Sunday, August 21, 2011 – 10:30 AM
The witness is the ex-husband of Kevin Gilmore's former coworker and current owner of The Juke Joint, Rhonda Pendergrass.
The interview was conducted at the Yoknapatawpha County Sheriff's Department by Detectives Armstrong and Murphy and was recorded with the witness's knowledge and consent.
- Detective Ted Armstrong
- Detective Samantha Murphy
- JT Pendergrass
JT Pendergrass: OK, I'm here. What's this about?
Detective Murphy: Thanks for coming in, Mr. Pendergrass.
JT Pendergrass: Yeah, yeah. I'm meeting my kids later, so let's get to it. What can I do for you?
Detective Murphy: Before we get to that, could you give us your name and address for the record?
JT Pendergrass: I don't really have a permanent address right now. These days, when I'm in town, I stay at the Days Inn.
Detective Armstrong: Where do you get your mail?
JT Pendergrass: I don't really get much mail, but it goes to my girlfriend's place in Memphis. 1028 Faxon Avenue. OK?
Detective Armstrong: OK.
JT Pendergrass: So why am I here?
Detective Murphy: We're investigating the death of Kevin Gilmore.
JT Pendergrass: Never heard of him.
Detective Armstrong: He used to work with your ex-wife.
JT Pendergrass: Well, I wouldn't know anything about that. I haven't been involved in her life in years, thank God.
Detective Armstrong: They worked together while y'all were still married.
JT Pendergrass: I still never heard of him. I was only barely involved in her life back then.
Detective Murphy: Here's a picture of him. Does that ring any bells?
JT Pendergrass: Nope. Sorry. Look, if you want to know something about Rhonda, you should just ask her. Not that you'll know anything more, if you do.
Detective Armstrong: What do you mean?
JT Pendergrass: That woman lies as easily as she breathes. No matter what she tells you, it's probably not true.
Detective Murphy: You're not curious about why we're asking you about your ex-wife and this young man who died?
JT Pendergrass: I stopped being curious when it comes to Rhonda a long time ago. It never brought me nothing but heartache anyways.
Detective Armstrong: You want to elaborate on that?
JT Pendergrass: Not really.
Detective Armstrong: Why don't you do it anyway?
JT Pendergrass: What do you want me to say? Rhonda couldn't keep her legs together if you put Super Glue between her knees. If you're asking me about her and some guy, it must be because she was sleeping with him.
Detective Armstrong: She says she wasn't sleeping with him.
JT Pendergrass: That's what she always says.
Detective Murphy: She was a good bit older than he was.
JT Pendergrass: So what? We didn't call them cougars back then, but they still existed. We just called them cradle robbers. Or perverts. It don't matter. Rhonda never cared about stuff like that. If that guy could do something for her, more than likely, she was doing him.
Detective Murphy: What could a 20-year-old college student do for your – for Rhonda?
JT Pendergrass: Other than fu–?
Detective Murphy: Yes. Other than that.
JT Pendergrass: How the hell should I know? Look, if all you want is to talk about Rhonda, I'm done. I don't want to talk about her. I'd rather not even think about her, and I never would if it weren't for our kids. So if that's all you got, I'd just as soon get out of here.
Detective Armstrong: Seems like you still have some pretty strong feelings about her, even after all these years.
JT Pendergrass: She made my life hell for a long time. When we were together. After we were divorced. She's a flat out lying bitch, and I wouldn't so much as spit on her if she was on fire. In fact, I'd probably toast marshmallows over her flaming body.
Detective Murphy: OK, then. How about this? Do you remember when a co-worker of hers died in 1987?
JT Pendergrass: I don't mean no disrespect — I got nothing but respect for the fine folks of law enforcement — but that's a time I'd just as soon not think about.
Detective Murphy: We'd be grateful if you'd indulge us just this once.
JT Pendergrass: You think Rhonda might've had something to do with this guy's death?
