Mary Wallace interview
Tuesday, March 7, 2023 – 11:10 a.m.
Mary Wallace lives in Ambrose Garrett's neighborhood and is secretary of the Whitehall HOA.
Detectives Armstrong and Murphy interviewed her at the Yoknapatawpha County Sheriff's Department.
- Detective T. Armstrong
- Detective S. Murphy
- Mary Wallace
Detective Murphy: Thank you for joining us, Mrs. Wallace.
Mary Wallace: No problem. I'm happy to do whatever I can to help.
Detective Murphy: Would you please state your name and address?
Mary Wallace: My name is Mary Wallace, and I live at 202 Ohara Drive.
Detective Murphy: And your occupation?
Mary Wallace: I'm the secretary for the neighborhood homeowners association.
Detective Armstrong: Is that a full-time job?
Mary Wallace: Sometimes it seems like it, but no, not really. It's volunteer work. I feel like they should pay me for all the work I do, but nope, that's not in the budget.
Detective Armstrong: How do you support yourself, Mrs. Wallace?
Mary Wallace: My husband passed away in 2017—heart attack. We always lived wisely and invested well. His pension, life insurance, and investments are enough for me to live on. I'm a pretty simple person, really. I don't have expensive tastes.
Detective Murphy: Do you know why we wanted to talk to you today?
Mary Wallace: I assumed it was because of your investigation into Ambrose's death. That's it, isn't it?
Detective Murphy: Yes. Where were you the night he passed away?
Mary Wallace: I was there at the meeting.
Detective Murphy: How many people attended the meeting?
Mary Wallace: Maybe 20, give or take? Without my notes in front of me, I can't be sure.
Detective Murphy: We'd like to see your notes if that's possible.
Mary Wallace: Well… I haven't prepared them yet.
Detective Murphy: That's all right. Whatever form they're in right now will be fine.
Mary Wallace: When we finish here, I could get them for you.
Detective Murphy: That'd be great. Thank you.
Detective Armstrong: Did anything out of the ordinary happen at the meeting?
Mary Wallace: No, not really.
Detective Murphy: No fights? No arguments?
Mary Wallace: Sure, but those happen every meeting. That's not out of the ordinary.
Detective Murphy: What was it this time?
Mary Wallace: Ambrose suggested a website for recording the association rules so people could use it for reference.
Detective Armstrong: Sounds like a good idea.
Mary Wallace: But he also wanted to display the homeowners who'd been fined, what their violation was, and whether or not they had paid their bill. He thought it was a peer pressure kind of thing, that people would be less likely to ignore community rules if they knew all their neighbors would find out about it.
Detective Murphy: What was the reaction to that idea?
Mary Wallace: The usual. Some folks liked it, some were indifferent, and a couple were really upset.
Detective Murphy: Who was the most upset?
Mary Wallace: Shannon Bower was the main one. She was always fighting with Ambrose.
Detective Armstrong: What happened?
Mary Wallace: We managed to head this one off pretty quickly. Shannon and a couple of others yelled about how it was an invasion of privacy, this and that. We just tabled the discussion for later and moved on.
Detective Murphy: After that, were there any additional fights or arguments?
Mary Wallace: No.
Detective Murphy: What time did the meeting end?
Mary Wallace: Just before 7:00 p.m.
Detective Murphy: Did everyone leave as soon as the meeting was over?
Mary Wallace: Ambrose stayed behind, obviously. David McMahan—he's the association treasurer—David and I hung around to chat with Ambrose about action items, the minutes, administrative stuff. Julie Arbuckle stayed a while to clean up the refreshments, take the glasses, coffee cups, and so forth to the kitchen, and so on.
Detective Armstrong: What time did you leave?
Mary Wallace: David and I walked out together at about 7:20 p.m.
Detective Murphy: What was Ambrose doing?
Mary Wallace: He said he was going to stay behind to turn off the lights, lock the doors. Just close up.
Detective Murphy: What did you do after leaving the meeting?
Mary Wallace: I went home.
Detective Armstrong: Can anyone confirm that?
Mary Wallace: Why, no. I live alone. No one was with me. David saw me walking into my house. You can ask him.
Detective Murphy: How was Mr. Garrett acting during the meeting?
Mary Wallace: He was fine.
Detective Armstrong: He didn't act weird or anything?
Mary Wallace: No.
Detective Murphy: We've been told that Mr. Garrett sometimes drank a little bit too much. Did he drink alcohol during the meeting?
