Tuesday, March 1, 2016 – 11:59 a.m.
Gerald and Dee Hattin are Vanessa Pruitt's parents. Detectives Armstrong and Murphy interviewed them by telephone at their residence in Florence, Alabama. The interview was recorded with the witnesses' knowledge and consent.
- Detective T. Armstrong
- Detective S. Murphy
- Dee Dee Hattin
- Gerald Hattin
Detective Armstrong: Hello, Mr. and Mrs. Hattin. I'm glad you're finally able to talk with us.
Gerald Hattin: It has been difficult to get back to you. We've been involved with helping Vanessa sort out her financial situation and make the arrangements for Robert's service. I hope you understand.
Detective Murphy: Of course, Mr. Hattin. Before we begin, would you and Mrs. Hattin state your names and address for the record, please?
Gerald Hattin: Gerald Hattin at 501 North Poplar Street, Florence, Alabama.
Dee Dee Hattin: Dee Dee Hattin at the same address. What is it that we can help you with, detectives? We really don't know much about Robert's death except what Vanessa told us — and what we read in the papers, of course. It's been such a shock. And to die like that… it's been very difficult for all of us, you understand.
Detective Murphy: Of course, Mrs. Hattin. Thank you for talking with us today. Can you tell us about that weekend — the weekend of February 19-20?
Gerald Hattin: We had our annual family reunion. It was great because our son Jude and his family were able to come from California this year.
Detective Murphy: What time did Vanessa arrive at your home?
Dee Dee Hattin: It was between 4:00 and 5:00, I think. We ate supper at 6:30, and she had gotten here in time to help me get it on the table and to eat with us.
Detective Murphy: And that was on what date?
Dee Dee Hattin: Oh, I'm sorry. It was on Thursday, so that was what … the 18th?
Detective Armstrong: Where did Vanessa stay while she was there?
Gerald Hattin: With us in our house, of course. We have plenty of room, and it was a family reunion. The whole point is to have several days together to catch up on all that's happened during the year.
Detective Armstrong: So Vanessa was with you all weekend?
Dee Dee Hattin: No, she had to leave on Saturday.
Detective Murphy: But I'll bet you weren't with her every minute, were you?
Gerald Hattin: Well, of course not, but she was always with some member of the family.
Detective Murphy: What about on Friday afternoon and evening? Where was she?
Dee Dee Hattin: Helping me prepare the Friday evening meal. That's our big celebration. We have about 20 people here. It takes quite a bit of preparation, and I could never do it all by myself. Vanessa and May, my daughter-in-law, helped me. After dinner, we all went to Swampers at the Marriott Shoals.
Detective Armstrong: Was there ever a period of time that you can't account for Vanessa's whereabouts?
Dee Dee Hattin: What are you implying? You think my Vanessa could have had something to do with Robert's death? How dare you!
Gerald Hattin: Easy, Mother, they're just doing their job. No, Detective, there is no time Vanessa was away from the house unless it was with a member of the family. You realize, of course, that it's at least a three-hour trip each way from here to Oxford?
Detective Murphy: Yes, Mr. Hattin, but you must understand this is a murder investigation, and it is routine to check the whereabouts of anyone connected to the victims. Everyone involved with Mr. Pruitt or Mr. Fisher is a person of interest until they can be eliminated. The more you can help us, the sooner Vanessa will be cleared.
Dee Dee Hattin: Well, we've told you — she never left Florence that weekend until early Saturday afternoon when she drove home.
Detective Armstrong: What time did she leave Florence, Mrs. Hattin?
Dee Dee Hattin: I'm not sure of the exact time, but it was after our brunch. Let's see, we started around 11:00 and by the time we ate and cleaned up it must have been at least 1:30 when she finally left our house.
Detective Murphy: Just a routine question: How was Vanessa and Robert's relationship?
Dee Dee Hattin: Why? What do you mean?
Detective Armstrong: How did they get along? Was everything OK between them?
Gerald Hattin: I suppose they had some minor problems. Most married couples do, you know.
Detective Murphy: Yes, I understand that, but was there anything that caused more than the usual friction?
Dee Dee Hattin: Oh, dear, I just knew you were going to ask that.
Detective Murphy: Is there something you want to say, Mrs. Hattin?
Dee Dee Hattin: Vanessa told me when she was here that she was considering divorce — but I just thought it was because she was so irritated that Robert wouldn't come for the reunion. She thought he'd been spending too much time working.
Detective Murphy: She said she was planning to divorce him?
Dee Dee Hattin: Not planning, no. I really didn't take her seriously, and we didn't have much chance to talk privately. There was always someone else around. I know since Rob's death she has been feeling guilty about it. She really loved him, I'm sure.
Detective Armstrong: Did you ever hear Vanessa or Robert mention the name Fisher?
Gerald Hattin: It seems to me one time Robert said something about having some sort of work on their house by someone with that name, but I'm not really too sure.
Detective Murphy: How about you, Mrs. Hattin? Did Vanessa ever mention the name to you?
Dee Dee Hattin: Not that I remember. The first time I was aware of it was in connection to Robert's mur— death.
Detective Armstrong: Thank you, Mr. and Mrs. Hattin. We appreciate your help. Do have any problem with talking to us again, if necessary?
Gerald Hattin: No problem, Detective. Do whatever you have to do to find out who did this terrible thing to Robert.
Detective Murphy: Goodbye and thank you.
Dee Dee Hattin: Goodbye.
Gerald Hattin: Goodbye.
Interview ends – 12:28 p.m.