was dead or at least hurt real bad. So I knew I needed to call 911 right away, 'cause, you know, I'm not a doctor or anything. There wasn't anything I could do. So I went back to the door and I finally found my keys and I let myself in and I went and I called 911.

TA: What did you do then?

RA: After I talked to the 911 lady for a little bit, then I got off the phone did a couple of things to open up the office. I started some coffee 'cause I thought y'all might want some when you got here. You cops like to drink coffee, don't you? Would you like some?

TA: Not right now, thanks, maybe in a little while. What did you do after you made the coffee?

RA: Then I went back outside to see if anyone was here yet.

SM: Did you see anyone when you went outside?

RA: I saw the police officer driving up right then and I waved at him.

TA: How long would you say you were inside before you went back outside?

RA: Oh, I don't know. Maybe five minutes, maybe a little more. I don't know.

SM: Did you recognize the person you saw lying in the atrium?

RA: You know, I don't know. She looks sort of familiar, but I can't really place her. Do you know who she is?

TA: Do you think you had seen her somewhere before?

RA: Yes, I think so, but I don't know where or when.

TA: Do you know if it was here in your office?

RA: I don't know. It could have been.

SM: So when the officer arrived, you saw him, you waved at him. Then what happened?

RA: Then he got out of his car and came over to me and I sort of walked him back towards where that woman was lying but he didn't let me walk all the way over.

SM: And had you walked up to the body prior to that time?

RA: No.

TA: Did you notice any other people in the area, either when you first arrived or when you came back outside?

RA: No, not really, not then.

SM: What do you mean, not then?

RA: Well, you know, people start getting to work around 8:30, 8:45 and so I started to see people coming in over here in this building and the building next door around then, but I didn't see anyone before that.

TA: And did any of them go anywhere near where the body was?

RA: Oh no! Y'all were already here by then and your officers kept them from going there.

SM: But you don't know whether any of them went near the body before the first officer got here?

RA: Oh. No, how could I know that? There wasn't anyone around when I got here that I could see. That's all I can really say for sure.

TA: Okay, Ms. Ashbury. Thanks for your time. If you remember anything else, no matter how insignificant it may seem, please give us a call. You never know what might turn out to be important. And we'll be in touch if we have any more questions.

RA: Okay, I'll definitely call if I think of anything. Do y'all think that poor woman was murdered?

SM: It's too early in the investigation to rule out anything at this point.

RA: Oh my! Well, you don't think I'm in any danger do you? I mean because I'm the one who called 911 and reported it?

TA: No, ma'am, I don't think you have anything to worry about. You did the right thing by reporting it and we thank you. We're going to let you get back to work now. You have a good day.

RA: Thank you and you do the same.

End interview 10:18 a.m.

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