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Witness Interview: Sally Stoppard, Real Estate Agent

Thursday, July 20, 2000 - 2:20 p.m.

The complaining witness, Sally Stoppard, placed a 911 call at 2:13 p.m. reporting vandalism at one of her rental properties and the possible disappearance or injury of her tenant. Deputy P.J. Watson was dispatched to the scene to perform a well-being check, with Officers A. L. Quinlan and Maria Richards responding as backup. Deputy Watson interviewed the witness at the scene, recording the conversation on his microcassette recorder. Deputy Watson's Incident Report is available here.

PW = Deputy P.J. Watson
SS = Sally Stoppard

PW: Good afternoon, ma'am. Are you the one who made the 911 call?

SS: Yes, I am.

PW: Could you please give me your name and address?

SS: Sarah Elizabeth Stoppard, but my friends call me Sally. I live at 604 Woodlawn Hills.

PW: You told the 911 operator that you'd discovered some vandalism at one of your rental properties. Is this the one here?

SS: Yes, it is.

PW: And what is your connection to the property?

SS: I'm with Oxford Realty and I manage our rental properties, including this one, and I also do some sales. Here, let me give you one of my cards.

PW: Thank you, ma'am. Now, could you describe the property for me?

SS: It's a small, secluded, two-bedroom house with a large shed and carport at the side. As you can see, the yard is attractive and low-maintenance. The home itself is very interesting, decorated in a funky style with unusual colors, a very arty type of home. And it has a whirlpool bathtub in the master bath for that touch of luxury.

PW: Okay. And who's the owner?

SS: James Logue, that folk artist who calls himself Catfish Jim. He got a fellowship to study in Italy right now. He's not due back in Oxford until Christmas. Mr. Logue contacted Oxford Realty in January to arrange for us to manage the rental of his property. He was making it available beginning in early February for a six month lease, renewable monthly after that. The property used to belong to his late aunt and he's done a good bit of work on it since he inherited it. He was renting it fully-furnished with his own furniture, so he wanted a good tenant. He felt like his home was more suited to a single professional person or couple, instead of a young family with children or someone with pets.

PW: Is the property currently rented?

SS: Yes, sir.

PW: Who is the tenant?

SS: Wendy Holloway has been renting it for the last several months.

PW: When did Ms Holloway move in?.

SS: Well, I imagine it was on February 4th. That was the start date of the lease agreement.

PW: Have you ever met Ms. Holloway in person?

SS: Yes, I stopped by a few weeks after she moved in to introduce myself and see that she was getting settled in okay. And then I saw her again a few months later when I showed her some other properties in town.

PW: But you never met her before she rented the property?

SS: No.

PW: How did she arrange to rent the property then?

SS: I spoke to her on the phone sometime in mid-January. Well, it was actually Blake Stillwater who called me. You know, that local novelist who's written some bestsellers? We've met a few times around town. He wasn't in Oxford when he called. I believe he was in California or something like that. I think that's where he called from. Anyway, he asked about available furnished properties. I guess he was doing her a favor. I told him I had just the house and he handed the phone over to Ms. Holloway so I could tell her about it. She liked the sound of it, especially the whirlpool bath. So she took it sight unseen, must have taken Mr. Stillwater's personal recommendation about me into account. Ms. Holloway paid the deposit and first month's rent by wire transfer that same day and Mr. Stillwater arranged to pick up the keys when he returned to Oxford a little while later. Only I believe his maid was actually the one who picked up the keys from Oxford Realty for him.

PW: Okay. And how did you happen to visit the property today?

SS: I was following up because Ms. Holloway had expressed interest in possibly buying a permanent home in Oxford. I knew the Kelly Green developer had shown her that site a few months ago before construction started, but she said she hadn't made a decision on it. I showed her two other properties in town about three weeks ago, but she didn't care for either one. I was hoping to interest her in something at The Lakes. You've probably seen the advertising on that – it has more than 800 acres of rolling hills, two lakes and a homesite suitable for every lifestyle. Anyway, I'd left a couple of messages on her answering machine this week, but hadn't heard back from her. So I decided to drop by and leave the new brochure on The Lakes and my card if she wasn't at home. Obviously, if someone expresses an interest in buying a property, you want to follow up on that as soon as possible.

PW: That was this afternoon, when you stopped by to leave the brochure?

SS: Yes, just a little while ago.

PW: Can you tell me what happened when you arrived at the house?

