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Witness Interview Summaries: Oxford Writers Circle Members
 


On the evening of Wednesday, November 1, 2000, Detectives Sam Murphy and Ted Armstrong went to Square Books to interview members of the Oxford Writers Circle who may have information about the homicide of Zoe Chase and/or circumstances leading to the homicide. The interviews summarized are those relevant to the investigation and are representative of all interviews conducted.

  • Diane Goldman, freelance writer/editor of Women on the Run, 309 N 16th, Oxford. Ms. Goldman stated she arrived at the meeting just before 8:00 p.m. and noticed that Steven Atwater and the deceased appeared to be in a heated discussion. She didn't overhear what was said but heard from other members that Mr. Atwater was "ticked" about Ms. Chase reneging on an agreement to show his manuscript to her agent.

    Ms. Goldman said the writers meeting started about five minutes late, she presumed because it took a few minutes for Mr. Atwater to collect himself and begin the meeting. She also stated that though the meeting began as usual, covering what topics would be discussed and who would open which discussion, that toward the end, Ms. Chase insisted she be allowed to read some pages from her soon to be published novel. When asked what response Ms. Chase got from the reading, Ms. Goldman said that most of the members were impressed and somewhat surprised that the pages were so good, though a couple of the members - specifically Ms. Benson and Ms. LeClaire - seemed neither impressed nor surprised. Ms. Goldman surmised that they had probably both read the manuscript and so did not share the reaction of the rest of the group. She also mentioned that Mr. Atwater seemed to pay little attention to the reading and spent the last few minutes of the meeting checking his watch and rolling his eyes.

    Ms. Goldman said she left Square Books approximately five minutes after the meeting concluded around 10:00 p.m. and that Ms. Chase was still there talking to another member, Arthur Bender, when she left. When asked if she noticed whether anyone left before the meeting was over, the witness said that Ms. LeClaire complained of a headache and left before Ms. Chase's reading was over. She added that she couldn't be sure, but she believed that Ms. Benson also left just before the reading concluded, seeming restless.
  • Arthur Bender, retired professor, 214 Van Buren , Oxford. Mr. Bender stated that the meeting seemed to go on as usual, and that he especially enjoyed the reading by Ms. Chase and spoke to her for a few minutes after the meeting ended about the book. When asked if he noticed any tension among any of the members, he stated that he recalled Ms. LeClaire saying she had a headache, but hastened to add that Ms. LeClaire frequently has headaches and was known to leave meetings early some times. When asked if he noticed anything unusual that night in anyone's behavior, he said that he hadn't. He stated he had been so enraptured by Ms. Chase's reading that he simply didn't pay attention to anyone else. He was keen to ask Ms. Chase's advice about a mystery idea he'd had himself for sometime how he should go about starting it, and was disappointed that he never got a chance to discuss it with her. When asked if Ms. Chase displayed any unusual behavior in general or toward any other members, he said he noticed nothing unusual and that Ms. Chase had been her normal "vibrant self."
  • Richard Roman, photographer, 1516 Madison, Oxford. The witness said he noticed no unusual behavior of any note at the meeting, though he had heard that Mr. Atwater and Ms. Chase had had "words" about Atwater's manuscript. Mr. Roman felt that Mr. Atwater was overreacting, which he felt Mr. Atwater was wont to do.

    When asked if he knew of anything unusual occurring between Ms. Chase and any of the other members, Mr. Roman said he recalled that there had been a virus that had caused some damage to both Ms. Chase's computer and Ms. Benson's computer several months ago. He believed that possibly Ms. Chase's computer was exposed to the virus because of a file she got from Ms. Benson, but wasn't absolutely sure because "viruses are rampant among computer users and no one could be sure where they come from." He stated he had recommended a computer consultant to each of them at the time and apparently the consultant was apparently able to help them save most of their files.

    When asked if he noticed any members leaving early or before the meeting was over, Mr. Roman said he believed Ms. LeClaire had a headache and left about ten minutes before the meeting was over. He also said that most everyone was gone within twenty minutes of the meeting ending. He said he saw Ms. Chase leave about 10:15 p.m. and that she was one of the last to leave.
  • Claire Mariani, college student, 1416 Van Buren , Oxford. Ms. Mariani arrived at the meeting approximately twenty minutes late and so did not witness any upsets between or among any of the other members. She stated she was very impressed with the Ms. Chase's reading and stayed afterwards to chat with her about it. Ms. Chase mentioned she had to leave soon since she was planning an overnight trip to Memphis for shopping and "fun."

    When asked if she noticed anyone acting unusually, Ms. Mariani commented that she wondered if Ms. Benson was ill as she appeared pale and, contrary to her usual behavior of staying after the meeting to chat, she left just before the meeting was over.

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