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Witness Interview: Jake Rohleen
Mr. Rohleen agreed to visit the Yoknapatawpha County Sheriff's Department in person on June 24, 1997. Mr. Rohleen had been interviewed by phone with the assistance of the Fayetteville, AR Police Dept. June 12. The following are excerpts from his formal interview with Yoknapatawpha detectives.
A = Armstrong
R = Rohleen
A: For the record, could you state your full name, date of birth and place of residence?
R: Jeremiah Mark Rohleen. I was born January 4, 1975. I live in Mountain Home, Arkansas.
A: Thank you. Mr. Rohleen, as you can imagine, we have a number of questions for you to answer today.
R: Okay. Shoot.
A: Let's start at the beginning. When did you meet Ms. Knight, and when did you start dating?
R: I knew her ever since we were little, because of church. We went to school together starting in middle school. We'd always been friends, and in high school we started to date. It was just a natural thing. We went together all four years.
A: What was your relationship like? Did you get along well?
R: I don't know. It was the high school scene. We met up after football games and went to parties and movies. We went to a couple of dances at the church. Sure, we got along well. At least, I thought so. She was always real sweet to me. Sweet and quiet and pretty. She was the prettiest girl at the school.
A: Were you having regular sexual relations?
R: No way. I mean, like I said, she was real pretty, so I wanted to. I guess we kissed a lot, but we kept it pretty tame. She was real good about backing off. God made men and women different. Men's instincts are stronger. More excitable. It's up to the women not to fan the flames if they can't take the heat. I guess we had sex once or twice before she broke up with me.
A: And you deny that it was rape?
R: Absolutely. She was a willing accomplice. She led me on into it - sinning. Failed to uphold her moral purity.
A: What happened after you learned she was pregnant?
R: That bitch Valerie is what happened. She came in and pretty much took over. She was pure corruption. Made her break up with me and then took her away. Kidnapped her, she practically kidnapped her and forced her to kill the baby.
A: So you wanted Ms. Knight to continue with her pregnancy?
R: It was her only choice as a true Christian.
A: You knew Ms. Knight stole money from you for the abortion?
R: Yeah. I went after her once I figured it out, went to her house, but by that time it was already the weekend and she was gone.
A: What made you tell Mr. Knight about it later on?
R: I wanted to talk to Purity about it first, talk to her about how she'd been led astray. She wouldn't let me near her. When I finally got to talk to her, I told her she could still ask forgiveness, and she just laughed in my face. I got real mad about that - you don't just go around laughing all the time, like a slut. I was mad and I told her I would tell her folks. She didn't seem to care, so I did. I thought maybe it would help her too. Mr. Knight is a good man. I really admire him. He was always nice to me and my family. He always came to the football games, even away games. For a while he even called me "son."
A: And you are still in touch with him, with the Knight's?
R: Oh sure. I see them in Church. We have family dinners all the time. Sometimes I go over to use their computer.
A: After the abortion what was your relationship with Ms. Knight?
R: I guess you could say it was pretty ugly. She steered clear of me, or tried to, didn't want to have anything to do with me. I let her know I was still around though. I wasn't interested in her, dating or anything like that. She - I would just be sure she knew I was thinking of her sin. I pretty much gave up on her back when we broke up. She disgusted me.
A: Disgusted?
R: Yes. All she wanted to do was get away from Mountain Home. She didn't seem to care what anyone thought, she laughed everything off. Didn't seem right. She never acted like it was wrong to have the abortion. She didn't seem sorry for her sins.
A: What did other people think about her accusations?
R: Not much of anything. I mean, not too many people knew, and if they knew anything, they knew it wasn't my fault. And the fact she'd gone and had an abortion - they knew that too. That pretty much settled it.
A: It must have been hard on you, your family and the Knight's at church.
R: Yeah, at first it was I guess. Not everyone knew, but the ones who did, they were cold for awhile. You know, wouldn't talk to me. Avoided Purity or stared at her. They were just civil with the Knight's and my parents. But that didn't last long. It happened, can't change that. You have to move on. It was rough for awhile, but I guess I felt we deserved it. The Knight's are good people. They forgave both of us after awhile.
A: What about after graduation?
R: We didn't really see each other. It didn't bother me. She went away to college and basically she was out of my life. I guess when I thought about her I was mad, but I didn't think about her that much, you know?
