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Witness Interview: Howard and Marion Neidelmen, the Victim's Parents

Monday, November 20, 2000 - 10:00 a.m.

Detective Sam Murphy telephoned the Neidelmens at their home in Florida to conduct a follow up interview.

SM = Detective S. Murphy
HN = Howard Neidelmen
MN = Marion Neidelmen

SM: Mrs. Neidelmen?

MN: Yes, this is Marion Neidelmen.

SM: This is Detective Murphy with the Yoknapatawpha County Sheriff's Department in Oxford. We met when you were in town a few weeks ago?

MN: Yes, Detective. I remember. Just a minute, let me get my husband on the phone. Howard? Pick up the phone. It's that lady detective from Oxford. He's going to the other phone. Just a minute. There he is.

HN: Hello?

SM: Mr. Neidelmen, this is Detective Murphy. I -

HN: Have you found the man who hurt Zoe?

MN: Have you arrested someone?

HN: Did you find out why he hurt our daughter?

SM: Sir? Ma'am? If I could, first let me say that unfortunately we have not made an arrest in your daughter's case yet. I -

MN: Oh no.

HN: Do you have any leads?

MN: Do you have any suspects?

HN: Are you close to finding the person?

SM: Folks, I understand that you're eager to see the culprit bought to justice in this case, and we are too. To that end, I'd like to ask you some more questions, if you have a few minutes.

MN: Oh, of course.

HN: You know, we just want to know who did this.

SM: Yes, sir. I -

HN: We didn't realize you had more questions for us

MN: So we just jumped right into what we wanted to know

HN: But we'll stop so you can ask us your questions. Won't we, Marion?

MN: Yes, of course, dear. What did you need to ask us, Detective?

SM: Well, I'd like to talk to you about Debbie Fitzgerald.

MN: Oh.

HN: What about her?

SM: You know who I'm referring to?

HN: Yes, we do. She's Zoe's...

MN: Birth mother, dear. I believe that's the term they use.

SM: I understand you hired a private investigator recently to find her.

HN: Yes.

MN: We did, yes.

SM: Why?

HN: Why?

SM: Yes. Why did you decide to locate her after so many years?

HN: Marion...

MN: Well, we saw it on TV.

SM: I'm sorry? What do you mean you saw it on TV?

MN: We were watching one of those talk shows and they were talking about adopted children.

HN: How it can be beneficial for them to know their medical histories and so forth

MN: In case there are any health problems they should be looking out for and things like that.

HN: So Marion thought

MN: We both thought

HN: Yes, we both thought it would be a good idea to get that information for Zoe.

MN: Just in case.

HN: Yes, just in case.

SM: Did you try to find Zoe's birth mother on your own?

MN: Oh no.

HN: We didn't know where to start.

MN: So we talked to our attorney.

HN: He's the one who suggested we use a PI to find her.

SM: And this private investigator was able to find her?

HN: Yes.

MN: It didn't take long at all, considering.

HN: We were surprised how quick it was.

SM: So after the investigator found Debbie Fitzgerald, did you speak to her?

MN: Not right away.

HN: We really didn't want to have any direct contact with her.

MN: We just wanted to get the medical information from her.

HN: That's all.

SM: And all of that went according to plan?

HN: No.

MN: Not exactly.

SM: Could you elaborate on that?

HN: We didn't want the PI to tell her anything about us or about Zoe.

MN: Where we live, where Zoe lived, what her name was, anything like that.

HN: But she wouldn't cooperate.

SM: What do you mean?

HN: She wouldn't just tell him what we wanted to know.

MN: She wanted information about Zoe.

SM: What kind of information?

MN: Like I said, Zoe's name, where she lived, things like that.

HN: I didn't want to do it. I thought we should have the PI to tell her to forget it and just let it go.

MN: Howard.

HN: But then I realized it was probably pretty important for us to get Zoe's medical history.

MN: So we told Leo - that's the PI - we told him to say whatever he had to say to get us the information we wanted.

HN: Within reason, of course. And we told him to be sure to get the medical history from her first, before he told her anything about Zoe.

