Man with gray hair & glasses and smiling woman with blonde hair

Howard & Marion Neidelmen interview #2

Saturday, May 30, 2020 – 10:00 a.m.

The Neidelmens are Zoe Chase's parents.

Detectives Murphy telephoned them to get some additional information.


  • Detective S. Murphy
  • Howard Neidelmen
  • Marion Neidelmen

Detective Murphy: Mrs. Neidelmen?

Marion Neidelmen: Yes, this is Marion Neidelmen.

Detective Murphy: This is Detective Murphy with the Yoknapatawpha County Sheriff's Department in Oxford.

Marion Neidelmen: Yes, Detective. I remember. Just a minute, let me get my husband on the phone. Howard? It's that lady detective from Oxford. Just a minute. Let me put it on speaker. There we go.

Howard Neidelmen: Hello?

Detective Murphy: Mr. Neidelmen, this is Detective Murphy. I—

Howard Neidelmen: Have you found the man who hurt Zoe?

Marion Neidelmen: Have you arrested someone?

Howard Neidelmen: Did you find out why he hurt our daughter?

Detective Murphy: Sir? Ma'am? If I could, first let me say that, unfortunately, we have not made an arrest in your daughter's case yet. I—

Marion Neidelmen: Oh, no.

Howard Neidelmen: Do you have any leads?

Marion Neidelmen: Do you have any suspects?

Howard Neidelmen: Are you close to finding the person?

Detective Murphy: Folks, I understand that you're eager to see the culprit bought to justice in this case, and we are too. To that end, I'd like to ask you some more questions, if you have a few minutes.

Marion Neidelmen: Oh, of course.

Howard Neidelmen: You know, we just want to know who did this.

Detective Murphy: Yes, sir. I—

Howard Neidelmen: We didn't realize you had more questions for us

Marion Neidelmen: So we just jumped right into what we wanted to know

Howard Neidelmen: But we'll stop so you can ask us your questions. Won't we, Marion?

Marion Neidelmen: Yes, of course, dear. What did you need to ask us, Detective?

Detective Murphy: Well, I'd like to talk to you about Debbie Fitzgerald.

Marion Neidelmen: Oh.

Howard Neidelmen: What about her?

Detective Murphy: You know who I'm referring to?

Howard Neidelmen: Yes, we do. She's Zoe's…

Marion Neidelmen: Birth mother, dear. I believe that's the term they use.

Detective Murphy: I understand you hired a private investigator recently to find her.

Howard Neidelmen: Yes.

Marion Neidelmen: We did, yes.

Detective Murphy: Why?

Howard Neidelmen: Why?

Detective Murphy: Yes. Why did you decide to locate her after so many years?

Howard Neidelmen: Marion…

Marion Neidelmen: Well, we saw it on TV.

Detective Murphy: I'm sorry? What do you mean you saw it on TV?

Marion Neidelmen: We were watching one of those talk shows, and they were talking about adopted children.

Howard Neidelmen: How it can be beneficial for them to know their medical histories and so forth

Marion Neidelmen: In case there are any health problems they should be looking out for and things like that.

Howard Neidelmen: So Marion thought

Marion Neidelmen: We both thought

Howard Neidelmen: Yes, we both thought it would be a good idea to get that information for Zoe.

Marion Neidelmen: Just in case.

Howard Neidelmen: Yes, just in case.

Detective Murphy: Did you try to find Zoe's birth mother on your own?

Marion Neidelmen: Oh, no.

Howard Neidelmen: We didn't know where to start.

Marion Neidelmen: So we talked to our attorney.

Howard Neidelmen: He's the one who suggested we use a PI to find her.

Detective Murphy: And this private investigator was able to find her?

Howard Neidelmen: Yes.

Marion Neidelmen: It didn't take long at all, considering.

Howard Neidelmen: We were surprised how quick it was.

Detective Murphy: So, after the investigator found Debbie Fitzgerald, did you speak to her?

Marion Neidelmen: Not right away.

Howard Neidelmen: We really didn't want to have any direct contact with her.

