Lydia Catlett interview
Friday, April 11, 1958 – 5:15 p.m.
Initial neighborhood interviews with homeowners living near the Izard home on County Road 106 were conducted at the neighbors' homes on the afternoon and into the evening of the Izard murders, Friday, April 11, 1958.
Lydia Catlett lives north of the Izard residence on County Road 106.
- Detective Jack McPhail
- Deputy Larry Kuhn
- Lydia Catlett
Detective McPhail: Good afternoon, Mrs. Catlett.
Lydia Catlett: Oh, no, it's not a good afternoon at all. Those poor, poor people next door. I hope you catch whoever did this to them, and you find those precious, precious children.
Detective McPhail: We do too, ma'am. I need to ask you a few questions.
Lydia Catlett: Son, excuse me, but you're going to have to speak up. I'm a little hard of hearing.
Detective McPhail: Yes, ma'am. Mrs. Catlett, would you mind giving me for the record your full name, age, occupation, and address, please?
Lydia Catlett: Certainly. I am Lydia Catlett, and you may call me Mrs. Catlett. I am the widow of George Catlett, who owned Catlett's Auto Parts in Oxford. You probably knew him? Passed on two years ago. I have some savings, so thank goodness I have no need to work outside the home. I'm 70 years old. Oh, and my address is County Road 106, Box 211, Oxford. Is that all, young man?
Detective McPhail: No, ma'am. Did you hear or see anything from over at the Izards' house today?
Lydia Catlett: Hear anything? I'm sorry. No, I didn't. I saw Mrs. Izard out with the wash just a bit before noon when I was out on the porch. And I did see young Richard drive up just as I was coming inside.
Detective McPhail: Did you speak to either of them?
Lydia Catlett: No, I came in and fixed myself something to eat, and I was inside listening to the radio this afternoon. I could just kick myself. If only I'd stayed outside on the porch, maybe I would've heard something, could've done something.
Detective McPhail: I understand how you feel, Mrs. Catlett. So you last saw both Mr. and Mrs. Izard today around noon, that right?
Lydia Catlett: Yes, you got that right.
Detective McPhail: When was the last time you saw the children?
Lydia Catlett: Those precious babies, I saw Ricky yesterday when he come home from school, come running up the yard over there to their porch. I can see that from here. You can see for yourself out that window there.
Detective McPhail: Yes, ma'am. And do you recall when you last saw the daughter, LeAnne?
Lydia Catlett: I saw Mrs. Izard with the little girl this morning around about 10:30, I'd say. Near that.
Detective McPhail: You didn't hear or see anything of children after that today? No noise, no shouts, no crying?
Lydia Catlett: No. Couldn't hear most of that anyways unless I was out in the garden there.
Detective McPhail: Mrs. Catlett, did you see any suspicious people or unfamiliar vehicles in the area today?
Lydia Catlett: Well, young man, as you can see, we live out in the country, and not too many vehicles come along this way. I usually try to keep my eyes open, even though my ears aren't what they used to be. I'm sorry, I can't help you there. I haven't noticed any suspicious people or vehicles today.
Detective McPhail: Any unusual behavior among your neighbors?
Lydia Catlett: We're all good, decent, God-fearing Christians down this way. I don't think you have anything to worry about with the neighbors. For the most part, I'd have to go back out to the road or walk through my pasture to see anything much going on to talk about it.
Detective McPhail: Did you see any of your other neighbors today?
Lydia Catlett: Far as I could tell, no one was to home next door at Roland's place. Saw him leave early this morning. That young lady across the street was gone today. And of course, Yvonne down the road was glued to the phone most of the afternoon.
Detective McPhail: Ma'am?
Lydia Catlett: Party line, you know. Yvonne Hawkins makes it her business to be the mouthpiece of the county. I heard about the Bowlan factory layoffs that way. I couldn't help overhearing her talking on the line to her sister a little while ago. That Harold Bowlan, scandalous thing he done there. Hurt many a family in this county today.
Detective McPhail: Yes, ma'am. Can you tell me of anyone who might have a personal grudge against the Izards?
Lydia Catlett: Well, I am truly sorry to say, I guess I'd be one of them. It was just a minor thing, not so's you'd call it a grudge.
Detective McPhail: Do tell.
Lydia Catlett: You see, when Richard bought that property, he inherited that old picket fencing already in place along the side there. I'd been arguing for years with the previous owner—that'd be old Otis Shaw—that he had placed it two feet over onto my property, and I wanted it moved back. Otis, well, he was so lazy he offered to buy it from me rather than move that dang fence—at a pittance mind you. I don't believe in selling off land if you don't need to. 'Course he died before we settled that.
Detective McPhail: So you took it up with Mr. Izard when he bought the place?
Lydia Catlett: That Richard was such a nice young man, but I couldn't seem to make him see that the fence needs to be moved either. I was actually contemplating taking him to court, but I'd hoped it wouldn't come to that. They were such nice people otherwise.
Detective McPhail: To court over two feet?
Lydia Catlett: It's my property, young man. A widow woman has to take care of her interests.
