Friday, March 5, 2021 – 2:30 p.m.
Joanne Ebner is a freelance journalist and the sister of Brandon Ebner, who was recently arrested for burglary.
Detectives Beckwith and Magee visited her at her residence.
- Detective P. Beckwith
- Detective J. Magee
- Joanne Ebner
Detective Magee: Please state your name and address for the record.
Joanne Ebner: My name is Joanne Ebner. My address is 450 Beauregard Circle, Oxford, Mississippi.
Detective Magee: Thank you, Ms. Ebner. As you may know, your brother, Brandon, believes that a friend of his has gone missing. He insisted that we talk with you.
Joanne Ebner: Yes, I've been looking into Daniel's disappearance for a few months now.
Detective Beckwith: What's Daniel's last name?
Joanne Ebner: Collier. Daniel Collier.
Detective Beckwith: And you also believe that Daniel has gone missing?
Joanne Ebner: I think something fishy is going on. And I believe someone is impersonating him online. For what reason, I'm not sure.
Detective Magee: What do you mean "someone is impersonating him online"?
Joanne Ebner: Well, it all started when Brandon came to me shortly after Daniel moved to New York City. He said he hadn't been able to get in touch with Daniel since he left.
Detective Magee: What did you think about that?
Joanne Ebner: The two of them have been inseparable for years, so I thought it was strange but not unthinkable. I mean, maybe Daniel was just getting settled in, and he wanted to get a fresh start. I told Brandon not to worry about it, but he wouldn't let it go.
Detective Magee: How wouldn't he let it go?
Joanne Ebner: He came over again the next day, saying that he got a message from Daniel on Facebook.
Detective Beckwith: Well, that's good news, isn't it?
Joanne Ebner: I thought so too. I even read the message, and it didn't seem that weird to me. In fact, it said exactly what I had expected it to say, that he had just been really busy but he was having a great time in New York, et cetera.
Detective Beckwith: What did Brandon say about it?
Joanne Ebner: He said it didn't sound like him, that Daniel would've at least apologized for not answering his calls and texts.
Detective Magee: Maybe Brandon is just upset that his best friend moved away?
Joanne Ebner: Yeah, that's what I thought, and I still think it's possible. But I promised Brandon I would look into it for him. See, I'm a journalist, and I wrote my senior thesis on catfishing, so Brandon thought I could figure it out.
Detective Beckwith: What's catfishing?
Joanne Ebner: It's when someone pretends to be someone else to meet people online. Often a long-distance relationship develops, and the other person doesn't know that the person they've been talking to isn't who they say they are. There was a movie about it.
Detective Magee: I think I've seen that. So what does that have to do with Daniel?
Joanne Ebner: Well, Brandon is convinced that something happened to Daniel and that someone knows about it and they're trying to cover it up by pretending to be him. You know, so his friends and family won't get worried.
Detective Beckwith: And have you found any evidence that that's the case?
Joanne Ebner: Evidence, maybe. But proof, no.
Detective Magee: Okay, so what's the evidence?
Joanne Ebner: Well, first, I started by looking at all of Daniel's past activity on Facebook. I read all of his posts, looked at all his pictures, that kind of thing. I was looking for any contradictions or inconsistencies.
Detective Beckwith: Did you find any?
Joanne Ebner: Sort of. Daniel is definitely a lot less active than he used to be, but of course, he is in a new city and probably has a lot going on, so that's not that unusual. His posts—the few that he has posted since he left—are somewhat vague and generic, whereas he used to be much more descriptive and colorful with his language. Again, not inconceivable.
Detective Beckwith: All right. What else?
Joanne Ebner: The first thing that somewhat struck me was the way he would respond—or not respond—to other people's messages. You know, friends can post messages on each others' walls, that kind of thing.
Detective Beckwith: I'm aware, yes.
Joanne Ebner: Well, since he left, a few people have posted on his wall asking how he's doing, but he hardly ever responds, and when he does, it's just a quick "things are good, but I'm really busy" kind of message.
Detective Magee: What's so strange about that?
Joanne Ebner: I know you guys don't know Daniel, but I do, and even though he isn't the most outgoing kid, he's always very friendly and personable. I just couldn't imagine him being so aloof in response to people's messages. I know that's not proof of anything, but it just made me curious.
Detective Magee: Curious about what?
Joanne Ebner: Whether or not there could be some truth to what Brandon was saying. If nothing else, maybe something's wrong with Daniel, and he doesn't want to admit it.
Detective Beckwith: So you were curious. Did you keep digging?
Joanne Ebner: I did. I started an investigation board to keep track of anything that seemed relevant and to map out how everything is related. I looked into Daniel's Facebook friends, tracing them to see how he knows them, what their relationships are, et cetera.
Detective Magee: Can we see this board?
Joanne Ebner: Can you guarantee that I'll get a 12-hour exclusive on this story if it turns out to be anything?
Detective Magee: Sure. But let's see what you've got before you go sensationalizing it to the world, okay?
Joanne Ebner: It's right here. As you can see, these are people that are connected to Daniel in some way.
Detective Magee: Do you mind if we take some photos of this?
Joanne Ebner: You won't let any other reporters see it?
Detective Magee: No.
Joanne Ebner: Go ahead.
Detective Beckwith: Did you draw any conclusions from all of this?
Joanne Ebner: When I was looking through his Facebook friends, one of them, in particular, caught my eye. It's this guy, his name's Doug, and he used to flirt with all the girls at The Roadhouse.
Detective Beckwith: So you know him?
Joanne Ebner: Not really. He's just this kind of sleazy guy. But I thought it was strange that Daniel would be friends with him, so I asked Brandon about it.
Detective Beckwith: And what did Brandon say?
Joanne Ebner: Well, when I brought it up, he got really excited like I had found something important. He told me that Daniel worked part-time at Laughlin Auto Body before he left, which is where Doug works, according to his profile.
Detective Beckwith: Okay, so they knew each other from work?
Joanne Ebner: Yeah, but Brandon said that he had a feeling that Laughlin did some kind of shady business dealings. I tried to press him for more details about it, but all he could say was that he got a bad feeling about them.
Detective Beckwith: I see. Did you find any other suspicious "friends" on Daniel's Facebook?
Joanne Ebner: No, mostly just classmates, most of whom I recognized as Brandon's friends too.
Detective Beckwith: Okay, Ms. Ebner. So how did Brandon end up on the wrong end of a burglary charge?
Joanne Ebner: I honestly have no idea what he was thinking. I was shocked when he called me from jail.
Detective Magee: What did he say to you when he called?
Joanne Ebner: He said he had been arrested for breaking into Daniel's house. I asked him why he would do that, and he just said he was looking for anything that might prove Daniel is missing.
Detective Beckwith: Did he find anything?
Joanne Ebner: Yeah, Daniel's dad's YHS class ring. He said that Daniel would have never left without it because it was so sentimental to him.
Detective Magee: Or it could mean he left it at home for safekeeping because he didn't want it to get lost or stolen.
Joanne Ebner: Yeah, maybe.
Detective Beckwith: Did he say anything else?
Joanne Ebner: Just something about how he needed to talk to a detective, and would I please come bail him out. Then he had to go.
Detective Beckwith: I see. Is there anything else that makes you think there's something worth investigating here?
Joanne Ebner: Not yet, but I'm going to keep looking.
Detective Beckwith: Okay, Ms. Ebner. Thank you for your time.
Interview ended – 2:56 p.m.