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Witness Interview: Peggy LeClaire, Worked for the Victim

Tuesday, October 18, 2000 - 1:15 p.m.

The Yoknapatawpha County Sheriff's Office contacted Ms. LeClaire for an interview, following witness Beau Jenkins' mention of her in his interview. Detective Ted Armstrong conducted the interview at the Yoknapatawpha County Sheriff's Office.

TA = Detective T. Armstrong
PL = Peggy LeClaire

TA: Would you please state your full name and address for the record?

PL: Peggy Madeline LeClaire, 224 North 18th, Oxford.

TA: Ms. LeClaire, thank you for coming in today. The Sheriff's Office appreciates your cooperation.

PL: Of course, anything I can do to help.

TA: We have information that you worked for Ms. Chase, the deceased. Is that correct?

PL: Well, I wasn't her employee if that's what you mean. I have a typing/transcription business and Zoe was one of my clients. But I have several clients, not just Zoe.

TA: Okay. And you also knew her through your membership at the Oxford Writers Circle, that correct?

PL: Yes, I also knew her from there. I joined right after the group started and she came in a few years later.

TA: So, you met her when she joined the writers group or when she became your client and employed your services?

PL: I met her when she joined the group. I guess about three years ago. Not long afterward, she mentioned how she hated typing and such and I gave her my card and told her I'd be happy to do any typing or transcription she needed.

TA: So the writers group was a place where you networked for your business as well?

PL: Well, not exactly. Yes, I sometimes get work from other writers there, but I go for creative purposes. You know what I mean?

TA: Sure. Did you ever see Ms. Chase socially, other than at the writers meetings?

PL: No, I'd say our relationship was mostly professional. I mean, naturally we spoke at the meetings and so forth. But for the most part our contact was about starting or completing work for her.

TA: You also have a full time position at Copy Time?

PL: Yes, I'm the assistant manager there. Worked there for quite a few years. I'm sure my co-workers will vouch for me.

TA: Vouch for you in what way?

PL: I don't know, just a figure of speech, I guess. I mean that I've worked there a long time. You know? Sorry, guess I've seen too many Dragnet reruns. I don't often talk to the police.

TA: Nothing to be nervous about, ma'am. We're just regular folk like everybody else.

PL: Yes, of course you are. This whole thing over Zoe is just so... upsetting. You just don't expect someone you know to... I mean, well, I just saw her a week ago. Laughing, making jokes, bubbling all over the place like she did. It just doesn't seem real that any of this is happening.

TA: I understand. It is a shock when someone you know is the victim of a crime. Talking about Copy Time, one of the things we found at the scene of Ms. Chase's murder was a receipt from Copy Time dated October 11th. Do you know what that was for?

PL: I think Zoe had her manuscript copied. I don't know for sure because I didn't handle that job. If you come by the shop, I can look it up for you.

TA: Thank you. We'll do that. You have any idea of who might have wanted to hurt Ms. Chase?

PL: You mean, can I think of someone who would have done this? Oh my lord, no. I mean, you know, people have spats and all, but you don't kill someone just because they riled you up.

TA: Riled up? Did Ms. Chase get someone riled up?

PL: Well, she was kind of... how would you say it? Bigger than life, you know? I mean, when she walked in the door, everyone looked. She just had that effect on people. Very vibrant person. I suppose she stepped on some egos here and there. And sometimes she could be opinionated. But people never stayed mad at her. She was just really charming and funny and persuasive. It's hard to explain.

TA: I understand what you're getting at. Had kind of a celebrity personality? You liked her, maybe in spite of yourself?

PL: Exactly. You took the words right out of my head!

TA: Did you feel that people were jealous of her? Envied her?

PL: I suppose some could have been. She did have some success. And it's hard for writers to see one of their own get a break when they aren't.

TA: Anyone in particular?

