Gary Burnhart interview
Wednesday, July 19, 2023 – 11:06 a.m.
A patrol officer picked up a man who matched the description of the "homeless man" several witnesses have mentioned. The man identified himself as Gary Burnhart.
Detectives Armstrong and Murphy interviewed him at the Yoknaptawpha County Sheriff's Department.
- Detective T. Armstrong
- Detective S. Murphy
- Gary Burnhart
Detective Armstrong: Please state your name for the record.
Gary Burnhart: Gary Burnhart.
Detective Murphy: Where are you living, Mr. Burnhart?
Gary Burnhart: Please call me Gary.
Detective Murphy: Okay, Gary. Where do you live?
Gary Burnhart: I've got a room over at the Rebel Inn. What's this all about? The cop picked me up on a bulls**t loitering charge, but I've never had a sitdown with detectives over something like that, so what's going on?
Detective Murphy: Do you ever read the newspaper, Gary?
Gary Burnhart: Sure, sometimes. I like the crosswords.
Detective Murphy: Did you read about the teenage girl who was found murdered in the woods?
Gary Burnhart: Yes.
Detective Armstrong: Are you okay, Gary? You don't look too good.
Gary Burnhart: It's just… very sad to me. She was so young and so pretty. The thought of her laying there, looking just like a marionette with the strings cut…
Detective Murphy: Did you see her that morning?
Gary Burnhart: No, I meant in the newspaper, she looked like that.
Detective Murphy: The newspaper only printed her yearbook photo.
Detective Armstrong: Gary, if you know something or saw something, you should tell us.
Gary Burnhart: I… I… she was laying there. Just laying there. I thought maybe she'd had a seizure or something, but I got closer, and she wasn't breathing. She was just sort of looking at me… but she was gone.
Detective Murphy: Then what did you do?
Gary Burnhart: I was going to get help, but I heard someone coming. I knew what it would look like, a dirty old bum in the woods with a dead cheerleader, so I hid. I watched the other girl find her body, and then I ran away.
Detective Murphy: What did this other girl look like?
Gary Burnhart: She's a cheerleader, blonde. The one that was always giving Katy a hard time.
Detective Murphy: So you've seen her before?
Gary Burnhart: Yeah, she's one of the cheerleaders. I just said that.
Detective Murphy: The Rebel Inn is what… a couple miles from those woods. What were you doing all the way over there in the first place?
Detective Armstrong: Gary?
Detective Murphy: Come on, Gary. You're doing great. So far, everything you've told us sounds on the up and up. As long as you're not lying to us, you'll be fine.
Gary Burnhart: I was there for her.
Detective Murphy: There for who?
Gary Burnhart: Katy.
Detective Murphy: What do you mean?
Gary Burnhart: I like to see the cheerleaders. It's not what you think. I'm not like that.
Detective Murphy: Any cheerleader, or was it Katy, in particular, you were interested in?
Gary Burnhart: Just Katy. I've been looking for her.
Detective Murphy: Why is that?
Gary Burnhart: I…
Detective Armstrong: Look at me, Gary. I've been doing this a long time, and so has Detective Murphy. We're professional investigators. Do you really think we don't know?
Gary Burnhart: I guess not.
Detective Armstrong: All right then. Why were you trying to see Katy that morning?
Gary Burnhart: She's my daughter. I was curious how she turned out, you know? I've only been in town for a few weeks, but I heard about what a good cheerleader she was and about how pretty she was. I just wanted to see for myself.
Detective Armstrong: Did you kill her?
Gary Burnhart: No, sir. I did not. Not directly, anyway.
Detective Armstrong: What do you mean?
Gary Burnhart: If I hadn't left… I don't know, maybe… maybe things would've turned out different. It's ironic, isn't it?
Detective Murphy: What is?
Gary Burnhart: I was there when she was born. I still remember it, that tiny little hand wrapping around my finger. And I was there when she died even though she didn't know who I was. It's all my fault. She shouldn't have had to die that way… with a stranger.
Detective Murphy: Did you see anyone else there?
