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Witness Interview: Jim Taylor, acquaintance of the victim

Thursday, January 31, 2002 - 1:15 p.m.

This witness, identified as the victim's acquaintance by a previous witness, 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
JT = Jim Taylor

TA: Mr. Taylor, thanks for coming in today.

JT: Detective Armstrong, hello. How are you?

TA: I'm doing all right. Yourself?

JT: Oh, hanging in there, hanging in there. You wanted to see me?

TA: Right. First, for the record, please state your name and address.

JT: James Edward Taylor, 314 Bramlett Blvd.

TA: You heard about Andrea Stover?

JT: Of course I did, I knew her. Terrible.

TA: Well, we just want to ask you a few questions about that.

JT: Anything I can do to help.

SM: Mr. Taylor, how precisely did you know Ms. Stover?

JT: Andrea had the same probation officer as me – Vincent Fischer. We met that way – in the waiting room waiting for our appointments. He was always running late. We had the same day, Thursdays, she was at noon and I was at 12:30.

SM: How did you end up being acquainted?

JT: I don't remember exactly when it was, but it was maybe the second or third time I'd seen her, we were all complaining about Vincent Fischer and how late he was and she said she had a mind to walk right out the next time it happened. Said he was violating her freedom by keeping her here. I thought it was an interesting concept and we began talking.

SM: So that would have been, what, mid-December?

JT: Yes. That sounds right.

TA: So you'd known Ms. Stover for about a month when she died.

JT: Yes.

TA: How much time would you say you spent together in the probation office when you saw each other, on average?

JT: In the office? Oh, just chit-chat really. She was usually heading out and I'd be waiting for my turn. She would ask how I was doing and whether I'd been to Turner Center for volleyball. She was encouraging me to get back into social life, to reconnect. She wasn't like what the papers say – she was very warm, in person.

TA: Did she ever mention Vincent Fischer at the probation office?

JT: Just the usual complaints, like I said. He was always running late, he had no respect for our time. She liked to say that even though we served our time we were still being treated like criminals. She sure had a sense of right and wrong.

SM: Would you say Ms. Stover seemed angry with Officer Fischer?

JT: Angry isn't it, no. She just complained and joked with the rest of us.

SM: Did you ever see Ms. Stover talking with anyone else in particular she saw at the office?

JT: No. She told me she had a lot to do. I guess she went right back to working in that theater group of hers. So she didn't exactly hang out there, except when we talked.

SM: Did you ever meet anyone from the theater group?

JT: No. I think one time one of her theatre friends dropped her off and picked her up, Sheila maybe was her name? But I didn't meet her, just saw her in the car and Andrea had mentioned she was being picked up.

SM: Did Andrea ever mention anyone in particular from the group to you?

JT: No. Funny – I knew a little about her from what she told me, and more from the papers. But we didn't really talk about her. She really seemed to want to help me – always asking me questions. It was like I never had time to learn much about her. She really seemed like she wanted to see me put my life back together. She got me in touch with a therapist I've seen once or twice.

TA: So you didn't really know each other much from the office. What about outside the office – did have a relationship?

JT: I don't know if you'd call it that.

SM: But you did meet outside that context?

JT: Sure, once or twice. We just went for coffee after our appointments, that's all.

TA: How did that come about?

JT: Look, I won't pussyfoot around – she was quite a pretty young lady, and with everything I've been through, I was hoping for a little companionship, is all. But we weren't intimate.

SM: So what exactly did you do when you went for coffee?

JT: We'd just go to the Huddle House or Applebee's and literally have a cup of coffee, or I guess tea in her case – she drank some weird herbal stuff. She wanted me to try it, but I'm really a straight-up black coffee kind of guy. Maybe a snack. We weren't together more than an hour or two.

TA: How often did this happen?

JT: Two or three times. Three.

SM: And what would you talk about?

JT: Oh, the same type of stuff as at the office. More of the same. You know... Officer Fischer and complaining about him, and what I was doing to get back on track with my life. Also the COP people – I guess we had that in common. They came after me pretty hard too, when I got out.

SM: I remember.

JT: She was pretty upset about the whole thing. Well, first off, she thought she was completely innocent, said the whole thing was about the freedom to create art, and censorship and right-wing fanatics. I don't know about that. But I could see her point – that after serving your time, you should be able to get back to your life without being hounded. That's what doing your time is about – you've paid your debt to society, now you should just be able to get on with your life. Kind of like what she said about Officer Fischer punishing us.

TA: Sounds like she mentioned Officer Fischer a lot.

JT: Not really. No more than the rest of us, I guess.

TA: So would you say they got along okay? No worse than the rest of you?

JT: I don't know about that. No, I guess they didn't get along too well.

SM: In what way?

JT: Look, will any of this get back to him? Because he could really mess with me. I'm trying to put my life back together. I don't want any more trouble.

TA: We'll keep that in mind, Jim. It's important we know what happened. We need to get to the bottom of this.

JT: ... All right then... Well, let's just say Officer Fischer, he has a reputation for being a ladies' man. Out in the waiting room.

SM: In what way?

JT: Well, he doesn't much respect the women assigned to him. He liked to touch them, I guess. It was just gossip in the waiting room, kind of a reputation.