Marion Neidelmen: We just wanted to get the medical information from her.

Howard Neidelmen: That's all.

Detective Murphy: And all of that went according to plan?

Howard Neidelmen: No.

Marion Neidelmen: Not exactly.

Detective Murphy: Could you elaborate on that?

Howard Neidelmen: We didn't want the PI to tell her anything about us or about Zoe.

Marion Neidelmen: Where we live, where Zoe lived, what her name was, anything like that.

Howard Neidelmen: But she wouldn't cooperate.

Detective Murphy: What do you mean?

Howard Neidelmen: She wouldn't just tell him what we wanted to know.

Marion Neidelmen: She wanted information about Zoe.

Detective Murphy: What kind of information?

Marion Neidelmen: Like I said, Zoe's name, where she lived, things like that.

Howard Neidelmen: I didn't want to do it. I thought we should have the PI tell her to forget it and just let it go.

Marion Neidelmen: Howard.

Howard Neidelmen: But then I realized it was probably pretty important for us to get Zoe's medical history.

Marion Neidelmen: So we told Leo—that's the PI—we told him to say whatever he had to say to get us the information we wanted.

Howard Neidelmen: Within reason, of course. And we told him to be sure to get the medical history from her first before he told her anything about Zoe.

Detective Murphy: And that worked?

Howard Neidelmen: No.

Marion Neidelmen: In the end, we had to go see her.

Detective Murphy: Ms. Fitzgerald?

Marion Neidelmen: Yes.

Howard Neidelmen: She refused to help us unless we did.

Marion Neidelmen: So we really had no choice.

Detective Murphy: And that worked out?

Howard Neidelmen: We got the medical history we wanted.

Marion Neidelmen: It was awkward, of course, but Howard and I have always wanted what was best for Zoe, so we did what we had to do.

Detective Murphy: What did you have to give Ms. Fitzgerald in exchange for the information she gave you?

Marion Neidelmen: Only Zoe's name and address.

Howard Neidelmen: And a picture of Zoe.

Marion Neidelmen: Yes, and a picture.

Detective Murphy: No money changed hands?

Howard Neidelmen: No, of course not.

Marion Neidelmen: Why would she give us money?

Howard Neidelmen: I think she was asking whether we gave her any money, dear.

Marion Neidelmen: Oh, I see. Well, we didn't.

Detective Murphy: When did all this happen?

Marion Neidelmen: Must have been about six months ago?

Howard Neidelmen: About that. Maybe a little longer.

Detective Murphy: Did your daughter support your efforts to locate her birth mother?

Marion Neidelmen: She didn't know about it until later.

Howard Neidelmen: We didn't want to tell Zoe until we knew whether we'd find her or not and what kind of person she was.

Marion Neidelmen: We didn't want her to be disappointed.

Detective Murphy: And was she disappointed?

Howard Neidelmen: No.

Marion Neidelmen: She was…

Howard Neidelmen: You might as well tell her, Marion.

Marion Neidelmen: Well… she wasn't disappointed.

Howard Neidelmen: She was angry with us.

Detective Murphy: Really? Why was she angry?

Marion Neidelmen: I… I don't know.

Howard Neidelmen: She thought we had gone behind her back.

Marion Neidelmen: We were just trying to help.

Detective Murphy: When did you tell your daughter you'd found her birth mother?

Marion Neidelmen: On her birthday this year.

Detective Murphy: Her birthday?

Howard Neidelmen: It seemed like a good idea at the time.

Marion Neidelmen: Howard, there's no need to be sarcastic. Yes, on her birthday. We thought it would be a nice surprise for her. We went to Oxford for her birthday. It was her 35th, you know?

Detective Murphy: Yes.

Marion Neidelmen: We went to Oxford for the weekend and on her birthday

Howard Neidelmen: Sunday

Marion Neidelmen: Yes, it was Sunday, we had a nice dinner with Zoe and Jack. That's when we gave her the ruby and diamond cocktail ring.

