Thursday, December 20, 2012
Yoknapatawpha County Sheriff's officials announced Friday morning that former Oxford Eagle pressman David Ledford has been arrested for the murder of Eagle managing editor Monica Drum.
Eagle city reporter Rick Hughes had been under a cloud of suspicion until Ledford's arrest and even went into hiding for weeks after the murder, reaching out to the public through the Planet to proclaim his innocence.
After the announcement of the arrest, we contacted Rick Hughes, and he agreed to talk to us.
Q = Kemper Jones
A = Rick Hughes
Q: I imagine you're relieved that Monica's killer has been arrested.
A: I am. I knew it had to be just a matter of time.
Q: Did you have faith in the Yoknapatawpha Sheriff's Department, that they were going to find the killer?
A: I knew that they would. I mean, I hoped that they would. They did sort of finger me and really put the clamps down on me at the beginning. I mean, they really thought that I had done it.
Q: Reports said that you didn't have a "good" alibi. What was your alibi for that night, Rick?
A: OK. I was dead drunk. I've been drinking a lot lately, and I don't know why. But I've applied to Charter Lakeside Counseling in Memphis for help, and I'm going to get it.
Q: Where were you that night? Were you alone?
A: I was at home, I just started getting depressed and broke out a bottle of Absolut and drank it. Then I went to the liquor store to get more and then back home. I had bruises on my hands. I think I crashed into my kitchen table or something. But that's all, and the police knew that, I think. I told them, but there was no way to prove that I had been home alone all night.
Q: Most of the people in Oxford were convinced that you didn't drink alcohol, so they found your alibi sort of flimsy.
A: Well, I didn't use to. I used to be an athlete, and I cared about my body. But I'm human like everyone else, and I found, slowly at first and then with more speed, that alcohol made me feel better about myself and about my relationship with Monica and so on. So I just started drinking more and more, mostly at home. At bars, I'd tell people I was drinking a Coke when it was whiskey. It was easy to fool people.
Q: Do you think you're an alcoholic?
A: I don't know if this is just a phase I'm going through, but I don't like it, and I'm going to drop it. I wish I could have dropped it sooner.
Q: Why didn't you go to someone about all of this?
A: Who would understand? Everyone knew how crazy Monica had made me. They wouldn't listen to me. But a bottle doesn't talk back. That sounds corny, but it's true. That was where I was at that point in my life. But I can't change the past, even if I do have a few regrets.
Q: Do you regret that you were drunk the night Monica was killed? Do you wish you could have been there to save her?
A: Sure, I do. I've thought about that a lot since she died, but what's done is done. I have to move on. One way or another, I can't dwell on it.
Q: Is that why you went into hiding after she was killed?
A: I wasn't hiding. I didn't know who had killed her, and I was concerned for my own safety.
Q: At that time, who did you think had killed her? Who would also want you dead?
A: I didn't know. That's why I had to take precautions.
Q: What do you think about the latest rumors? About the blackmail and Edward Hagen?
A: That really shocks me, because I thought I knew Monica fairly well, but I never thought that she would blackmail someone with photographs of any kind. Nothing like that ever crossed my mind when I thought about her. She never exhibited anything like that to me, but she was tough, so I guess it's not inconceivable. And I didn't even think that she really knew Edward Hagen. I guess she knew everybody, though.
Q: Why do you think she wanted $10,000?
A: That I don't know. She always had enough money to get by. I guess it was some sort of retirement fund.
Q: Did you ever get the impression that she was involved in something like this?
A: Again, I have to answer no. People hide things from others, though. That's a fact.
Q: What about Edward Hagen? What do you think will happen?
A: I don't know. He hasn't had a spotless record, but he's been a pretty good representative of our interests. It's a shame that he has to give all of that up because of one gambling indiscretion.
Q: Did you know this David Ledford who's been arrested for Monica's murder?
A: Not really. I knew who he was, and Monica mentioned him a few times.
Q: She talked about him?
A: Yeah, she thought he was really milking the workman's comp for everything he could get. I don't really know the situation. Maybe he was. Maybe he wasn't. I don't know him well enough to say.
Q: Is that why he killed her?
A: I don't know. There's no good reason for killing Monica that will make it all make sense, but if he is the one who did it, I guess that could've been his motive. I have no way of knowing.
Q: Do you think he did it alone? Maybe someone paid him to do it.
A: I have no idea.
Q: What are your plans now?
A: Well, Craig Pegues has asked me to serve as acting managing editor of the Eagle, and I agreed. I think he'll probably make me the permanent editor in the next few months.
A: Thanks. It's a real milestone in my career, and I'm proud of the achievement.
Q: Even with the unfortunate circumstances that got you the job?
A: That was terrible, of course, but it doesn't mean I'm not the best man for the job.
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