A: Were you in contact with her after she went to college?
R: Not much. A few times. She called me once and sent me a card. I've called her a couple times.
A: She called you?
R. Yes. One time. On the first anniversary of Val's murder. I could never figure it out. I think she was drinking or stoned, or both maybe. It was bad.
A: Then you wrote and called her?
R: No. I never wrote her. She sent me a card once. The only time I called her was in January, this year.
A: What was the purpose of the call?
R: It turned out to be a bad idea. I was an usher in a frat brother's wedding in New Albany on January 26th. It's only about 40 miles from Oxford. It just seemed funny to me to be driving right through and not stop and see her. It was a bad idea.
A: A bad idea?
R: She wasn't very happy about it. She had to buy books and stuff and didn't really want me around.
A: When did you arrive at Ms. Knight's?
R: I got to Oxford in the afternoon on Friday. That was the 24th.
A: You stayed with Ms. Knight? Tell me about the visit.
R: Yes, I stayed at her place. There isn't much to tell. Like I said she was busy. She had to pay her tuition and get books. Friday night we went to a bar and partied a little. That was about it. I left Saturday morning.
A: What did you talk about?
R: We didn't talk much. Most of it was about school, what classes we were taking, stuff like that.
A: Did she indicate in any way that she thought she was in danger?
R: No. She was a little tense. She had to get her tuition paid, it was the last day for it. But I didn't think it was more than that. She showed me around the campus a little and we went out for pizza then to this bar.
A: Do you remember the name of the bar?
R: Proud Larry's or something like that. Met a few of her friends Weird people, talking about aliens or something and that Shovel group.
A: How long were you there?
R: I don't remember exactly. A few hours.
A: Did you have sex with her that night, Jake?
R: No. Nothing like that happened at all. She'd had a lot to drink. She went right to sleep. I slept on the floor in a sleeping bag. Look. I said it was a bad idea. I have a girlfriend. I wasn't interested in anything more than saying hello.
A: Her roommate, Ms. Perez, seems to think otherwise.
R: Then she's nuts. I didn't even see her roommate. She wasn't there when I got there and she was asleep when I left.
A: And that's all?
R: Yes. That's all. You'll just have to take my word for that
A: What about drugs, Jake? Did you or she use any drugs that night?
R: No. I'm an athlete. I keep in shape, workout, eat right, I don't touch that stuff. A few beers. Maybe a little pot sometimes. But nothing else. I don't plan on messing up my life like that.
A: Do you smoke, Mr. Rohleen?
R: No. Never have, never will. Can't play football and smoke.
A: You mentioned Ego Shovel. What do you know about them?
R: They're crazy, that's what I know. I met some of them that night. I think I met the leader, that Blaine
guy, too. But I didn't realize that until later. After she was killed the Knight's were talking about him and how he put her picture on one of their brochures, I realized he was there that night.
A: Have you ever been to Cooter's?
R: No. What's that?
A: Nevermind. When did you leave Ms. Knight's?
R: About 11:00 on Saturday morning. We had some coffee and then I left. I had to pick up my tux and the rehearsal dinner was at 6:00. The wedding was Sunday afternoon.
A: Did you stop to visit Ms. Knight again on your way home?
R: No. I drove back with two other frat brothers. I wouldn't have stopped anyway. I told you it was a bad idea. We had nothing in common anymore.
A: Was that the last contact you had with Ms. Knight?
R: That was the last time I saw her. I called her after that, though. I wanted to, I don't know, let her know I knew it was a bad idea. Thank her for letting me stay. I got her roommate once, then talked to her. It was short.
A: And that was the last contact?
R: Yes.
A: You attend the University of Arkansas. In Fayetteville, correct?
R: Yes.
A: Where do you live when you are on campus, Mr. Rohleen?
R: I'm in Humphreys Residence Hall. It's on campus.
A: Do you have a roommate, Mr. Rohleen?
R: Uh huh. I have a double room. It's part of my scholarship package.
A: Describe the security system in your building for me please, Mr. Rohleen.
R: We have keycards to access the building and keys for our rooms. There is a 24 hour front desk in each hall, and we have Rovers.
A: Rovers?
R: That's a person that checks around the outside of the building, the parking lots, keeps an eye out for any safety hazards or problems, acts as an escort to the parking lot. Some of the ladies use that. Things like that. They notify the front desk or security if they see anything to report.
