Follow-up interview with Matthew Owens
June 27, 1997, Owens was contacted by telephone and came
to the station voluntarily.
A = Armstrong
O = Owens
- A:Thanks for coming. Let's start --
Owens: No problem.
- A: -- at the beginning. Specifically when did you
start watching the victim?
O: I guess it was around the beginning of February. The
first week. I don't know which day.
- A: What was your motive?
Owens: Like I said before. Purity brought bad times. I
wanted her to know what she was doing.
- A: What do you mean by bad times?
O: The thing with Val. Other things.
- A: Such as?
O: You don't understand. When she showed up, it all fell
apart. Everything. My life.
- A. When she showed up in January?
O: Yeah, I guess. But also from before, the fact that she
was in Val's life.
- A: Please try to be specific, Mr. Owens. What
O: Aside from Val?
- A: Yes.
O: For starts my parents split up. They told me over the
phone. Families aren't supposed to do that.
- Armstrong: When was that?
O: January. January 17th is when I heard.
- A: What else?
O: Oh, the usual. You know, job stuff. It's hard when you
have a criminal record. It made me angry. I was living
- A: What else?
O: I guess that's it. You wouldn't understand.
- A: No, I don't. What could have possibly made you
O: Obvious - it's obvious. Everything about her made me
angry. She's about everything I hate. No morals. And
she's a criminal like me, but she's not paying for it.
- A: There was no criminal record for the victim. What
do you mean by criminal?
O: She's a killer. She killed her kid. And Val - I still
feel like they met and then the next thing you know, Val
- A: We've already discussed this. Is there anything
new to add? Why else was she a criminal?
O: I guess it just bugged me that she was a hypocrite
morally. Everyone felt sorry for her when really she was
- A: Did anyone feel sorry for you?
- A: Why not?
O: I don't let them.
- A: You don't talk to people?
O: No. My problems - I keep them to myself. I like it
- A: But you chose Purity as a scapegoat.
O: I guess so -- but no, it's more than that. Not just a
scapegoat. I felt like in a way her being here caused it.
Her moral force had an active role in everything. I guess
- A: How poor were you?
O: I didn't buy textbooks. I didn't go out. I barely
covered rent. Poor.
- A: Poor enough to take bribes?
- A: Did someone pay you to watch her?
O: No. No. (laughs) I wish! I could be rich by now.
- A: What about the film? Where did that come from?
O: Look, I did eventually get a job. I'm not proud of it
- I worked at the cafeteria on campus. I did have some
cash. And she was a priority. She came right after the
- A: What about Ego Shovel? They weren't paying
- A: What do you know about Ego Shovel?
O: Ego Shovel?
- A: Yes.
O: Never heard of him. Or it. What is it, some kind of
- A: Never mind. What other jobs have you had?
O: Not much. Like I said, it's tough. I've worked in a
couple of restaurants. A few bit parts, no big roles yet.
- A: Tell me what you saw when you watched her.
O: Not much. She was pretty tame. She was hardly around.
She talked on the phone a lot. Sometimes she danced
around in her room.
- A: What kind of music?
O: I have no idea. Maybe none. She never had it up loud.
But she danced fast. Lots of bouncing around.
- A: What else?
O: She wrote letters. And read.
- A: Did you ever see her with anyone?
O: The roommate.
- A: Anyone else? Did you see a boyfriend?
O: No. Never.
- A: Never?
O: Look, I wasn't there every night. I might have missed
something. Is that OK with you?
- A: Did you ever follow her? Watch her somewhere other
than the apartment?
O: Once I went to the shelter. I almost got caught. After
that, just at her place.
- A: You never followed her or saw her at Cooter's
- A: But you know about it?
O: Heard of it.
- A: What have you heard?
O: Someone mentioned a wild party there once. Just
someone in class.
- A: You've never been there?
O: I work too hard for that kind of stuff - parties. Not
- A: So back to Ms. Knight. She was pretty much a
O: As far as I could tell. Like I said, sometimes she
wasn't there and sometimes I wasn't there.
