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Witness Interview: Rex Mickles, former assistant district attorney
 

Friday, January 18, 2002 - 9:15 a.m.

The witness was identified as the former assistant district attorney who prosecuted the victim. Detectives Sam Murphy and Ted Armstrong conducted the interview at the Yoknapatawpha County Sheriff's Department. The interview was recorded on a portable audio tape recorder with the witness's knowledge and consent.

TA = Detective T. Armstrong
SM = Detective S. Murphy
RM = Rex Mickles

SM: Hi, Rex. Good to see you again.

RM: Good to see you both. I hear you two are still staying busy.

TA: Yeah, I'm not sure that being busy cops is a good thing for the town... sometimes I wish we had less business.

RM: I'm sure.

SM: Okay, you know the drill. Could you state your name and address please?

RM: Rex Mickles and I live at 119 Chestnut Street , Oxford, Mississippi.

SM: We need to talk to you about the murder of Andrea Stover. What was your relationship with the victim?

RM: I prosecuted her in the spring of 2000. I was an assistant district attorney at the time.

SM: What do you remember about the case?

RM: Well, I can give you my files so you'll have all the details. But my main memory was of the attention the case was getting. Small town, allegations of child abuse and stuff like that. You're guaranteed for a firestorm of attention when you have those circumstances.

TA: Andrea Stover got the biggest prison sentence --

RM: Not big enough to satisfy some people.

TA: I'm sure. But still, she had far more time on the books than anyone else. Why?

RM: Mainly, I think it was a result of her attitude. She was completely unrepentant. She kept going on about art and freedom of expression --

SM: Gee, I've never heard those statements before... not in Oxford. I can't believe anyone here would say that.

RM: Really. It's funny, Oxford is kind of a weird place. You've got all the artists and stuff but then, it's still a small southern town. There is this constant friction. We were always getting calls about stuff at the Hoka or one thing or another. I had been involved in the investigation into the 2 Live Crew concert a couple of years earlier, so they assigned me the Oxtales case.

TA: But back to Stover...

RM: Yeah, it was her attitude. She refused to plea bargain, she refused to apologize, just refused everything. She could have gotten off a lot easier. For a while, I felt a little sorry for her. Ben Morgan and the Concerned Oxford Parents group, which of course back then included our new mayor Claire Windham, along with Norman Higgins were all screaming for her head. They were acting like Stover was Jeffrey Dahmer or something. But, we gave her plenty of opportunities to help herself and she always refused. At one point, my boss just gave up. He said, "If she wants to rot in prison for her art, then let her."

SM: So, Ben Morgan and COP put a lot of pressure on you?

RM: Oh yeah. They called my house constantly. Not just calling my office, they called my house. Dozens of times a day. They even demonstrated at my house one time when they found out about the possibility of a plea bargain. It was way over the line. I had a good record as a prosecutor and was known for being tough on crime. At one point, I told Ben and Claire, "I would be able to do a better job of prosecuting this case if you would leave me alone and let me get some sleep at night." They were so worried about Stover getting off the hook, they would call me at all hours of the night to put pressure on me.

SM: What about Norman Higgins?

RM: Same thing. He just wouldn't let up. Press conferences all the time, demonstrations. Ridiculous really.

TA: What role did the parents of the children play in all this?

RM: They were the same. The boys didn't want to participate. They didn't feel like they'd been hurt in any way and they liked Stover and the theatre company. But their parents... you would have thought the children had been murdered.

SM: You seem like you think a lot of it was blown out of proportion. Did you disagree with the prosecution?

RM: No. Stover and the rest of the theatre group broke the law. And my job was to prosecute law breakers. And I did it to the best of my ability, just like I prosecuted all my cases. But let's be honest here... what really happened? Three teenage boys, ages 15 and 16 or so, saw simulated sex scenes. Now, their parents probably won't admit it, but I'm sure these kids have seen adult video tapes or something. They're teenage boys, what do you expect? Movies, the internet, hell, HBO could have probably shown what these kids saw and then some. I hardly think these kids saw anything they hadn't seen before and I find it hard to believe they were scarred for life as a result. So, yes, I think that Ben Morgan, Claire Windham, Norman Higgins, and the parents all overreacted. With the way they screamed and yelled, you would have thought that the theatre group was raping two-year-old babies. They were on a witch-hunt. However, we can't lose sight of the fact that Stover did break the law. That is not in dispute. And I was employed to prosecute her. To answer your question, I did not disagree with the prosecution. I just disagreed with the reaction in the community.

SM: So the kids were reluctant to help the prosecution. What other impressions did you have of them?

RM: Kurt Ripley is a good kid. Wants to be a doctor from what I'm told. I gathered that he really couldn't care less. He always said that he was only taking drama to get a requirement out of the way. Larry Eastman seemed to have a good time with theatre, but wasn't crazy about it. I heard he went to school at the University of Alabama. Mark Gable was the one who was most put out by the prosecution. Everyone says he was really into acting; supposedly he's at Ole Miss getting a degree in drama or something. He seemed really protective of Stover, and really upset that she was getting in trouble.

TA: What did you think about the other members of Oxtales?

RM: You know, I don't really remember that much about them. I'm sure there are more details in my files, but the attention all seemed to be on Stover. All the rest of them sort of just blended into the background. They all seemed like okay folks. Just artsy types who didn't know when to stop. A few of them got slaps on the wrist, but the real witch-hunt never got around to them. Ben Morgan, Claire and Higgins and that crowd that was screaming for blood, they only focused on Stover.

SM: Do you know what happened to Stover after she got out of jail?

RM: I don't have any specifics. She came back here, registered as a sex offender, and got back on with her life as far as I'm told. I have lunch at the Beacon with the old crowd every week and they said she was assigned to Vincent Fischer for parole. But that's about all I know.

TA: All, right now, Rex. Enough of the small talk. Do you have an alibi for the night of Andrea Stover's murder?

RM: I was having dinner with John Wayne Gacy.

SM: One of these days, your sense of humor is going to get you in trouble.

TA: You're lucky we like you, Rex.

RM: Lucky? Shoot, if it weren't for me, you two would still be in uniform, writing parking tickets on Sorority Row. I'm the one that got you two knuckleheads all those convictions.

SM: No way. It was our stellar police work that made the prosecutions possible. We did our jobs so well that all you had to do was show up. The convictions were already made, you just had to make sure and not screw up.

RM: That might be true. I don't know, guys. When was she killed? January 13th? I think me and the wife had dinner with Dr. Cochran that night. I'll double-check for you.

SM: No hurry, Rex. Thanks for talking to us.

RM: Sure. You guys stop by the Beacon some time. We eat lunch there every Thursday at 12:30.

TA: We'll see you there.

End interview 9:58 a.m.

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