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Tuesday, July 23, 2013 - 11:03 a.m.

Dan Johnson, head of the English departmentDr. Dan Johnson was Douglas Reed's boss at Ole Miss and an attendee at the Faulkner & Yoknapatawpha Conference. Detectives Murphy and Parker interviewed Dr. Johnson at the Yoknapatawpha County Sheriff's Department. The interview was recorded with the witness's knowledge and consent.

Participants:

  • Detective S. Murphy
  • Detective E. Parker
  • Dan Johnson

Detective Murphy: Would you please state your name and address for the record?

Dan Johnson: My name is Daniel Johnson, and I live at 73 Pleasant Drive.

Detective Parker: We're sorry for your loss.

Dan Johnson: Thanks. You know, I imagined chairing the English department would require huge commitments of time and energy. I expected to deal with squabbling colleagues, insensitive administrators, and overly sensitive students. Having to bury two staff members in two years, I did not see that coming.

Detective Parker: You lost another professor in your department?

Dan Johnson: Kimberly Pace. We still miss her.

Detective Murphy: Yes, sir. Were you close to Douglas Reed?

Dan Johnson: We'd begun spending more time together the last six months.

Detective Murphy: How's that?

Dan Johnson: I'm an avid tennis player. Doug thought joining me was a good way to get ahead.

Detective Parker: And was it?

Dan Johnson: His game improved, anyway. More important, I had someone to play whenever I had to the urge to step on a court. To be fair, I'm not sure if he wasn't available more than a few times. He can be obsequious when he wants to be.

Detective Parker: How did the other members of the department react to his methods?

Dan Johnson: Laurence Bricker didn't like him at all. Never has. Reed got under Bricker's skin. Jake Hemphill, he let Reed roll off his back, but Bricker never could. To Bricker, Reed was a personal affront.

Detective Murphy: Do you think Bricker could've had something to do with Reed's death?

Dan Johnson: I don't see how any of my people could be involved in what happened. Squabbling within the department, that comes with the territory, but murder? I can't believe that.

Detective Murphy: Speaking of squabbling, earlier you mentioned two other demands on your time: administration and students. How did Reed interact with school administrators?

Dan Johnson: He didn't really. That was my job.

Detective Murphy: He had no conflicts there?

Dan Johnson: Nothing to speak of. One time there was a mix-up with his direct deposit, and another time, he wanted to change where he parked, but those were problems he brought to me to handle. He liked to deal with as few people as possible. That way he could be sure to have the most influence over his interactions.

Detective Parker: How well did he get along with his students?

Dan Johnson: He was popular.

Detective Parker: With the female students as well?

Dan Johnson: I've never been informed of any improper behavior, if that's what you're asking. Besides, he's seeing someone who works at the university, Nora Percy. There's too much chance word would get back to her. As I said, a rumor mill.

Detective Parker: Out there on the court, did Reed mention any challenges in the relationship?

Dan Johnson: Doug put a smiley face on everything. He was likeable that way. Unless that type makes you want to take a swing.

Detective Parker: Did you ever take a swing at him?

Dan Johnson: I can't even imagine how many additional meetings I'd have to sit through. I managed to deal with Doug, just as I manage to deal with everyone else I have to deal with.

Detective Murphy: What about Andrew Carlson?

Dan Johnson: I haven't dealt that much with Carlson. Doug was the point person on bringing Carlson to the conference. And so, of course, the little I heard from Carlson had to do with Doug and his attempts to get ahead.

Detective Murphy: What did Carlson say?

Dan Johnson: He asked whether Doug couldn't be reassigned, perhaps to Culver City, California, where William Faulkner lived for a time.

Detective Parker: Doug was the point person, but Jake Hemphill got to co-present with the visiting expert. How'd that come about?

Dan Johnson: Both Jake and Doug want to be the face of the English department. They're young, and the idea of traveling to distant conferences still holds a certain allure. They're looking to make names for themselves. Nothing wrong with that. It used to be "publish or perish." Now it's all about your Facebook likes.

Detective Murphy: When was the last time you saw Doug Reed?

Dan Johnson: I guess that would have been Sunday night, at the Rowan Oak supper. Waiting for the restroom, to be quite honest.

Detective Murphy: Do you know what time that would have been?

Dan Johnson: 7:00 maybe? I'm not so old that being able to urinate is cause to check the time, at least not yet.

Detective Parker: Did you talk?

Dan Johnson: I listened. Doug talked, or rather raved. He should have been the one co-presenting with Andrew Carlson, not Hemphill. Hemphill was derailing Doug's career. Western civilization, as we knew it, faced imminent collapse. But I got lucky. Carol Fitch saw he had me cornered and told him Carlson was looking for him out in the garden.

Detective Parker: Dr. Carlson was looking for him?

Dan Johnson: Oh, I very much doubt it.

Detective Murphy: Doug took his problem with Jake to you. How likely is it he also addressed it himself? Was Doug the type to confront Jake?

Dan Johnson: He was certainly angry enough, but he tends to be a bit more sly.

Detective Murphy: Could you explain what you mean by that?

Dan Johnson: There was a visiting lecturer a few years back who Doug thought was treated a bit too much like royalty. Doug didn't accuse Carol and Jill Osborne, the department secretaries, of favoring the usurper. Instead, he invented hours of inconsequential busywork to keep them occupied.

Detective Murphy: How did Fitch and Osborne feel about that?

Dan Johnson: If they weren't complaining about Doug's demands, they would have been complaining about all the work generated by the visiting lecturer. Chair is sometimes an inflated title for babysitter.

Detective Parker: What time did you leave Rowan Oak?

Dan Johnson: Probably around 8:00. I'd made my appearance, fulfilled my obligation, ate for free. Then I escaped to The Roadhouse. Left there about 11:00 and went home.

Detective Murphy: Would anybody remember you at The Roadhouse?

Dan Johnson: I nursed a few beers, made small talk with a few people. I paid my tab with a charge card, if that helps.

Detective Murphy: Is there anybody who can corroborate where you were between 11:00 Sunday night and 7:30 Monday morning?

Dan Johnson: I'm afraid not. I was on my own at home until I went back to the YCCC Monday morning around 8:00.

Detective Parker: Can you think of anyone who may have wanted Doug Reed dead?

Dan Johnson: I've been wracking my brain, trying to make sense of what happened, but I can't. Maybe an addict broke in looking for equipment to pawn for drugs?  I just don't know.

Detective Murphy: Thanks for your help. If we have any further questions, we'll be in touch.

Interview ended: 11:32 a.m.

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