Saturday, August 20, 2011 - 1:30 PM
The witness was the owner of The Juke Joint in 1987 and was interviewed at the Yoknapatawpha County Sheriff’s Department. The interview was conducted by Detectives Armstrong and Murphy and was recorded on a portable tape recorder with the witness' knowledge and consent.
- Detective Ted Armstrong
- Detective Sam Murphy
- James Mason
Detective Armstrong: Good afternoon.
Detective Murphy: Thank you for coming in today.
James Mason: Hello.
Detective Armstrong: What is your name and address?
James Mason: I’m James Mason. I live at 383 Longest Road.
Detective Armstrong: So what do you do for a living now, Mr. Mason?
James Mason: Well, you know, I’m retired. I’ve done a lot of different jobs in my life, but you know, I'm guessing that it was the time that I owned The Juke Joint that you're probably most interested in. You know, that place was very popular with the college kids. They liked it because, well, you know, what happened there stayed there. You know, kind of like Vegas.
Detective Murphy: Were you in the business of selling pot to the kids, Mr. Mason?
James Mason: No, absolutely not. Now some of my customers might have been high when they came in, but, you know, I never thought it was my business, you know, to try to police them. I mean, unless they were trying to make trouble or something.
Detective Armstrong: Were you aware of any of your employees selling pot or drugs of any kind to your customers?
James Mason: No. You know, if they had, I'd have fired them.
Detective Murphy: What about Rhonda Pendergrass? She bought The Juke Joint from you, right?
James Mason: Yes, she did. She came into a windfall, and since I was going under at the time, you know, I was happy to avoid having to go through foreclosure and everything.
Detective Armstrong: How much of a windfall?
James Mason: Well, you know, I don't know, but it had to be a big one. I mean, she put down $30,000 and took over the mortgage. You know, I believe that her parents co-signed the loan for her, but you know, she paid that off in a couple of years.
Detective Murphy: That’s a lot of cash. Did she spend a lot of money improving the business? Or did she keep it the way it was?
James Mason: She did. You know, it's amazing. She came in and it was like a breath of fresh air, you know. She added a new restaurant. She made a lot of improvements, and you know, I've got to hand it to her. The place was dying when I sold it to her, and she turned it back around. I mean, she’s a smart business woman. I loved The Juke Joint the way it was when I owned it, but I had begun losing money and really couldn’t make improvements, so it was nearly dead, but she brought it back to life. I have to hand it to her for that.
Detective Murphy: When was this? When did she buy you out?
James Mason: Well, that would have been in the winter after Kevin died. November of 1988.
Detective Armstrong: Had she mentioned before that she was interested in buying you out?
James Mason: Well, you know, Rhonda used to come in and talk about how she'd like to have a place like The Juke Joint, but you know, she honestly never thought that she would because, well, Rhonda never had any money to speak of. You know, not until that relative died and left her all that money.
Detective Armstrong: Did she tell you how that happened?
James Mason: No. Apparently, it was a relative that she barely knew, you know. Nobody was more surprised than Rhonda when she came into all that money.
Detective Armstrong: Did she ever discuss Kevin’s disappearance with you?
James Mason: Wait a minute. Does this have something to do with that hidden room they found over in the Physical Plant?
Detective Murphy: What makes you say that?
James Mason: Well, I read in the Eagle, you know, that they discovered a secret room that had been hidden all these years, and it was very near where Kevin was killed. Wait a minute. You don't think I had anything to do with Kevin's murder, do you?
Detective Armstrong: Did you know about the hidden room where Kevin was murdered?
James Mason: No, never. Never heard of it. Never talked to anybody about it. Never heard anybody say anything about it.
Detective Armstrong: You never heard any of your employees or customers talking about anything like that?
James Mason: Well, obviously somebody knew about it, but I mean – wait a minute. Are you trying to say that Rhonda and I knew something about that room and had discussed it with each other? No. No way.
Detective Murphy: Did you know of any reason Kevin would be in that area the night he died or any other time?
James Mason: Never. No. He had no reason to be in that area. Kevin was a good kid. He was a great worker. You know, I liked him. He was good with the customers. He was good with business. Kid was a damn good basketball player, too.
Detective Armstrong: How about your other employees? Did they get along with Kevin? Any problems with anyone?
James Mason: You know, I do remember Kevin mentioning some kid he was having a problem with. I can’t remember his name.
Detective Murphy: What about Rhonda? Did she have a friendly relationship with Kevin?
James Mason: Oh, yeah. You know, they really liked each other, and they worked well together.
Detective Armstrong: In the years after Kevin was murdered, did you hear rumors about the murder?
James Mason: Lots of rumors, you know that – I heard one rumor that Kevin was killed by somebody because he owed them a lot of money. But you know, nobody ever came up with a name of who this person could have been.
Detective Murphy: Was that the general consensus? That Kevin was killed over money?
James Mason: Oh, no. Kevin's death was the topic of conversation for a long time. I mean, there were rumors that Richie killed him because he was in love with Carly, Kevin’s girlfriend, you know. And there was even a rumor that Carly might have killed him. And there was one story about a kid that was on the basketball team for the Ole Miss basketball team who might've done him in.
Detective Armstrong: So people pretty much thought it was either love or money that did him in.
James Mason: That pretty well sums it up – love or money. You know, I heard that Kevin was selling pot in that area, and that's what got him killed. Well, I discarded that the first time I heard that because Kevin was a good kid. Kevin would've never done anything like that.
Detective Armstrong: Do you have any theories of your own, Mr. Mason? Since you feel like you really knew Kevin, can you think of anyone who might've wanted to take his life?
James Mason: No. Just that kid that Kevin had had the problem with. Jason! That was his name. Jason something or other.
Detective Murphy: Thank you, Mr. Mason. You can go now. We might be calling you again, but for now, I think that’s all we have.
James Mason: Okay. If there‘s anything I can do, I’m always available. Hearing that the murderer has been arrested would be the best news I’ve heard in a long time.
Interview ended: 1:45 PM