A: There is no other way to access your building without using the electronic keycard, is that right?
R: Right.
A: You are a business major, is that correct?
R: Yes. General business, this fall I'm enrolled in the Administrative Management major.
A: If I understand your program correctly, in your freshman and sophomore years you take the basic core courses for graduation, then in your junior and senior years concentrate in your major, is that right?
R: That's basically right, yes.
A: And what are those core courses you have taken?
R: Let's see, freshman year was English Comp., Calculus, Intro to Computer Information Systems, one semester of physical education, things like that. Last year we had basic business courses, accounting, economics, business statistics, business information systems, and some electives.
A: And what electives did you have this last year?
R: I took a course in the business legal environment, and played volleyball. That was a course. Fun huh? I did take an American Lit course last year, 19th Century American authors and poets.
A: Do you like poetry, Mr. Rohleen?
R: Sure, but I don't read it every day.
A: What about Poe?
R: Poe? Sure. I've read his stuff. He was a big part of that course.
A: What did you like about Poe?
R: He was creepy, but good, I guess. Powerful. He's into lost loves and things like that. Makes it almost mystical
A: Do you identify with Poe?
R: I guess is some ways. Doesn't everybody? I mean - doesn't everyone have fears and emotions?
A: I would think you would need a computer for a business major, do you have one in your room?
R: No. We aren't allowed to. Overload on the electrical system or something. There's a computer lab in each residence hall. We use that.
A: That's convenient. Use that whenever you want to?
R: No. There's a schedule. You have to sign up. Our's is open usually from 10:00 am to midnight so it's not bad. It works.
A: Other than football, what other activities are you involved in?
R: I'm a brother in the Beta Rho chapter of Alpha Phi Omega. It's a co-ed service fraternity.
A: Service fraternity?
R: Yes. APO is based on the principles of Leadership, Friendship and Service. Our chapter is involved in service projects and volunteering with things like the University Blood Drives, campus recycling, we do a thing called Make a Difference Day, we volunteer with the National Park cleanups program, things like that. Looks good on the resume, too.
A: Doesn't sound like the frat parties I've heard of.
R: Oh, we have fun. The chapter doesn't have a frat house so we get together and party or meet in brother's rooms, or meeting halls on campus, and go out and party together. But it's really not a party frat like that, no.
A: You have a full scholarship, is that right? Do you also work?
R: I really lucked out on that. I have a full scholarship, part academic and part athletic. I work about 15 hours a week. I'm an RDO, that's a Residence Desk Operator. It's great. Manning the front desk in the hall between midnight and 8 in the morning. All I have to do is keep an eye on the door, hand out equipment, and in those hours it's quiet so I can study. It works. They schedule around classes so I don't lose much sleep either.
A: What other jobs have you held, Mr. Rohleen?
R: Not much. I bagged groceries, and did the pizza joint thing in High School. I helped my Dad out with his construction business for two summers, mostly hauling lumber and manual labor.
A: Do you own a camera Mr. Rohleen?
R: Sure. I have nice Minolta my folks bought me when I was in High School. Why?
A: Is that the only camera you own?
R: Yes.
A: Do you do much photography, Mr. Rohleen?
R: Not really. I usually bring out the camera at Christmas, vacations, things like that. That's about it.
A: Do you develop your own film?
R: (laughs) No. I wouldn't know how. I take it to a photo shop.
A: Which one would that be?
R: Any one that's near by. No place special.
A: Mr. Rohleen, do you have any relatives in Mississippi?
R: No. I had an uncle that lived here once, but they moved to Tennessee.
A: When was that?
R: Long time ago. I guess I was about eight when they moved.
A: Other than your frat brother, do you know anyone else living in Mississippi?
R: No. Not really. Purity, her roommate, but I don't really know her. You. That's about it.
A: Do you know Matthew Owens?
R: No. He's the one that took the pictures right?
A: What about Dave Woolworth or Ben Archer?
R: No. I know that Archer found Purity. But I don't know him.
A: Do you know Ed Pierce?
R: That name is familiar, but I can't place it. Don't know him though.
A: Have you spoken with Detective Anderson?
R: I talked to a Detective Nelson, but I don't remember an Anderson, no. Is he here or in Mountain Home?
