Sylvia Payton interview

Sylvia Payton worked with Diane CoatesSaturday, November 23, 2013 - 2:16 p.m.

Sylvia Payton worked with Diane Coates and attended the annual Barksdale Literature Conference. Detectives Armstrong and Murphy interviewed her at the Yoknapatawpha County Conference Center. The interview was recorded with the witness's knowledge and consent.


  • Detective T. Armstrong
  • Detective S. Murphy
  • Sylvia Payton

Detective Armstrong: We understand you worked with Diane Coates at Ole Miss.

Sylvia Payton: Yes, that's right.

Detective Murphy: Would you state your name and address for the record, please?

Sylvia Payton: Sylvia Payton. I live off County Road 336 in Taylor.

Detective Armstrong: How long had you known Ms. Coates?

Sylvia Payton: I guess since she began working at the university. About six or seven years, I think.

Detective Armstrong: You must have been friends. I'm sorry for your loss.

Sylvia Payton: No, sir. I don't think you could call us friends, exactly. We worked together. That's all.

Detective Murphy: You didn't socialize at all?

Sylvia Payton: No, not really. We'd exchange greetings and inquire about a weekend maybe, but that's about all. I had to work with her, but I didn't have to be friends.

Detective Murphy: I see. Well, could you tell us if you or anyone disliked her enough to want her dead?

Sylvia Payton: Oh, come on now. Since when is not liking a co-worker enough to kill over?

Detective Murphy: Unfortunately, it happens.

Sylvia Payton: Well, not in our office, Detective. She may not have won any popularity contests, but we were all civil to each other. Well, usually. But this time Diane went too far. And in public too.

Detective Murphy: This time?

Sylvia Payton: Going after Sandra like that in front of everyone at the reception? That was just beyond the pale, even for Diane.

Detective Murphy: Were you there to hear the altercation last night?

Sylvia Payton: No, I was down in the ballroom checking on last minute dinner arrangements, but I heard it was a doozy. I'm surprised Sandra didn't have it out with her long before this. Diane was a great one for criticizing people. She thought anything you could do, she could do better, especially where Sandra was concerned. The word is that she was after Sandra's job.

Detective Armstrong: Do you think Ms. Moss was angry enough to do Ms. Coates harm?

Sylvia Payton: Are you kidding? Sandra is the greatest boss and nicest person ever. She's supportive and appreciative of everyone's efforts – even Diane. Look, I don't mean to speak ill of the dead, but Diane was a backstabber and a glory hound. I'm sorry she's dead, but I can't say I'm sorry she's out of our hair.

Detective Armstrong: I see. Do you know her husband?

Sylvia Payton: Rupert? Not really. But when I did run into him, he was very nice. He seems like such a sweet man. They were so different. It was grist for the rumor mill, I can tell you. I heard Diane was spending some late nights out when Rupert was out of town.

Detective Armstrong: Did any names come up?

Sylvia Payton: I didn't hear any, but I wasn't really that interested. You know who might know? Bernadette Guthrie. I think she went out to dinner with Diane a couple of times when Rupert was out of town. She might know. Are we about through here? There's a break coming up and I need to get back.

Detective Murphy: Sure. Thank you, Ms. Payton. We may be talking to you later

Sylvia Payton: Fine. You know where to find me.

End interview - 2:29 p.m.


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