PL: Well, I don't know. I suppose you could even put me in that category. Zoe had much more success then I ever did. Probably more than I ever will. But we're all so insecure, we artists. You know?

TA: Okay. What about her personal relationships? Did you know any of her friends? Or who her friends were?

PL: Well, I knew Jack, of course. That's her... I guess you'd say he is her boyfriend. He was at the house many times when I picked up or dropped off work. He's a bit younger than her. But a nice fellow.

TA: You know Jack's last name?

PL: Swanson. Jack Swanson.

TA: Did you ever hear them argue, Ms. Chase and Mr. Swanson?

PL: I guess they had their spats, just like any other couple, Detective.

TA: About anything in particular?

PL: I guess Jack is a little insecure and maybe sometimes felt jealous. Men did find Zoe attractive. But isn't that a normal response?

TA: That would depend on how far the jealousy went.

PL: Oh, I see what you mean.

TA: How did you get along with Ms. Chase? Any friction?

PL: Well, sure. We disagreed sometimes. She could get after you if you didn't have her work done right at the exact time she thought it ought to be. She was pretty picky about that.

TA: You had occasion to turn work in late?

PL: Well, maybe a couple of times, I was a bit late. I got backed up on other work and such. That does happen. Sometimes no matter how well you plan things, you just can't pull it off. You know? So, yes, I suppose I did disappoint her a couple of times in that regard.

TA: Ever have any personal disagreements? Arguments that weren't related to work?

PL: We had a couple of feisty debates at the meetings sometimes. We did not see eye to eye on fiction, literature and such. But I wouldn't say it was personal.

TA: Okay, I get it. When was the last time you saw Ms. Chase?

PL: Last Saturday at the monthly meeting. I think it started about eight and was over by ten or so. That's how it usually goes. Though I left a little early last week.

TA: Why's that?

PL: Had a bit of a headache. Not a migraine, just kind of a dull thud. And I knew at home there was an aspirin with my name on it. Anyway, I was distracted because of it and just felt I might just as well leave, since I wasn't really able to concentrate on our discussion.

TA: Did you notice if anyone else left early?

PL: No. Though I think I probably was the only one. People tend to like to stay and chat. Even after the official meeting is over.

TA: Okay. Did Ms. Chase say anything to you at the meeting or that day that was odd or unusual?

PL: Nothing that comes to mind.

TA: Can you think of any reason that anyone might want to have done this to Ms. Chase?

PL: No, I really can't. Maybe it was a car jacking, like the papers said.

TA: We're looking into all the possibilities.

PL: I believe you. I hope you find whoever did this.

TA: So do we, ma'am.

PL: Well, if there's nothing else... I do have a pile of work to get to at home.

TA: Just one more thing. The novel that Ms. Chase was about to have published?

PL: Yes, what about it?

TA: Did you transcribe it? Do you know what it was about?

PL: Actually no, I didn't. And honestly, I don't know why. Though there were a few times I just didn't have time to do work for her, when I had big projects, so maybe that's why. So, she must have hired someone else to do it.

TA: Any ideas who that might be?

PL: Nobody from around here. I pretty much am the only service of that type. Maybe a service in Memphis or Tupelo. I know she liked to shop at the Mall of Memphis.

TA: Did you know what it was about? The novel?

PL: Well, she did read some pages at the meeting last week from it. I think it was a mystery. We started running out of time, so she didn't get far into it.

TA: So, it was fiction? Not an exposé or a true crime story or anything like that?

PL: Heavens no! Zoe was all fiction. I can't imagine her writing an All the President's Men sort of thing. Even her columns were light and funny. Zoe didn't really like reality. You know, the real world. It was boring to her. She liked to make things up. The very quality that makes one a good writer, you know?

TA: I see. Well, thanks very much for coming in. If we have any further questions, our office will contact you.

PL: Any time. I hope I helped in some small way.

TA: Yes, you were very helpful. Good afternoon, ma'am.

End interview 1:37 p.m.

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