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Witness Interview: Peggy LeClaire, Worked for the Victim

Friday, December 15, 2000 - 6:01 p.m.

This interview was conducted at the Yoknapatawpha County Detention Center in Oxford. Those present were Detectives Sam Murphy and Ted Armstrong, suspect Peggy LeClaire, and Father Patrick Monahan, at the suspect's request, in lieu of legal counsel.

TA = Detective T. Armstrong
SM = Detective S. Murphy
PL = Peggy LeClaire
FPM = Father Patrick Monahan

SM: For the record, state your name and address.

PL: Peggy Madeline LeClaire. As to my address, I suppose the courts will decide that.

TA: Let the record reflect that Ms. LeClaire has been advised of her rights to have legal counsel present but has declined such representation. She has requested instead to have Father Patrick Monahan of St. John's Catholic Church to be present.

FPM: I am here only for moral support, not legal advice.

SM: All right, Ms. LeClaire, you've waived legal counsel. Does that mean you're prepared to give us the truth?

PL: What truth would that be, Detective Murphy?

TA: Ms. LeClaire, we know you killed Zoe Chase. Give it up.

PL: I know you think I killed her. That's all I know.

SM: You've been advised of your rights. You've got your priest here. What's it all about, then?

PL: Why don't you tell me, Detective?

SM: What do you want me to tell you about, ma'am? All the evidence we found in your home? The coat you left in the church donation box that had Zoe's blood on it?

PL: Anyone could have left that coat there.

TA: The glove matching the one left at the crime scene was found in the pocket.

PL: That was found in the lost and found. Isn't that right, Father Pat?

FPM: Yes, that's true. The note said it was found in the pocket of the brown coat.

PL: Could have been any brown coat.

SM: There was only one brown coat. In fact, there was only one coat, period. Your coat, the one you wore the night you shot and killed Zoe Chase.

PL: Why would I have killed Zoe?

SM: In the search of your home, we recovered your second gun. An unregistered, .25 caliber Beretta. Ballistics will show it matched the bullet retrieved from the victim's body.

PL: I don't know how that gun got there...

SM: I'm sure, when Boyd Forbes sees it, he'll recognize it as the one he gave to you years ago.

PL: Boyd wouldn't recognize his own mother. And he certainly wouldn't recognize the truth if it spit in his face.

SM: Then there's the matter of an antique Rolex watch and a ruby cocktail ring, identified by the victim's parents as gifts they had given their daughter.

PL: I can't believe you don't see that someone is trying to frame me.

TA: Frame you? Like who?

PL: Mallory Benson comes to mind. It was her novel Zoe stole. Her life Zoe ruined. Her heart she broke.

SM: Mallory Benson? I thought Mallory Benson was a friend of yours.

PL: And so did I.

TA: So, Ms. Benson put the murder weapon -

PL: Alleged murder weapon.

TA: Okay, alleged murder weapon. She put the gun, the jewelry and the pages that Ms. Chase read at the writer's meeting the night she died - incidentally, with Ms. Chase's fingerprints and yours on the pages, not Ms. Benson's - in your home? In order to frame you?

PL: Is that so hard to believe? Clearly, she is the one who had the motive. I mean, why on earth would I have killed Zoe? True, I didn't like her. But kill her? That just doesn't make sense.

SM: And Ms. Benson broke into your home to plant all this evidence?

PL: She knows where I keep the spare key. I told her that I kept it under that back door mat.

TA: And what would make Ms. Benson to frame you, as you say? Did she have some ax to grind with you?

PL: Obviously, she never forgave me for telling y'all about the manuscript and Zoe's betrayal and deception.

SM: And she just happened to have an old brown coat like you had? And she put it in the donation box, knowing it would be linked to you? And by some psychic flash she knew you would be buying a new coat?

PL: You could get an old brown coat just about anywhere. And I'd told her for some time that I had my eye on the suede jacket. It wasn't that much of a stretch for her to think so.

TA: The jacket you bought with money you threw in a change jar?

PL: Exactly right.

SM: Except you told Ms. Benson you'd gotten a large dividend check and you bought the coat from that.

PL: Well... I did get a dividend check... but there were bills I paid with that... so I paid for the coat from the jar.

TA: You always throw fifties and hundreds in that ol' change jar, ma'am?

PL: Pardon?

SM: We talked to the manager at Neilson's, the one you bought the coat from. The one you asked to throw your old brown coat away for you. The one you bought a brand, spanking new pair of gloves from.

PL: Now it's a crime to buy new gloves too? Oh my, I suspect next you'll be talking to the folks at J.C. Penny's about my fine washables.

