John Lawton-Taylor interview
Friday, May 29, 2020 – 1:13 p.m.
John Lawton Taylor approached the detectives after Zoe Chase's funeral and asked to speak with them.
He and his attorney, Laura LeDeaux, went with Detective Armstrong to the Yoknapatawpha County Sheriff's Department, where they sat down for a formal interview.
- Detective T. Armstrong
- Dr. John Lawton-Taylor
- Laura LeDeaux, witness' attorney
Detective Armstrong: For the record, would you please state your name and address.
John Lawton-Taylor: John Lawton-Taylor, MD. I live at 7786 Poplar Pike, Germantown, Tennessee.
Detective Armstrong: We appreciate you contacting us, Doctor. I'll try not to keep you too long.
Laura LeDeaux: Haven't you forgotten something, Detective?
Detective Armstrong: Ah, yes. Dr. Lawton-Taylor's attorney, Ms. Laura LeDeaux, is also present and serving as counsel.
Laura LeDeaux: Yes, and let the record reflect that the scope of your questions is limited and that an agreement exists between this witness and the Yoknapatawpha County Sheriff's Department that there will be no public disclosure of his identity and the personal nature of his relationship with the deceased.
Detective Armstrong: Acknowledged. With the understanding that, should we need the doctor's testimony in a court of law, we will have no way of protecting his privacy.
Laura LeDeaux: Detective…
John Lawton-Taylor: It's all right, Laura. Let's just settle down and get this over with. Detective, you have questions?
Detective Armstrong: You contacted us, Doc. Why not tell us what information you have?
John Lawton-Taylor: I knew Zoe Chase.
Detective Armstrong: You drove all the way from Memphis to tell us that, sir?
Laura LeDeaux: I have to object to your tone, Detective. Dr. Lawton-Taylor is a busy professional—
Detective Armstrong: Okay. What was your relationship with Zoe?
John Lawton-Taylor: We were lovers. As you already know, I am married and have children. Naturally, discretion is called for here.
Detective Armstrong: How is it you decided to contact us then?
John Lawton-Taylor: Naturally, I saw the news online, and there was a small amount of coverage on our local news. Zoe was a celebrity of sorts.
Detective Armstrong: But Ms. Chase was killed several days ago. Why wait so long to contact us?
John Lawton-Taylor: I was shocked. I couldn't believe it. But that's not the reason. I just didn't think I had any information that would be of use to you. And my wife is unaware of the relationship, and I saw no reason to…
Detective Armstrong: Get yourself in trouble? Okay. Then why reach out to us at all?
John Lawton-Taylor: One of the sleazier local media outlets has been digging into Zoe's personal life and making insinuations about her having a lover in Memphis.
Detective Armstrong: So you figured, eventually, we were going to come to you and that maybe it'd be better if you came to us?
John Lawton-Taylor: I suppose you could put it that way.
Detective Armstrong: How did you meet Zoe?
John Lawton-Taylor: We were at a fundraiser for some charity—children's literacy, I think—at the Hilton. Zoe was there too. I couldn't take my eyes off her from the first moment I saw her.
Detective Armstrong: And when was that?
John Lawton-Taylor: Must be… a year and a half ago, maybe longer.
Detective Armstrong: And you two were… seeing each other regularly ever since then?
John Lawton-Taylor: Yes.
Detective Armstrong: How often did y'all get together?
John Lawton-Taylor: About once a month or so, depending on our schedules.
Detective Armstrong: Zoe wrote about a few different men in her journal. Are you Mr. X or Mr. XX? Or the big bad wolf?
John Lawton-Taylor: Sounds so sordid when you say it out loud that way.
Detective Armstrong: Sorry, sir. Those were her words, not mine. Did Zoe ever refer to you by any of these names?
John Lawton-Taylor: Yes, I was Mr. X.
Detective Armstrong: Any particular reason she called you that?
John Lawton-Taylor: I'm sure there was in her mind, though she never told me. Zoe just got a kick out of being secretive and having secret names for people.
Detective Armstrong: What about the other names? Do you know who they belonged to?
John Lawton-Taylor: I believe she called her actor friend the big bad wolf. Guess he liked to role-play a little himself.
Detective Armstrong: How about you? Did you like to role-play too, sir?
John Lawton-Taylor: Well, don't we all? Okay, okay, so we dressed up in little costumes from time to time. So what? She had a thing for uniforms.
Detective Armstrong: What kind of uniforms?
John Lawton-Taylor: Cop uniforms, military uniforms… you know things that represented power.
Detective Armstrong: Was that part of the foreplay, you having power over her?
John Lawton-Taylor: I won't deny I handcuffed her to more than one bedpost, but it was totally consensual. She wanted me to do it.
Detective Armstrong: It ever get rough? Rougher than putting her in shackles?
John Lawton-Taylor: I didn't put her in shackles. They were handcuffs from a costume store. They didn't even lock.
Detective Armstrong: Any other "accessories" you used with Ms. Chase?
John Lawton-Taylor: No, sir. Just music, champagne… jewelry… she liked to wear all her jewelry during sex. Said it turned her on to see it sparkle in the candlelight.
Detective Armstrong: Anything else? She like to have other participants involved during your trysts?
