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Monday, November 26, 2012 - 11:00 a.m.

Craig Pegues took over for his father as publisher of the Oxford Eagle and was responsible for hiring Monica Drum. Detectives Murphy and Parker interviewed him in his office at the Eagle. Mr. Pegues's secretary, Shannon Peterson, also participated in the interview briefly. The interview was recorded with the witness’s knowledge and consent.

Participants:

  • Detective S. Murphy
  • Detective E. Parker
  • Craig Pegues
  • Shannon Peterson

Detective Murphy: Thank you for meeting with us, Mr. Pegues. For the record, please state your name, address and occupation.

Craig Pegues: Certainly. Craig Pegues. I live at 1101 Taylor Road. I'm the Publisher of the Oxford Eagle.

Detective Parker: How many employees does the Eagle have?

Craig Pegues: First, I'd like to say that I am shocked and saddened over this horrible murder. Monica was an excellent journalist, but more than that, she was a good friend. It is outrageous that this kind of thing can happen. We will miss her more than I can say. It is truly a tragedy from a personal point of view as much as from the paper's point of view.

Detective Parker: We appreciate how difficult this must be for all of you, Mr. Pegues. Now, the number of employees?

Craig Pegues: Right. Approximately 35 full time and then we have independents and stringers.

Detective Parker: Do all the staff members have keys to the front door?

Craig Pegues: No, not all, but many do. Our reporters and photographers tend to work all kinds of hours. They all have keys, and so does anyone in management. And most of the pressmen have keys since they keep odd hours as well.

Detective Parker: Are the Eagle offices equipped with an alarm system, cameras or any other security devices that monitor times of people coming and going?

Craig Pegues: There's an alarm system to protect against unauthorized entry, but no cameras. Ernie Parrish, the security guard, sometimes makes a note if anyone unusual comes by after hours.

Detective Parker: Are there any possible exits besides the main front door and the press room door?

Craig Pegues: Well, there are windows, but they're alarmed. We have a loading dock for the paper and ink supplies, also alarmed. And there's a side door and another back door besides the press room door.

Detective Murphy: Why are there two back doors?

Craig Pegues: One goes out of the press room to provide a fire escape in case of a problem during the run. The other one is a regular back entrance.

Detective Murphy: Which door is used after hours?

Craig Pegues: I guess the press room door more often than not. Sometimes folks forget their keys or just don't want to fool with it. If the press guys are in there, they'll let you in if you bang on the door loud enough for them to hear it over the presses.

Detective Murphy: And when the pressmen aren't there?

Craig Pegues: Well, there's an alarm keypad by the door in the press room so they can signal the fire department in a hurry if something goes wrong. It's the closest place to turn off the alarm if you come in after it's armed.

Detective Parker: Are there other keypads for the alarm?

Craig Pegues: Yes, there's one in the front behind the receptionist's desk and one in my office.

Detective Murphy: When Monica Drum was made editor, who did she replace?

Craig Pegues: Our last editor, Alice Taylor, retired after 13 years with us. That's when I promoted Monica.

Detective Murphy: I understand Ms. Drum had only been with the paper a short time at that point. Were there no other candidates for editor?

Craig Pegues: We were very lucky to get Monica. We considered others candidates, but her qualifications were the best. She had already been working as a reporter for us for a few years by then, and she was a good, strong personality to be promoted to editor.

Detective Parker: What were Ms. Drum's responsibilities?

Craig Pegues: She was responsible for assigning and approving stories, ensuring the stories were properly researched, writing editorials, making sure deadlines were met, supervising the press runs, that kind of thing. Basically, getting the paper out on time. She also worked very hard to make each edition the best it could be. She was a perfectionist about her own work, and she held everyone else to the same standard.

Detective Murphy: Was she also responsible for staffing decisions?

Craig Pegues: You mean hiring and firing and all that? Well, on paper, we made the final decision together, but I always took Monica's recommendations about that kind of thing. She generally had strong feelings about who should stay and who should go, and I never knew her to make the wrong call on a personnel decision.

Detective Parker: How did Ms. Drum get along with the other employees?

Craig Pegues: Well, like I said, she was a perfectionist. She was pretty critical of everybody's work, from the reporters to the secretaries. She'd send a reporter back fifteen times to do more research if she wasn't satisfied with the article. She even stop the press in the middle of a run and make them start over if she found an error. But at the same time, she went out of her way to treat the employees well while she was cracking the whip. She'd make them work late on rewrites or something, but she'd bring in dinner for them while they worked. Seems like she used to treat them to a few beers too, but she hadn't done that for quite a while. She wanted perfection, and she'd do anything she could to help everyone on the staff achieve it. But she wouldn't put up with any nonsense from anybody. She was "tough as nails with a heart of gold," if you'll forgive a cliché. She wouldn't, but maybe you will.

Detective Murphy: Were any employees terminated recently?

Craig Pegues: Well, that depends on what you mean by recently. There's always a certain amount of turnover, what with interns from the university and reporters leaving to work for bigger papers in larger cities. Plus, it's real hard to keep some of the support positions filled. You know, like typesetters, layout artists, pressmen, researchers. Those jobs require long hours, sometimes at unusual times of the day, and the pay's not great. Pretty much, anybody with a family won't take a job like that. Or won't keep it for long.

Detective Murphy: Yes, it's so hard to get good help these days. But was anyone fired recently, say in the last year?

Craig Pegues: Several folks left a few months ago, college kids who'd been working with us for the summer. And I believe we let a few others go right around the same time. Monica felt like it was a good time to clean house a little. Since then, things have basically settled down. We had one gal who left to have her baby and didn't come back. But other than that, things have been pretty steady for the last several months.

Detective Murphy: Can you give us the names of the people that left or were fired?

Craig Pegues: Well, to be honest with you, I can't ever remember the names of our interns. They come and go so often, it's hard to keep track of them. My secretary, Shannon, can probably give you their names.

Detective Murphy: What about the regular employees who were terminated? Can you tell me who they were and why they were fired?

Craig Pegues: Let's see. One of them was Bettina North. She worked in Accounting. Sweetest girl you ever could know, but couldn't add worth a damn. We tried to train her, but bless her heart, it was just the wrong job for her. Then there was David Ledford, a pressman. When we hired him, he was really likeable, a solid employee. But somewhere along the line, he got kind of undependable. He started coming in late occasionally, and sometimes he didn't show up at all. We tried to talk to him about it, but he always acted as if nothing was wrong. Finally, we had to let him go.

Detective Murphy: Anyone else?

Craig Pegues: Oh, and there was also John Winter. We hired him right out of Ole Miss as a researcher. But he was the most cantankerous researcher I ever knew in all my years around this business. He would argue with the reporters about the way they presented information in their stories. He would argue with Monica about article placement and headline writing. He would argue with anybody about anything. He was a smart kid and I would've liked to groom him as a reporter, but he was just too dang disruptive. If I'd kept him, I think everyone else would have walked. So we had to let him go too. I think that's all of them, but Shannon can tell you for sure.

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