Erma Webb interview
Wednesday, May 5, 2021 – 1:00 p.m.
Erma Webb is pageant finalist Rachel Webb's mother and was acquainted with Barbara Dubois. Both Erma and Rachel Webb were staying at the Yoknapatawpha County Conference Center the night Barbara was murdered.
Detectives Armstrong and Murphy interviewed Erma Webb at the Yoknapatawpha County Sheriff's Department.
- Detective T. Armstrong
- Detective S. Murphy
- Erma Webb
Detective Armstrong: Good afternoon, Mrs. Webb. Thank you for coming in to talk with us today.
Erma Webb: It's Miss or Ms., if you please, detectives.
Detective Armstrong: Oh, I beg your pardon. Which would you prefer?
Erma Webb: I think Ms. will do nicely, thank you. Can we get on with this? I have things to do.
Detective Murphy: Of course, Ms. Webb. Will you please state your name and address for the record?
Erma Webb: This is ridiculous. Why am I here anyway?
Detective Murphy: First, your name and address, please, ma'am.
Erma Webb: Oh, all right. Erma Webb. 2215 Jefferson Davis Drive. Oxford, Mississippi. Now can we get on with this ridiculousness?
Detective Murphy: Why do you think we wanted to talk to you today?
Erma Webb: I know why I'm here, detective. I'm not stupid, you know. It's a waste of time. Why would I know anything about her death? I had as little to do with her as possible.
Detective Armstrong: We understand this is upsetting, ma'am, and we appreciate your cooperation. Less time will be wasted if you just answer our questions.
Erma Webb: Oh, all right, but I don't see how I can help.
Detective Murphy: Just tell the truth, Ms. Webb. You can start by telling us what you did Friday evening.
Erma Webb: I went to the dinner and then went to my room to bed.
Detective Armstrong: What time was the dinner over?
Erma Webb: I suppose around 10:30 p.m.
Detective Murphy: And you went directly to your room?
Erma Webb: No. I looked in on the photoshoot, but I left after a couple of minutes. I couldn't stand watching that girl prance and preen for the camera, upstaging my Rachel. Shameful hussy. It made me sick. I had to leave.
Detective Armstrong: By "shameful hussy," who do you mean?
Erma Webb: That— that— Dubois girl, of course! Always hogging the camera.
Detective Armstrong: So when you left the photoshoot, where did you go?
Erma Webb: To my room.
Detective Murphy: Did you stop and talk to anyone on the way?
Erma Webb: No. I don't dilly-dally around and chitchat with unimportant people.
Detective Murphy: Well, did you see anyone else?
Erma Webb: Not that I recall.
Detective Armstrong: And you went directly there?
Erma Webb: I don't recall stopping off anywhere, detective. Now move on.
Detective Armstrong: And what time was that?
Erma Webb: How should I know? I don't look at my watch every minute. For goodness sake, don't you have someone else to harass?
Detective Murphy: Ms. Webb, are we going to find out you had something to do with Barbara's death?
Erma Webb: Are you calling me a murderer? Don't be ridiculous. What possible reason could I have to murder that girl? Anyway, I certainly wouldn't beat her to death. How crude—and unimaginative.
Detective Armstrong: Have you thought about doing something like this?
Erma Webb: Well, I can't deny that I sometimes wonder what Rachel's chances would be if that girl hadn't been around to steal a crown from her.
Detective Murphy: Then you might say you're glad she is dead.
Erma Webb: No, I'm not glad she's dead, but I'm glad she won't be around to steal any more crowns from my Rachel.
Detective Murphy: Let's go back to Friday night and Saturday morning. After you went to your room, did you talk to or see anyone?
Erma Webb: Let's see. Yes, I went to Rachel's room about 11:15 p.m. to see if she was back yet. Then I phoned her around midnight to be sure she was in bed. Too many of these girls stay out late the night before a pageant. Can't be a winner with bags under your eyes. Then I went to bed.
Detective Murphy: And we won't find anything to contradict that, will we?
Erma Webb: If you do, it will be a lie. Or maybe just a mistake.
Detective Armstrong: I see. Tell us about the next morning. What did you see and hear?
Erma Webb: Someone knocked on my door, asking if I'd seen that girl.
Detective Murphy: Barbara Dubois?
Erma Webb: Yes. I didn't pay much attention. She wasn't my concern. I have enough on my hands keeping track of my own daughter. So I finished dressing, and when I found Rachel wasn't in her room, I went downstairs. Everyone was running around like chickens with their heads cut off, and Susan Dubois was carrying on something terrible.
Detective Murphy: Did you help in the search?
Erma Webb: No, I didn't think it necessary to add to the confusion. When the police arrived, and they all went upstairs, I got Rachel. We packed up our things and left as soon as the officers would let us go home.
Detective Armstrong: I understand you left very quickly. Was there a reason you wanted to leave so early?
Erma Webb: I just thought it would be better for Rachel to be away from all the negative publicity, and… well, I just wanted her away from there. It wasn't as if we could do anything once they found her.
Detective Murphy: Ms. Webb, did you have a keycard to Barbara Dubois' room?
Erma Webb: Heavens, no! Why would I have that?
Detective Armstrong: Well, you had one to your daughter's room as well as your own. Did Rachel have a key to Barbara's room?