Gary Burnhart: No… it was just me, Katy, and the other girl.
Detective Murphy: And tell me again what you were doing in the woods.
Gary Burnhart: I went to see Katy.
Detective Murphy: She was meeting you in the woods?
Gary Burnhart: No, I was just going to watch her. I wasn't going to talk to her.
Detective Murphy: Why not?
Gary Burnhart: I didn't know what to say. Now I'll never get the chance.
Detective Murphy: So you've just been skulking around town watching Katy?
Gary Burnhart: I wouldn't put it like that.
Detective Armstrong: How would you put it?
Gary Burnhart: I just wanted to see what she was like, make sure she was okay.
Detective Armstrong: Why this sudden interest after all these years?
Gary Burnhart: I don't know. It just seemed like time.
Detective Armstrong: And how does Katy's mother feel about your sudden return?
Gary Burnhart: If she finds out, she's probably not going to be happy about it. You're not going to tell her, are you?
Detective Armstrong: Is there some reason we shouldn't?
Gary Burnhart: It's just going to upset her, and what's the point now? I don't have any reason to be here anymore, so I'll be moving on. Lauren doesn't need to know I was ever here.
Detective Murphy: We'd prefer that you didn't move on until we find Katy's killer.
Gary Burnhart: Oh. Okay. I guess I can stay a few more days, but that doesn't mean you're going to tell Lauren I'm here, does it?
Detective Armstrong: You obviously care about your family, Gary. Why did you leave them?
Gary Burnhart: We were so young. There's no way we could have managed.
Detective Murphy: Lauren managed.
Gary Burnhart: The truth is I panicked. The baby was always fussy and crying. We never had any money. Lauren was always tired. I was weak, and I ran away. It was the single biggest mistake of my life.
Detective Murphy: Knowing how much you cared about Katy, tell us again about that morning in the woods. Did you see anyone else besides Katy and the blonde girl?
Gary Burnhart: No, no one else was there.
Detective Murphy: You didn't see anyone leaving as you were arriving?
Gary Burnhart: No.
Detective Murphy: So if no one else was there, who killed her, Gary? Was it you?
Gary Burnhart: No! I would never hurt my daughter.
Detective Murphy: You'd abandon her, but you wouldn't kill her. Is that what you're telling me?
Gary Burnhart: You're twisting everything. I didn't kill her! I would never—wait!
Detective Murphy: Wait?
Gary Burnhart: There was a man! Not that day and not in those woods, but I saw him over behind the high school. At first, I thought maybe, he was a birdwatcher or something, but he was watching Katy too.
Detective Murphy: What were you doing over there?
Gary Burnhart: I went there a lot to watch cheerleading practice.
Detective Murphy: Uh-huh. Do you know who the man is?
Gary Burnhart: I recognized his face… but I can't place it.
Detective Armstrong: How tall was he?
Gary Burnhart: The library!
Detective Armstrong: Pardon?
Gary Burnhart: It's the man who sometimes works the desk at the library. I go for the old newspapers on Friday mornings.
Detective Murphy: You're sure it was the librarian? You could identify him if you needed to?
Gary Burnhart: Yes.
Detective Murphy: And when was this that you saw him?
Gary Burnhart: The week before Katy died?
Detective Murphy: Did you see him the morning Katy was killed?
Gary Burnhart: No, but he could've been there, hiding, couldn't he?
Detective Murphy: Anything's possible, I suppose.
Gary Burnhart: You're going to check him out, right? If he hurt my Katy, I'll—
Detective Armstrong: I'm going to stop you right there, Gary. Don't be making any threats that could come back to haunt you. You hear me?
Gary Burnhart: Yes, sir. I didn't mean— I'm sorry.
Detective Armstrong: That's all we have for you right now, Gary. Here's my card. You call me if you think of something we need to know.
Gary Burnhart: I will.
Detective Armstrong: And don't forget. We need you to stay in town for the time being until we find out who did this to Katy, okay?
Gary Burnhart: Yeah, sure.
Interview ended – 11:43 a.m.