Detective McPhail: Uh, yes, ma'am. Is there anything else you can tell me about the Izards?
Lydia Catlett: Well, I certainly don't like to talk out of turn, but there was that young man who used to come up to the Izards' home late on weekend nights. Even I could hear him. He sounded drunk, screaming such foul language. Mrs. Izard was horrified, of course. She used to come over here and apologize every time he made such a scene.
Detective McPhail: Mrs. Izard was the one doing the apologizing?
Lydia Catlett: I believe that fella might've been an old beau of hers. I don't know whether she invited the attention, of course. Who knows about young women today? But I think he was one of those young men who couldn't accept that she wanted someone other than him.
Detective McPhail: Yes, ma'am. Do you know who the young man was?
Lydia Catlett: I'm sorry. I don't recall his name. Dancy something? Don't know the family myself. The incidents stopped after a few months. I think Richard might have finally lost patience and had words with him.
Detective McPhail: You think Mrs. Izard might have encouraged that do you?
Lydia Catlett: Well, actually, no, I do not. She seemed a right smart young woman and very devoted to her church and family. She was a nurse, you know. She's always been very considerate of me.
Detective McPhail: How so?
Lydia Catlett: Bring me a pie if she was baking. Come on over and chat with me. I know she was checking up on an old lady, but she was kind about it. Not the sort to be loose and fast if you get my meaning. All and still, young women today aren't like my generation.
Detective McPhail: I get the idea there's more to this than you're telling me, Mrs. Catlett. Did something else happen to make you question Mrs. Izard's motives?
Lydia Catlett: I'm no gossip, young Jack McPhail, and I don't intend to start at this old age.
Detective McPhail: I'm sure you aren't, Mrs. Catlett, but surely you understand that anything out of the way might be important to us in our investigation here. Might help us find those children. I assure you that any information you have will be dealt with professionally, ma'am.
Lydia Catlett: I've seen a car around the neighborhood late nights lately. I don't know it, but I have my thoughts on it. Funny thing is it seems to involve more than the Izard house.
Detective McPhail: A strange car?
Lydia Catlett: I suppose you could call it strange for this area anyway. One of them new Chevys, I think. My grandson is always showing me pictures of them, and I think that's what this one is.
Detective McPhail: Can you describe it?
Lydia Catlett: Big white arrow on the back fender. Dark car. Comes around after midnight or thereabouts every few days. I've seen it parked over to the end of the Izards' drive and a few times across the way there at young Hannah's house.
Detective McPhail: Go ahead, Mrs. Catlett. What else about this car?
Lydia Catlett: I do have to say I feel uncomfortable about this. Loose tongues are the devil's handmaiden, don't you know. I have to believe, however, that murder and missing children are of more importance in the Lord's eyes.
Detective McPhail: I think you're right about that, ma'am. What else can you tell us about this car?
Lydia Catlett: Some nights I don't sleep very well, and I sit in the front screen porch there to cool off and enjoy the nighttime. No traffic to speak of that time of night, nice and peaceful. About the middle of March, I noticed that car from time to time out at the end of the Izards' drive.
Detective McPhail: Do you know what was going on?
Lydia Catlett: Couldn't see much, couldn't hear more than a murmur from time to time, though sound carries well on the night air, you know. I can tell you, over to the Izards' I saw the glow of cigarettes, and I know Mrs. Izard don't smoke. He does.
Detective McPhail: How often did you see this car over there?
Lydia Catlett: Young man, Kuhn, isn't it? I recognize your father in your face. Must be proud you're a deputy. I made up some fresh lemonade this afternoon. Mind you go and get us all a glass while we talk.
Deputy Kuhn: Yes, ma'am.
Lydia Catlett: Now, where was I? How often? I'd say I saw that car at the Izard drive going on six or seven times. I knew it was underhanded dealing when the car cut the lights coming up the road. Rolled to a stop over there trying not to crunch the gravel drive.
Detective McPhail: When was the last you saw the car there, Mrs. Catlett?
Lydia Catlett: Well, now, I know just what night that was. It was my grandson's birthday. That would be April 7th, this past Monday.
Detective McPhail: You say you saw this car across the road too?
Lydia Catlett: Yes, I have, young man. Three times to be exact. One night I got up after 1:00 and went out on the porch. It was sitting there in the drive. I don't know when it got there, but I know it was there after 3:00 when I went to bed.
Detective McPhail: You know what was going on there?
Lydia Catlett: There were lights on in the kitchen across the way. Could see the shine on the grass at the side there. Kitchen's on the back of the house, you know. Didn't see anything else. The other two times, there was a gathering going on.
Detective McPhail: A gathering?
Lydia Catlett: Um. I'd say five cars over there, a group of folks. Again, after midnight lasting until the wee hours of the morning.
Detective McPhail: Mrs. Catlett, you clearly have some ideas about this. Just what do you think was going on here?
Lydia Catlett: I pretty well don't think. I mostly know, I reckon. I recognized Elbert Warren over across the way a few times, and I know Hannah has been keeping company with Bob Abbott's son. Frank, I believe his name is. They all work at Bowlan, and Richard, of course, being the foreman over there. I'd say there's only one person that car belongs to and only one reason they were all getting together in secret like that.
