Monday, March 8, 2021 – 9:30 a.m.
Rodney Collier, Daniel Collier's estranged uncle, contacted Detectives Beckwith and Magee with information concerning his missing nephew.
Detectives Beckwith and Magee met with him at the Yoknapatawpha County Sheriff's Department.
- Detective P. Beckwith
- Detective J. Magee
- Rodney Collier
Detective Beckwith: Thank you for coming in, Mr. Collier.
Rodney Collier: "Rodney" is fine.
Detective Beckwith: Rodney, I'm Detective Paul Beckwith, the man you spoke with when you set up this interview. This is my partner, Detective Jo Magee. Could we get your full name and address before we begin?
Rodney Collier: Yes. My name is Rodney Collier. I live at 20 Bickerstaff Lane, Oxford, near Ole Miss campus.
Detective Magee: Why did you contact us, Rodney?
Rodney Collier: I saw in the Oxford Weekly Planet that a local artist was missing. From the description, it sounded like my nephew, Daniel. So I called my friend, Lila Lawson, about it.
Detective Magee: Why did you think to call her?
Rodney Collier: Lila owns C'est Belle downtown. I figured either she talked to the Oxford Weekly or knew the people who had. Either way, I would find out if the blog post referred to Daniel.
Detective Beckwith: What did she tell you?
Rodney Collier: She said that the post was about Daniel. I asked her how long he had been missing, and she said she thought a couple of months but didn't know for sure. She told me if I had any information about where he was, I should talk to you.
Detective Magee: If you and Ms. Lawson are close, why didn't she call you about Daniel's whereabouts prior to the blog post?
Rodney Collier: She never knew that I was Daniel's uncle. Most people don't. My brother saw to that.
Detective Beckwith: What do you mean?
Rodney Collier: My family and I were never on good terms when they were all alive. I'm gay, and they couldn't deal with it. I think they figured that if they chased me out of Oxford, they could forget that I even existed.
Detective Magee: But you live in Oxford. Isn't that what you said?
Rodney Collier: Yes, for the last several years. My brother, Mark and, his wife died in an accident in 2012, and my dad died two years earlier. My mom got Alzheimer's disease, so I moved back home to help her. The only blessing about Alzheimer's is that my mom couldn't remember that she had disowned me.
Detective Beckwith: I'm sorry. What about your brother? How did he feel?
Rodney Collier: At first, he didn't know. I was the older brother. He looked up to me, or at least what he believed me to be. When I look back at myself in high school, I was a complete train wreck. I was so confused, sometimes angry, sometimes sad. But I put up a good facade. My brother liked that facade better than the real me.
Detective Magee: When did Mark find out about the real you?
Rodney Collier: When I was in college. My parents told him. After that, I never heard from him. He never called. He never took my calls.
Detective Beckwith: So what was your relationship with Daniel like?
Rodney Collier: Never had one until Mark died. I thought that if I stayed in Oxford to help with mom, Daniel would come to live with us. But Mark found a way to deny me from the grave. He gave his friend Vince Gayle custody of Daniel.
Detective Beckwith: How did that make you feel?
Rodney Collier: I was devastated, of course. I know I was always far away, but I loved the boy. He's blood. How do you turn away from your blood?
Detective Magee: Were you ever able to establish contact with Daniel?
Rodney Collier: Yes. Vince is as homophobic as Mark was, but he had to allow Daniel to visit his grandma. When he did, I was there. Vince was forced to deal with my existence. He had to tell Daniel who I was.
Detective Magee: When did these visits start?
Rodney Collier: Just after Mark died, starting sometime in 2013. Mom died in 2016, so that's the last time I had a regular visit from Daniel.
Detective Magee: How about irregular visits?
Rodney Collier: Thankfully, I have. Daniel got into the arts in high school, and so that allowed us to cross paths at C'est Belle once or twice while he was in high school. Then after he graduated from high school, he surprised me with a visit.
Detective Beckwith: By himself?
Rodney Collier: Yes.
Detective Beckwith: When?
Rodney Collier: I think it was last September.
Detective Beckwith: Did he give a reason?
Rodney Collier: Not at first. Then he asked if I knew anyone in New York. I told him I knew a few broadway actors, but I didn't know any painters. He was thinking about leaving Mississippi to start his art career up North.
Detective Magee: Did you encourage him?
Rodney Collier: I totally identified with it. I know what it's like to be young and feel smothered by the small town you live in. I don't know if you'd say I encouraged him to move, but I sure didn't squash his dream. He started to see me every couple of weeks after that.
Detective Magee: Did Vince know?
Rodney Collier: Nope.
Detective Magee: When was the last time you saw Daniel?
Rodney Collier: New Year's Day. He woke me up early in the morning, asking if he could crash on my couch.
Detective Magee: Did he give you any reason why he came so early?
Rodney Collier: He was partying too hard. Probably shouldn't have been driving.
Detective Magee: Was he alone?
Rodney Collier: Yes.
Detective Magee: How late did he stay?
Rodney Collier: Until lunch. I made him a sandwich. He didn't chat. He was pretty hungover.
Detective Magee: Do you know if he was still intending to move to New York at that time?
Rodney Collier: Absolutely. He was fed up with Vince at that point, too.
Detective Beckwith: How do you mean?
Rodney Collier: Daniel was spending more and more time away from Vince's house. Daniel told me he would stay at friends' houses just so he wouldn't have to go home. Vince wanted Daniel to have a steady stream of money coming in, so he wanted Daniel to be a mechanic, not an artist.
Detective Magee: Maybe that was the more sensible route for Daniel?
Rodney Collier: No way. He had outgrown Oxford. He was never going to be happy here.
Detective Beckwith: So, do you think Daniel went to New York?
Rodney Collier: I did … until yesterday when I saw that blog post.
Detective Beckwith: What do you think now?
Rodney Collier: I don't know. I can't think of anyone who'd want to hurt Daniel.
Detective Magee: Has he contacted you online recently?
Rodney Collier: No. I haven't spoken to him in any way since New Year's Day.
Detective Magee: I would like you to take a look at these pictures. Can you identify any of these people?
Rodney Collier: Well, that one is Vince. This one is Sharon Hathaway, Vince's girlfriend. I've seen them together before, but I've never spoken to her. I don't think that she started dating Vince until after Mom died. At any rate, I don't remember her ever coming over.
Detective Magee: Do you recognize any others?
Rodney Collier: Um, I think this is that McCarthy woman, one of Lila Lawson's friends that I've never been formally introduced to. And this one is Brandon, one of Daniel's friends. I know he works down at C'est Belle, but I don't remember his last name.
Detective Magee: Any others?
Rodney Collier: No … no, that's it.
Detective Beckwith: Okay, that's all we have for you today, Rodney.
Rodney Collier: I hope I've been some use to you. If you get some information on where Daniel is, I would love to know.
Detective Beckwith: We'll be in contact.
Interview ended – 9:58 a.m.