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Press: Local Columnist Murdered

Oxford Eagle, Monday, October 16, 2000
Local Columnist Zoe Chase Slain in Apparent Car Jacking
Body Discovered by Teen near Highway 6 East

by Loretta Winston, Staff Reporter

Yoknapatawpha County Sheriff's Department deputies were called to a gruesome scene on Highway 6 East early Sunday morning to investigate the apparent murder of Oxford Town Weekly columnist, Zoe Chase.

Officials say the deputies responded to a 911 call from witness Beau Jenkins at approximately 7:05 a.m. Jenkins made the grisly discovery while on his way to deliver food on behalf of St. Andrews United Methodist Church to a nearby church member. Jenkins told the Eagle, "I was just driving down the road when I saw something strange over to the side and I pulled over to check it out. The sun was just coming up and I couldn't really tell what it was 'til I got right up on it, but then I saw it was a woman and when I recognized it was Zoe (Chase), I couldn't believe it."

Yoknapatawpha County Sheriff's Department Public Information Officer Elizabeth Jones said in a prepared statement that Chase's body was discovered at the Oxford city limits, on the shoulder of an access road alongside Highway 6 East. Official autopsy results are pending, but initial indications are that Chase died from gunshot wounds to the head and chest. Answering questions from reporters, PIO Jones said Chase's 1999 Ford Explorer was found abandoned in a ditch about 150 yards from the location where the body was found. Jones said detectives are not ruling out the possibility that Chase was killed during a car jacking that went wrong, but declined to comment the specifics of any leads or suspects they are pursuing in the case.

Zoe Chase, 35, came to Oxford in 1997 and has been a popular columnist with the Oxford Town Weekly magazine since her arrival. Chase was active with the Yoknapatawpha County Literacy Council and was a prominent member of the Oxford Writers Circle, which meets monthly at Square Books. According to Steven Atwater, founder of the Oxford Writers Circle, Chase did attend the group's meeting Saturday evening. Atwater said, "Zoe was a valued part of the Oxford Writers Circle and her contributions will be missed."

As the Eagle first reported in September, Chase was on the verge of making a deal with a major publishing house for her first novel. She was scheduled to sign the contract later this week, with the book slated to be published in Summer 2001. Chase's literary agent, Kathy Silverman, said from her office in New York City that the fate of Chase's book is undecided in the wake of her untimely death.

Family members are expected to arrive in Oxford today to make memorial and funeral arrangements for Zoe Chase. Details will be released later this week.

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