Mary Wallace: Well, I'm not sure.
Detective Armstrong: Come on now, Mrs. Wallace. You knew this man for quite some time. Are you saying you couldn't tell when he was drinking?
Mary Wallace: It's just that I— well, I want to be sure. I don't want to give the wrong impression.
Detective Murphy: Just tell us what you know. We'll worry about impressions.
Mary Wallace: Ambrose had been carrying a flask with him lately. And I saw him pouring some of whatever was in it into his glass a few times during the meeting. But I do not know what was in that flask, so I can't say for sure that he was drinking alcohol.
Detective Armstrong: You ever know someone to sip Mountain Dew from a flask, ma'am?
Mary Wallace: No, of course not. But I assume you want to focus your investigation on facts, and I can't say for a fact that Ambrose was drinking alcohol. Wouldn't that be a supposition or something, like in the movies?
Detective Murphy: You make a good point, Mrs. Wallace. We understand that you can't say for sure what he was drinking. How did he act? Did he seem intoxicated?
Mary Wallace: That's hard for me to say. He wasn't falling down drunk. I must admit that I don't have a whole lot of experience with alcohol. Ambrose could become very animated during arguments. He seemed to thrive on the conflict. So I can't really say whether he was tipsy or just fired up.
Detective Murphy: Can you think of anyone who might have wanted to hurt Ambrose Garrett?
Mary Wallace: No. I mean, Ambrose could be abrasive and rub people the wrong way, but you don't kill someone just because you think you should be able to let your grass grow a foot tall.
Detective Murphy: What about his wife?
Mary Wallace: What about her?
Detective Murphy: Do you know if she had any reason to want to hurt him?
Mary Wallace: Certainly not. Delilah would never hurt Ambrose. She adores him.
Detective Murphy: You were close with the Garretts then?
Mary Wallace: Close enough to know that Delilah would never— I can't believe you'd even suggest such a thing.
Detective Armstrong: You're sure you don't know of anyone who might want to hurt Ambrose?
Mary Wallace: No, not at all.
Detective Armstrong: Julie Arbuckle didn't harbor any resentment against him, even though he took the presidency away from her?
Mary Wallace: Julie's not one to hold a grudge. This is ridiculous. If someone actually did try to hurt Ambrose, wouldn't it more likely be a person who didn't get along with him? Both Delilah and Julie got along with him fine.
Detective Armstrong: So, who didn't get along with him?
Mary Wallace: Lots of people. Ambrose had a powerful personality. Not everyone could— not everyone knew how to deal with him. But just because they didn't get along doesn't mean they'd want to hurt him.
Detective Armstrong: I understand. So who are we talking about?
Mary Wallace: I'd prefer not to say. I don't want something I say to make you think anyone did something to Ambrose because that's absolutely not what I believe.
Detective Murphy: Mrs. Wallace, we're going to find out who had difficulties with Mr. Garrett one way or another. If you go ahead and tell us now, it'll just make this whole process go faster, and that's got to be what everyone wants — for this to be over as soon as possible.
Mary Wallace: I told you already that he and Shannon disagreed at the meeting.
Detective Armstrong: She's the only person who didn't get along with him?
Mary Wallace: Of course not. Many people have had disagreements with him at one time or another. Patrick Tyler thought Ambrose went too far. Erin Markham thought he didn't go far enough. I heard even Ambrose and Warren Edwards had some sort of set-to recently, and the two of them usually got along really well.
Detective Armstrong: And so…?
Mary Wallace: The point is, having a disagreement with Ambrose was not uncommon, and it certainly doesn't mean someone would want to hurt him just because they had an argument. Ambrose would have been hurt a thousand times by now if that were the case.
Detective Armstrong: So a lot of people didn't like him?
Mary Wallace: No. It's not that they didn't like him, necessarily. They just disagreed sometimes with his policies or his actions or whatever he did that they didn't like. But it was part of his job. As president of the association, he sometimes had to do things that made some people unhappy: enforce the rules, put pressure on people to pay their association fees, stuff like that.
Detective Armstrong: Bottom line it for us. What are you saying?
Mary Wallace: I'm saying, yes, sometimes there were conflicts in the neighborhood, but none of them were serious enough that someone would try to do something to Ambrose.
Detective Murphy: Okay, that'll be all for now. We may need to talk to you again as our investigation progresses. How do you feel about that?
Mary Wallace: I'm happy to do whatever you need.
Detective Murphy: Wonderful. We thank you for your time.
Interview ended – 12:07 p.m.