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Witness Interview: Ben Morgan, president of Concerned Oxford Parents (COP)

Wednesday, January 30, 2002 - 9:30 a.m.

The witness, identified as the president of Concerned Oxford Parents (COP), was interviewed at the Yoknapatawpha County Sheriff's Department. The interview was conducted by Det. Sam Murphy and Det. Ted Armstrong, and was recorded on a portable tape recorder with the witness's knowledge and consent.

TA = Detective T. Armstrong
SM = Detective S. Murphy
BM = Ben Morgan

TA: Good morning Mr. Morgan. Thank you for coming in. For the record, will you please state your name and address?

BM: Ben Morgan. I live at 213 Washington Avenue .

TA: As you know, we are talking to people to learn about their knowledge of Andrea Stover's death.

BM: I really don't know how I can help, Detective. I didn't know Ms. Stover personally. In fact, I never met her.

TA: Oh, but you certainly knew of her. You are president of the organization COP, I understand?

BM: Yes, that's true.

TA: Well, to begin with, tell us something about your organization. You know, background information like how long has it been in existence, why was it formed, things of that nature.

BM: Detective, you must think I'm very naive. I'm sure you have all that information in your files.

TA: Humor me, Mr. Morgan. We're working on a murder case here. We need all the information and all the help we can get.

BM: Our group is Concerned Oxford Parents. That is exactly what we are: concerned parents who want to protect the children of Oxford physically and emotionally from those hazards and influences that can adversely affect them.

SM: Can you be more specific, Mr. Morgan? What influences are you talking about?

BM: Well, for example, we have a committee that keeps abreast of books, movies and plays that we think are dangerous to the minds of our innocent children. They in turn inform the entire organization and we decide how to combat this negative influence.

SM: What methods do you use to combat that negative influence?

BM: Well, we use direct mail and e-mail. We distribute flyers, demonstrate by picketing – that sort of thing. We contact our community representatives and the press to inform them of things they may not be aware of.

SM: How long has your group been in existence, Mr. Morgan?

BM: We started in 1998. The mayor, Claire Windham, was our first president. She was instrumental in getting the group started and later becoming active in our opposition to the play, "Snopes". Claire was a very strong leader and mobilized the entire community to prosecute those Oxtales people for their terrible influence on the minors who were associated with the theatrical group. You realize, of course, if we had not contacted the District Attorney's office and kept after them, there might not have been any prosecutions for the people who were producing that piece of filth they called a play. The parents of one of the children who worked on the production were appalled that their son had been exposed to such raw sexual content, and came to us for help. They have since become members of our Concerned Oxford Parents so they can actively participate in the fight to protect our children from the pollution of pornography and the influence of those who peddle it. They realize the importance of speaking out publicly and in the media.

TA: How many are in COP, Mr. Morgan?

BM: We have about 200 paid members, but they are not all active. We have a core of about 40 active participants.

SM: So you became aware of Ms. Stover through one of the minors who was working on the play?

BM: Yes, from Jack and Sue Ripley. Their son is Kurt. They had gone to a performance to see the play Kurt was so proud of and were horrified at what he had been subjected to. They wanted to do something about it, but didn't know where to start so they came to us. We were happy to get involved.

TA: You got in touch with the DA's office to press for an indictment?

BM: Absolutely. We made sure they were apprised of the situation and the people who were involved.

SM: But you appear to have concentrated on Ms. Stover. Any particular reason?

BM: She was the driving force behind the way the production was presented. This child who was working on the play talked only about her and her great influence on him. His parents didn't realize what an insidious influence this was until they saw the play.

TA: You based your opinion purely on the statement of one or two irate parents?

BM: No, of course not. Our Arts Committee went to see the play and was outraged at the blatant sexuality of the nude dancing and simulation of the sex act. They recommended that our group actively engage in getting the play stopped. They wanted the people responsible for the production prosecuted for letting innocent children work backstage and thereby being contaminated by the profanity they call art.

SM: So you took it upon yourselves to alert the community to this danger in what way?

BM: We wrote letters and e-mail to the mayor, city council, and District Attorney's office. Then we followed up with phone calls. We kept at them until they did something about it. Then we informed the community by contacting the press, distributed flyers and organized demonstrations of protest.

TA: Were you satisfied with the resulting sentences of Ms. Stover and the other people who were prosecuted?

BM: I thought the court was extremely lenient with her sentence. She should have been put away for a longer sentence and unable to return to our community. And the other people got off easily with a fine and community service. The court was much too lenient to our way of thinking.

SM: I take it you were not happy when Ms. Stover returned to Oxtales after her release?

