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Witness Interview: Eugenia Stillwater

Tuesday, August 1, 2000 - 10:45 a.m.

In response to the detectives' request for an interview, this witness came in to the Yoknapatawpha County Sheriff's Office before lunch on Tuesday morning. The interview was taped on a portable tape recorder with Mrs. Stillwater's knowledge and consent.

SM = Det. Sam Murphy
ES = Eugenia Stillwater

SM: Thank you for coming in on such short notice. Now, for the record, could you please state your name and address.

ES: Eugenia Tate Courtney Stillwater, 238 Highway 6, west of Oxford.

SM: Mrs Stillwater, did you know Wendy Pane Holloway?

ES: No, I did not.

SM: But you have been to her home.

ES: No, I haven't.

SM: Are you sure about that Mrs. Stillwater?

ES: Yes.

SM: I see a problem with that answer, ma'am.

ES: I beg your pardon?

SM: Your fingerprints have been found on the property of the residence Ms. Holloway rented on Shady Oaks Circle.

ES: Oh my... oh... uh...

SM: So I'll ask you again. Have you ever visited the home of Wendy Pane Holloway?

ES: Not her home, no. But I did go into the yard one day and into the shed.

SM: How did you get into the shed?

ES: I don't understand. Through the door?

SM: It's my understanding that door was kept locked.

ES: Well, I wouldn't know about that. It was unlocked when I was there.

SM: And when was that?

ES: It was on a Friday in mid-July, the day before Blake, my husband, left on his Far East book tour. He left on July 15th, so it would have been on the 14th.

SM: Mrs. Stillwater, a murder took place at that property, the murder of Ms. Holloway. Your fingerprints have been found in there.

ES: How would you know they're mine?

SM: You may not have realized it, but your fingerprints are on file from that incident earlier this year with the gold bracelet. I know those charges were dropped, but your prints remain on file. And they matched, Mrs Stillwater. They matched with the prints found at the crime scene.

ES: But you know I didn't really intend to steal that bracelet. I was depressed at the time. I just walked out of the store with it. I wasn't thinking, my mind was miles away. My physician sent you a letter detailing that, and those charges were dropped. I really don't think that incident implies that I'm a murderer.

SM: We need to know exactly what you were doing at Ms. Holloway's home.

ES: I was just... spying.

SM: Spying?

ES: Yes. Having a look around, you know? This is too embarrassing, Detective Murphy. Do I really need to go into all this?

SM: We're investigating a murder here, Mrs. Stillwater. We need your full cooperation. We need your answers. What time did you visit that property on Shady Oaks Circle?

ES: It was late morning. Around 11:00, I guess.

SM: What did you do when you arrived at the property?

ES: Well I saw that Blake's Range Rover was parked in the drive, just as I'd suspected. He said he'd be out all day. No explanation of course. Never tells me what he's up to these days. So I figured he was going to visit his... mistress.

SM: Ms. Holloway was his mistress?

ES: Yes. I can think of less elegant words for her, but mistress will do.

SM: How do you know that your husband was involved with Ms. Holloway?

ES: A wife knows, Detective.

SM: How did you know? Did your husband tell you?

ES: No, of course not! Blake had been spending so much time away from home that I knew he must have taken up with another hussy. I just knew there was another woman, I could always tell. Only it was different this time. It seemed to be more serious. I consulted a psychic. She said she could see Blake with a young woman in her crystal ball. She said the girl was very clever and determined to break up our marriage.

SM: Uh-huh. And did this psychic tell you the name of the woman who was involved with your husband?

ES: No.

SM: So how did you find out who she was?

ES: Snooping.

SM: Snooping? That doesn't really answer my question, ma'am.

ES: Detective Murphy, I've been married to a mystery writer for more than 25 years. It's inevitable that I'd pick up a few tricks along the way.

SM: What kind of tricks?

ES: I'd rather not get into specifics. Suffice it to say, I found out who the tramp was.

SM: Mrs. Stillwater, I can see you have no intention of telling me what you did to find out, so I'm going to let it drop for the moment and move on. But rest assured, we will revisit this issue and I advise you to rethink your position in the meantime.

ES: There's no need for you to take that tone with me, Detective. Perhaps I should get my attorney to sit in on the rest of this interview.

SM: That's your prerogative, ma'am. I have to say, I'd hate to see this get adversarial, but if that's what you'd like, I won't stand in your way. Would you like to contact your attorney at this time?

ES: Well... maybe not right now. We're almost finished here, aren't we?

SM: Tell me what happened when you arrived at Ms. Holloway's property.

ES: I planned to confront them. I parked down the road and walked back so they wouldn't hear me drive up, then slipped around through the trees at the side of the driveway. I could hear a woman laughing at the front of the house and there was the sound of splashing and a motor, like a Jacuzzi. I went into the shed first and saw all this folk art. I wondered if it was hers. So I picked up a few pieces and saw they were signed "Catfish Jim." I remembered I'd read in the Eagle that he was in Italy, so I assumed it was his place and the tramp was just staying there. I went around to the back of the house and looked in, but I couldn't see past the kitchen. Then I saw Blake, and he was stark naked. I backed away. I wanted to do something, but I lost my nerve. I ran to my car and drove home. So I never got to see the hussy in person. And now she's dead. What a pity!

SM: Did you kill her?

ES: No! Of course not!

