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Interview: Kurt Ripley

Tuesday, Feb. 12, 2002, 1 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
KR = Kurt Ripley

TA: Hi Kurt. Thanks for stopping by.

KR: Yeah, okay. But can we make it quick? I have to get to work by 2.

TA: We’ll try to get you out of here on time. But we need to ask you some regarding the death of Andrea Stover. Before we go any farther, for the record, could you please state your name and address?

KR: Kurt Ripley, 242 Pea Ridge Road

TA: Thank you. Now, why don’t you start by talking about how you met Ms. Stover.

KR: Didn’t we already go through this, like, two years ago? Can’t you just look at your records or something?

TA: Please, Kurt. We need to review everything again in light of what’s happened. Could you start at the beginning?

KR: Whatever. Fine. I was taking Mr. O’Shea’s drama class, and Larry and Mark took it too. Larry was on the team with me, he and I were pretty tight, and Mark was cool too. They were more into the whole acting thing though, Mark was always in plays. They wanted me to do this volunteer thing where we’d go work at a theater, we got to skip regular drama class once a week if we did it so I said OK. We got assigned to Oxtales and that was that. Mr. O’Shea came with us the first time and introduced us to Andrea, but after that we just came on our own.

SM: It was once a week?

KR: Yeah. Four hours every Sunday.

SM: And what exactly did you do?

KR: Like, mostly backstage stuff. Setting up lights, painting sets and s---. Sometimes we’d have to do hella boring stuff like stuff envelopes with flyers Owen brought. Or sort the mail. It was better than class, I guess.

TA: Kurt, I have to ask you to watch your language. It just isn’t necessary.

KR: Whatever. Sorry.

SM: So you weren’t involved in acting?

KR: No way. I guess Mark might have wanted to, he still hangs with that crowd, but not me.

SM: But you knew what the play was about?

KR: Sure. Some nasty story about what’s his name, Faulkner, getting off with a black girl.

SM: How much interaction did you have with Ms. Stover?

KR: None, pretty much. We worked mostly with Frank on the stage stuff and sometimes Dale would give us the office projects. I mean, she knew who we were and all that, said hi and all that, but that was it.

SM: You never spent time with her on your own?

KR: No.

SM: You weren’t seeing each other romantically?

KR: No. We talked about it when she wasn’t around, like wasn’t she a hottie and all that. We all thought she was a total badass and wanted to hang out with her. She didn’t give us the time of day. She was off and on with Frank, mostly.

SM: Was Ms. Stover dating anyone else in the group?

KR: No. Not that I know.

SM: How did she and Frank get along at rehearsal?

KR: Fine.

SM: What about Ms. Stover’s relationship with Mr. King?

KR: He was pretty uptight. I got the impression they didn’t get along like everyone else.

SM: Did Ms. Stover get along with the actors? Henry Jackson and Sheila Love?

KR: Yeah, sure. No problems as far as I could see.

SM: Did you know the playwright, Ethan Lewiston?

KR: Uh huh. He was cool.

SM: How did he get along with Ms. Stover?

KR: Fine. They mostly talked about wording and stuff. They would sometimes get pissed at each other, but then everyone did at some point. Sometimes Andrea would be busting everyone’s balls about the schedule, sometimes she and Ethan would fight about wording or some s--- – sorry – and some days Frank and Sheila would be on each other’s nerves. It was just like a totally dysfunctional family only no one was related.

SM: What about Owen Norris – did you ever meet him?

KR: Yeah, he came by, like, twice. We were introduced, shook hands and all that, but I never talked with him. He was totally weird.

SM: In what way?

KR: He just wore weird clothes and s---. Sorry. Like, three piece suits with vests and pocketwatches and all that, like an old guy, only he wasn’t that old. Gloves and a hat and all. The times I saw him, he didn’t do much, just stood around waiting to talk with Andrea and then he would leave.

SM: Did you notice any particular tensions during the rehearsals for “Snopes”? Any issues keep coming up?

