Dani Bonner interview
Tuesday, May 26, 2020 – 1:01 p.m.
Danielle Bonner was a close friend of Zoe Chase.
Detectives Armstrong and Murphy interviewed her in her home.
- Detective T. Armstrong
- Dani Bonner
- Detective S. Murphy
Detective Murphy: For the record, could you please state your name and address?
Dani Bonner: Danielle Bonner, 425 Van Buren, Oxford.
Detective Murphy: We want to thank you for your cooperation and for allowing us to come to your home.
Dani Bonner: Of course, I'd cooperate. Zoe was my best friend. I want whoever did this to pay!
Detective Armstrong: We realize this is a difficult time for you.
Dani Bonner: Difficult? It's like somebody killed a part of me. Oh, I'm sorry, I'm still so emotional about this. I wonder if I'm ever going to get over it.
Detective Murphy: We understand. Do you need a minute to compose yourself?
Dani Bonner: No, let's just go on. I don't think taking a minute will make it any better.
Detective Murphy: Okay. Now, you know we have already spoken to your husband, Ed, correct?
Dani Bonner: Yes, of course.
Detective Murphy: Your husband mentioned a recording you have of yourself and the deceased?
Dani Bonner: The New Year's tape. Is that what you mean?
Detective Murphy: The one where Zoe allegedly bequeathed her worldly goods to you or something to that effect?
Dani Bonner: Yes, that's the one. The only one I have left. Why didn't I save the others? You know, I guess I never thought… Well, you just don't think your best friend is going to be… Sorry. Yes, I have that tape.
Detective Armstrong: Do you mind telling us what prompted you to make the recording?
Dani Bonner: I know it's strange. Everybody thinks so, even Ed. I just got in the habit of doing it years ago, and after a while, it seemed natural.
Detective Armstrong: Got in the habit?
Dani Bonner: Well, Zoe and I met at college. We were friends from the start. Even more than friends… more like sisters, twins even. At least in some ways. And we were just so close. So when she went back to New York after school, it just broke my heart.
Detective Murphy: So you started recording your conversations?
Dani Bonner: Well, it was sort of an accident. She called me one night, and the answering machine picked up the call before I could grab the phone. I guess I didn't realize the machine was recording it. Later on, when I noticed the blinking light, I hit the playback to hear the message, and it was the conversation we'd had a couple of hours before.
Detective Armstrong: Uh-huh?
Dani Bonner: Well, it just was so good to hear her voice and hear us laughing and talking that I saved the tape. So when I felt lonely for her, I could play it and not feel so alone, you know? Then the next time she called, I taped it too. Then, well, it just became a habit, you know?
Detective Murphy: Okay. But even after Zoe moved to Oxford and you could call her or see her any time you wanted, you continued to do this?
Dani Bonner: Well, no. Actually, I stopped doing it for a while, except for holidays and things that were special occasions. I don't know. People are always taking pictures and videos during events, and no one thinks that's odd. So I guess making tapes wasn't that much of a leap in my mind.
Detective Armstrong: Okay. We get it. Do you still have this recording?
Dani Bonner: Yes, I do.
Detective Armstrong: Is it a cassette tape?
Dani Bonner: No, nowadays, I have one of those digital voice recorder things, you know?
Detective Armstrong: Would you be willing to give us a copy of that recording?
Dani Bonner: I probably shouldn't admit this, but I don't know how to make a copy of it. I'm not very good with technology.
Detective Armstrong: If you give us the recorder, our techs can take care of that for you.
Detective Murphy: Naturally, we'd return it to you when we've finished with it.
Dani Bonner: I suppose so, though how you think it'll help you, I can't imagine.
Detective Armstrong: We just want to cover all the bases.
Dani Bonner: Of course. If it'll help in some way, I'll be happy to give it to you. Just ask them to be careful with it, will you? It's all I have left of her…
Detective Murphy: Of course.
Detective Armstrong: Let's talk about your relationship with Zoe and what you know of her relationships with others.
Dani Bonner: Okay, where do you want to start?
Detective Murphy: What was her relationship with her parents like?
Dani Bonner: Well, by now I'm sure you've talked to them, and you know they don't have any use for me.
Detective Armstrong: Why do you think that is?
Dani Bonner: I guess it was because Nan— Zoe and I got into some hijinks in school. Her parents are pretty old fashioned and didn't take to practical jokes too well.
Detective Armstrong: How did Zoe feel about her parents?
Dani Bonner: She loved them. In her own way. She was so different from them that she was often perplexed about how she could have been their child. Of course, once she learned about the adoption, that explained a lot.
Detective Murphy: When did she learn about that? The adoption?
Dani Bonner: A while back. About five years ago.
Detective Murphy: How did she take the news?
