The detectives followed up with Coach Puskus on what they've learned since they last spoke

Thursday, August 30, 2018 – 9:00 a.m.

Holly Puskus is the cheerleading coach at Yoknapatawpha High School and is the person who called 911 to report finding Katy's body.

Detectives Armstrong and Murphy interviewed her at the Yoknapatawpha County Sheriff's Department.

Participants:

  • Detective T. Armstrong
  • Detective S. Murphy
  • Holly Puskus

Detective Armstrong: Thanks for coming back to talk with us, Ms. Puskus. Could you state your name and address for the record?

Holly Puskus: Holly Puskus. 206 Price Street, Oxford, Mississippi. May I ask why I've been asked to come in?

Detective Armstrong: We just want to follow up on some things we heard.

Holly Puskus: About me?

Detective Armstrong: Not exactly. Hey, you know, some of our investigators were out at the high school the other day, and they saw the cheerleaders practicing. Said they were pretty good.

Holly Puskus: They are, detective.

Detective Armstrong: They said some of the girls were practicing with sticks? That can't be right, can it?

Holly Puskus: Sticks? Oh, you mean batons. Yes, some of the girls do use batons in a few routines.

Detective Armstrong: Does the school provide that equipment or do the girls have to buy it themselves?

Holly Puskus: The school provides it. Why?

Detective Armstrong: I was just curious. We've heard some talk about budget cutbacks for some of the athletic programs, and I was just wondering if the cheerleaders were affected.

Holly Puskus: No, I'm happy to say we weren't, but then again, we don't require much equipment, and what we do use is fairly inexpensive compared to some other sports.

Detective Armstrong: Cheaper than a few volleyballs and a net?

Holly Puskus: What?

Detective Armstrong: The volleyball team was disbanded this year, correct?

Holly Puskus: Yes.

Detective Armstrong: We heard that Katy wasn't happy about that.

Holly Puskus: She thought it wasn't fair, which it wasn't, but what can you do? If there's no money, there's no money.

Detective Armstrong: Apparently, Katy thought she could do something. We were told she was planning to talk to Assistant Principal Roberts about it.

Holly Puskus: Ha! I bet that worked out great.

Detective Armstrong: Meaning?

Holly Puskus: Vaughn Roberts will go out of his way to support the athletes as long as they're male. The female ones, he doesn't have much use for.

Detective Armstrong: But as you just said, the cheerleaders weren't hurt by the budget cuts.

Holly Puskus: That's because cheerleaders are considered an essential part of the football experience. And basketball, when the time comes. 

Detective Armstrong: It sounds like you don't care for Mr. Roberts.

Holly Puskus: He's a nice enough guy. He's just completely oblivious to his own misogyny.

Detective Armstrong: I see. Do you know if Katy ever talked to him about the volleyball team?

Holly Puskus: She never said anything to me, but if she did, it certainly would explain some things.

Detective Armstrong: What kind of things?

Holly Puskus: I just know lately she was always upset after she spoke with him.

Detective Armstrong: Did you ever overhear their conversations?

Holly Puskus: I was never close enough.

Detective Armstrong: Could you give us an example of a time Katy was upset after talking to Mr. Roberts?

Holly Puskus: Sure. It must've been about two weeks ago, and Katy was real upset. She came to practice muttering, swearing under her breath, and she wasn't usually like that. I asked her what was wrong and she just said it was the usual "Robbing" Roberts, but she wasn't ready to talk about it.

Detective Armstrong: It was unusual for you to see her angry like that?

Holly Puskus: Katy was a good kid, and she was committed to the idea that everyone should be treated equally. The flip side to that is she could be overprotective. If she thought anybody—anybody—was treating someone unfairly, she made sure the person did not make that mistake again.

Detective Murphy: How did she make sure?

Holly Puskus: These girls, sometimes. Between the raging hormones and the adrenaline, the rush of competing, the crash afterwards, the high of winning and the low of losing. Sometimes they don't think so straight.

Detective Murphy: Go on.

Holly Puskus: Katy could make someone's life miserable. She had that "gift." She knew how to push all the buttons. When someone upset her, they were Katyized until she forgave them. And then things went back to normal.

Detective Armstrong: Were you ever Katyized?

Holly Puskus: No. Katy listened to whatever I said because she knew how much she needed me if she was going to succeed, if the team was going to succeed. That's not to say she didn't resent me sometimes, or that she didn't cut me down behind my back, but she never went after me the way she did with some people.