Detective Armstrong: Do you?
JT Pendergrass: I wouldn't put anything past her. She's evil to the core. So 1987 you said?
Detective Murphy: That's right.
JT Pendergrass: Let me think. Brian would've been five and Jenny was ten. Now that you mention it, seems like I remember something about her saying some guy at work died. I always figured she was playing it up to make me feel sorry for her.
Detective Murphy: Why would she do that?
JT Pendergrass: Because she knew I knew she was a cheating whore, and she was trying to convince me she wasn't.
Detective Murphy: So you thought Rhonda wasn't being faithful to you?
JT Pendergrass: I knew she wasn't. I grew up with that crap. I know what a cheating woman acts like, and that's how she was acting.
Detective Armstrong: And you thought she was sleeping with this guy who died?
JT Pendergrass: Yeah, I did at the time, but now that I see his picture, maybe not. Back then, I thought the guy was older than that. And he had a stupid name like Duke or Buddy or something.
Detective Armstrong: What did the guy you thought she was cheating with look like?
JT Pendergrass: I don't know. Rhonda was always good at keeping secrets.
Detective Armstrong: But you thought he was older.
JT Pendergrass: Yeah.
Detective Armstrong: Why did you think that?
JT Pendergrass: I don't know. You just get a sense about these things.
Detective Murphy: Why did you think she was cheating on you?
JT Pendergrass: I told you. I know what a cheating woman acts like. And that's how she acted, so you do the math.
Detective Murphy: Is there any chance you were wrong? That she wasn't cheating on you?
JT Pendergrass: Are you stupid or something? Or are you one of those women who think only men cheat?
Detective Armstrong: OK, simmer down. There's no need to be rude to Detective Murphy just because you don't like your ex-wife. We're just asking questions here.
JT Pendergrass: I apologize, ma'am. Y'all got me talking about Rhonda, and that always makes me pissed off.
Detective Armstrong: So you're saying you never met this boy in the picture here?
JT Pendergrass: Not that I can recollect.
Detective Armstrong: And you never heard Rhonda mention the name Kevin or Kevin Gilmore?
JT Pendergrass: She never mentioned the name of any guy to me other than our son. Oh, and that dumbass Jim, her boss. She's sneaky, I tell you. She wouldn't have mentioned the name of any guy to me. In fact, she'd go out of her way not to.
Detective Murphy: Maybe she thought you'd overreact if she did.
JT Pendergrass: I never overreacted with her. If you're suggesting that, it's just because you don't know what overreacting really is. Asking questions? Wanting your wife not to sleep around? That's not overreacting. Trust me.
Detective Murphy: If you say so.
Detective Armstrong: How about when Rhonda bought The Juke Joint? Do you remember that?
JT Pendergrass: Now that, I remember. She got an inheritance, she says. She decided to buy that trashy so-called restaurant, she says. Oh, sure. Why wouldn't I believe that?
Detective Armstrong: Did she talk to you about it before she bought The Juke Joint?
JT Pendergrass: Oh, hell no. She just up and did it, and one day I come home from the road, and she says "Guess what? I bought The Juke Joint." She didn't tell me because she knew I'd be pissed. I always hated that place. You know they used to show pornos there, right? She said they didn't do that anymore. Claimed she was going to class the place up. Sure. Like she knows anything about class.
Detective Murphy: Do you know who she got the inheritance from?
JT Pendergrass: She said it was from her Uncle Orvil in Memphis, but that was a lie.
Detective Murphy: How do you know?
JT Pendergrass: Because that guy died way before that.
Detective Murphy: What makes you say that?
JT Pendergrass: Because I checked it out back when we were getting divorced. I found out that guy died, like, three, four years before that. And what? A big ol' check just shows up for her years later? Yeah, right. I would have found out more, but she and her asshole lawyer, who she was probably sleeping with to keep him motivated to screw me, sucked up every red cent I had and I couldn't afford to find out no more.