SM: Okay, let's say I give you the benefit of the doubt and explore the idea that Mallory Benson framed you. She did have motive and a pretty good one. I think I could understand the kind of anger she must have felt over what Zoe Chase did to her. It would have made anybody pretty upset - desperate even.

PL: Well, now you're starting to talk some sense, Detective.

SM: But if I did go with this theory, I'd have some questions that'd be pretty hard to answer. I'd have to ask, how is it that the manuscript pages didn't have Ms. Benson's prints on them?

PL: Obviously, she wore gloves.

SM: And how is it that - since you insist you never read the manuscript, never typed it, never saw it - your fingerprints along with Zoe Chase's were the only ones on the pages?

PL: Well, I did so much work for Zoe, it's easy to imagine I might have handled the paper that she printed the pages on. I often did work for her at her home office. I often handled the paper loaded into the printer... I could easily have left prints on paper that she later used to print something.

SM: Then I'd have to wonder how it was that the keys we found in the pocket of that old brown coat in the church box fit the locks in your front door, back door and your vehicle.

PL: I lost my extra set a few weeks ago.

TA: When you forgot them in the coat you tried to get rid of. The evidence you tried to get rid of...

PL: You're wrong.

TA: And we'd have to wonder too, about the three strands of brown hair found on that old brown coat that matched your hair, ma'am. Not to mention the initials sewn into the label of that brown coat, which were "P" and "L."

PL: I'm not the only person in the world with those initials...

SM: No, you're not. But I'm sure tests are going to show that other samples of your clothing taken in the search of your home will match in needlework and such...

PL: Father Pat, you don't believe this, do you? Tell them it isn't true!

FPM: My child, speak to Him. He will show you the way. If you have sinned in this way...

SM: And while you're talking to God, let me tell you how you murdered Zoe Chase.

PL: I, I...

SM: After years of dealing with Zoe Chase, you were pretty fed up. The woman had piled insult upon insult on you, unfairly. She had belittled and humiliated you on countless occasions. But, for the promise of work, you withstood it. You took every insult and accusation and bit your tongue. But it festered. You knew someday you were going to explode and you prayed that it would be when you were nowhere near that woman, otherwise you couldn't be responsible for what you might do.

PL: I have taken responsibility for every action of my life...

SM: You kept it under control. You took each day as it came and kept your anger and stayed silent. But then that day when Mallory told you what Zoe had done, it was just too much. Enduring Zoe Chase's behavior toward you was one thing, but what she'd done to a friend. That was unbearable.

PL: It was wicked, what she did. Beyond all -

SM: All that any reasonable person could bear. But still you kept the anger and hatred for this woman below the surface. You encouraged your friend to strike back, to give her what she deserved, but your friend was unable to exact vengeance. She wasn't strong enough to have a real face off.

PL: Yes, a meek little mouse. Mallory needed to grow up.

TA: And you couldn't convince her what had to be done, could you? Did you actually suggest to her that she should kill Zoe Chase?

PL: I told her that she needed to get even.

TA: Give Zoe what she deserved, eh?

PL: Nobody could give that evil creature what she deserved. Father Pat, you know the evil seeds that walk the earth...

FPM: May God forgive you, my child...

PL: Forgive me!!!! Forgive me for what? I simply did what no one else had the courage to do!

SM: You stopped her. Isn't that right, ma'am?

PL: I put an end to the evil!

SM: That night of the writer's meeting, you left early. Waited for her on the road by her house...

PL: So cocky, so proud of what she'd done to Mallory... to all of us. She lived to humiliate anyone competent. Any light that shone she had to put out so that her paltry existence could mean something.

TA: You put your car across the road so's she'd have to stop.

PL: Like a little mouse then. Getting out of her car like she was going to jump out of her skin.

SM: But when she saw you I bet she laughed, didn't she? Right in your face. Made fun of you like she always had. Even when you pointed the gun at her? She just didn't take you seriously, did she?

PL: She didn't think I had the nerve. Oh, I had the nerve all right! When that first bullet hit her and she went down in terror, she knew I was serious! Dead serious!

SM: Did you make her beg for her life? Make her repent for her sins?

PL: She wouldn't. She wouldn't repent. I gave her every chance, but she wouldn't do it. She wouldn't do the right thing. I had to put an end to it.

SM: The second shot ended it, didn't it? Then you set the stage to look like a robbery and car jacking. Drove the car into the ditch and just drove away.

PL: Detective, I flew away. It was the first time since I laid eyes on that creature that I felt like a proud, strong human being.

SM: Yes ma'am. The courts will be real happy for you.

End interview 7:13 p.m.

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