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Interview: Trevor O’Shea, friend of victim

Tuesday, Feb. 12, 2002, 4 p.m.

This witness, identified as victim's acquaintance by previous witnesses, was interviewed at the Yoknapatawpha County Sheriff's Office. 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
TOS = Trevor O’Shea

TA: Mr. O’Shea. Thanks for stopping by. How’s the spring musical shaping up?

TOS: All right, Detective. A few little rough patches, but Maryanne will be terrific – she’s a great kid.

TA: That’s good to hear. Now then – for the record , please state your name and address.

TOS: Trevor Ryan O’Shea, 2216 Delores Drive.

TA: Thank you. Now then, I wonder if you could tell us a little about how you knew Andrea.

TOS: We go way back, all the way back to high school. I guess you could say we’re the kids who stayed close to home. I’ve been wondering about that lately – what would have happened if she’d left, made a name for herself elsewhere. The road not taken.

SM: How precisely did you meet?

TOS: In the spring musical, come to think of it. Funny. She was a freshman who got a good part and I was a junior. We were friends until I graduated, then pretty much kept in touch. We were both at Ole Miss together a couple of years, too.

SM: Were you ever romantically involved?

TOS: No.

SM: Even after you came back to Oxford?

TOS: No, never. Don’t get me wrong, I thought it about it from time to time – especially in high school. You know how boys are: “Young men’s love then lies/Truly not within their hearts, but in their eyes.”

SM: Er, I don’t exactly follow.

TOS: Sorry. It’s Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliet. And always hated when I went around quoting like that, but it sometimes seems so appropriate.

SM: Sorry, again I’ve lost you. And?

TOS: And – Andrea, that was my nickname for her. Very fitting. She always wanted more.

TA: But not more than friendship.

TOS: No. No, she was never interested. I wasn’t, really, either. As I said earlier, in high school I would have a crush here and there – let’s face it, she was beautiful and smart and everything a geek like me would have found attractive. But there was something fundamental that never really clicked. I think I was scared of her, too – she was so over the top. I admired her courage, but I never really wanted to go there myself.

SM: What about in college?

TOS: No. By then she was already too wild for my tastes. She was experimenting pretty widely.

SM: With Gretchen Doyle?

TOS: Among others, yes.

SM: Did you know Ms. Doyle?

TOS: Yes. We were in the same circle of friends. We weren’t close, but we’d see each other here and there. We still run into each other in town every once in a while.

SM: As far as you know, was there any ongoing relationship between Ms. Doyle and Ms. Stover?

TOS: What – you mean now? No. They had a fling in college and that was it. They’re still friends, but there’s nothing sexual between them.

SM: You seem to know a lot about Ms. Stover’s personal life.

TOS: I guess we talked about it, sure.

SM: Did you talk about it since her release?

TOS: I only saw her twice. She mentioned the guy, Frank, she was seeing through the theater group, just in passing – we were on the phone and she had to go because she was running late to go meet him.

SM: Did she mention dating anyone else?

TOS: No.

SM: Did you ever meet Frank Tuttle?

TOS: No.

SM: What about other people from the theater group – did you know them at all?

TOS: No.

SM: So your only connection to Oxtales was Ms. Stover.

TOS: Correct.

SM: But you attended plays?

TOS: Sure. But I never hung out backstage or at rehearsals. Mostly I went because I was Andrea’s friend. I didn’t even really think too much of her work.

SM: Why not?

TOS: It was too showy. Some of her methodology, using shock value etcetera, was valid, but sometimes it was just gratuitous. She wanted to be notorious, over the top, and whatever she had to do to get there she did, whether or not the artistic merit suffered.

TA: And yet you sent three students to work with her.

TOS: Yes.

TA: Why?

TOS: It was a huge lapse in judgment. But at the time, I don’t know, these kids were so full of energy – I remember like it was yesterday. Mark in particular was so full of zest, and his friends were caught up in it. I thought they needed a different kind of challenge. That was the biggest mistake I’ve ever made.

SM: Was that the first time you’d connected students with Oxtales?

TOS: Yes. The first and last.

SM: What about other theater productions? Did you place students with other local groups?

TOS: Sure. Of course, a lot of enthusiastic or talented ones are already involved in stuff outside school – childrens’ theater, The Big Yuk Improv, the summer theater program at the college. But sometimes the most interesting ones hang back, and that’s where I like to give them a nudge. Encourage them to try something new. But never with Oxtales – I usually had them volunteer The Big Yuk shows or even New Stage in Jackson. I know the directors, so it was a similar arrangement as what I did that one time with And. Andrea, I mean. Sorry. Of course Mark was all over the place already, I’d already gotten him into childrens’ theater and he was doing it nonstop, but I wanted him to see what life was like at a professional company. His friends had never done much of anything outside chorus parts, but this one season – I don’t know, they were all going about their roles with such gusto. This was the fall play, we did “Much Ado About Nothing,” and Larry was all of a sudden completely immersed in Don John – it seemed like he’d discovered another part of himself, and with Mark they were really flying. The time seemed right to give them a new challenge. It just went so incredibly wrong – I’ll regret it for the rest of my life.

