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Wednesday, February 16, 2011-10:52 a.m.

Byron Jesse Brooks is a 40-year-old white male who was the victim’s brother. He lives in Grand Junction, TN, but drove to Oxford for this interview, which was conducted at the Yoknapatawpha Sheriff's Department and recorded on a portable tape recorder with the witness's knowledge and consent.

  • Detective Ted Armstrong
  • Detective Samantha Murphy
  • Byron Brooks

Byron Brooks: Byron Brooks, 436 Adams, Grand Junction, Tennessee. I left work as soon as I got your message. Has something happened?

Detective Murphy: Take your time, Mr. Brooks. Can I get you something to drink? Water?

Byron Brooks: No, thank you.

Detective Murphy: So that was your Lexus SUV that pulled into the lot?

Byron Brooks: Yes.

Detective Murphy: Nice. That's what I’d get, if I had the cash.

Byron Brooks: We've been lucky.

Detective Murphy: You could say that.

Detective Armstrong: We wanted to verify a couple of your prior statements from the last time we talked.

Byron Brooks: Couldn't we have done this over the phone? Mother -- Margery, we talked about her last time -- she's really struggling.

Detective Murphy: I'm sorry.

Detective Armstrong: You said you were here in Oxford on January 30th, is that right?

Byron Brooks: Yes, correct. I drove down and arrived around noon, and when I hadn't reached Spenser a few hours later, I went home.

Detective Armstrong: And you didn't see anybody here you knew?

Byron Brooks: No.

Detective Armstrong: Did you visit Wall Doxey Park that day?

Byron Brooks: No. We discussed this before, didn't we?

Detective Murphy: You didn't meet Debra Lane?

Byron Brooks: Who?

Detective Murphy: Did you see Christy Arnold?

Byron Brooks: No. I don't know who that is.

Detective Murphy: Did your brother ever mention someone by that name?

Byron Brooks: No.

Detective Murphy: What about Hector Daniels?

Byron Brooks: Hector? I'm sorry. Aside from The Iliad, I'm drawing a blank.

Detective Murphy: You don't know him, or you don't recall seeing him that day?

Byron Brooks: Both. Look, I'm not sure where you're heading with all this, but it seems like you think I'm hiding something. I told you everything I could about that day. I believe I'm the one who volunteered the information that I was even here. Why would I do that if I had something to hide?

Detective Armstrong: It's just that we found some fingerprints in the cabin where your brother died. Cabin eleven -- were you there that day?

Byron Brooks: No.

Detective Murphy: Are you sure?

Byron Brooks: Yes.

Detective Armstrong: The fingerprints we found were yours.

Byron Brooks: That's impossible. I told you I didn't stop at the park.

Detective Murphy: But you've been there before.

Byron Brooks: Yes. I said that last time, too. I'm sorry, I think it would be easier if you just asked outright what you're hoping to discover.

Detective Murphy: Would it?

Detective Armstrong: Mr. Brooks, when were you last at Wall Doxey Park?

Byron Brooks: December 11.

Detective Armstrong: What were you doing there?

Byron Brooks: I played a poker match in one of the cabins with some people I had gambled with previously online. I suppose it could have been in cabin 11, but I'm sorry, I don't know, and I didn't write it down.

Detective Murphy: Why didn't you tell us this before?

Byron Brooks: You didn't ask. I told the truth about everything you asked.

Detective Armstrong: So you were being honest when you said you didn't know which park Wall Doxey was? Thinking it was the other side of the highway near Sardis Lake?

Byron Brooks: Yes, that's the truth. I’m sure you've done it, too -- driven roads so many times you don't even see the details any more. When I went to the game I had to use GPS, I couldn't remember where to go. I told you I wasn't outdoorsy when I lived here, and that was the truth. Afterwards I just deleted the trip from the computer and moved on. The name of the park wasn't important to me. Everything I said was the truth. Believe me.

Detective Murphy: Okay, then let's try another one. You said you don't know Debra Lane.

Byron Brooks: That's correct.

Detective Murphy: Then why don't you tell us how you came to be part of that poker game.

Byron Brooks: I'm sorry, but what does this have to do with my brother? The game was December 11. Spenser wasn't there, and it wasn't something we ever discussed.

Detective Murphy: Now it's your turn to believe me. We just need to know.

