DA employee canvass
On Monday morning, January 25, 2021, detectives spoke to employees in the District Attorney's office to learn more about the cases Spenser Brooks was working on and his relationships with his co-workers.
The interviews summarized are some of the most typical or relevant to the investigation and are representative of all interviews conducted.
Ms. Brittingham said she noticed friction between Jill Ross and Spenser Brooks simply because Ross made it so obvious. One of the big reasons for the friction was Ross's jealousy of Brooks after losing the election to him. Brittingham said Ross wanted to be district attorney so badly that the hatred in her eyes was there for all to see.
Brittingham believes Ross's jealousy contributed to the tension over Brooks's hardline approach to prosecuting underage drinkers. She said there were plenty of heated discussions in the office about the policy, both between Brooks and Ross and among other staff members.
Brittingham noted that she had fielded multiple angry phone calls from a local attorney, Louis Watson, who is furious about prosecutions against liquor store owners. She also handled angry calls from Alderman Gene Collins and his attorneys, who are upset about leaks to the media suggesting Collins is being investigated for corruption. When asked if Collins is the subject of any active investigations, Brittingham said she didn't know because that kind of thing is "above her pay grade." She said she simply took the messages and passed them on to Brooks.
Brittingham said she never talked with Brooks about anything other than what work dictated. She wasn’t interested in personal discussions, and neither was he.
However, she noted that she was driving to Holly Springs one afternoon and saw Brooks driving in the opposite direction with a woman in his car who wasn't his wife. Brittingham said she couldn't see the woman clearly, but she did see long blonde hair, which is how she knew it definitely wasn't Mrs. Brooks because she has dark brown hair. Brittingham said she didn't know why Brooks and the blonde woman were in a car together, and she didn't want to know.
Finnegan said he wanted to help with the investigation into Brooks's murder, but Jill Ross wouldn't allow it. According to Mr. Finnegan, Jill Ross couldn't care less if the killer was ever found. He said Ross never said so, but Finnegan could see she was happy to hear of Brooks's demise.
Finnegan said he didn't know Brooks very well outside of the office, but Brooks always greeted him with a smile. He said Brooks believed in keeping his work and personal lives separate. Brooks didn't talk about his home life at the office, and he didn't participate in conversations about other people's lives outside of the office.
Finnegan suggested that the detectives speak with Joseph Rake, another investigator in the office who specializes in narcotics cases, because he noticed Brooks frequently stopped in Rake's office. Finnegan said he knew something was going on there because Brooks spent more time in Rake's office lately than anywhere other than his own office.
Victim Assistance Coordinator
Ms. McKinney said that Spenser Brooks would be missed and that Jill Ross was a poor substitute, in her opinion.
When asked if she knew whether Brooks had any friends in the office, Ms. McKinney said Brooks was very engaged when they discussed the cases they were working on. But when the meetings were over, Brooks usually went into his own office and didn't participate in small talk.
McKinney said the only people she ever saw visit Brooks at the office, other than attorneys who came for meetings, were his wife and son.
Asked if she knew of anyone who had it in for Brooks, McKinney said she knew of no one personally but observed that Brooks had sent a lot of criminals to prison, and they might be holding a grudge.
Mr. Rake reported he had had some lengthy conversations with Spenser Brooks about the narcotics trafficking that was becoming rampant in Yoknapatawpha County and surrounding areas.
When asked if Brooks was interested in anyone specific, Rake said one of the meth dealers that Brooks had convicted was out of prison, and he asked Rake to keep an eye on him. Rake said the ex-con was Kyle Ferguson, who went by the street name of "Big Man." Rake said he watched Ferguson as Brooks asked, but he couldn't watch his every move because he had too many other investigations going on.
When asked if he was watching Ferguson on Saturday morning, January 23, 2021, he said it was his day off, and he wasn't doing anything work-related "for once."
Rake said there was tension between Jill Ross and D.A. Brooks and that he believed it was partly business and partly personal.
On the business side, Ross didn't approve of Brooks's aggressive prosecutions of underage drinkers over 18 years old—mainly students from the university—instead of giving first-time offenders the option of a pretrial diversion program. He noted that there were probably a lot of young men and women who disliked Brooks because of his hardline stance. Rake said Brooks and Ross agreed on relentlessly pursuing and prosecuting the retailers, restaurants, and bars who sell liquor to underage customers, which made some business owners unhappy.
On the personal side, Rake claimed everyone in the office knew that Ross hated Brooks after losing the election to him because she believed she could do a better job as District Attorney. Rake said it made her nasty, hateful, and generally unpleasant to work with.
When asked if he and Brooks ever discussed personal matters, Rake said their interactions were strictly professional. He went on to say that personally, he liked and admired Brooks because he worked hard and got results.
Mr. Ricken said that, even though Spenser Brooks was his boss, he knows Wesley Brooks better because Wesley sometimes came in to help out in the office. Ricken said Wesley was typically assigned to assist him with "scut work" when they were on a deadline for a big case, so the two of them had worked closely together.
Ricken said Wesley always asked questions about Ricken's job and seemed interested in the law. He described Wesley as friendly and cheerful usually but noted that when Wesley came in during Winter Break, he seemed a little stressed, but Ricken didn't know what might've been bothering him.
When asked if he knew of anyone who might want Spenser Brooks out of the way, Ricken immediately named Jill Ross, citing her desire to replace Brooks as D. A. "by hook or by crook."
When asked what he'd been working on lately, Ricken said Brooks had him doing a lot of research on MS Code § 97-11-11 and 97-11-13, which relate to bribery of public officials, but he said Brooks never told him what case or cases the research was for.