Detective Armstrong: If she didn't get the money from an inheritance, where did she get it from?
JT Pendergrass: How the hell should I know? Maybe she skimmed it off the top before she put her paycheck in our bank account. Maybe she found a sugar daddy to give her the money. Maybe she was turning tricks when I was on the road. I don't know. All I do know is she didn't get it from her Uncle Orvil, no matter what she says.
Detective Murphy: Do you have any proof that she didn't get it from him?
JT Pendergrass: Hell, no. If I did, I might've gotten out of that hellhole of a marriage with two cents to rub together.
Detective Armstrong: If we could go back to when Rhonda's co-worker died, is there any chance you remember what Rhonda did during the few days before that?
JT Pendergrass: I don't really remember, but I'm sure she said she was working. She always said she was working back then, but even I knew that damn place was closed sometimes, especially in the middle of the night. Where was she then? Working? Yeah, right. Shacked up with some guy, more likely. No matter how late I stayed up, somehow she never got home before I was asleep. It was like she was waiting for me to pass out before she came home.
Detective Murphy: You went to sleep or you passed out?
JT Pendergrass: What difference does it make?
Detective Armstrong: Just answer the question.
JT Pendergrass: I don't deny I drank back then, maybe more than I should have sometimes. But I never touched a drop until after my kids was asleep and that's the God's honest truth. I wouldn't and I didn't ever do anything that might put my kids at risk. I know what that's— I just would never do that, OK?
Detective Armstrong: But you did drink sometimes?
JT Pendergrass: If you'd been married to that woman, you would've drank too. You gotta do what you gotta do. And what I had to do was not be awake when she came home.
Detective Murphy: So you were having problems in your marriage even back then?
JT Pendergrass: We were having problems in our marriage from the get-go. We never should've got married. We were doing good before then. But once we made it official, it all went to hell.
Detective Murphy: Do you think Rhonda could have been involved in criminal activity, either back then or ever?
JT Pendergrass: I told you. That woman is evil to her core, and she's really good at it because you can't tell you're dealing with the devil if you don't know where to look. Yeah, I think she could, as you say, be involved in criminal activity. And you'd never be able to tell by looking at her or talking to her. But was she? I wouldn't be surprised, but I don't know. I'd like to think she wouldn't have risked our kids that way, but who really knows what people will do?
Detective Armstrong: That's surprisingly… generous, given how you feel about her.
JT Pendergrass: Don't get me wrong. Rhonda is the devil incarnate, and she ruined my life for a lot of years. But she's also my kids' mama, and I'd like to believe that means something to her, for their sake. But it might not. When it comes to murder and this… whatever you're talking to me about, I'd like to think she wouldn't put our kids at risk that way. But when it comes down to it, I wouldn't put it past her. Rhonda cares about Rhonda, and everyone else is an afterthought, if she even thinks about them at all.
Detective Murphy: We never said anything about murder.
JT Pendergrass: Yeah, but if you didn't at least think it was murder, you wouldn't be talking to me about something that happened way back when. Am I right? I mean, my kids are grown now. They can handle it. You think Rhonda was involved in this?
Detective Armstrong: We might answer that, if you sounded a little less eager to have your ex-wife involved in a felony.
JT Pendergrass: So you do think she was involved.
Detective Murphy: We have no reason to think that at this time.
JT Pendergrass: Sure. Whatever you say, honey. I gotcha.
Detective Murphy: OK, then. I think we're done here. Do you have anything else, Ted?
Detective Armstrong: I don't think so. Thanks for coming in, Mr. Pendergrass. If it's all right, we'll be in touch if we have any more questions.
JT Pendergrass: Will you call me if you actually end up arresting Rhonda for something?
Detective Murphy: I don't think so, Mr. Pendergrass.
Detective Armstrong: This way out, sir.
Interview ends: 10:58 AM