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Cherie Atkinson interview #3

Saturday, October 30, 2021 – 4:00 p.m.

Cherie Brophy Atkinson is a board member of the Yoknapatawpha Players Theatre Troupe.

Detectives Beckwith and Magee talked to her again at her residence at 999 Muirfield Drive.

Participants

  • Detective P. Beckwith
  • Detective J. Magee
  • Cherie Atkinson

Detective Magee: Ms. Atkinson?

Cherie Atkinson: Really? Y'all came to my house? Y'all aren't coming in without a search warrant.

Detective Magee: We aren't interested in searching your house … yet.

Cherie Atkinson: Great, then y'all can pedal your butts right back to wherever you came from. 

Detective Magee: I think you're going to want to hear what we have to say.

Cherie Atkinson: Yeah, well, I really doubt that. 

Detective Magee: All right, but after what Janet said about you—and without your side of the story—we'll be forced to take you into custody.

Cherie Atkinson: For what?

Detective Magee: Manslaughter as a result of culpable negligence.

Cherie Atkinson: You're bluffing. You don't have anything. 

Detective Magee: We have enough to get a conviction. Without your side, the DA has a slam-dunk argument that you set up the conditions leading to Scott Bryant's death. What's the penalty for manslaughter, Paul?

Detective Beckwith: Twenty years at the Central Mississippi Correctional Facility in Pearl. 

Detective Magee: Wow. That doesn't sound fun.

Cherie Atkinson: I call bull***t. You're just trying to trick me into saying something.

Detective Beckwith: It's all right, Jo. In that initial hearing, I'm sure Judge McAfee would love to hear how Ms. Atkinson intentionally set up a situation in which her drugged-up paramour inadvertently dropped a wall on her own stage manager. 

Cherie Atkinson: Ever the a-hole, Beckwith. I'm sure you'd like to make up that stuff, too.

Detective Beckwith: It's not personal, Cherie. Detective Magee will stay here while I call in that search warrant for your house. I'll be back, thirty minutes tops.

Cherie Atkinson: Wait. Okay … y'all suck so much. Ask me your questions here on the porch, then. Y'all aren't getting inside.

Detective Magee: Let's start with that drink you had with Janet at the Vine and Swine.

Cherie Atkinson: What did she say about it?

Detective Beckwith: That's not how this works. You tell us your side of it first.

Cherie Atkinson: She wanted me to meet to talk about Anna.

Detective Magee: What about Anna?

Cherie Atkinson: How Janet thought Anna was ruining the troupe.

Detective Magee: How so?

Cherie Atkinson: Janet said Anna was badmouthing the actors and making unreasonable demands on them.

Detective Beckwith: Which actors felt this way?

Cherie Atkinson: Janet. Martin. I think Weston. 

Detective Magee: Did Janet tell you this at the Vine and Swine?

Cherie Atkinson: No, earlier. She wanted to go to the bar to come up with a plan to stop Anna from ruining the troupe. 

Detective Beckwith: So what was the plan?

Cherie Atkinson: When we got to the bar, Janet said she wanted to sabotage the play to make Anna look bad in front of the board since the board was the audience at the dress rehearsal.

Detective Magee: What did you say?

Cherie Atkinson: I agreed with Janet that Anna and Denis were hurting the troupe, and they needed to go, but I didn't think Janet needed to sabotage the play to get them fired.

Detective Beckwith: What would get them fired?

Cherie Atkinson: The immersive play itself. It would have bombed the first night in such a spectacular fashion that the board wouldn't have a choice but to fire them. 

Detective Magee: How could you be sure? Neal Caine and Erv Cyr seem strongly behind Anna.

Cherie Atkinson: Me and Heath aren't. And I had already spoken to Martin Vargas about how much his current role is so beneath him. He agreed that talent like his should be doing big things, not "Zombie Escape." God, even the title is B-movie garbage- should be renamed "Theater Escape."

Detective Magee: Are you saying Martin was going to take your side in a board vote against immersive plays?

Cherie Atkinson: Yes, it was simple. Both of us would suffer through that horrible dress rehearsal and then return to convince the board that immersive plays are unworkable. Then the board would likely vote 5-0 in our favor. Hopefully, Anna would quit and take Denis with her.

Detective Beckwith: Or 3-2 in your favor?

Cherie Atkinson: Either way, my favor. 

Detective Magee: What if Anna and Denis wouldn't quit?

Cherie Atkinson: Oh, they'd see the writing on the wall.

Detective Beckwith: Anna, maybe. But wouldn't Denis try to stay on?

Cherie Atkinson: With Anna out, Denis wouldn't have any allies left. I don't think Scott and Woody liked him. I would just convince Martin that Denis's writing didn't emphasize his characters enough, and that would be all it takes. Denis would be out on his ass, like it or not.

Detective Beckwith: Did you let Janet in on your plan with Martin?

Cherie Atkinson: Yes. At the Vine and Swine.

Detective Magee: What did she say?

Cherie Atkinson: She said it wasn't good enough for her since the dress rehearsal could convince Martin that he was the hero of the show, and then he would vote with Anna like he did initially on the immersive theater idea.

Detective Beckwith: So, what did Janet suggest to "sabotage" the play?

Cherie Atkinson: To lock Heath into the quarantine room in the lab. 

Detective Beckwith: Did she come up with that on her own?

Cherie Atkinson: Yeah, how would I know to lock him in there? I didn't even know what the play was about, remember?

Detective Magee: How did Janet plan to do it?

Cherie Atkinson: She said that Heath was designated as the audience member who was going to be infected in the play with a disease, so she was scripted to place him in the quarantine room. If she locked it, she knew it would throw off the play's pace and ruin the show. I told her not to do it.

Detective Beckwith: Why?

Cherie Atkinson: Because I told her Anna would figure it out and expose her. Then Martin might change his mind.

Detective Magee: What did Janet say to that?

Cherie Atkinson: That I should convince Heath to lie and say he wasn't locked in.

Detective Magee: Why you?

Cherie Atkinson: Because Janet knows Heath likes me. That's why Janet set up this meeting at the Vine and Swine—to convince me to tell Heath to lie.

Detective Beckwith: Were you convinced?

Cherie Atkinson: No. I told her I wasn't going to do it. I told her to forget it.

Detective Beckwith: Did Janet's plan include Heath taking mushrooms?

Cherie Atkinson: No. That was just Heath being Heath.

Detective Magee: Did Janet's plan include you taking mushrooms?

Cherie Atkinson: I told y'all last time I don't do drugs anymore. 

Detective Magee: Then why did we find your fingerprints all over a baggie of mushrooms we found backstage?

Cherie Atkinson: Because I grabbed them away from Heath before the play started.

Detective Beckwith: Why?

Cherie Atkinson: Because he already had a couple of them, and I didn't want him to have any more. I was hoping he wouldn't start tripping before the end of the play, but I guess that didn't happen. 

Detective Magee: So what did you do with the mushroom baggie after you took them away from Heath?

Cherie Atkinson: I put the baggie in my pocket until the end of the show, but then I heard the cops were coming to help Scott, and I panicked. I just tossed them under a piece of set backstage.

Detective Beckwith: What if Janet told a different story than you have about sabotaging the play?

Cherie Atkinson: She's a liar. She's just trying to get her butt out of a sling. She's the reason y'all are always up in my business every second. Go see what she says. It's my word against hers.

Detective Magee: All right. Don't be surprised if we return to be back "in your business" in the near future.

Cherie Atkinson: Oh, I can't wait. And don't be bringing no search warrant, or I'll have Glenn's attorneys here to meet you at the door.

Interview ended – 4:21 p.m.

 


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