SM: And that worked?

HN: No.

MN: In the end, we had to go see her.

SM: Ms. Fitzgerald?

MN: Yes.

HN: She refused to help us unless we did.

MN: So we really had no choice.

SM: And that worked out?

HN: We got the medical history we wanted.

MN: It was awkward, of course. But Howard and I have always wanted what was best for Zoe, so we did what we had to do.

SM: What did you have to give Ms. Fitzgerald in exchange for the information she gave you?

MN: Only Zoe's name and address.

HN: And a picture of Zoe.

MN: Yes, and a picture.

SM: No money changed hands?

HN: No, of course not.

MN: Why would she give us money?

HM: I think she was asking whether we gave her any money, dear.

MN: Oh, I see. Well, we didn't.

SM: When did all this happen?

MN: Must have been about six months ago?

HN: About that. Maybe a little longer.

SM: Did your daughter support your efforts to locate her birth mother?

MN: She didn't know about it until later.

HN: We didn't want to tell Zoe until we knew whether we'd find her or not and what kind of person she was.

MN: We didn't want her to be disappointed.

SM: And was she disappointed?

HN: No.

MN: She was...

HN: You might as well tell her, Marion.

MN: Well... she wasn't disappointed.

HN: She was angry with us.

SM: Really? Why was she angry?

MN: I... I don't know.

HN: She thought we had gone behind her back.

MN: We were just trying to help.

SM: When did you tell your daughter you'd found her birth mother?

MN: On her birthday this year.

SM: Her birthday?

HN: It seemed like a good idea at the time.

MN: Howard, there's no need to be sarcastic. Yes, on her birthday. We thought it would be a nice surprise for her. We went to Oxford for her birthday. It was her 35th, you know?

SM: Yes.

MN: We went to Oxford for the weekend and on her birthday

HN: Sunday

MN: Yes, it was Sunday, we had a nice dinner with Zoe and Jack. That's when we gave her the ruby and diamond cocktail ring.

HN: Excellent workmanship. An exquisite piece.

MN: Yes, it was lovely. Have you found it yet?

SM: The ring? No, ma'am, I'm sorry, but we haven't located it yet.

MN: Oh, that's too bad. You will find it though, won't you?

SM: We'll do our best, ma'am. Now, you were telling me about your daughter's birthday?

MN: Oh yes. Where were we?

SM: You had a nice dinner and you gave your daughter the ring. When did you tell Ms. Chase you'd found Ms. Fitzgerald?

MN: Oh, that was later, after Jack had gone home.

HN: We didn't think we should tell her about it while he was there.

SM: Why not?

HN: We felt it was personal information and shouldn't be discussed in front of someone who wasn't family.

MN: And if she wanted to tell him about it later, then it would be her decision.

SM: I see. What was her reaction when you told her?

HN: She was furious.

MN: Now Howard, I don't think she was furious. She was very surprised. I think we caught her off guard and she didn't know how to react.

SM: And how did she react?

MN: Um...

HN: She asked us to leave.

MN: She said she wanted to be alone.

HN: She wanted us to get out.

MN: Howard, she didn't mean to hurt our feelings.

HN: She said we had to tell the Fitzgerald woman never to contact her and to make sure that she didn't or she would never see or speak to us again.

MN: Oh, Howard.

SM: Sounds like she was pretty upset. Did you explain to her why you'd looked for Ms. Fitzgerald?

MN: We tried.

HN: But she wouldn't let us.

MN: She wouldn't even let us show her the pictures.

SM: What pictures?

HN: Debbie Fitzgerald gave us a few pictures.

MN: But Zoe wouldn't even look at them.

HN: Not that day, but she did later.

MN: Yes, we sent her the pictures a few weeks later.

SM: Why? Did she ask for them?

MN: Yes, she did.

HN: I think her curiosity got the better of her.

SM: And she wasn't angry with you anymore at that point?

MN: Not really.

HN: She wasn't as angry as she had been at least.

SM: What about her birth father?

HN: What about him?

SM: Did you try to find him?