Byron Brooks: All right. Fine. It's not a big secret. I have an account at Poker Stars and there's a private online club for Oxford. Actually, it’s mostly Ole Miss alumni, not necessarily still in Oxford, and there are some other local people too. Hannah knows I play, in fact she controls how much money is in the online account. We budget a couple of grand a year, nothing major. I only bet what I'm comfortable losing. Last summer, one of the members, I don't remember who, suggested we have a meet-up. Eventually we decided to have games in person once a quarter or so. The one in December was the first. To answer your question, someone with the screen name DLane set it up, but I don't know if that's a real person or not. DLane wasn't there the day we had the game, just made the arrangements.

Detective Murphy: Was DLane paid to do this?

Byron Brooks: Yes. Twenty bucks per player.

Detective Armstrong: That sounds steep.

Byron Brooks: Well, we each staked two hundred. So it's ten percent, and for that we had the cabin and food.

Detective Murphy: Who was there?

Byron Brooks: Myself and seven other men. I don't know their full names. Someone named Danny, and a guy who went by Chet. There was Raymond, Bill, and … okay, there was a Hector there. I remember now. When I think about it in this context, I remember. I wasn't lying before.

Detective Murphy: What about the two others?

Byron Brooks: I don't remember.

Detective Murphy: Was your brother there?

Byron Brooks: I said before that he wasn't.

Detective Armstrong: Was this game legal?

Byron Brooks: How should I know? I'm sorry, but I’m not as obsessed with the rules as Spenser was. To me, it was a harmless poker game. Everyone was perfectly civilized about it. If it's illegal, it makes no sense -- why shouldn't I be able to lose my own money if I want to?

Detective Murphy: Did you lose?

Byron Brooks: As a matter of fact, no. I won.

Detective Murphy: What did you do with the money?

Byron Brooks: I put it toward the second mortgage I told you about before, for Mother's hospital bed. We've been stretched pretty thin. I know that sounds ridiculous, but the more money you have, the more ways you find to spend it. With Belen's education fund, and the donations we make to the orphanage in Jalapa, and with Hannah turning down work to help with Mother -- well, we're not suffering, but we have to watch it.

Detective Armstrong: Did you declare that income?

Byron Brooks: No.

Detective Armstrong: When was the next poker game after that?

Byron Brooks: We haven't had one. We talked about April or May, but we don't have anything definite planned.

Detective Armstrong: Did any of the other players mention your brother?

Byron Brooks: No. Why would they?

Detective Murphy: Did Virginia Brooks know about the game?

Byron Brooks: No. That's ridiculous.

Detective Armstrong: You didn't see your brother that day?

Byron Brooks: No.

Detective Murphy: And you're sure you didn't have a game on January 30th?

Byron Brooks: I'm sure. I'm sorry, but this line of questioning is a bit simplistic. Just because I was once in the park and apparently in the cabin where Spenser died, and just because he's my brother, you're seeing some kind of connection that doesn't exist. It's a coincidence.

Detective Armstrong: We'll see.

Byron Brooks: What else can I tell you? I may not have liked my brother, but I would never have hurt him. I don't believe violence solves anything.

Detective Murphy: Mr. Brooks, was anyone at that poker match connected with your brother? Maybe someone he prosecuted?

Byron Brooks: How could I have known? I don't judge people by their appearance, if that's what you mean. They all seemed perfectly decent to me. We talked a little bit before the game, just the usual about the holidays and what people were doing to celebrate. It wasn't the kind of conversation where anyone would bring up whether they had a criminal record or not. And no one mentioned Spenser, as I've already said.

Detective Murphy: Were any of the other people there connected to your work?

Byron Brooks: No.

Detective Murphy: Anyone you know from Mexico?

Byron Brooks: You're thinking that because I spend a lot of time in Central and South America, and because I played a poker game and didn't declare my winnings, I must be running drugs. Because of course everyone south of the border is a drug lord.

Detective Murphy: Well, are you?

Byron Brooks: No. Don't be ridiculous.

Detective Murphy: You told me just to ask outright.

Byron Brooks: Are we nearly done here?

Detective Armstrong: That depends. Is there anything else you have to say for yourself?

Byron Brooks: Are you any closer to finding his killer?

Detective Armstrong: Maybe.

Detective Murphy: Thanks for coming down. You can go now.

Interview ended: 11:31 a.m.

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