Detective McPhail: Mrs. Catlett, I'd like you to tell me flat out what your thinking on this is, please.
Lydia Catlett: Young Jack, that car belonged to that union agitator fella Perch, and those get-togethers were union plotting and planning, sure as I sit here. Wasn't any friendly game of penny poker going on.
Detective McPhail: Did you ever meet Perch?
Lydia Catlett: Actually, I did at that. First time he came out this way, he come to the door looking for Richard here. Thought I might be his momma. Tried to play off he was a Fuller Brush man, but I knew better.
Detective McPhail: What else can you tell me about these gatherings or visits?
Lydia Catlett: Can't say as I have much more than that for fact. The rest is an old woman's wisdom.
Detective McPhail: Now, ma'am, I'll tell you. With Mr. and Mrs. Izard murdered and their two young children missing, I'd say I'm willing to hear some old-fashioned Southern wisdom about now. Please go on with your thoughts.
Lydia Catlett: Not much more to say. I have given a moment or two to thinking over that young Richard next door didn't seem to be mindful of the Great Depression just past. In fact, I might go so far as to say that he seemed a might dazzled by spending and not so much mindful of saving.
Detective McPhail: Go on.
Lydia Catlett: Mrs. Izard, dear thing, seemed to well know the expression "make do or do without," but she didn't want to live it. Wanted the best for her family, and I can't say I blame her, but I'm so sure she had her eyes open to what that was costing them. You might look into that, young Jack McPhail.
Detective McPhail: Yes, ma'am. If I understand you correctly, you're saying that the Izards were spending above their means?
Lydia Catlett: That's a polite way of saying so. Yes, that's what I am saying.
Detective McPhail: You think these late-night, uh, gatherings were part of this picture?
Lydia Catlett: I do. Now my son Henry worked in Chicago for a time before he came back to Mississippi. He was a union man for a time there. Now he doesn't say much, but my grandson is not so shy. He's told me tales of graft, money changing hands, and some bloodstains on that money to boot.
Detective McPhail: Meaning?
Lydia Catlett: If I were in your shoes—which I thank the gracious Lord I am not—I might be wanting to have a very long talk with Miss Hannah there, and certainly Elbert Warren. And I wouldn't pass over the chance to sit with Mr. Fuller Brush Perch a time either. I think that's about all I have to say on that.
Detective McPhail: Well, I do thank you, Mrs. Catlett. You've been quite helpful. I wonder if I might ask how old your grandson is now?
Lydia Catlett: Of course. His birthday Monday brought him to 23 years, and I'll let you in on a secret. He and his wife are having a baby. I'm fixing to be a great grandmama before I leave this earth.
Detective McPhail: Congratulations, Mrs. Catlett. You surely do deserve it. What else can you tell me?
Lydia Catlett: You might want to talk to the church members over at Bethlehem Primitive Baptist. They may know more than I do. I'm just an old lady who doesn't get out much. About the only one who stops to talk to me anymore other than my grandson is that Hinkley boy.
Detective McPhail: Tommy Joe?
Lydia Catlett: Yes, although I prefer to use his real Christian name, Thomas. Most afternoons, he brings my mail up to the house so I won't have to walk all the way down to the end of my driveway, and he stops to chat. Such a nice young man and a veteran too. Did you serve in the war, young man?
Detective McPhail: Yes, ma'am. I did my duty. Tommy Joe come by today?
Lydia Catlett: Yes. It was exactly 2:41 p.m. I know because my radio program announcer had just told the time and the weather prediction for the next day when I heard Thomas knock. It was during the Glenn Miller hour. I do enjoy that so. I was listening to one of my favorites, "Moonlight Serenade," and "Tuxedo Junction" was coming up. Puts me in mind of George and me in our younger days.
Detective McPhail: How long did Thomas spend with you this afternoon?
Lydia Catlett: I suppose he saw my attention was diverted because he didn't stay more than a minute or two. Oh, my goodness. You don't think the Izards were killed while Thomas and I were talking, do you?
Detective McPhail: We don't know that yet, Mrs. Catlett.
Lydia Catlett: I hope you'll be keeping an eye on us out here until this is settled. I do get nervous, and I'd hate to think I have to live behind locked doors all the time.
Detective McPhail: I'll mention your request to Sheriff West, ma'am. You have a good day now. You've been a big help to us.
Lydia Catlett: Wait just a minute there. Tell me what you're doing to find those little children.
Detective McPhail: Everything we can, ma'am. Everything we can. We've got men all over, asking about them and combing through the woods near here.
Lydia Catlett: I hope you don't have to drag the creek for them. Oh, my. I'm afraid they're dead, aren't they?
Detective McPhail: I hope not, ma'am, but we don't know much at this point. Good day, now.
Lydia Catlett: Good-bye, young McPhail and Deputy Kuhn. You let me know what's going on with this investigation now. You let me know if I can help out anyway. I'll be praying for those dear children.
Detective McPhail: We'll do that, ma'am.