Detective Murphy: Could you give us an example?

Holly Puskus: That's actually difficult. She was so sly about the whole thing. Besides, she would never bring it to cheer because it might hurt the squad. Katy would never do anything that might hurt the squad. That's why she was made captain.

Detective Murphy: Jennifer Adams is the captain now, isn't she?

Holly Puskus: That's right.

Detective Murphy: We've heard a lot of things about Jennifer and Katy. What's the real story? Were they friends? Enemies?

Holly Puskus: They were both. They were never going to be best friends, but they respected each other's talent.

Detective Murphy: When Katy slapped Jennifer, was that her respecting Jennifer's talent?

Holly Puskus: That didn't have anything to do with cheer. That was personal.

Detective Murphy: You were there?

Holly Puskus: No, but I heard about it afterwards, believe me.

Detective Murphy: So what was the problem between them?

Holly Puskus: That time, it was about Cody. Jennifer doesn't like him, probably because he's Katy's brother and he's a little awkward. She said something not-so-nice about him, and that tapped right into Katy's instinct to fight back when she thought someone was being mistreated. It was an unfortunate flare-up, but it was resolved just as quickly.

Detective Murphy: We heard Jennifer said Cody was creeping out some of the cheerleaders. Is that true?

Holly Puskus: Look, Cody's a little odd. There's no denying that. But I don't know that he's creeping anyone out.

Detective Murphy: Odd how?

Holly Puskus: He just thought that Katy was the greatest thing ever. He never argued with her that I saw, never talked bad about her and got upset when anyone else did. It was just an unusual situation for teenage siblings. That's all.

Detective Murphy: Okay. So how is Jennifer working out as captain?

Holly Puskus: She's no Katy, but she's eager, which means I can mold her.

Detective Murphy: How's the rest of the team taking her leadership?

Holly Puskus: They know what's what. Besides, everybody has been so shaken up by what happened that they're desperate for direction. Jennifer could tell them to do a thousand jumping jacks, and they'd be thrilled to oblige. Jumping jacks make sense. The girls can understand the purpose behind jumping jacks.

Detective Murphy: You keep saying the girls, but Hugh's still on the squad, isn't he?

Holly Puskus: And I'm always apologizing for that slip. Hugh lets me off easy, makes a joke. He's a good kid. But then before long, I slip again.

Detective Armstrong: Several people have mentioned Hugh's athleticism. Has he ever been in the running for captain?

Holly Puskus: You know, I probably never even considered him in that spot. It's just that blind spot I have. My first male cheerleader.

Detective Armstrong: Sounds like maybe you and Mr. Roberts have something in common.

Holly Puskus: What's that?

Detective Armstrong: Let's talk about Sherry Guyton.

Holly Puskus: What about her?

Detective Armstrong: Were you there when she was injured?

Holly Puskus: Yes. It was terrible. She was in so much pain. I've never been so scared as a coach.

Detective Armstrong: What happened? Was it Katy's fault like Sherry says?

Holly Puskus: Yes and no. It was everyone's fault and no one's fault. It was just a freak accident.

Detective Armstrong: Sherry's still pretty angry about it.

Holly Puskus: I know, and I can understand that. It's been a huge change in her life. Hopefully, she'll move past the anger someday.

Detective Armstrong: You know her. Was she angry enough to lash out at Katy?

Holly Puskus: Are you asking me if Sherry could've killed Katy? No way. She's angry, yes, but she'd never do something like that.

Detective Murphy: Did Katy ever talk to you about her personal life?

Holly Puskus: No, not really.

Detective Murphy: She never came to you for advice about her boyfriend or her parents or anything?

Holly Puskus: No.

Detective Murphy: Okay. Thanks for coming in, Ms. Puskus. If you think of anything else that might expand on what we talked about, please give us a call.

Holly Puskus: Of course.

Detective Armstrong: Oh, one more thing. Did any of the cheerleaders wear their uniforms to Cheer Up?

Holly Puskus: No. Why would they?

Detective Armstrong: I don't know. Maybe they were supposed to?

Holly Puskus: No, they only wear their uniforms for games and pep rallies.

Detective Armstrong: Okay. Good to know.

Holly Puskus: Anything else?

Detective Armstrong: Nope, that's it. Thanks again for talking to us today.

Interview ended – 9:37 a.m.

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