- A: What did you do when she wasn't there?
- A: Did she seem happy?
O: No. Yes. Like everyone. Sometimes she cried. In the
armchair in the corner of her room. She would just sit
there and cry.
- A: Did she ever seem suicidal?
O: Oh no. Nothing like that. Toward the end I think she
was worn out. You know, nervous.
- A: Because she knew about being stalked.
- A: When was the last time you saw her?
O: The night of March 2, when I almost got caught.
- A: Never afterwards?
O: No. I came by a couple of times but she was gone.
- A: All right. We've talked about what you saw. What
about when you called? Did you talk to her on the
O: Yeah. No. I mean, I called a couple of times to scare
her. Hung up, you know, heavy breathing and all that. I
told her someone's watching. Just a few calls. I wanted
to scare her. We didn't really converse.
- A: But she took the calls?
O: Yeah. Oh yeah. She would always listen. I was always
the one who hung up. Sometimes she would start asking
questions. Not in a panicked way either. Just wanting to
know more about me.
- A: Did you ever answer?
O: No. A couple of times when she asked stuff I laughed,
or I just kept saying I was watching.
- A: When was the last time you called?
O: A couple of days before I almost got caught. I guess
it was right around the first of March. I didn't call
- A: What about the notes? They seem to imply you knew
something about the kidnapping.
O: Like I said, I could tell something bad was going
down. I just felt it. It wasn't like her to be gone so
- A: But the map -
O: Look, let's get this straight. I sent notes to her,
and I talked to her on the phone. But the poetry - that's
not me. I didn't send anything to you in the mail - only
the note I put on the car.
- A: Can you prove it?
O: I'm just not that creative. Trust me.
- A: We'll need more than that.
O: It's not me. Look, if it were me, I wouldn't have sent
you clues. I'm not that arrogant. Pride comes before a
- A: Do you have a computer?
O: (laughs) Oh sure! I can hardly afford rent, and you
think I have a computer?
- A: All right. What about the ransom note?
O: Not me.
- A: You said you were poor.
O: Yeah, but so was she. That's something - she was
always counting her money. She would take it out of her
wallet and count it. She would sit there staring at the
dollar bills, holding them in her hands and staring at
- A: What else?
O: She and her roomie argued a lot. They would always be
looking at the phone bill and talking about it and
getting upset. She paid for her rent in cash.
- A: How much do you know about Knight's family in
O: Nothing. Just what's on your site. Enough.
- A: Enough to know they're wealthy?
O: I guess. If her dad's a lawyer, sure. But I don't
think like that. It wouldn't occur to me to go after
money like that. I want to do what's right.
- A: Do you know Jake Rohleen?
O: No. Never met him.
- A: Have you ever been to Memphis or Jackson?
O: Oh sure. Both.
- A: Specifically when were you last in Memphis?
O: Last summer. I went to a concert. I even went with a
couple of friends so you can check it out. OK?
- A: What about Jackson?
O: I went to audition at New Stages-Jackson right after
Christmas. December 28 was the date.
- A: Have you ever been out of the country?
- A: Do you have a passport?
O: No. I don't get it. Why is this important?
- A: Never mind. Do you go to church?
- A: Which one?
O: The First Baptist Church on Lamar.
- A: Describe it.
O: what does this have to do with anything?
- A: Please, Mr. Owens. We're almost through.
O: Okay, It's in town. There's a parking lot. The church
is modern looking.
- A: Is land around it?
- A: A cemetery?
- A: How often do you go?
O: I have no idea. Whenever I need to sit and meditate on
stuff. I guess I last went the weekend after I heard she
- A: What did you think about?
O: How this world is a pretty sick place.
- A: You weren't glad?
O: No. I don't believe in violence like that. I just want
people to understand what's right. I never hurt her. I
don't have the mind for it. I don't believe in killing.
- A: All right. Tell me, what are you doing now?
O: I'm still around. Looking for more work -- I want to
do theatre work.
- A: All right. Thank you, Mr. Owens. Good luck.
O: Thank you.