A: He's on our force here.
R: No. I don't think so.
A: Tell me about your girlfriend. When did that relationship start?
R: Caitlin? I met her at school. She was a freshman last year. A big Razorbacks fan. She's great.
A: Did you have a girlfriend before Caitlin?
R: No, not really. I dated but no one special.
A: Caitlin is special?
R: Yes. It's pretty serious. She's sweet. She treats me great. Lot's of fun to be with. She's special.
A: No big arguments?
R: No she doesn't argue. She usually finds other ways to deal with things she doesn't agree with.
A: And this relationship started in the fall of 1996?
R: Yes. Actually I met her in August when she came for new student orientation. We had a scrimmage game and she came and hung around afterward. It's been steady since.
A: Ever been to Memphis or Jackson?
R: I've been to Memphis, sure. I've never gone down to Jackson, though.
A: When was the last time you were in Memphis?
R: Let me think. It's been awhile. I guess last summer.
A: Not since then?
R: No.
A: Had any problems with the police in the last year or so Mr. Rohleen?
R: No. Nothing. I don't have a record. You can check that.
A: Yes, I have checked. I know you don't have a record. I heard that you were involved in a little problem after a game last season.
R: Oh. That was all straightened out. Away game at Mississippi State, we won 16-13 in overtime. Great game. But, a few fans with too much to drink got into a fight afterward. I was one of the ones trying to break it up. They hauled us all in anyway. There were witnesses, I didn't hit anyone, didn't have charges filed.
A: I understand that almost threatened your playing in the LSU game. That didn't make you mad?
R: Like I said, it was all straightened out. Coach knew I wouldn't do anything to jeopardize playing.
A: No hard feelings against the cops that pulled you in?
R: No. They were just doing their jobs. It all worked out.
A: What do you know about Rophynol, Jake?
R: What is it?
A: Roofies.
R: The date rape drug? Heard of it. Drugs again. Look I told you I don't do drugs. I don't know anything about that one. Lot of it in Florida.
A: How would you know that, Mr. Rohleen?
R: I went there for Spring Break.
A: When was your Spring Break?
R: The week of March 17.
A: And you went to Florida? Tell me the details of your trip. When did you leave?
R: Alpha Phi has a lot of chapters in Florida. A group of us from our chapter went down there to get together with a group of brothers from Florida and party at Ft. Lauderdale. We flew to Tallahassee on Friday, the 14th. Met up with a group from Iota Rho at Florida State University and the Kappa Delta chapter at Florida A & M University. There were 17 of us in all. We drove to Daytona Beach and stayed there for the weekend. Then we drove on down to Ft. Lauderdale and stayed there the rest of the week.
A: How did you get home?
R: Same way. We left late Friday and drove all night back to Tallahassee and took a flight back to Fayetteville on Saturday afternoon. Had to be back for Palm Sunday.
A: The last day of classes at the University of Arkansas was May first. What did you do after that?
R: Finals week was the 3rd through the 9th. My last final was Thursday, 8th. I packed up my stuff on Friday the 9th and went home.
A: What did you do from May 8th?
R: Like I said, I went back to Mountain Home on the 9th. I was in Mountain Home for about a week and then went back to school. I took a summer course this year in the first session. That ran from May 19th to June 20th was my last class. Then I packed up and took my stuff back home on the weekend. And then I came here.
A: What did you do for the Memorial Day weekend?
R: I was in Mountain Home. It's a big deal for us. Parade, church has a big picnic, you know. So I went home.
A: Did you have a roommate for the summer session?
R: Yes. Really geek. Made it easier to study though. Not much fun.
A: What does the word "dowry" mean to you?
R: Dowry? Bunch of money that comes with a bride.
A: Did Purity have a dowry?
R: How should I know? I know her folks have money. They're rich, so I guess she had something. I know Mr. Knight always talked about buying a house for her when she got married.
A: Mr. Rohleen, did you plan on getting that house before Ms. Knight had the abortion?
R: Not really. I wasn't thinking about marriage then.
A: Did you send the Knight's a note asking for the dowry?
R: No. I never sent any note.
A: You are a member of the Church of the Avenger?
R: That's right.
A: You are active in the church?