MN: Yes, but we didn't get very far.

SM: Why not?

MN: We couldn't even find out what his name was.

HN: He wasn't identified in any of the records.

MN: And that woman wouldn't tell us who he was.

SM: Ms. Fitzgerald wouldn't tell you? Why not?

HN: She said she hadn't seen him since before Zoe was born and she didn't want to.

MN: She said he didn't even know about Zoe.

HN: That's what she said.

SM: You didn't believe her?

HN: We didn't have a choice.

MN: We took her at her word.

SM: Weren't you interested in getting his medical history too?

MN: Yes, of course we were, but we didn't know how to find him.

HN: Leo was still looking into it, but after... what happened

MN: There didn't seem to be any point.

SM: Okay. Now, Mr. and Mrs. Neidelmen, I have to ask you, why didn't you tell us about any of this when we talked to you before?

MN: We just didn't think of it.

HN: Do you think all of this has something to do with what happened to Zoe?

SM: We have to consider all the possibilities. That's why we need to know about everything, so we can figure out what's relevant and what isn't. Is there anything else you haven't told us about?

MN: I don't think so.

HN: We've told you everything we can.

SM: Okay. But if you think of anything else, you be sure to let us know, right?

MN: Oh, we will.

HN: Of course.

SM: Now, when you were in Oxford, you found some pieces of jewelry in the safe at your daughter's house. Did you give her all of those?

HN: We gave her a pearl and gold ring, a ruby bracelet, and a diamond pendant. All beautiful pieces.

MN: She also had a Cartier watch and a pair of lovely ruby and diamond earrings, but we didn't give her those.

SM: Do you know where she got them?

MN: I think they were gifts from men she was seeing or had seen in the past.

HN: That's right. That's what she said.

SM: She got them from Mr. Swanson?

MN: Oh no, I don't think so.

HN: I'd say they were out of his price range.

SM: Do you know the names of the man or men who gave her the watch and the earrings?

HN: No, she never said.

MN: Zoe never really talked about the men she dated. That's how I knew she was serious about Jack. She told us about him and she let us meet him.

SM: I see. Have you spoken to Mr. Swanson since your daughter's funeral?

HN: No.

MN: No, we haven't.

SM: What about Dani Bonner? Have you heard from her?

HN: No.

MN: Why would we?

HN: She and Zoe were close.

MN: But we never had much of a friendship with Dani.

SM: Has Ms. Fitzgerald contacted you?

HN: No.

MN: Did she say she was going to?

SM: Not that I'm aware of.

HN: I don't think we'll ever talk to her again.

MN: No reason to.

SM: Now, again, I don't want to upset you, but I do need to ask, there have been some rumors that your daughter might have... that the manuscript she was about to have published was not her original work.

HN: What are you saying?

MN: I don't understand.

SM: There are a few rumors that she might have stolen the manuscript from someone else and that she didn't write it herself.

HN: That's ridiculous!

MN: Zoe would never do anything like that.

HN: And she wouldn't need to.

MN: Our daughter was a very talented writer.

HN: She didn't need to steal anyone else's work because her work was superior on it's own.

SM: Well, as I said, they're only rumors at this point and we haven't been able to confirm or deny them yet.

HN: I'm sure you'll find that it's completely untrue.

MN: And I hope you'll make sure everyone knows that.

HN: It's a terrible thing to say about Zoe.

MN: Especially when she can't even defend herself.

SM: I understand your concern and I assure you that, whatever the truth is, we'll find out.

HN: And restore our daughter's good name.

SM: Yes... now, is there anything else you can think of that we need to know?

HN: No. Do you think you're close to making an arrest?

MN: Do you have a suspect?

SM: We hope to bring this investigation to a close very soon and we'll keep you apprised.

HN: Please do.

MN: Yes, please do.

SM: Thank you for taking time to speak with me. We'll be back in touch with you when we have more information. In the meantime, please contact us if you have any information that might help us in the investigation.

MN: We will, Detective, and thank you.

HN: Yes, thank you.

SM: Goodbye.

End interview 10:41 a.m.

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