BM: You take it right, detective. We were appalled that she was reinstated as director of Oxtales and was allowed to prepare the production of another blasphemous piece of trash. She was a registered sex offender, after all.

TA: Then it might be said you are not sorry Ms. Stover is dead?

BM: No, Detective, I am very sorry Ms. Stover is dead, but not that she won't be able to contaminate our community with her pornographies any more.

SM: Do you have any plans if Oxtales continues with their plans for staging "The Trees"? According to their flyers, their plans were to stage a performance pretty soon.

BM: Our vigilance will not be deterred by the death of that unfortunate, misguided young woman. We shall continue to be ever-watchful and poised to take the same action as if she were here.

SM: I see. I understand COP had been distributing flyers about Andrea Stover since her release from prison. Do you have one you can show us? Or at least tell us what it said?

BM: It warns everyone that a known sex offender was back in our community spreading her filth and that the community should be aware of this danger to our innocent children. I have a flyer in my briefcase. Here, you can see for yourself

SM: What was Ms. Stover's reaction to the flyers. Do you know?

BM: No, it is not my concern what a convicted sex offender thinks about our flyers.

SM: Not even if the flyers affect their lives, or their families' lives, or possibly puts them in harm's way?

BM: That is not my concern, Detective. My concern is protecting our innocent children from the negative influence of such an amoral person as Andrea Stover. After all, she brought it on herself.

SM: Has your activity surrounding Ms. Stover since her release had any effect on your membership, Mr. Morgan?

BM: We've had some inquiries about membership since her return, but we haven't lost any members for that reason. Some people do drop out because of other commitments, of course. Most of them return eventually.

TA: Did you or any of your group have any contact with Ms. Stover since her return?

BM: I never contacted her and I don't know of any of our members who did.

SM: None of your members admit to phoning her anonymously about stopping her pornography, or else?

BM: No Detective, I don't know that any of our members did that. Of course, we can't control what our members do individually. I suppose it is possible someone called her on their own to express their displeasure with her actions, but I have no specific knowledge of that.

TA: Is Norman Higgins a member of your group?

BM: No, he isn't.

SM: But you do know him?

BM: Oh, my yes. Norman and I have had many spirited conversations.

TA: I'm surprised he isn't associated with COP. I thought maybe you had common concerns.

BM: Yes, we do. But Norman has tunnel vision. His only interest is in sex-related crimes and those who commit them – or cause them to be committed. He was concerned about Ms. Stover's return to Oxford because of the harm that could result because of her influence on someone who might hurt children.

SM: That seems to me to be right in line with what I understand of COP's goals, yet he didn't join you?

BM: That is but one of our goals, Detective. We see the greater picture. Norman only sees one thing. For example, we are very pro-family. That is the traditional family – a mother, father and children. We do not condone families with two so-called parents of the same sex, if you know what I mean. We also watch very carefully what books are available to our innocent children in our libraries and schools. If we learn of one that is a bad influence, such as the Harry Potter books, we are not silent about informing our school districts or library boards of our displeasure with their choices. We also advocate abstinence until marriage so we oppose sex-education in the schools. Such personal things should be left to the family. All of us don't want our children to be taught birth control methods. This only encourages pre-marital sex. Norman feels these things are a waste of time. He prefers to spend all his time on his one issue – sex related crimes, and those who commit them.

SM: It really doesn't affect this case, but just out of curiosity, what objection do you have to the Harry Potter books?

BM: They are about magic and wizardry. It is a Wicca training program and an instrument of Satanism. We do not believe in the occult, nor do we believe that innocent children should be exposed to the idea that one can use magic to bypass human limitations and the authority of God. It is important that parents know the danger of exposing young minds to these dangerous concepts.

SM: Thank you for that information, Mr. Morgan. That's a very... interesting perspective. Now tell me, do you have any theories about who might have killed Ms. Stover? Could any of your group be involved?

BM: I imagine it could be one of her circle of amoral friends or colleagues. You can never be sure what people like that are capable of doing. No, I don't think any of our group would be involved. We are rational people who attack a problem through proper channels and by responsible means.

TA: Where were you Sunday night, Mr. Morgan?

BM: It was Sunday night, detective. I was where I always am on Sunday night – at church. After church, our family got together with other church families at my home for refreshments. You can check with Pastor George of the First Church of Oxford on Molly Barr Road. He was there with us, and stayed to discuss some church business. I'm president of the board and a deacon. He didn't leave until after 11:00. Then I went to bed.

SM: Thank you for coming in Mr. Morgan. We may be contacting you again. In the meantime, if you think of anything that might help us please give us a call.

BM: Certainly, Detective. Goodbye.

End interview 10:12 a.m.

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