Gus Whitwill interview
Saturday, March 6, 2021 – 1:00 p.m.
August "Gus" Whitwill was Daniel Collier's Industrial Arts Instructor at Yoknapatawpha High School.
Detectives Beckwith and Magee interviewed him at YHS, where he was working off-hours in the Industrial Arts room on a school-related project.
- Detective P. Beckwith
- Detective J. Magee
- Gus Whitwill
Detective Beckwith: Hello, Mr. Whitwill. I'm Detective Paul Beckwith, and this is Detective Jo Magee. We'd like to ask you a few questions about a former student, Daniel Collier.
Gus Whitwill: Sure. Is he in any trouble?
Detective Magee: We're trying to locate him currently.
Gus Whitwill: Oh, I see. Well, I will try and be as much help as I can be.
Detective Beckwith: Thanks. We'll need your name and address for the record.
Gus Whitwill: My name is Gus Whitwill, and I live at 99 Jeff Street, Oxford. You can call me Gus. Only the kids call me Mr. Whitwill.
Detective Magee: That's fine, Gus. What do you teach here at Yoknapatawpha High?
Gus Whitwill: Back in the day, they called it "shop." Now the highfalutin name for it is "Industrial Arts" or "Automotive Technology." Usually, the students and I call the jobs what they are, like welding and bodywork.
Detective Magee: Do you have any other school duties?
Gus Whitwill: I monitor a few study halls now and then. I had students in welding competitions awhile back, SkillsUSA sponsored. In terms of extra-curriculars, I've been the head coach of the football team for the last nineteen years.
Detective Magee: How long have you worked at YHS?
Gus Whitwill: Longer than most. Completing my thirty-fourth year this year, and my bad back is letting me know about it too. Yoknapatawpha is the only place I've ever taught.
Detective Beckwith: Then did you know Daniel's father, Mark?
Gus Whitwill: Absolutely, Mark and his buddy Vince Gayle, who became Danny's guardian, practically lived down here in the shop in the early ‘90s.
Detective Beckwith: What do you mean?
Gus Whitwill: They loved to work on machines. Maybe not welding so much, but they loved to put things together, from manual pencil sharpeners to old beater trucks. Even when they didn't have shop class, they'd be down here. I didn't mind 'em, though. They never caused any trouble—never had time to. They were always piddlin' with something, staying busier than three-legged cats in a sandbox.
Detective Magee: Were they always together?
Gus Whitwill: Damn near. Except football season.
Detective Magee: Why was that?
Gus Whitwill: Well, I was coaching the offense as an assistant from 1990 to 1994, and Vince Gayle was my best offensive lineman for three of those four years. He was recognized All-State Honorable Mention as an offensive tackle when he was a junior and senior.
Detective Magee: What about Mark?
Gus Whitwill: His mother was against him coming out for football. She thought he was too slight, too fragile. I don't know. He always looked fast to me. We could have used him at wide receiver. You can't hit what you can't catch, right?
Detective Beckwith: True enough. How about Daniel Collier? Did he have the same interests as his father?
Gus Whitwill: Same interests, same instincts. He would have made a helluva engineer like his father, but he was moodier. Can you blame the kid, really? His parents died when he was like 12 or so, and it was semi-sensational for Oxford. Well-to-do people don't usually die in accidents like that.
Detective Beckwith: Did Daniel take your shop classes or play football for you?
Gus Whitwill: No football for Danny. He was small like his daddy. He did take a couple shop classes. I think Vince pushed him a little in that regard.
Detective Beckwith: How so?
Gus Whitwill: He said so in a parent-teacher conference when Danny was a sophomore. I remember it clearly because that was the first time I had seen Vince since Mark's death.
Detective Magee: What did he say?
Gus Whitwill: Vince thought that fixing cars like his father would break him out of his moodiness.
Detective Magee: Did it work?
Gus Whitwill: Nope, but art sure did.
Detective Magee: How did art have this impact on Daniel?
Gus Whitwill: You'll have to ask Kristina—Ms. McCarthy, the art teacher—on that one, but it seems to me that Danny needed something creative for an outlet. Maybe Danny was concentrating too much on being Mark instead of being Danny.
Detective Magee: When did you see this change in Daniel?
Gus Whitwill: Sometime in his junior year. He'd still come down to the shop for the odd car part—not necessarily for fixing cars, but to paint or use in some art project. He was also hanging around with people more than he ever had. He joined the art club, I believe.
Detective Beckwith: Remember any of the art club students he was hanging out with?
Gus Whitwill: Let me think … Devin Hurst, Brandon Ebner, Taylor Kitrell … the twins, Nicole and Lisa Vaughn. Those first three are out of school now.
Detective Magee: Did you ever go to one of Daniel's art exhibits?
Gus Whitwill: No, not really my scene.
Detective Beckwith: Did you ever see Daniel after graduation?
Gus Whitwill: Yes. He came to see me sometime last school year. We talked about how he was doing, mainly. He said he was looking for a way for his paintings to reach a larger audience.
Detective Magee: Larger than Oxford?
Gus Whitwill: That's what I assumed. I told him that maybe Ms. McCarthy could help him out. He said that he just came from talking with her. He said he needed a favor from me.
Detective Beckwith: What kind of favor?
Gus Whitwill: A job. He was looking for a job. Now, I couldn't really find anything at school, so I called a friend at an automotive shop here in town.
Detective Beckwith: Who's the friend?
Gus Whitwill: Buck Buchanan. He works over at Laughlin's garage.
Detective Beckwith: What is your relationship with Mr. Buchanan?
Gus Whitwill: Just two old gearheads with a love for old Cadillacs.
Detective Beckwith: Did Daniel get a job at Laughlin's?
Gus Whitwill: As far as I know. Buck said they had him pinstriping cars. I figured Danny was in heaven. I don't know why he'd leave.
Detective Magee: Okay, I think we're done here, for now, Gus. Would you be available for more questions if we need to come back?
Gus Whitwill: Sure will. I still have seven years left before retirement, so I guess I don't have much choice but to stick around Yoknapatawpha High. I sure hope you hear from Danny soon.
Detective Magee: Yes, us too.
Interview ended – 1:19 p.m.