John Lawton-Taylor: She talked about having us all there… you know… her actor friend and, I guess, Mr. XX. But it never happened.
Detective Armstrong: Why not?
John Lawton-Taylor: I wasn't interested, and I suspect neither were the others. I think sometimes she just said it to see if it would bother me or to taunt me or something. I don't know, maybe she thought it would make me jealous. That got her turned on too—men being jealous over her.
Detective Armstrong: Just men?
John Lawton-Taylor: I don't know. Maybe she just liked everybody to feel jealous of her. It did seem to thrill her when people envied her, so maybe you're right.
Detective Armstrong: When was the last time you saw her?
John Lawton-Taylor: Early May. We were supposed to meet the night she died, but as you know, she never made it.
Detective Armstrong: Where did you two meet when she came to Memphis?
John Lawton-Taylor: At a place I have in Olive Branch. I go down there to play golf or just to be alone.
Detective Armstrong: Your wife doesn't mind that?
John Lawton-Taylor: My wife… My wife is busy with her own things. She probably wouldn't even notice I was away if it weren't for the kids.
Detective Armstrong: Then why are you so concerned about her finding out about your relationship with Zoe?
John Lawton-Taylor: It's one thing for my wife and me to have our own… independent interests, but it's something else entirely to have them brought out in the open for everyone to see. Divorce would be very expensive for me, and I'd just as soon not have to deal with that. You understand, Detective?
Detective Armstrong: Uh, sure. Did Zoe call you the night she died or earlier that day?
John Lawton-Taylor: Yes, that afternoon. She said she'd be there late because of her meeting, so she was going to stay at a hotel near the salon she got her nails done. She was supposed to come to Olive Branch early Sunday afternoon after her appointment at the salon.
Detective Armstrong: Zoe's phone records don't show any calls to Memphis.
John Lawton-Taylor: She always called using one of those online tools. I'm not sure which one.
Detective Armstrong: Seems like a lot of trouble to go to.
John Lawton-Taylor: Like I said, the secrecy thrilled her, and I was concerned about my wife learning the details.
Detective Armstrong: So, guess you both got a kick out the secrets then, huh?
John Lawton-Taylor: Detective, I'm trying to help here. If you don't mind, I'd appreciate it if you skipped the character assassinations.
Detective Armstrong: Did Zoe ever express to you that she was worried about anything?
John Lawton-Taylor: The deal for the novel worried her.
Detective Armstrong: Why's that?
John Lawton-Taylor: She was just superstitious about it, I guess. Jittery. Worried it wasn't going to go through.
Detective Armstrong: She ever tell you that she, let's say, adapted the story from existing material, and it wasn't her original work?
John Lawton-Taylor: Not in so many words. No.
Detective Armstrong: Something she did say that made you wonder?
John Lawton-Taylor: Not really anything she said. Just how she acted. She was just real possessive about it. She wouldn't let me read it or any part of it. Or anyone else for that matter, except for her agent.
Detective Armstrong: That was unusual?
John Lawton-Taylor: It was for her. She liked attention, needed it. Anything she could use to get it, she did. She always made me read her columns, sometimes even her letters to her parents. But when it came to that book, it was a different story. See what I mean?
Detective Armstrong: Anybody ticking her off lately that you knew of?
John Lawton-Taylor: Sure, everybody. She ticked people off pretty regularly, and they ticked her off just as often. I'm sorry. I didn't really pay any mind to that sort of thing much. At first, I tried to give her advice, but she wouldn't have any of it. Then I realized she just liked being ticked off and having people ticked off at her. Part of who she was.
Detective Armstrong: Do you know if she had a gun?
John Lawton-Taylor: I seriously doubt it. She was scared of guns. She got mugged once when she lived in New York. The guy stuck a gun in her face, and she was terrified he was going to rape her, but he just grabbed her purse and ran.
Detective Armstrong: For some women, that would inspire them to get a gun and learn how to use it.
John Lawton-Taylor: Maybe, but not for her. For all the crap she stirred up, she didn't really like confrontations. If somebody really stood up to her and looked like they might blow their top, she got scared. She was mostly talk when you get right down to it.
Detective Armstrong: Did you ever give Zoe any jewelry?
John Lawton-Taylor: Yes, a Cartier watch. A few months ago.
Detective Armstrong: What was the occasion?
John Lawton-Taylor: It was Valentine's Day.
Detective Armstrong: Where were you on the night of May 23rd?
John Lawton-Taylor: In Olive Branch, as I said.
Detective Armstrong: Can anyone verify that?
John Lawton-Taylor: I stopped for gas at the Chevron just as I headed out. I called my wife when I got settled in Olive Branch.
Detective Armstrong: What time was that?
John Lawton-Taylor: About 9:00, 9:30. You can check the phone records if you like.
Detective Armstrong: Do you own a gun, sir?
John Lawton-Taylor: No.
Detective Armstrong: Anything else you can tell us?
John Lawton-Taylor: I don't believe so.
Detective Armstrong: Okay, sir, thank you for coming in. If we have any more questions, we'll contact you.
John Lawton-Taylor: At my office. You have the number at my office, yes?
Detective Armstrong: Don't worry sir, I'm not going to be the one to tell your wife about this. But if you have any sense, you will.
Interview ended – 1:56 p.m.