KR: It wasn’t like I was hanging out watching. I was working, painting or hauling stuff around. So I didn’t really catch much. But Dale was usually bitching about how the play was gratuitous and too much sex, yadda yadda, and Andrea wanted to go ahead as planned. That was the main theme.

TA: Your parents didn’t mind you being involved?

KR: They didn’t know what it was about. I just told them I was doing a special volunteer project for Mr. O’Shea and they were thrilled. It was another gold star to put on my college applications, you know, it made me look all serious. It’s kind of funny, like, they were the ones who told me to make the tape in the first place – so I could submit it with my applications.

SM: What exactly was on that tape?

KR: I took it from backstage, cause I wanted to show what I was doing. So there’s a lot of me working the sound and light cues and s---. I guess maybe there’s five minutes of showing what’s onstage, and a lot of that’s from the wings. The whole thing is 20, 25 minutes max.

TA: How did you feel about your parents using the tape to help prosecute Ms. Stover? Did you take part in that?

KR: F--- no. Sorry.

TA: So you didn’t testify against Ms. Stover?

KR: I didn’t say that. I just wasn’t part of handing over the tape. They made me take the stand and say how it was I got to be part of the backstage crew. But I wouldn’t say anything else. They wanted me to say all this stuff about how explicit the play was and crap like that, how I was corrupted, but I told them screw that, no way.

SM: They meaning your parents?

KR: Yeah.

TA: How did you feel about the whole thing – about what happened?

KR: It was stupid. I don’t understand what those COP people were all pissed about. MTV is way worse.

SM: Did you have much contact with Andrea during the trial, before she was incarcerated?

KR: None at all.

SM: What did you think of her decision to fight the charges?

KR: That rocked. Like I said, the whole thing was stupid and she wasn’t afraid to say so.

TA: So let me get this straight – you’re saying that while you volunteered at Oxtales you knew Ms. Stover, but you weren’t friends, you didn’t have any contact with her at all during the trial. But then you wrote quite a few letters to her. What was going on?

SM: I wrote her, but she didn’t write me back, let’s put it that way.

TA: Meaning what exactly?

KR: She wasn’t interested in what I had to say.

TA: Which was what?

KR: I wanted to let her know I thought she did the right thing, and she was cool and all that. I had a total hard-on for her.

TA: Please, Kurt. In English.

KR: Sorry. Back in your day, I guess the word was “crush.”

TA: She never responded to any letters?

KR: No.

SM: One of them mentions you went to visit Ms. Stover. What happened?

KR: She didn’t want to see me. Nothing happened. I got pretty pissed and the guard was threatening to call for someone to escort me out of there, so I bailed.

SM: Did you ever go back?

KR: No.

SM: You stopped writing after a couple of months. Why?

KR: Let’s just say there are other fish in the sea. I moved on.

TA: You weren’t angry at Ms. Stover for rejecting you?

KR: Not for that, no.

TA: For other things?

KR: I guess I was kind of pissed for what happened – like the bull---- with my parents and all that. Sorry. I guess I felt like if I hadn’t gotten involved or if she stopped us from being involved none of it would have happened and I would still be on track for medical school. So yeah, I guess I wasn’t too happy with her for a while. But I moved on. I’ve been thinking the way I’m headed now is more interesting, you know? Off the beaten path.

SM: While Ms. Stover was incarcerated, did you continue working with Oxtales?

KR: Not really. I hung out there sometimes, like I’d stop by to say “hi” to Frank and all that, see what they’d heard from Andrea. They were all cool so I wanted to stay in touch. But I didn’t do any plays or anything. My parents pretty much put the kibosh on that.

SM: What about since Ms. Stover’s release? Did you see her at all?

KR: No. And I didn’t really want to.

TA: Seeing as how you “moved on,” as you put it, and weren’t angry with her any more, why wouldn’t you want to see her?

