Tuesday, April 19, 2022 – 10:20 a.m.
Sally Stoppard placed a 911 call at 10:13 a.m. reporting vandalism at one of her rental properties and the possible disappearance or injury of her tenant.
Deputy P.J. Watson was dispatched to the scene to perform a well-being check, with Officers A. L. Quinlan and Maria Richards responding as backup. Deputy Watson interviewed Ms. Stoppard at the scene.
- Deputy P.J. Watson
- Sally Stoppard
Deputy Watson: Good afternoon, ma'am. Are you the one who made the 911 call?
Sally Stoppard: Yes, I am.
Deputy Watson: Could you please give me your name and address?
Sally Stoppard: Sarah Elizabeth Stoppard, but my friends call me Sally. I live at 604 Woodlawn Hills.
Deputy Watson: You told the 911 operator that you'd discovered some vandalism at one of your rental properties. Is this the one here?
Sally Stoppard: Yes, it is.
Deputy Watson: And what is your connection to the property?
Sally Stoppard: I'm with Pearce Brokers, and I manage our rental properties, including this one, and I also do some sales. Here, let me give you one of my cards.
Deputy Watson: Thank you, ma'am. Now, could you describe the property for me?
Sally Stoppard: It's a small, secluded, two-bedroom house with a large shed and carport at the side. As you can see, the yard is attractive and low-maintenance. The home itself is fascinating, decorated in a funky style with unusual colors, a very arty type of home. And it has a whirlpool bathtub in the master bath for that touch of luxury.
Deputy Watson: Okay. And who's the owner?
Sally Stoppard: James Logue, that folk artist who calls himself Catfish Jim. He got a fellowship to study in Italy. He's not due back in Oxford until Christmas. Mr. Logue contacted Pearce Brokers to arrange for us to manage the rental of his property. He was making it available for a six-month lease, renewable monthly after that.
Deputy Watson: How long has he owned the house?
Sally Stoppard: The property used to belong to his late aunt, and he's done a good bit of work on it since he inherited it. He was renting it fully furnished with his own furniture, so he wanted a good tenant. He felt like his home was more suited to a single professional person or couple instead of a young family with children or someone with pets.
Deputy Watson: Is the property currently rented?
Sally Stoppard: Yes, sir.
Deputy Watson: Who is the tenant?
Sally Stoppard: Wendy Holloway has been renting it for the last several months.
Deputy Watson: When did Ms. Holloway move in?
Sally Stoppard: She moved in back in early December. I'd have to check the lease agreement to get the exact date.
Deputy Watson: Have you ever met Ms. Holloway in person?
Sally Stoppard: Yes, I stopped by a few weeks after she moved in to introduce myself and see that she was getting settled in okay. And then I saw her again a few months later when I showed her some other properties in town.
Deputy Watson: But you never met her before she rented the property?
Sally Stoppard: No.
Deputy Watson: How did she arrange to rent the property then?
Sally Stoppard: I spoke to her on the phone sometime in November. Well, it was actually Blake Stillwater who called me. You know, that local novelist who's written some bestsellers? We've met a few times around town.
Deputy Watson: He met with you about renting the property?
Sally Stoppard: He wasn't in Oxford when he called. I believe he was in California or something like that. I think that's where he called from. Anyway, he asked about available furnished properties.
Deputy Watson: Did he say why he was the one calling instead of Ms. Holloway?
Sally Stoppard: I guess he was doing her a favor. I told him I had the perfect house, and he handed the phone over to Ms. Holloway so I could tell her about it. She liked the sound of it, especially the whirlpool bath. So she took it sight-unseen. Must have taken Mr. Stillwater's personal recommendation about me into account.
Deputy Watson: That speaks very highly of you, ma'am. How long did it take to complete the deal?
Sally Stoppard: Ms. Holloway paid the deposit and first month's rent by wire transfer that same day. Mr. Stillwater arranged to pick up the keys when he returned to Oxford a little while later. Only I believe his maid was actually the one who picked up the keys from our office for him.
Deputy Watson: And how did you happen to visit the property today?
Sally Stoppard: I was following up because Ms. Holloway had expressed interest in possibly buying a permanent home in Oxford. I knew the Kelly Green developer had shown her that site a few months ago before construction started, but she said she hadn't made a decision on it. I showed her two other properties in town about three weeks ago, but she didn't care for either one.
Deputy Watson: And your business with her today?
Sally Stoppard: I was hoping to interest her in something at The Lakes. You've probably seen the advertising on that. It has more than 800 acres of rolling hills, two lakes, and a home site suitable for every lifestyle. Anyway, I'd left a couple of messages on her voicemail this week but hadn't heard back from her. So I decided to drop by and leave the new brochure on The Lakes and my card if she wasn't at home. Obviously, if someone expresses an interest in buying a property, you want to follow up on that as soon as possible.
Deputy Watson: That was this morning when you stopped by to leave the brochure?
Sally Stoppard: Yes, just a little while ago.
Deputy Watson: Can you tell me what happened when you arrived at the house?
Sally Stoppard: I drove up the driveway, and there was a car in the carport, so I thought she was home. I went to the front porch and knocked on the door, but there was no answer. The curtains were open, and I glanced inside. I was shocked, I must tell you.
Deputy Watson: Why is that?