TA: What about Kurt Ripley? How was he involved?

TOS: He wasn’t in the play. No. But the three of them were in my drama class together.

TA: The Shakespeare class?

TOS: No – that’s only for seniors. I teach a general theater arts class. A lot of people take it to fulfill their arts elective requirement and that’s pretty much what Kurt was doing. He seemed to like hearing about what Mark and Larry were up to in rehearsals and sometimes he’d hang out and watch. That was fine with me, I didn’t think much of it. But then I guess he sort of got caught up and went along for the ride when they volunteered to work at Oxtales. All these little, seemingly meaningless events just cascaded into place and the outcome was awful.

SM: You weren’t arrested or prosecuted. Was there other fallout?

TOS: Of course you know there was, but this is for the record, isn’t it?

TA: Please.

TOS: I was suspended starting in June, through the summer session and then fall semester. And of course, I’m being watched constantly now, still. I have to have my reading list approved by the goddamn PTA, and rehearsals are monitored by the principal. And of course I can’t do anything like what I just talked about, it terms of connecting students with theater outside school. I’m completely hamstrung.

TA: But you aren’t leaving?

TOS: No. I love it here. I love the kids and being where I first started down this road. It’s a neat circle. It just wouldn’t be the same anywhere else.

TA: So I take it you weren’t too happy about the suspension.

TOS: To put it mildly, I was devastated.

TA: It seems you held Ms. Stover accountable for that.

TOS: For a time, yes. I felt betrayed. But eventually I realized we both made mistakes – I made the mistake of sending the kids to her and she made the mistake of not telling me what went on. And I betrayed her too – I had to promise never to see her plays again. Who knew what that really meant, at the time? That was in August. “There’s a special providence in the fall of a sparrow.”

TA: Right. I take it you didn’t visit Ms. Stover while she was incarcerated.

TOS: No. Too angry.

TA: But you were friends again later? How was that? She only wrote you that one letter and it was not what I’d call congenial.

TOS: She called just before Christmas and said she was making a gesture in the holiday spirit. Which is funny, because she hated all that sentimental crap. But I think she meant it. She seemed to be going through a rough time. It’s like those COP people were in suspended animation, just waiting for her to step out of the jailhouse to resume their activities. So maybe she felt she needed some comfort, an old friend. We talked for a couple of hours that night and after that we saw each other twice and talked on the phone. We weren’t exactly friends the way we’d been before – there was this awful thing between us – but we were trying to find our way back. We didn’t do a lot of talking about what had happened, but at some point she wanted to know where the kids were now – she told me about the letters Kurt sent her and was feeling guilty about the way it turned out for him.

SM: You weren’t angry with her?

TOS: Not any more. We’d both suffered in our ways.

SM: When was the last time you saw her?

TOS: We went to dinner on the seventh.

SM: After that, did you talk on the phone?

TOS: No.

SM: How did she seem when you saw her?

TOS: The same. A little subdued, maybe – she’d been that way since coming out. She wasn’t going a million miles an hour. Maybe she was tired. But she perked up when she talked about her work, same as ever. Going on about the new production and how she planned to show the COP people a thing or two. That worried me.

SM: Did she ever mention any specific threats from them?

TOS: No. I think she viewed it as a battle of ideologies. I don’t know if she ever considered actual physical harm. But I worried about it for her.

SM: Do you suspect foul play in that regard?

TOS: You mean, did they kill her? I don’t know. I’d like to say yes, to be vengeful. But honestly, I don’t think so. It’s easy to talk viciously, but to commit a vicious act – most of us can’t even imagine it. I certainly can’t.

TA: All right then. Just one more question – can you tell us where you were Sunday, January 13?

TOS: Sure. I wish you didn’t have to ask me, but I understand. We had dinner with my folks – we do that every week. They left around 9:30, and after that Lucy and I just zonked out on the couch and read. The Magic Mountain. We like to read books together and talk about them. I guess that’s what happens when you don’t have a TV.

SM: Did you see anyone else during the rest of the evening?

TOS: No. One of the kids, Brent Dyer, you know him? He called about 10 wanting to know what the homework assignment was for the next day. I remember we laughed about that. I give out our number and usually the kids are pretty good about using it, but every once in a while, you get the panicked last-minute call like that.

SM: And the next morning, what time did you get to school?

TOS: We went together and got there by 8. The first bell is at 8:15, so it’s good to have a few minutes to get your act together.

SM: And how did you hear about Ms. Stover?

TOS: At the morning break there was a message for me from my dad. I called right away – I thought something had happened to Mom. I guess it was maybe 10:30 in the morning. I was pretty upset, I ended up taking the rest of the day off and going to my parents’ until Lucy finished her last class – she came and picked me up and we went home. We couldn’t believe it. I still can’t believe it.

TA: All right. Well, thanks for talking with us. We’ll give you a call if something else comes up.

TOS: Sure. Anything to help. “Foul deeds will rise,/Though all the earth overwhelm them, to men’s eyes.”

TA: Thanks, I think. Hamlet?

TOS: That’s right.

Interview ended 4:41 p.m.

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