Howard Neidelmen: Excellent workmanship. An exquisite piece.

Marion Neidelmen: Yes, it was lovely. Have you found it yet?

Detective Murphy: The ring? No, ma'am, I'm sorry, but we haven't located it yet.

Marion Neidelmen: Oh, that's too bad. You will find it, though, won't you?

Detective Murphy: We'll do our best, ma'am. Now, you were telling me about your daughter's birthday?

Marion Neidelmen: Oh, yes. Where were we?

Detective Murphy: You had a nice dinner, and you gave your daughter the ring. When did you tell Zoe you'd found Ms. Fitzgerald?

Marion Neidelmen: Oh, that was later, after Jack had gone home.

Howard Neidelmen: We didn't think we should tell her about it while he was there.

Detective Murphy: Why not?

Howard Neidelmen: We felt it was personal information and shouldn't be discussed in front of someone who wasn't family.

Marion Neidelmen: And if she wanted to tell him about it later, then it would be her decision.

Detective Murphy: I see. What was her reaction when you told her?

Howard Neidelmen: She was furious.

Marion Neidelmen: Now, Howard, I don't think she was furious. She was very surprised. I think we caught her off guard and she didn't know how to react.

Detective Murphy: And how did she react?

Marion Neidelmen: Um…

Howard Neidelmen: She asked us to leave.

Marion Neidelmen: She said she wanted to be alone.

Howard Neidelmen: She wanted us to get out.

Marion Neidelmen: Howard, she didn't mean to hurt our feelings.

Howard Neidelmen: She said we had to tell the Fitzgerald woman never to contact her and to make sure that she didn't, or she would never see or speak to us again.

Marion Neidelmen: Oh, Howard.

Detective Murphy: Sounds like she was pretty upset. Did you explain to her why you'd looked for Ms. Fitzgerald?

Marion Neidelmen: We tried.

Howard Neidelmen: But she wouldn't let us.

Marion Neidelmen: She wouldn't even let us show her the pictures.

Detective Murphy: What pictures?

Howard Neidelmen: Debbie Fitzgerald gave us a few pictures.

Marion Neidelmen: But Zoe wouldn't even look at them.

Howard Neidelmen: Not that day, but she did later.

Marion Neidelmen: Yes, we sent her the pictures a few weeks later.

Detective Murphy: Why? Did she ask for them?

Marion Neidelmen: Yes, she did.

Howard Neidelmen: I think her curiosity got the better of her.

Detective Murphy: And she wasn't angry with you anymore at that point?

Marion Neidelmen: Not really.

Howard Neidelmen: She wasn't as angry as she had been at least.

Detective Murphy: What about her birth father?

Howard Neidelmen: What about him?

Detective Murphy: Did you try to find him?

Marion Neidelmen: Yes, but we didn't get very far.

Detective Murphy: Why not?

Marion Neidelmen: We couldn't even find out what his name was.

Howard Neidelmen: He wasn't identified in any of the records.

Marion Neidelmen: And that woman wouldn't tell us who he was.

Detective Murphy: Ms. Fitzgerald wouldn't tell you? Why not?

Howard Neidelmen: She said she hadn't seen him since before Zoe was born and she didn't want to.

Marion Neidelmen: She said he didn't even know about Zoe.

Howard Neidelmen: That's what she said.

Detective Murphy: You didn't believe her?

Howard Neidelmen: We didn't have a choice.

Marion Neidelmen: We took her at her word.

Detective Murphy: Weren't you interested in getting his medical history too?

Marion Neidelmen: Yes, of course, we were, but we didn't know how to find him.

Howard Neidelmen: Leo was still looking into it, but after… what happened

Marion Neidelmen: There didn't seem to be any point.

Detective Murphy: Okay. Now, Mr. and Mrs. Neidelmen, I have to ask you, why didn't you tell us about any of this when we talked to you before?

Marion Neidelmen: We just didn't think of it.

Howard Neidelmen: Do you think all of this has something to do with what happened to Zoe?