Dani Bonner: She had mixed emotions about it. On the one hand, it answered a lot of questions for her. On the other hand, she felt her parents should have told her sooner. I think they had a bit of a fight about that.
Detective Murphy: How did she find out she was adopted?
Dani Bonner: Her parents told her on her 30th birthday. Now that's a party I'm glad I wasn't at. I guess they'd seen some news show on the TV where they talked about adopted kids getting diseases and needing transfusions and things like that, and they started worrying. So, they decided to tell her over her birthday dinner. Not exactly good timing, was it?
Detective Murphy: Did Zoe do anything to find her birth mother?
Dani Bonner: No. She talked about it for a while, but then, when she discovered her birth mother had been an unwed teenager, she thought better of it.
Detective Armstrong: How so?
Dani Bonner: Well, she figured that the woman probably wouldn't have wanted to meet her or maybe worse. Like she'd just been a tramp who'd gotten herself in trouble. She just decided she didn't want to know. The Neidelmens had done right by her, given her a good life. She thought if she pursued her birth mother, they might turn their backs on her, and it was just a risk Zoe didn't want to take.
Detective Murphy: What about her boyfriend? Jack Swanson?
Dani Bonner: I'm sure he's as devastated as I am.
Detective Murphy: Do you know how they got along?
Dani Bonner: As well as most couples, I expect. Though he was a little jealous sometimes.
Detective Murphy: About what?
Dani Bonner: Zoe's dalliances.
Detective Armstrong: Her what?
Dani Bonner: She occasionally saw other men. Jack didn't like that, but what man would?
Detective Armstrong: How much didn't he like it?
Dani Bonner: I don't know. When she was feeling pissy and wanted to get his goat, she'd take out jewelry or things they gave her and flaunt them a bit.
Detective Armstrong: And how did Jack take that?
Dani Bonner: He'd get mad at first, but then he'd cool down and behave. Which was the point, if you know what I mean.
Detective Murphy: I know what you mean. Did you ever witness any of these arguments?
Dani Bonner: Well, they had a tiff at our St. Patrick's Day cookout. Jack had a few too many beers, and he started grumbling. But it was over quick enough, and they were all lovey-dovey by the end of the day.
Detective Murphy: Did Zoe ever tell you who these other men were?
Dani Bonner: Well, she referred to them as Mr. X and Mr. XX. She never told me, and I'm glad because I didn't want to know. I don't think I could have looked Jack in the eyes if I knew who they were. Besides, she wasn't serious about them. They were just a distraction.
Detective Murphy: Who bought her expensive gifts?
Dani Bonner: Some men just do. I mean, Zoe likes gifts as much as any woman, but it didn't make her fall in love with them if that's what you mean. No, her heart belonged to Jack. She just had a little wild side that had to come out every now and then. That's all.
Detective Armstrong: Okay. Do you know Peggy LeClaire?
Dani Bonner: I know who she is, and we've spoken maybe a couple times, but I wouldn't say I know her.
Detective Armstrong: How was her relationship with Zoe?
Dani Bonner: She worked for Zoe. Did her typing and transcription. Oh, and she belonged to the same writers' group.
Detective Murphy: How did they get along?
Dani Bonner: Fine, as long as Peggy got Zoe's work to her on time.
Detective Murphy: Was there a problem with that?
Dani Bonner: Sometimes. From what Zoe said, Peggy is an odd little bird. She'd go along fine and do great work, then out of the blue, Zoe wouldn't be able to reach her, and she wouldn't return Zoe's calls. Then Zoe'd either be late with her column or have to call in someone else at the last minute.
Detective Murphy: Zoe wasn't able to do her own typing?
Dani Bonner: I guess she could have, but she was horrible at typing, and by the time she knew Peggy wasn't going to deliver on time, there was no way she could've done it herself in time to meet the deadline.
Detective Murphy: Did Zoe fire Peggy at any point?
Dani Bonner: I don't think so. I mean, no matter what Peggy's like, Zoe always swore by the woman's work. It was perfect, she said. Hard to give that up, even if the person sometimes made you nuts, you know?
Detective Murphy: Did she ever tell you who she used as a backup when she couldn't reach Peggy?
Dani Bonner: I think she called the university's business center and asked for a student to come over and help. They never did great work, so she always tried to wait until she was sure she wouldn't be able to get Peggy to do it.
Detective Murphy: Did she ever use any other service that you know of?
Dani Bonner: Maybe. I think she mentioned a place in Memphis, but I have no idea what it was called.
Detective Murphy: So, there was no upset between Zoe and Peggy that you know of?
Dani Bonner: Well, actually, Zoe was mad the night she— that night. She called me just before she left for the meeting, and she was having a fit. Peggy had pulled another one of her disappearing acts, and Zoe didn't know what to tell Richard. Bertuch, her editor? I guess he called wanting to know where the column was, and she couldn't get ahold of Peggy. You know, temperamental artist stuff.
