Smiling older woman with short blonde hair

Edith McElroy interview

Monday, April 17, 2023 – 10:00 a.m.

Edith McElroy was Charles Tatum's neighbor and landlady. Her 911 call led to the discovery of his body.

Detectives Armstrong and Murphy interviewed her at the Yoknapatawpha County Sheriff's Department.

  • Detective T. Armstrong
  • Detective S. Murphy
  • Edith McElroy

Detective Armstrong: Thank you for coming to us today, Mrs. McElroy. Are you feeling better?

Edith McElroy: Oh, yes, I think so, but I just can't get used to the idea that Charles is gone. I hope I can get through this.

Detective Murphy: Just take your time, Mrs. McElroy. If you need anything, let us know. Now, will you state your name and address for our records, please?

Edith McElroy: Yes, of course. I'm Edith McElroy, and I live at 107-A Combs Street.

Detective Armstrong: You were the person who called 911 the morning of April 16th?

Edith McElroy: Yes, I was.

Detective Armstrong: And when was the last time you saw Detective Tatum?

Edith McElroy: Well, let's see. I called Sunday morning. I hadn't seen him since Wednesday afternoon.

Detective Armstrong: Would you tell us a bit about that? Where, exactly, did you see him, and under what circumstances?

Edith McElroy: I was working in the side yard on my flower garden. Charles came out to say hello. We visited for a few minutes, and then he went back inside.

Detective Murphy: Do you know what time that was?

Edith McElroy: Oh, probably 3:00 or 400 p.m. I didn't have my watch on. I try to get away from the clock when I'm outdoors.

Detective Murphy: Did he seem any different than usual to you?

Edith McElroy: What do you mean by "different"?

Detective Armstrong: Did he seem worried or stressed, for example?

Edith McElroy: Oh my no! He seemed in good spirits. He was laughing and joking. Oh, what made him do such a terrible thing? I wish he'd talked to me. Maybe I could have helped.

Detective Murphy: Would you like a glass of water?

Edith McElroy: I don't think water would help … but I guess I could try. Oh, it's just so tragic. I feel so terrible. He was such a nice man. He was like family to me. I just can't believe he's gone. I'm going to miss him so.

Detective Armstrong: I know how hard it must be for you to talk about it, ma'am, but we really need your help. Would you like to take a minute before you go on?

Edith McElroy: Oh no. I'm sorry, detective; I'll try to stay focused and control myself. Let's continue. I'll do whatever I can to help.

Detective Murphy: You and Detective Tatum live in the same structure in different apartments. Is that right?

Edith McElroy: Yes, after my husband died, I had the house remodeled, so there are two separate living quarters. Charles had the front, and I have the back. I felt safer being away from the street, and I still had my view of my backyard. We each had our own entrance, so it wasn't unusual that our paths didn't cross every day.

Detective Armstrong: Did you hear anything out of the ordinary during the week?

Edith McElroy: I can tell you what I heard, and you can decide if it was unusual. I heard him go out Wednesday night. I think it was about 9:00 p.m. But that isn't unusual. He often went out on his evening off.

Detective Armstrong: Is that right?

Edith McElroy: In fact, when I talked to him Wednesday afternoon, I asked if he and Marion—she's his current lady friend, you know—had a hot date that night. He laughed and said she was out of town, but he might go down to Mugshots later and have a drink with his cop buddies.

Detective Murphy: Did you hear him when he came home?

Edith McElroy: Oh, heavens no. I can't usually stay awake past 10:00 p.m. I was probably dead asleep when he got home, and I sleep pretty soundly. I have a slight hearing loss, so once I'm asleep, not much bothers me. Although, now that we're talking about it, I remember waking up around 1:00 a.m. like something had startled me. But I didn't hear anything and went right back to sleep.

Detective Murphy: Are you sure about the time?

Edith McElroy: I had looked at my digital clock, and it was a bit after 1:00 a.m. You don't think I heard the shot, do you? Oh, God, what if the shot woke me? I could have called 911 and maybe saved his life! Oh God, it's my fault he's dead. Oh, no…

Detective Murphy: Now, now, Mrs. McElroy. It isn't your fault. You can't blame yourself. Can you tell us if you heard anything else that night?

Edith McElroy: No, I went back to sleep and didn't wake up until nearly 6:00 a.m.

Detective Murphy: Did you hear anything else after that night that concerned you?

Edith McElroy: It was more what I didn't hear that concerned me.

Detective Armstrong: What do you mean, Mrs. McElroy?

Edith McElroy: Well, you know, you get used to certain sounds that a house makes. The water runs, or the toilet's flushed, or a certain spot on the floor creaks when someone walks on it. I didn't hear any of those familiar sounds I hear when Charles is there. I sometimes see him during the day, but I was gone the better part of Thursday, Friday, and Saturday, so I didn't see hide nor hair of him.

Detective Armstrong: What did you think was going on?

Edith McElroy: At first, I thought maybe he was with Marion at her house, but then I remembered him saying she was out of town. So then I thought, well, maybe he was on a job. You know, a stakeout or undercover. He does that sometimes. But he almost always lets me know when he's going to be gone several days, and this time — nothing.

Detective Armstrong: At what point did you start to get concerned?

Edith McElroy: By Saturday night, I was really worried. I thought of trying to call him at work, but I figured I was just being a nosy old lady, and it was none of my business. What if he was lying there, suffering all that time? If I'd called 911 sooner, I might have saved his life! Oh, I wish I'd trusted my instincts that something was just not right. Oh, dear…

Detective Murphy: Here, take a sip of your water.

Edith McElroy: Oh, thank you. I'm sorry to behave so badly. I just can't believe he's gone. This is a nightmare!

Detective Armstrong: Do you know Marion's full name?

Edith McElroy: I should. I met her. But I'm sorry, I just can't think of it right now. They went together for about six months. Maybe some of his friends in the department know her. I'm sorry, but I just can't remember her last name.

Detective Murphy: Would you recognize her if you saw her again?

Edith McElroy: Oh yes, of course.

Detective Armstrong: Okay, Mrs. McElroy. Is there anything else you think we should know?

Edith McElroy: I don't know, Detective. I'm not thinking very clearly. Could I call you if I think of anything else? I need to go home and lie down.

Detective Murphy: Of course. Do you need a ride?

Edith McElroy: No, thank you. I'll be fine.

Detective Armstrong: Thank you for coming in, Mrs. McElroy.

Interview ended – 10:33 a.m.


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