Detective Murphy: We have to consider all the possibilities. That's why we need to know about everything, so we can figure out what's relevant and what isn't. Is there anything else you haven't told us about?

Marion Neidelmen: I don't think so.

Howard Neidelmen: We've told you everything we can.

Detective Murphy: Okay. But if you think of anything else, you be sure to let us know, right?

Marion Neidelmen: Oh, we will.

Howard Neidelmen: Of course.

Detective Murphy: Now, when you were in Oxford, you found some pieces of jewelry in the safe at your daughter's house. Did you give her all of those?

Howard Neidelmen: We gave her a pearl and gold ring, a ruby bracelet, and a diamond pendant. All beautiful pieces.

Marion Neidelmen: She also had a Cartier watch and a pair of lovely ruby and diamond earrings, but we didn't give her those.

Detective Murphy: Do you know where she got them?

Marion Neidelmen: I think they were gifts from men she was seeing or had seen in the past.

Howard Neidelmen: That's right. That's what she said.

Detective Murphy: She got them from Mr. Swanson?

Marion Neidelmen: Oh, no, I don't think so.

Howard Neidelmen: I'd say they were out of his price range.

Detective Murphy: Do you know the names of the man or men who gave her the watch and the earrings?

Howard Neidelmen: No, she never said.

Marion Neidelmen: Zoe never really talked about the men she dated. That's how I knew she was serious about Jack. She told us about him, and she let us meet him.

Detective Murphy: I see. Have you spoken to Mr. Swanson since your daughter's funeral?

Howard Neidelmen: No.

Marion Neidelmen: No, we haven't.

Detective Murphy: What about Dani Bonner? Have you heard from her?

Howard Neidelmen: No.

Marion Neidelmen: Why would we?

Howard Neidelmen: She and Zoe were close.

Marion Neidelmen: But we never had much of a friendship with Dani.

Detective Murphy: Has Ms. Fitzgerald contacted you?

Howard Neidelmen: No.

Marion Neidelmen: Did she say she was going to?

Detective Murphy: Not that I'm aware of.

Howard Neidelmen: I don't think we'll ever talk to her again.

Marion Neidelmen: No reason to.

Detective Murphy: Now, again, I don't want to upset you, but I do need to ask, there have been some rumors that your daughter might have… that the manuscript she was about to have published was not her original work.

Howard Neidelmen: What are you saying?

Marion Neidelmen: I don't understand.

Detective Murphy: There are a few rumors that she might have gotten the manuscript from someone else, and that she didn't write it herself.

Howard Neidelmen: That's ridiculous!

Marion Neidelmen: Zoe would never do anything like that.

Howard Neidelmen: And she wouldn't need to.

Marion Neidelmen: Our daughter was a very talented writer.

Howard Neidelmen: She didn't need to steal anyone else's work because her work was superior on its own.

Detective Murphy: Well, as I said, they're only rumors at this point, and we haven't been able to confirm or deny them yet.

Howard Neidelmen: I'm sure you'll find that it's completely untrue.

Marion Neidelmen: And I hope you'll make sure everyone knows that.

Howard Neidelmen: It's a terrible thing to say about Zoe.

Marion Neidelmen: Especially when she can't even defend herself.

Detective Murphy: I understand your concern, and I assure you that, whatever the truth is, we'll find out.

Howard Neidelmen: And restore our daughter's good name.

Detective Murphy: Yes… now, is there anything else you can think of that we need to know?

Howard Neidelmen: No. Do you think you're close to making an arrest?

Marion Neidelmen: Do you have a suspect?

Detective Murphy: We hope to bring this investigation to a close very soon, and we'll keep you apprised.

Howard Neidelmen: Please do.

Marion Neidelmen: Yes, please do.

Detective Murphy: Thank you for taking time to speak with me. We'll be back in touch with you when we have more information. In the meantime, please contact us if you have any information that might help us in the investigation.

Marion Neidelmen: We will, Detective, and thank you.

Howard Neidelmen: Yes, thank you.

Detective Murphy: Goodbye.

Interview ended – 10:41 a.m.



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