Sandra MossSaturday, November 23, 2013 - 8:31 a.m.

Sandra Moss was the victim's supervisor at the University of Mississippi. Detectives Armstrong and Murphy interviewed her at the Yoknapatawpha County Conference Center, location of the annual Barksdale Literature Conference. The interview was recorded with the witness's knowledge and consent.


  • Detective T. Armstrong
  • Detective S. Murphy
  • Sandra Moss

Detective Murphy: Thanks for taking time out from the conference to talk with us this morning.

Sandra Moss: Yes, well, what happened to Diane is absolutely tragic. How can I help?

Detective Murphy: Could you start please by stating your full name and address for the record?

Sandra Moss: Sandra Moss, 288 North 14th Street, Oxford.

Detective Murphy: Thank you. Can you tell us about your relationship with Mrs. Coates?

Sandra Moss: Sure. I was her supervisor at Ole Miss. She helped organize this conference and also generally helped out with other activities of the Division of Outreach and Continuing Education.

Detective Murphy: How long had she been working there?

Sandra Moss: I believe she started sometime in 2006.

Detective Murphy: So you met Mrs. Coates through the university?

Sandra Moss: That's right.

Detective Armstrong: What kind of work did she do for the conference?

Sandra Moss: All the coordination stuff – scheduling the sessions, getting travel arrangements together for the speakers, working with the YCCC people to get everything set up on time. I'm running around, trying to greet the authors and such; she's doing the legwork.

Detective Armstrong: You were both staying at the hotel during the conference then?

Sandra Moss: Normally, we wouldn't because we live so close and it doesn't make any sense, especially with the budget being so tight these days. But since I have so much to do for the conference, I'm staying here. But Diane wasn't.

Detective Armstrong: If Mrs. Coates did have a room here, would there be any reason related to the conference for her to do that?

Sandra Moss: I suppose it might be helpful for setting up the early-morning sessions, but we're talking maybe a 10-minute commute between here and her house. She never even asked me about it, but if Diane decided to stay here, it definitely would've come out of her own pocket.

Detective Murphy: How would you characterize Mrs. Coates's work?

Sandra Moss: Diane had a lot of drive, a lot of energy. She worked incredibly hard.

Detective Murphy: Ms. Moss, I don't have to tell you that a lot of people witnessed you and Mrs. Coates in a very heated exchange yesterday evening. Can you tell me what that was all about?

Sandra Moss: It was completely trivial, but sure. Diane was upset about the quality of the hors d'oeuvres being offered at the reception. Nuts and snack mix, whatever. She was expecting caviar, I guess. She got pretty snippy about it, and I put my foot down. To be honest, I had to do that a lot with Diane. She was definitely very controlling, very bossy.

Detective Murphy: What else did you argue about?

Sandra Moss: Oh, just about everything. Don't get me wrong. We weren't at each other's throats every day or anything like that. Last night was different. We were both pretty stressed out from organizing the conference, and we both just snapped. But with Diane, everything was a battle.

Detective Armstrong: How so?

Sandra Moss: Oh, I would ask her to work different hours to accommodate a special event, and she would throw a fit. I would ask her to put together an agenda, and she would complain about having to do menial work. To be honest, she was somewhat unsuited for the role of an assistant.

Detective Armstrong: She wanted to be in charge?

Sandra Moss: I guess that's right, yes.

Detective Armstrong: Did you feel threatened by that?

Sandra Moss: Certainly not. Diane was forceful, but coming up with original ideas was not her strong suit. She didn't recognize that, but most people did. She was a lot of bluster and not much impact.

Detective Armstrong: Do other people in the department feel the same way?

Sandra Moss: I don't think she had many friends on the staff, no. She was always trying to take charge and order everyone around. Although she could certainly act all chummy when she wanted to. There was a lot of water cooler-type chitchat with the others.

Detective Armstrong: Do you know what the chitchat was about?

Sandra Moss: I wasn't in on it, but apparently, she was always talking about some guy she met a while ago. I guess maybe she was having an affair. I didn't ask her about it, just kind of heard it through the grapevine.

Detective Murphy: Have you ever met her husband?

Sandra Moss: Once or twice, I guess. I've never really talked with him. It was more like I saw him when he stopped by the office to drop something off or to pick Diane up if her car was in the shop, that kind of thing.

Detective Murphy: What about the other man she talked about? Did you ever meet him?

Sandra Moss: No. I don't even know his name.

Detective Armstrong: All right. Now, would you describe in detail when you last saw Mrs. Coates?

Sandra Moss: I saw her at various points during the day yesterday. We were in contact all morning by cell phone, checking last-minute details and all that, but I first saw her just before the first seminar. Then I had to go meet a couple of authors and check in with the hotel staff, so I guess the next time I saw her was a little before 4:00. She had a headache and asked me for some aspirin.

Detective Armstrong: Was that the last time you saw her?

Sandra Moss: No, I went over to the reception pretty much right after that. I guess I arrived at about 4:00, and she hadn't gotten there yet. She was still helping with registration and checking about dinner. She got to the reception around 5:30, and she hadn't been there 10 minutes when we got into the argument about the snacks.

Detective Armstrong: Was she acting unusual in any way, aside from the argument you and she had?

Sandra Moss: Not really. I could tell she was a little ticked off about having to run around so much, but that was just normal Diane. She was definitely getting irritable. I could tell. So I wasn't surprised about the blowup at the party when it happened. Of course, no one was prepared for her to collapse like that.

Detective Armstrong: Was she in good health?

Sandra Moss: As far as I know. She seemed strong as a bulldog.

Detective Murphy: Is there anything else you can tell us about Mrs. Coates that might be of use to us? Any reason you can think of someone might have wanted to harm her?

Sandra Moss: No, I can't. I'm running late to a seminar. Are we through here?

Detective Murphy: For now.

End interview - 8:54 a.m.

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People in this conversation

  • The only thing I can think of at this point is, was she given something at home by her husband. Or, was there something in the drink she was served by the bartender. But it is hard to believe that the bartender would have any reason to spike her drink. But I guess that drink will be tested.
    It is too early at this stage, but we might see a clearer picture as more information comes to hand.
    It will be interesting as more people are interviewed and, we are able to find out what transpired in the hours beforehand.

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