KR: Look, it was a school project, I’m done with school, so the question is, why would I want to see her? I’m not a stalker or some weird s--- like that. Sorry.

TA: All right. Did you know anything about how she was doing?

KR: Just through Mark. He was going to have a part in their new play, about trees or some s--- like that. Sorry. He said she seemed fine.

SM: Do you know anything about whether she was dating anyone since her return?

KR: Mark said she and Frank were at it again. Other than that, no. That chapter of my life is closed, okay?

SM: So you and Mark Gable are still in touch?

KR: Sure. He’s in school, so it’s not like we’re hanging out a lot. But I see him at a party here and there. He’s totally into the acting thing. He’s going to major in theater arts and move to Hollywood and all that.

SM: What about Larry Eastman?

KR: I don’t hear much from him. He’s at Alabama now. All of us got together over break, it was good. But, you know, I’m holding down a job, paying rent, and they’re still doing the school thing.

TA: Speaking of which, why aren’t you in school along with them?

KR: What kind of question is that?

TA: Kurt, I’m going to level with you. I know you. Behind all that language, you’ve got a brain – those letters you wrote prove it. You’re a smart kid, one of the smartest. But you dropped out. What’s going on with that?

KR: School just isn’t for me.

TA: I don’t buy that.

KR: I don’t care.

TA: When did you drop out?

KR: Last spring. All the stuff that happened made me think about what I was doing. I didn’t want to end up like my parents. I needed to get out and on my own. So I just backed off on the school thing. Like I said, I was pretty pissed at the time about everything that happened, pretty pissed at everyone and I just wanted room to breathe.

TA: Now that you have it, what do you think of the way it’s turned out?

KR: Hey – I’ve got my own place, my own money, it’s a decent job. I’m all set.

TA: Not as decent a job as, say, being a doctor.

KR: Look asshole, did my parents pay you to do this?

TA: No. It just seems to me like you’re still pretty angry from the way you’re acting. I’m trying to figure out what that’s all about.

KR: I don’t have to answer any of this.

TA: No. But if you don’t, I’m going to wonder why you don’t cooperate.

KR: I don’t f---ing believe this! You don’t think I had anything to do with it, do you?

TA: Just answer the question.

KR: Okay. So maybe my job isn’t so hot. I guess if I had to do it all over again, I wouldn’t. I’d be at school taking the easy route. In terms of blaming people for it, I don’t know, you’d kind of have to blame every f---ing person down the line starting with my parents. It’s no one person, it just happened. It’s not like a tragedy, I’m not homeless or s--- like that. It’s a decent job, we can’t all be professors and s---. I can still get back onto the whole overachiever track if I want to. Which I don’t.

TA: All right, Kurt, thank you. One final question. Where were you the night of January 13?

KR: Hold on. I thought if I answered the question I’d be off your s--- list.

TA: We need to know everyone’s whereabouts that night. Just answer the question, and do try to leave out the profanity.

KR: Okay. Whatever. I worked the 3 to 11 shift at Cobbs Seafood, so I was there until then. Then three or four of us went to the Billiard Club, Sunday is like our Friday cause the restaurant’s closed Monday and Tuesday, so we pretty much let loose. I guess I got home like around 2, 3.

SM: Did you see anyone when you got home?

KR: No. I was totally plastered. I just went right to bed.

SM: What did you do the next morning?

KR: Slept until my housemate woke me up to tell me what happened. Noon or so.

TA: Kurt, to your mind is there anyone you suspect of having been involved in Ms. Stover’s death?

KR: Isn’t that your job to figure out?

TA: Just answer the question.

KR: I guess not. I can’t think of anyone.

SM: No one in Oxtales?

KR: No way. They were like a family, like I said – totally dysfunctional, but everyone liked each other deep down, pretty much. I really can’t think of who would do that. It just blew me away.

TA: All right, Kurt. We don’t want to make you late for work. If you think of anything else, will you give us a call?

KR: Yeah. Whatever.

Interview ended 1:48 p.m.

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