Jean Eaton is the daughter of George and Bernice Eaton of
Natchez, Mississippi where she was born August 12, 1982. George has
been the long-time manager of The Castle Restaurant and Pub, an
elegant restaurant on the grounds of Dunleith Plantation in Natchez.
Bernice began working at the Cathedral School to relieve the burden
of the tuition when Deborah enrolled there in kindergarten. She is
currently the office manager at the school at a good salary and is
helping to support their three children: Deborah, a student at Ole
Miss; Judy, a high school junior at the Cathedral School; and Pete,
an eighth grader at Cathedral.
Long-term friends remembered that Deborah worked hard for
everything she ever had. Her family never had money for extras such
as after-school sports, music or dance lessons, but they stressed
the importance of a good education and supported her participation
in school clubs and activities.
Debby started babysitting for neighbors when she was 13 and began
work at a McDonald’s at 15. She worked after school, on weekends and
during vacations, gaining work experience until her father let her
work at his restaurant beginning in her senior year in high school.
She carefully managed her earnings and spent it on clothes and
school activities including her senior expenses.
High school friends commented that Debby always tried to live up
to her parents’ expectations. Consequently, she was an outstanding
student at the Cathedral School throughout elementary and high
school. She graduated near the top of her class and was awarded an
academic scholarship from the University of Mississippi.
College acquaintances recall that one of the first things she did
when entering Ole Miss was find a job in Oxford to supplement the
modest allowance her parents sent her. The restaurant, Bouré,
impressed with her excellent work record and experience, hired her
and she has worked there throughout her years at Ole Miss.
Girls who have met Debby at Ole Miss recalled how she desperately
longed for the things she didn’t have: a car to get around;
membership in the sorority she couldn’t afford; a chance to go home
or on a trip to Chicago, New York or Europe instead
of working during vacations; a nice apartment off campus; and a
boyfriend to take her to all his fraternity parties and on-campus
affairs. Her friends tired of hearing her moan about people who had
things she didn’t or voice her resentment of all the things they did
that she couldn’t afford to do.
During Spring Break 2004, when Deborah stayed in Oxford to save money
and continue her good tipping job at Bouré, she met Hunter Nelson.
She had been aware of the Nelson family -- and Hunter -- since her
childhood in Natchez. The Nelsons were the rich family that lived in
a gorgeous antebellum mansion: the house of her Cinderella dreams.
Deborah had often told her little sister, Judy, that a rich,
handsome, young man like Hunter would discover her, fall hopelessly
in love and carry her off to his castle or mansion. Then, she said,
all her yearnings for money, power and position would be fulfilled.
So when she met Hunter, she turned on the charm and was rewarded
when he asked her out.
Hunter fulfilled Debby’s ideal of the well-to-do fraternity man
on campus that she had longed for at Ole Miss. She was
pleased to find that, in spite of the differences in their
background, they had some interests in common. Debby was hesitant about
telling him of her background for fear he wouldn’t accept her, but
was delighted when it appeared that his interest was in her, not in what
her father did for a living or his annual income.
Debby’s hair stylist recounted that Debby had heard the gossip
about Hunter’s affair with Kristi Waterson, but since he refused to
talk about it, she fretted to her friends that he was still carrying
a torch for Kristi. She didn’t press him about it for fear he would
dump her. Jealous of Kristi’s job, her wealthy family, even of her
questionable reputation, Debby agonized to anyone who would listen
that she was much too dull and poor to keep Hunter’s interest. She
didn’t want to do or say anything to jeopardize their relationship.
Debby plans to attend summer school, and stayed in town during
Intersession in order to work at Bouré and earn money instead of
spending it on a trip home. She and Hunter had a date the evening
Kristi was murdered.