Detective Murphy: Did she say she was going to fire Peggy?
Dani Bonner: Maybe. I don't know. I'm so used to her snits that sometimes I don't listen to every single word. I knew she'd get over it, so I didn't really give it much thought.
Detective Armstrong: She ever mention Mallory Benson?
Dani Bonner: Sure. I've met Mallory a few times. Lovely woman. A little shy, but lovely.
Detective Armstrong: What did Zoe think of her?
Dani Bonner: She thought Mallory was an excellent writer and was trying to help her find an agent to market her work better. Zoe was always trying to help her friends.
Detective Armstrong: Did they ever disagree on things or have any arguments?
Dani Bonner: Not that I know of. At least, Zoe didn't mention anything. She only had good things to say about Mallory. She even tried to fix her up with one of Jack's buddies, but she was just not interested.
Detective Murphy: Do you know Steven Atwater?
Dani Bonner: Yes, he came to my house for that cookout. Between you and me, we were kind of hoping to fix him up with Zoe's agent, Kathy, who was in town. Now, there's a girl who's a pistol. But she and Steven just didn't hit it off at all.
Detective Murphy: Why not?
Dani Bonner: They just didn't. No chemistry, I guess, which was too bad because, after that, Zoe couldn't broach the idea of having Kathy read his novel, which upset Steven to no end.
Detective Armstrong: Why couldn't she show the novel to Kathy?
Dani Bonner: Well, Kathy didn't like the guy. She thought he was pompous and self-important, which maybe he is, but that sort of thing doesn't bother me. Anyway, Zoe felt Kathy would just reject it without giving it a fair chance. Our biases do affect our opinions. Really, I think she was just trying to spare his feelings.
Detective Armstrong: What did Steven think?
Dani Bonner: Well, I don't know first hand, of course, but I guess he was pretty miffed, thought she betrayed him and whatever. She was trying to smooth things over with him, hoping she could find another agent she could get his novel to.
Detective Armstrong: Okay. By the way, back to Zoe's birth mother for a minute. You know she lives in Oxford now?
Dani Bonner: Yes, I know.
Detective Armstrong: Did Zoe have contact with her after all?
Dani Bonner: Yes, not because she wanted to, but yes.
Detective Murphy: How did it happen then?
Dani Bonner: I guess Debbie found her. She just showed up on Zoe's doorstep one night a couple months ago. Threw Zoe for a loop. Upset her a lot.
Detective Murphy: Why?
Dani Bonner: Because of the surprise initially, but more because the woman turned out to be what Zoe feared all along. She has a drinking problem and hasn't… ah… aged gracefully, as they say. Zoe was convinced the woman only tracked her down because she wanted money or for Zoe to take care of her. Imagine that? A mother who gave her baby away, thinking the child owed her a life?
Detective Murphy: What did Zoe do?
Dani Bonner: She told her to leave her alone. But Zoe had such a big heart, I doubt she would have made her stay away. She felt sorry for the woman, and I could see it wouldn't be long before Zoe was going to let her move in with her or start writing her monthly checks.
Detective Armstrong: Did Zoe tell you she was going to do that?
Dani Bonner: No, she just said she felt sorry for her, and maybe she'd been too hard on her. That maybe she owed her a chance to get to know her. Sad, isn't it?
Detective Armstrong: How about you, ma'am? Any disagreements or arguments with Zoe?
Dani Bonner: Well, of course, we had disagreements, all the time.
Detective Armstrong: Anything in particular?
Dani Bonner: That damn Ed! I suppose he told you about Christmas? Well, it was nothing, really.
Detective Armstrong: How about you tell us about it, just the same?
Dani Bonner: I guess I'd had too much champagne, and I got the idea that Zoe was trying to hit on Ed. God, when I say it out loud, it makes me want to laugh. So, anyway, we got in a big snit over it. Then she said Ed was a loser, and she'd never go over such a dog or something like that. Well, that did make me mad. I don't think I talked to her for a whole week after that, but New Year's Day we made up and patched things up.
Detective Armstrong: So you didn't bear her any grudge?
Dani Bonner: How could I? She was like a sister to me. My life will never be the same without her. Sorry… I promised myself I wouldn't start crying again.
Detective Armstrong: It's all right, we understand. Almost finished here, just a couple more questions. Is there anyone you know of who wished Zoe harm?
Dani Bonner: No, never. Zoe was just, well… bigger than life. Everyone loved her. I can't imagine anyone ever wanting to end her life and snuff out that light. You understand?
Detective Murphy: Yes, ma'am. Well, thank you for your time. If we have more questions, we'll contact you.
Dani Bonner: Any time. Don't hesitate to call.
Detective Armstrong: We won't. Afternoon, ma'am.
Interview ended – 1:48 p.m.