Erma Webb: Why would she have that? Of course not.
Detective Armstrong: Did she have a keycard to your room?
Erma Webb: No, I told the desk clerk not to give her one. I'm not competing. I don't need someone to make sure I don't stay out all hours. She does.
Detective Armstrong: We're conducting a thorough investigation here, Ms. Webb. We're interviewing everyone, doing forensic tests, fingerprinting, and so on. How do you think the investigation will come out concerning you?
Erma Webb: Oh my, detective! That's rather an intimidating question. Well, let's see. I would certainly hope and pray that your forensic tests, whatever they might be, would show that I'm just an innocent bystander. I have no important information for you, so you may as well go persecute someone else.
Detective Murphy: Would you be surprised if we told you that ipecac was found in some of the chocolates that were given to the competitors?
Erma Webb: If that is true, it is shocking.
Detective Murphy: If it is true, how do you suppose the ipecac might've gotten there?
Erma Webb: Obviously, someone was trying to poison my darling Rachel. Maybe that girl did it so she would be sure to have a clear way to the title. Rachel was surely her biggest threat.
Detective Murphy: That girl? You mean Barbara Dubois?
Erma Webb: Well, I don't know who else— unless maybe Ingrid. She's the type who might do that.
Detective Murphy: And Rachel? Is she the type to do that?
Erma Webb: Rachel? Absolutely not! My Rachel would never even think to do something like that.
Detective Armstrong: What about you, Ms. Webb? Did you have any reason to do something like that?
Erma Webb: What are you saying? I would never do anything that might harm my precious Rachel!
Detective Armstrong: By any chance, do you have access to a hypodermic needle?
Erma Webb: Well, yes. As a matter of fact, I do. I'm a diabetic and must give myself injections of insulin.
Detective Armstrong: Are you missing any needles or syringes?
Erma Webb: No. All my equipment is accounted for.
Detective Armstrong: Then we won't find your fingerprints on what we found in the trash.
Erma Webb: Well, now… wait a minute. You might. Come to think of it, I must have thrown one away after my injection Friday night.
Detective Murphy: But you won't have anything to worry about when we find traces of insulin in the syringe, will you? By the way, Ms. Webb, why are you paying off Ingrid Freeman?
Erma Webb: Well, that's a sharp turn! Paying her off? Why would I pay that little snip for anything?
Detective Armstrong: Well, blackmail is a good reason.
Erma Webb: Blackmail? What on earth would anyone blackmail me for?
Detective Murphy: You tell us. We know you gave her money for something. What was it for? Something about Rachel that you don't want the pageant officials and the press to know about?
Erma Webb: What are you saying? Why on earth would you say something like that about Rachel?
Detective Murphy: We found laxatives and ipecac in her room. Is it possible she has an eating disorder, and you don't want anyone to find out?
Erma Webb: Oh dear. I've been suspecting something for a while now. How could this happen? I keep such close watch on what she eats! I really should sign her up for treatment. I will—after she wins the national pageants, of course.
Detective Murphy: Now back to Ingrid and the money you gave her. What was that for?
Erma Webb: Oh, you mean her… uh, spa business. Yes, I invested in that.
Detective Armstrong: How much did you invest, and over what period of time?
Erma Webb: I really don't see what business that is of yours.
Detective Armstrong: This is a murder investigation, ma'am. We decide what information is pertinent to our investigation.
Erma Webb: Oh, all right. It wasn't much. I'm really not that interested in a spa business, but she convinced me it's worthwhile.
Detective Murphy: How much?
Erma Webb: $500 more or less. Just once, about a month ago.
Detective Murphy: You're sure there wasn't more, other times?
Erma Webb: There may have been. Yes. I think there was.
Detective Armstrong: That's a bit vague for a business transaction. Do you have canceled checks or a contract or receipts?
Erma Webb: Ah, well… not exactly.
Detective Armstrong: What exactly do you have?
Erma Webb: Ingrid's promise that I will be repaid once the spa gets going. I guess it was really more like a loan… or a gift.
Detective Armstrong: Is that how you normally do business? With just a verbal agreement?
Erma Webb: Who are you to question my judgment in business or anything else? Investing in Ingrid's spa isn't against the law, is it?
Detective Armstrong: No, ma'am. Not based on what we know right now.
Erma Webb: There you go then. Is there anything else, or are we finally through here?
Detective Murphy: As we told you, we're conducting a very thorough investigation, and we may want to speak to you again. Do you have any problem with that?
Erma Webb: I suppose if you must, but I can't imagine why you want to waste your time on me.
Detective Armstrong: Just a couple more questions. Your daughter wears a size five shoe, is that correct?
Erma Webb: What on earth do you need shoe sizes for?
Detective Murphy: Just routine, ma'am. It's so we can exclude you and her as suspects. Size five?
Erma Webb: No, no. Size four. You're looking for a size five shoe?
Detective Murphy: We can't discuss details of the evidence. And your size?
Erma Webb: Size seven. See, here, it says so on this label.
Detective Armstrong: I see. Thank you.
Erma Webb: Are we through for today then?
Detective Armstrong: Yes. Thank you, Ms. Webb.
Interview ended – 1:49 p.m.