Sally Stoppard: I could see large smears and marks on the wall, and a couple of chairs were overturned. I became concerned. The property had been rented in top condition, and Ms. Holloway has been an excellent tenant so far.
Deputy Watson: What did you do next?
Sally Stoppard: So I went around the back and saw a broken window and a big mess in the kitchen. There was still no answer when I knocked at the back door, so I tried the doorknob, and it opened. I had a quick look inside and called out to Ms. Holloway, but there was no answer.
Deputy Watson: Did you look inside from the doorway, or did you go inside?
Sally Stoppard: I went into the kitchen, and it smelled terrible. There was dried-up stuff splashed around all over and lots of broken glass on the floor. There were corn flakes and cookies and all manner of other things scattered all over the place. To me, it looked like someone had broken in and vandalized everything.
Deputy Watson: All of that was in the kitchen?
Sally Stoppard: Yes, sir.
Deputy Watson: What about the other rooms of the residence?
Sally Stoppard: I never went past the kitchen because I got scared. I didn't know if maybe someone was still in the house, hiding in one of the other rooms. So I ran out, drove off, and called 911 from my cell phone. The 911 operator asked me to stay nearby, so I pulled over down the road until I saw you drive by. Then I came on back here to meet you.
Deputy Watson: Did you touch anything in or around the house?
Sally Stoppard: I touched the front door when I knocked. And the back doorknob. I don't think I touched anything inside.
Deputy Watson: Did you see anyone inside?
Sally Stoppard: No, thank goodness!
Deputy Watson: Did you look in any of the other structures on the property?
Sally Stoppard: No. I was too scared to.
Deputy Watson: What is that building over there behind the carport?
Sally Stoppard: That's the shed where Catfish Jim stored his art—paintings, carvings, sculptures, and so on—before he went out of town. I think Ms. Holloway has a key to it, but I can't imagine she ever goes in there much.
Deputy Watson: Okay, Ms. Stoppard. Now I'd like you to remain out here with Officer Quinlan. Officer Richards and I are going to conduct a well-being check inside the house to make sure no one is injured or in need of assistance inside.
Sally Stoppard: Okay.
[Interview suspended during the well-being check of the residence.]
Deputy Watson: Thank you for waiting, Ms. Stoppard. I'd like you to come inside with me for a moment if you could.
Sally Stoppard: Why? Is there someone inside? Is Ms. Holloway in there? Has she been hurt?
Deputy Watson: No, ma'am. There was no one inside the residence. I'd just like you to take a quick look at something.
Sally Stoppard: Okay, if you're sure there's no danger.
Deputy Watson: No, ma'am. This way, please. And please don't touch anything.
Sally Stoppard: All right.
[Interview continued inside the residence.]
Deputy Watson: If you could, ma'am, please take a look at this photo without touching it. Is this your tenant?
Sally Stoppard: Yes, it is. That's her, but I think her hair is a little bit longer now or maybe styled differently.
Deputy Watson: So this is the woman you know as Wendy Holloway?
Sally Stoppard: Yes, definitely, it is. I'm positive about that. Why?
Deputy Watson: I just want to be sure, ma'am.
Sally Stoppard: Do you think we could go back outside? Being in here makes me very nervous.
Deputy Watson: Of course, ma'am.
[Interview continued outside the residence.]
Deputy Watson: Ms. Stoppard, can you recall anything about your past conversations with Ms. Holloway?
Sally Stoppard: Well, they were really more business than anything else. The first one was by telephone from California, like I said. The second would have been when I stopped by a few weeks after she moved in. We had a few phone conversations after that. That's when she mentioned her interest in buying a house here in town, and so I showed her a couple of places one afternoon towards the end of March.
Deputy Watson: Did she tell you anything personal about herself? Where she worked or where she was from originally or anything like that?
Sally Stoppard: No, not really. Not that I can recall. Some of that information was on her lease application, but she never talked much about herself when she was with me. Oh, she did mention that she'd been traveling. I believe she said she particularly enjoyed her stay in Bali recently. She did mention that.
Deputy Watson: Do you know what kind of job she had?
Sally Stoppard: I don't think she went out to work 9-to-5. I think she worked from home as a consultant of some sort, I believe. I really don't know. Lots of people call themselves consultants, but who knows what that really means? I did notice that she had a home office set up when I stopped by back in mid-December.
Deputy Watson: Thank you for your assistance, Ms. Stoppard. That's all I need to ask you right now, but I believe the detectives may want to speak with you later. They can reach you at the numbers on your business card?
Sally Stoppard: Yes, all my contact numbers are on there, but I'd like to ask a question if I could.
Deputy Watson: Go ahead.
Sally Stoppard: Why would the detectives want to talk to me? You don't think Ms. Holloway is the woman whose body was found last weekend, do you?
Deputy Watson: Why do you ask?
Sally Stoppard: Well, there's that young woman, dead and probably murdered, and now Ms. Holloway is missing, and someone did something terrible to her house. It can't be a coincidence, can it?
Deputy Watson: I really can't say, ma'am. I just wanted to alert you that someone is likely to be in touch with you.
Sally Stoppard: Well… okay. But someone will let me know, won't they?
Deputy Watson: I'm sure someone will be in touch with you, ma'am.
Interview ended – 10:58 a.m.