SM: Was Ms. Stover one of the ones he touched?

JT: Yes... I guess so... That's what she told me.

TA: How did this come up?

JT: It was funny. We were talking... we were talking about my case. She was asking me a lot of questions, not accusing or anything, but I think she wanted to know how I could have done... what I did... you know, to get in jail. It had been so long, I was trying to remember. She wanted to know how someone could victimize someone else. I couldn't see what she was getting at, really. She was funny in that way. I don't know if she thought she was being therapeutic for me or what, but I felt pretty uncomfortable. And then she just said, "I'm being victimized, you know." Just like that. And I asked her about it, and she said Officer Fischer had come on to her the past couple of times she'd seen him and she didn't know what to do, didn't know who she could tell. I guess maybe she saw similarities between Vincent Fischer and what I had done, in a way. Although... it all seems so long ago now... I still can't believe they're gone... I'm sorry. I'm still working through a lot of emotions over this.

TA: We understand. I'm sure this has brought a lot back for you.

SM: Did this conversation happen at the probation office?

JT: No. Over coffee. I think it was the second time, when we went to the Huddle House.

SM: The second time you went for coffee.

JT: Right.

SM: And roughly when was that?

JT: I guess it was right after New Year's, the Thursday after New Year's it would have been.

SM: What did you say when she told you this?

JT: Well, I was a little uncomfortable, as I said, because I could see what she was getting at, that I was like him and maybe I could give her some insight into his mind. But really I was trying to put all that past me. I said so and she said of course, she didn't mean it like that. I asked her what she was going to do about it and she said she wasn't sure there was anything she could do.

SM: She didn't mention filing a complaint?

JT: Not that time, no.

TA: So this wasn't the only time you talked about Office Fischer?

JT: Not exactly.

TA: When else did you talk about him?

JT: The next time we went out, by that time I guess she'd done some thinking and she was thinking of filing charges, so she mentioned that to me. She said she was tired of being oppressed by the system and treated like a second-class citizen.

SM: And when was that?

JT: I guess it was the next week. The week before she... well, you know.

SM: Was that the last time you saw her?

JT: Yes.

TA: All right. Aside from what Ms. Stover told you, did you ever notice anything out of the ordinary between her and Officer Fischer?

JT: Not really.

TA: Never saw them interacting?

JT: Well... One time I was in a hurry and he was running late as usual, but I had to be back at work. I knocked on the door and was just going to stick my head in and let him know I needed a break here, needed to get back to work. When I opened the door I saw them – she was sitting in the chair facing the desk, and he was standing in front of her, but leaning down with one hand on either arm of her chair. He was too close, in my opinion. They could have just been having a discussion, but I don't think so. Anyway, when I opened the door, he stood back and she jumped right up out of the chair and rushed out of the room. Didn't say anything to me on the way out.

SM: When was that?

JT: I'm not exactly sure. Before we talked about it. Maybe the week after Christmas or just before.

SM: Was there anything else you and Ms. Stover talked about? Did she mention anyone else she was angry about or thought might be angry with her?

JT: Well, we talked about the COP people a lot. But otherwise, no. She didn't tell me much about her life in terms of work or relationships.

SM: Did you ever talk about being incarcerated?

JT: No. I think we were both trying to put that behind us.

SM: No enemies she made there she mentioned to you?

JT: No.

SM: Do you know who might have tried to kill Ms. Stover?

JT: Honestly, no. I don't know what happened, if she ever actually filed charges against Officer Fischer. If she did, he's a slimeball all right but I don't think he'd do that.

SM: Anyone else you would suspect?

JT: No. As I already said, I didn't know much about her life.

TA: All right. Now Mr. Taylor, we need to verify your whereabouts the night of January 13.

JT: Me? You don't think I had something to do with this, do you?

SM: We need to ask.

JT: Well... okay... I didn't realize I was... a suspect this time around... Anyway, Sunday nights I have volleyball practice at Turner Center. I guess I left there around 8. I grabbed something to eat at the store. Then I went home.

SM: Which store was that?

JT: Oh, I guess I went to Kroger's. That's where I shop normally.

SM: And you went back to your apartment?

JT: Yes. That's right.

SM: Did you see anyone there? Any neighbors?

JT: I ran into Mrs. Filbert who lives two doors down. We were in the parking lot – she was going out and I was coming back.

SM: Other than that?

JT: No, I was in for the rest of that night. I like to get up early Mondays, get to work early and get started, go for a run before that.

SM: Did you make any phone calls? Send any email?

JT: No. I don't have a computer.

SM: No friends stopped by?

JT: No. I don't have many friends, you know.

SM: And the next morning – you went for a run?

JT: Yes. I'm trying to get back in shape. Fitness is so important.

TA: That's great. About what time was that?

JT: I got up about 6, went for about five miles. I started down University from my house. Then west to south Lamar, north to Jackson and then east back here.

SM: When did you first hear about Ms. Stover?

JT: I read about it in the papers. I'm not exactly someone her relatives would have known to call.

TA: All right. Is there anything else at all you want to add? Anything else that might help us out here?

JT: No. I can't think of anything, I'm sorry.

SM: Well, if you do, give us a call.

JT: Will do.

End interview 1:57 p.m.

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