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Witness Interview: Mallory Benson, Victim's Friend

Thursday, November 9, 2000 - 2:30 p.m.

The detectives requested a follow up interview with Mallory Benson after their second interview with Peggy LeClaire. Ms. Benson consented to an interview with Detective Sam Murphy.

SM = Detective S. Murphy
MB = Mallory Benson

SM: Please state your name and address for the record.

MB: Mallory Benson. I live at 721 Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd, Oxford.

SM: Ms. Benson, thank you for coming in. In light of new information, we have a few follow up questions.

MB: All right, anything I can do to help.

SM: We talked to several folks at the writers group and most of them seemed to think that you were pretty upset at the October 14th meeting.

MB: Upset? How so?

SM: That you even looked somewhat ill.

MB: No, I wasn't ill.

SM: That you were not impressed with Ms. Chase's reading of her new book.

MB: Because I wasn't impressed, that made me look ill? That doesn't make any sense.

SM: That you also left the meeting early.

MB: As I told you, I left because I had a pile of work to do and get done by Monday morning.

SM: So you felt fine, and you left early because of work? Nothing about Ms. Chase's reading upset you?

MB: What are you getting at, Detective?

SM: There is some indication that the pages Ms. Chase read at that meeting were, in fact, your pages, Ms. Benson.

MB: Some indication? By whom? What do you mean?

SM: Tell me, writers are a pretty insecure bunch, aren't they?

MB: Yes, I suppose we are...

SM: And competitive too?

MB: Right again.

SM: And Ms. Chase was known to be pretty competitive, wasn't she? Really went after what she wanted?

MB: Yes, she was ambitious.

SM: But you and she were friends, yes? Close friends? You trusted each other?

MB: Yes, we were friends.

SM: And you confided in each other, sought each other's advice?

MB: Yes. What are you getting at?

SM: Then I'd guess you felt pretty betrayed when you discovered she'd taken your manuscript and put her name on it.

MB: Excuse me?

SM: What did she say when you confronted her?

MB: Where on earth are you getting these ideas?

SM: You were devastated, very upset. When Peggy LeClaire happened along, you told her what Ms. Chase had done to you. Had to tell somebody, didn't you?

MB: Peggy? Peggy told you this? Why would she do such a thing?

SM: I'm sure she didn't mean to. Kept saying how sorry she was and all...

MB: This is unbelievable...

SM: Not really. Lots of folks are killed over jealousy and theft.

MB: What? You think I...? Detective, I work for the Rape Crisis Center. I am against violence. I don't believe my ears...

SM: Are you saying Ms. LeClaire is wrong? That it wasn't your story Ms. Chase read that night?

MB: I don't know...

SM: You don't know?

MB: I never saw the manuscript, never read it... I don't know.

SM: So you didn't have an argument with Ms. Chase? You didn't tell Ms. LeClaire that you were upset?

MB: Yes, no... it's taken out of context. We had words, she was relentless...

SM: What were you going to do about it?

MB: I don't know. I didn't know... it was all so confusing... I couldn't prove anything. I didn't even know for sure myself... Peggy shouldn't have said anything to you...

SM: Were you going to? Tell us, I mean?

MB: I suppose I would have. I just didn't want you to think...

SM: That you had a motive?

MB: Motive? Are you serious? Don't you get it, Detective? Everybody had a bone to pick with her. She alienated everybody. Even her best friend! Steven and she fought the night she died! He was so furious he was shaking! He knew she'd set him up, that whole thing with Kathy at the cookout! She wanted to make sure Kathy didn't like him so she wouldn't have to give her Steven's manuscript. Which, by the way, is pretty damn good! Kathy probably would have liked it. Even if this really was my book, which I'm not absolutely sure it was... I have published books! I have a readership. I have an agent. I make my living as an author. You think I'll never write another book? Not like it was my last chance!

SM: So who else hated her? Who else had bones to pick with her, as you say?

MB: Jack, the way she used him and flaunted the jewelry from those other men. And who knows how she was stringing them along? And she treated Peggy like dirt, always threatening to fire her and ruin her. Her parents she treated like an ATM machine, like their only purpose was to give her money. And Debbie, slamming the door in her face! I could go on and on. How about the clerk at the Chevron who she called "monkey boy?" You know, Ted Carruthers, the kid with the spine problem? You don't think she made a lot of enemies? Well, think again.

SM: Oh we're thinking, and you're on the list, ma'am.

MB: Well, thanks for the warning. But don't take anybody off your list yet. Maybe it's time to dig deeper. Anything else I can help you with?

SM: Yeah, do you own a gun, ma'am?

MB: Yes, I do.

SM: Mind telling me the make?

MB: It's a Smith and Wesson .357 Magnum revolver.

SM: Any others? Maybe, shall we say, an unofficial handgun?

MB: Oh, do you mean do I have an unregistered gun that I only use to kill people? Well if I did, that wouldn't be a smart thing to tell you would it? We writer folk, we sure are smart and sneaky, ma'am. We pay attention to details. We wouldn't use our registered guns to kill folks, would we? That would make us pretty stupid, don't you think?

SM: No need for sarcasm, ma'am.

MB: You have any more questions, Detective, contact my lawyer. Good day!

[The witness left the office, ending the interview.]

End interview 2:44 p.m.

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