SM: You did leave a threatening phone message on her answering machine that very night, Mrs Stillwater.

ES: Well, I - I... did think you would possibly find out about that, but I'm sure I said nothing about murdering anybody. I figured out what I was going to say ahead of time. I told her she'd better watch her step, but that was as far as I went. I wanted to let her know I was aware of her. I did hope she would reassess things and find someone new while Blake was away. But I didn't think about murder, well not really. No, it's just not the sort of thing I would even contemplate. I certainly wasn't brought up in that kind of atmosphere. My parents gave me every opportunity in life and sound moral values. I'm no murderer, you must believe me!

SM: Tell me where you were later that night and in the early hours of next morning.

ES: Well, we were entertaining that night. Blake's relatives were visiting from Baton Rouge. We have relatives on both sides of the family there. Blake finally got home around 5:30 p.m. and rushed off upstairs with our maid, Mary Lee, to organize his final packing before the guests arrived. We were entertaining his Aunt Martha and her two sons - one is also named Blake, the other is Arthur. They were visiting us on their way to a wedding in Jackson, Tennessee that Saturday. I invited them to dinner and to spend the night with us. I  thought Blake would enjoy it, and he did. They also stopped on their way home on Sunday. It's such a long trip to Baton Rouge.

SM: What time did the dinner end?

ES: Oh, about 9:30. We all needed to get an early start the next morning.

SM: Why was that?

ES: Well, Aunt Martha and the boys needed to get on their way to Jackson, and Blake, of course, had to catch an early plane in Memphis.

SM: I see. And when did you call Ms. Holloway?

ES: While everyone was turning in for the night. I made sure everyone was happy and settled with enough towels and soap, that sort of thing. Then I thought, I'll call her and tell her she's history. I had a really positive feeling after dinner. Blake was being so happy and charming, the man I married, not the distant one he turned into. I hadn't breathed a word to him about what I'd found out, by the way. I thought I'd attack the weak link in the chain - that woman. Get her out of the picture. I knew it was late to be calling, but I suspected that she'd be out given the kind of person she was. I'd tried the number the day before and got the answering machine and hung up. Some people leave them on all the time because of those dreadful telemarketing calls.

SM: What did you do after that phone call?

ES: Blake was pretty busy sorting out his papers for the trip. His publicist had FedEx-ed a lot of things to him that day which he hadn't had time to go through. He said he was going to have an early night because he was getting up so early. He has his own suite upstairs in our house with a bedroom and a study where he writes, so I thought I'd just leave him alone and went down to watch television with Scooter. That's my son, Philip. But I couldn't concentrate. I kept thinking about what I'd seen at that woman's place. I started crying and Scooter pressured me to tell him why. He's such a kind boy. So I told him. I said the affair was breaking my heart and I was sure it had been going on for months now. Scooter knows that his father's been unfaithful in the past, but that was always just a casual thing. He could see how upset I was this time. Scooter was already planning to go out later that evening to meet some friends and listen to some band at a club in town. He said he'd confront that woman if he saw her there. So he did. He went there and saw her.

SM: How was your son able to recognize the woman?

ES: Pardon?

SM: How was your son able to recognize the woman your husband was having an affair with?

ES: Um... I imagine he asked someone at the club to point her out.

SM: How did he know where she would be?

ES: I don't know. You'd have to ask him about that.

SM: What club was this, do you know?

ES: I'm not sure of the name. Harry's? Larry's?

SM: Proud Larry's?

ES: Yes, that's it.

SM: And what time did your son leave that night?

ES: Oh, he left later than he'd planned because he was comforting me. I believe he left around 10:30. He was back by 12:30. I couldn't sleep, so I was in the kitchen when he got home and I made him something to eat. He told me he had confronted the slut, but she just laughed at him.

SM: What happened after that?

ES: I went to bed. And I saw him going off to his place. Scooter lives in the poolside cottage in the back garden. It gives him his own place, but he still has all the comforts of home. He likes to be nearby for me too. He's a caring, ideal son, every mother's dream.

SM: Are you certain that Philip went to bed then and didn't go back out?

ES: Oh yes. I would have heard if he'd started up the Porsche and gone out. It's terribly noisy.

SM: What time did the two of you go to bed, just to clarify?

ES: We said good night around 12:45 or 1:00.

SM:  Is there anyone who can confirm that? Where was your husband?

ES: Asleep, I presume. He got up at 4:30 a.m. So did Mary Lee, our maid. She stayed over after the dinner party to make sure he was up on time and had his coffee and didn't forget anything. She's very good like that. I got up briefly to see him off then went back to bed, though I couldn't sleep, thinking about everything. I guess you'll just have to take my word for what time I went to bed

SM: That will have to do for now. I don't have any more questions for you at the moment, Mrs Stillwater, unless you're ready to tell me how you found out Wendy Holloway was your husband's mistress.

ES: I don't think so. It's private and I'd prefer to keep it that way. It has nothing to do with her murder, I assure you.

SM: Unfortunately for you, Mrs. Stillwater, it's not up to you to determine what's relevant to this investigation and what's not. That's my job. You confer with your attorney on this matter as soon as possible and we'll be in touch with you in the next few days. I must advise you that you are a suspect in this case and you must not leave town under any circumstances. Do I make myself clear?

ES: Yes, you do. Good day.

End interview 11:11 a.m.

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