R: Yes. I go every time I'm in Mountain Home. I'm home lots of weekends. In the summer I help out with some of the activities. There are cookouts, church trips, a day camp for kids things like that. I'd say I'm involved.
A: Do you go to church when you are on campus?
R: Some Sundays. There is a Baptist Collegiate Ministry on campus. They have a campus fellowship center and hold services on Sunday's, I go there sometimes.
A: And where are those services held?
R: It's a house, big house across the street from the campus near the psych building. The managers live there, nice family, and there are some students that live there, too. Fellowship meetings and services are in the living room.
A: Your religious beliefs are important to you?
R: Sure. I think it's important to try to live up to them.
A: Yet you have a background with some major incidents that don't correspond with your beliefs.
R: Yes, I'm not proud of it either. Everyone sins. The point is to confess those sins, seek forgiveness and move on. I've tried to do that.
A: How do you feel one should atone for those sins and seek forgiveness?
R: Through open confession and prayer. Learning from mistakes and not making them again.
A: Does that include punishment for those sins?
R: The Lord meets out punishment as he sees fit. He cleanses us of sins in his way.
A: And how is this punishment and cleansing accomplished?
R: Like I said. Through prayer and confession of sins the Lord decides and forgives.
A: Mr. Rohleen you stated that Ms. Knight sinned in seducing you and further by aborting your child. Did she confess and receive forgiveness?
R: I don't know. I never felt she took full responsibility for her sins. She said I raped her, she denied her part in it, she seemed to scorn the Lord with her actions.
A: Perhaps you felt Ms. Knight deserved punishment for her sins? She was not confessing or receiving cleansing. Did you decide to take on that job yourself, Mr. Rohleen?
R: No. That's not my job. I told you I tried to talk to her about it and she just got mad or laughed.
A: After you saw her in January, saw that she was still not repentant, saw that she was further involved in drinking, drugs and a new religion, did you decide to help her, Mr. Rohleen? Did you decide to make her see the error of her ways?
R: No. If you think I had anything to do with this, you are wrong.
A: Why is that Mr. Rohleen? Why would I be wrong? This was a woman that killed your child. You were angry with her, you saw her shortly before she disappeared, you saw her continuing her sins, that made you angry. Did you take that punishment into your own hands, Mr. Rohleen?
R: No. No, I did not. It is the Lord who decides those things. I think her sins may have lead her to her death, yes. But I did not have anything to do with it. Nothing.
A: Did you ever threaten Purity?
R: No.
A: Did you ever hurt Purity? Hit her? Burn her?
R: No.
A: How did you learn of Ms. Knight's death?
R: The Knight's told my parents and they called me at school and told me.
A: How did that make you feel?
R: I was pretty shaken up. I didn't know what to think.
A: You weren't glad? You didn't think she got what she deserved?
R: No. I would never want that to happen to anyone. No matter what.
A: No matter what? Not even if they killed your child?
R: No. Like I told you before. That is not my job. That's up to God to decide, not me.
A: Mr. Rohleen, did you build the box and imprison Ms. Knight to punish her?
R: Look. I didn't do anything. I had nothing to do with it. No, I did not build any box.
A: Did you torture Ms. Knight to make her pay, to cleanse her of her sins with fire?
R: No, I'm telling you I didn't do anything. I would never hurt anyone.
A: Were you responsible for the death of Ms. Knight?
R: (shouts) No. I didn't do anything. I am not responsible for her death. I did not kill her.
A: Mr. Rohleen, why would someone target, torture and kill Purity Knight?
R: I don't know.
A: Do you have any idea who would do this?
R: No. No, I don't. It wasn't me.
A: All right. Thank you Mr. Rohleen.
R: Are we finished?
A: Yes. You will need to sign your statement before you leave. You can wait in the break room until it's ready.
R: Yeah. I need a break. This was rough.
A: Thank you for your help. Good luck to you.
Post interview notes:
Mr. Rohleen's handwriting analysis demonstrates that he is right handed and shows no matches in this case. Mr. Rohleen's provided investigators with names and addresses of all persons with knowledge of his whereabouts. Hotel records in Florida and airline records have been verified. Statements on his whereabouts were verified by affidavit from eyewitnesses and security records at the University of Arkansas. Computer room records show that Mr. Rohleen did not access the lab during the periods relevant to this case. Mr. Rohleen is no longer considered an active suspect in the investigation.

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