Friday, March 5, 2021 – 1:15 p.m.
Brandon Ebner was arrested and booked for the burglary of Vincent Gayle's Alesville residence. When interviewed by Detective Mackenzie Ragland of the Yoknapatawpha's Property Crimes Unit, Ebner refused to answer any questions about the crime unless a homicide detective was present.
Detectives Magee and Beckwith were brought in to question Ebner in an interview room at the Yoknapatawpha County Sheriff's Department.
- Detective P. Beckwith
- Detective J. Magee
- Brandon Ebner
Detective Magee: Good afternoon, Brandon. I'm Detective Magee. Detective Ragland has told Detective Beckwith and me that you have refused an attorney and will not talk about what happened today without a homicide detective present. Is that true?
Brandon Ebner: That's what I told her.
Detective Magee: Detective Ragland?
Brandon Ebner: Yes.
Detective Magee: Well, Detective Beckwith and I are homicide detectives, so you got your wish. You realize, like when you were with Detective Ragland, anything you say to us could be used against you at trial. You have the right to remain silent or to stop answering questions until you speak with an attorney. Are you still willing to talk without an attorney present?
Brandon Ebner: Yeah, I know my rights.
Detective Beckwith: Looks to me, Brandon, that you're in a heap of trouble. You're going to have to explain this for us because otherwise, this seems like a textbook-case of breaking and entering, something that'll get you at least three years at Parchman.
Brandon Ebner: You have to understand. I never wanted to have to break into Vince's house. I didn't have a choice.
Detective Beckwith: We all have choices, son, but most of us don't make the choice to crowbar our way into other people's homes. Were you looking for money? What?
Brandon Ebner: I wasn't looking for money. I was trying to find Danny.
Detective Magee: Danny who?
Brandon Ebner: Danny Collier. He used to live there with Vince. Danny's parents are dead, and Vince is his guardian.
Detective Magee: If Danny used to live there, why break in? Why not just wait until Vince came home and ask him where Danny was?
Brandon Ebner: I've already tried. For months, I've tried. Anytime I ask Vince what happened to Danny, he says that Danny's in New York. That Danny's not interested in Mississippi anymore. That Danny's done with us small-town folks. It's not true. I don't believe any of it.
Detective Magee: Whoa, slow down. So Danny's missing, and you're trying to find him?
Brandon Ebner: Yes.
Detective Magee: For how long?
Brandon Ebner: Like two months.
Detective Magee: And you want to talk to homicide detectives because?
Brandon Ebner: Um…
Detective Magee: Because you think something happened to him?
Brandon Ebner: I don't know. I just want to find him, okay? Nobody will help me look for him. Nobody even cares that he's gone!
Detective Beckwith: All right, so why did you break into Vince Gayle's house?
Brandon Ebner: That's the last place I know for sure where Danny was. He was preparing to go to New York to become a professional artist there around New Year's Day. Then he was just gone.
Detective Beckwith: So tell us how you got into Mr. Gayle's house.
Brandon Ebner: Well, Mr. Gayle used to leave the back garage door unlocked when Danny lived there, so I tried that first, but it was locked. So I used a crowbar to pry Danny's bedroom window open.
Detective Magee: Where did you get the crowbar?
Brandon Ebner: I brought it with me.
Detective Beckwith: Okay, what did you do next?
Brandon Ebner: I looked for signs that Danny had been there recently, but his room was immaculate. It didn't seem like anyone had been there in months. All of Danny's clothes were there, in his closet and dresser. His dad's ring was even on his nightstand.
Detective Magee: Is this the same ring that we have in our evidence room right now?
Brandon Ebner: Yes. I took it. It was my proof that something bad happened to Danny. That ring was his dad's high school class ring, one of the only things that Danny had to remember his father. He wore it everywhere. He would have never left for New York without it.
Detective Beckwith: What did you do after you searched Dan's room?
Brandon Ebner: I went through the house and opened the door to the garage.
Detective Magee: Why?
Brandon Ebner: To see if Danny's car was still there.
Detective Beckwith: Was it?
Brandon Ebner: No. It was gone.
Detective Beckwith: Maybe Vince is right. Maybe Dan actually went to New York?
Brandon Ebner: No way, Danny was acting all weird before he left.
Detective Beckwith: How so?
Brandon Ebner: He was really nervous and got angry easier than he ever had before. I think he was involved in something shady at the place he worked.
Detective Magee: Where is that?
Brandon Ebner: Laughlin Auto Body in Oxford. He used to paint cars there.
Detective Magee: What kind of shady stuff do you think Danny might've been into?
Brandon Ebner: I don't know. Like maybe using Laughlin's paint for his own cars without paying. I don't know.
Detective Magee: Hardly seems like grounds to kill someone.
Brandon Ebner: Yeah, well, you don't know the guy. He's been to prison. He's really hard on his employees. … Danny said that he can get, like, raging mad.
Detective Magee: Trust us, we know Mr. Laughlin. But it's not enough to say that Daniel disappeared because Mr. Laughlin is … Mr. Laughlin.
Brandon Ebner: All right, then, you should know that just before Danny went missing, he just quit on Laughlin after one of Laughlin guys accused Danny of stealing.
Detective Beckwith: How do you know that?
Brandon Ebner: Danny said so.
Detective Beckwith: What did he say exactly?
Brandon Ebner: Danny said that if Laughlin thought that he stole from him, Danny had better quit while he was still alive. Plus, my sister, Joanne, has been looking into some of those guys that work with Laughlin, and one of them has been talking about how Danny's now "out of the picture."
Detective Magee: Who said this?
Brandon Ebner: You have to talk to my sister. She's a reporter, so she can show you how Laughlin is totally connected to all of this.
Detective Beckwith: So the two of you have this Danny disappearance thing all worked out, a la Frank Hardy and Nancy Drew.
Brandon Ebner: Who are they?
Detective Beckwith: Nevermind. I'm telling you that I'm not that sure of the story you're spinning here.
Brandon Ebner: That's why you need to talk to my sister. I'm sure that she can help us all find Danny. That's the only thing that matters. I'm begging you.
Detective Magee: Paul?
Detective Beckwith: All right, we'll talk to your sister. But here's the deal. I'm sending Detective Ragland back in here, and you're going to answer every question that she has about today's little break-in, and you're going to do it truthfully and completely. Am I clear?
Brandon Ebner: As crystal.
Interview ended – 1:39 p.m.