Wednesday, August 4, 2004
Oxford Flyer Weekly
By Phil LeBlanc,
The sensational investigation into the murder of University of
Mississippi instructor Kristi Waterson came to an end on July 29,
2004 when Weldon Foyle was arrested and charged with the crime.
Foyle, 27, a former student of the victim, was taken into custody.
His court-appointed lawyers have not yet issued any statements or
spoken to the press. The arrest finally brings closure to this lurid
tale of wealth, sexual improprieties, and murder.
On the morning of Sunday, May 23, 2004, Michelle Prescott
returned home after a romantic evening with her boyfriend. In the
apartment that she shared with her cousin Kristi Waterson, Michelle
found an unspeakable horror. Waterson was hanging in her closet,
apparently dead as a result of suicide. Initial press reports
repeated the initial belief that Waterson killed herself. However,
the Yoknapatawpha County Sheriff's Department quickly revised their
strategy and began to investigate the case as a homicide.
"Unfortunately for the killer, the Yoknapatawpha County Sheriff's
Department has far too much experience with this kind of thing,"
said veteran police observer James Woodrow. "They were quickly able
to realize this wasn't a suicide and focus on it as a murder."
The Sheriff's Department began the long investigation by talking
to many of Waterson's students and colleagues in the business
department. Almost as soon as the interviews began, the rumors that
had circulated on the Ole Miss campus for years came to the
forefront. Many sources on campus alleged that Waterson had
inappropriate relationships with her students. "I know it's true,"
said one senior who didn't want to be named. "My roommate hooked up
with her. She called the apartment all the time. She was all over
Others were more diplomatic in their statements, but they sounded
the same tune. "I'm not prepared to say she did anything wrong,"
said Ryan Colville, president of The Young Entrepreneurs Club on
campus. "But there were certainly plenty of things that would give
the impression of wrong-doing. I just think professors should be
more careful about their image, for their own protection and the
well-being of the students."
And through all of the investigation, money and power hung over
this case like a swollen storm cloud. Waterson's parents are Michael
and Virginia Waterson of Biloxi, Mississippi. Michael Waterson came
from an old Mississippi family of money, power, and prestige. Rumors
abound in southern Mississippi that he has fixed elections and
bought off politicians. His supporters dismiss these accusations as
slander from jealous opponents. But the truth remains that, however
he obtained his power, Michael Waterson has it. The family offered a
$75,000 reward for information to help solve the case. "There was a
heckuva lot more on the line than just that reward money," said
veteran lawyer and political observer Hal Jackson. "I'm sure that
Waterson was putting all sorts of pressure on the cops up in Oxford.
He probably made them think this was their only case. He pulls
enough strings -- careers could be made or broken with this case."
The case seemed to enjoy a major break when police arrested
Hunter Nelson, 21, an Ole Miss student from Natchez who also comes
from an old family with money and prestige. "Heck, his name ain't
even Hunter," said one Natchez resident on the condition that his
name be withheld. "His real name is Nathaniel Harrison Nelson, after
some Confederate general." Although many members of the middle and
lower class are happy to forget the state's impoverished history of
slavery and farming, the wealthy of Mississippi seem loathe to move
out of the antebellum era. They like to harken back to the glory
days of mansions and plantations. The Nelson family is no different.
For a while, Nelson seemed the perfect suspect. He was regularly
described as spoiled, lacking ambition, and completely lacking of
self control. If he wanted something, he got it. No questions asked.
It is rumored in Natchez that there were teachers who actually quit
so they wouldn't have to suffer through a year of catering to Hunter
At Ole Miss, Nelson took classes from Kristi Waterson and
eventually struck up a relationship with her. The couple dated for a
few months and broke up. "I wouldn't call it dating. They just
hooked up on a regular basis," said one in-the-know resident of
Sorority Row. "He told me all about it." Even after they broke up,
Nelson continued taking classes from Waterson.
Nelson was arrested for the murder of Kristi Waterson on Tuesday,
June 29, 2004. Sources say that eyewitness testimony had placed
Nelson at the victim's apartment complex the night of her death.
However, the police soon ended up red-faced as evidence surfaced
that cleared Nelson of all suspicion and he was quietly released.
Police department officials have steadfastly refused to give any
details on the nature of the evidence that cleared Nelson's name,
but sources say that a specific piece of forensic evidence was
determined to be incompatible with Nelson's medical profile.
So, once again, the Yoknapatawpha County Sheriff's Department was
back out on the streets, looking for a killer. Gradually through the
investigation, the focus began to narrow in on Weldon Foyle, who was
also a student of Kristi Waterson's and an associate of Hunter
The biography of Foyle is shrouded in mystery. He is described by
other students as reserved, some even going so far as to call him
paranoid and secretive. What is known is that he grew up in a
hard-working, lower-class family in small town Kentucky. Foyle was
paying his own way through Ole Miss and his work ethic and habits
were legendary. "I've seen him work three shifts in a row," said
Jayson Billet who washed dishes with Foyle at local restaurants.
"He's a machine."
This image of an obsessive worker was reinforced by almost
everyone who met Weldon Foyle. "I thought he was a bit weird," said
classmate Jennifer Hawkins, "but there was no doubt that he was the
hardest worker in class. Both on his school work and on his jobs."
But under this fašade of ambition and dedication, jealousy and
resentment were boiling. Sources say Foyle was driven not just by a
need to pay the bills, but also an obsessive hatred of the wealthy.
"He worked hard in a town where so many students do not," said local
psychologist James Raymond. "Of course, I haven't examined him, so I
can't say for certain. But from what I'm hearing, he developed an
intense hatred of the privileged."
Sheriff's Department officials refused to comment on the motive
of Foyle's involvement, citing that the court trial has not yet
begun. But rumors are that it was this class hatred that drove him
to target, stalk, and methodically plan Waterson's murder.
"This was no passion killing," said Oxford Eagle reporter Kelly
Shackleton. "We see a lot of that in Oxford. Someone just snaps. But
this wasn't like that. It was cold-blooded, methodical, and
Off the record, sources in the Sheriff's Department say that
Foyle tried to frame Hunter Nelson for the murder. "When they
arrested Hunter, that was all part of the plan," said an anonymous
source. "He [Foyle] probably thought he could strike two blows
against privilege and wealth," said psychologist Raymond. "By
murdering Kristi Waterson, and then framing Hunter Nelson, he was
taking out two members of the wealthy elite. Both of them have a
reputation of being spoiled, lazy, and simply spending their
parents' money. They're perfect targets for someone like Mr. Foyle."
Foyle originally had an alibi for the night of Waterson's murder,
but that alibi ultimately collapsed under the scrutiny of
investigation. Forensic evidence also began to pile up against Foyle
and ultimately led to his arrest.
The trial of Weldon Foyle should prove to be a sensational event.
Undoubtedly, many of the rumors of impropriety will surface and be
opened up for public consumption. Although University officials will
only issue the usual statements of how glad they are that the case
has been solved, the truth is that they must be scared to death
about how their faculty is going to be exposed in this case. And
certainly, more of Weldon Foyle's reportedly bizarre life and
obsessions will be explained. The media circus surrounding the trial
should yield more than enough lurid detail for yet another sad
chapter in Oxford's history.