Rita Pearce was born in Oxford, Mississippi, on August 12, 1967, to Ruth and Bubba Pearce.
The eldest of three siblings, Rita has always been somewhat of a mother figure to her younger brother and sister after the departure of their father. Bubba was a charismatic salesman who often cheated on Ruth before finally moving away from the family and losing touch completely.
Ruth worked as an accountant during the week and cleaned houses on the weekend to put food on the table and pay bills. As a result, she had little time for the children or for housework. Rita stepped in to fulfill the roles of cook, housekeeper and surrogate mother.
Despite these hardships, Rita was a good student and had many friends in high school, where she excelled at math and science. She planned to attend college after graduating but instead took a job right out of high school to continue supporting her family.
Rita worked five years as a clerk in a law firm, then got her real estate license to sell properties on the weekend. She quickly discovered a knack for real estate and, within two years, left her job at the law firm to become a full-time real estate agent with a local company.
During this time, her younger siblings had graduated from high school and no longer needed her constant help. Rita allowed herself to spend some money on a red BMW convertible and a small house near downtown Oxford. She also started going out with friends and soon met Bradley Gifford, the editor of a statewide literary magazine based in Oxford.
The two hit it off immediately and, within one year, tied the knot at a destination wedding in St. Croix. But the marriage fizzled within a few years after Rita realized that Bradley embodied the same poor qualities as her father: he lusted after every woman he saw and cheated on Rita as often as he could get away with.
Rita suspected the cheating almost immediately but didn't have proof until walking in on Bradley with another woman in their bedroom. Rita kicked him out of the house and out of her life for good. She vowed never to date men again and instead focused on her job.
Shortly after the divorce, Rita opened her own real estate agency and quickly became one of the main competitors in the region. She had her eye on becoming the biggest and sought out new talent from other agencies. She had recruited at least five other agents from her rivals but really wanted Annette Wyatt from the Harte Agency and had repeatedly asked her to join.
While flattered, Annette had always declined, but it didn’t stop Rita from trying.