SS: I drove up the driveway and there was a car in the carport, so I thought she was home. I went to the front porch and knocked on the door, but there was no answer. The curtains were open and I glanced inside. I could see large smears and marks on the wall, and a couple of chairs were overturned and I became concerned. The property had been rented in very good condition and Ms. Holloway has been an excellent tenant so far. So I went around the back and saw a broken window and a big mess in the kitchen. There was still no answer when I knocked at the back door, so I tried the doorknob and it opened. I had a quick look inside and called out to Ms. Holloway, but there was no answer. It smelled terrible. There was dried-up stuff splashed around all over and lots of broken glass on the floor. There were corn flakes and cookies and all manner of other things scattered all over the place. To me, it looked like someone had broken in and vandalized everything. I never went past the kitchen because I got scared. I didn't know if maybe someone was still in the house, hiding in one of the other rooms. So I ran out, drove off, and called 911 from my cell phone. The 911 operator asked me to stay nearby, so I pulled over down the road until I saw you drive by. Then I came on back here to meet you.

PW: Did you touch anything in or around the house?

SS: I touched the front door when I knocked. And the back doorknob. I don't think I touched anything inside.

PW: Did you see anyone inside?

SS: No, thank goodness!

PW: Did you look in any of the other structures on the property?

SS: No. I was too scared to.

PW: What is that building over there next to the carport?

SS: That's the shed where Catfish Jim stored his art - paintings, carvings, sculptures, and so on - before he went out of town. I think Ms. Holloway has a key to it, but I can't imagine she ever goes in there much.

PW: Okay, Ms. Stoppard. Now I'd like you to remain out here with Officer Quinlan. Officer Richards and I are going to perform a well-being check inside the house to make sure no one is injured or in need of assistance inside.

SS: Okay.

[Interview suspended during the well-being check of the residence.]

PW: Thank you for waiting, Ms. Stoppard. I'd like you to come inside with me for a moment, if you could.

SS: Why? Is there someone inside? Is Ms. Holloway in there? Has she been hurt?

PW: No, ma'am. There was no one inside the residence. I'd just like you to take a quick look at something.

SS: Okay, if you're sure there's no danger.

PW: No, ma'am. This way, please. And please don't touch anything.

SS: All right.

[Interview continued inside the residence.]

PW: If you could, ma'am, please take a look at this photo, without touching it. Is this your tenant?

SS: Yes, it is. That's her, but I think her hair is a little bit longer now, or maybe styled differently.

PW: So this is the woman you know as Wendy Holloway?

SS: Yes, definitely, it is. I'm positive about that. Why?

PW: I just want to be sure, ma'am.

SS: Do you think we could go back outside? Being in here makes me very nervous.

PW: Of course, ma'am.

[Interview continued outside the residence.]

PW: Ms. Stoppard, can you recall anything about your past conversations with Ms. Holloway?

SS: Well, they were really more business than anything else. The first one was by telephone from California, like I said. The second would have been when I stopped by a few weeks after she moved in. We had a few telephone conversations after that. That's when she mentioned her interest in buying a house here in town, and so I showed her a couple of places one afternoon towards the end of June.

PW: Did she tell you anything personal about herself? Where she worked or where she was from originally or anything like that?

SS: No, not really. Not that I can recall. Some of that information was on her application for the lease, but she never talked much about herself when she was with me. Oh, she did mention that she'd been traveling. I believe she said she particularly enjoyed her stay in Bali recently. She did mention that.

PW: Do you know what kind of job she had?

SS: I don't think she went out to work 9-5. I think she worked from home, like a consultant of some sort, I believe. I really don't know. Lots of people call themselves consultants, but who knows what that really means? I did notice that she had a home office set up when I stopped by, back in mid-February.

PW: Thank you for your assistance, Ms. Stoppard. That's about all I need to ask you right now, but I believe the homicide detectives may want to speak with you later. They can reach you at the numbers on your business card?

SS: Yes, all my contact numbers are on there. But I'd like to ask a question if I could.

PW: Go ahead.

SS: Why would the homicide detectives want to talk to me? You don't think Ms. Holloway is the woman whose body was found last weekend, do you?

PW: I really can't say, ma'am. I just wanted to alert you that someone is likely to be in touch with you.

SS: Well... okay. But someone will let me know, won't they?

PW: I'm sure someone will be in touch with you, ma'am.


End interview 2:58 p.m.

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