Travis Lancaster interview
Saturday, October 31, 2020 – 10:30 a.m.
Travis Lancaster is the archery coach at Yoknapatawpha County High School.
Detectives Armstrong and Murphy interviewed him at Yoknapatawpha High School.
- Detective T. Armstrong
- Detective S. Murphy
- Travis Lancaster
Detective Armstrong: Can you please state your name and address?
Travis Lancaster: Yes. My name is Travis James Lancaster. My address is 316 Thomas Street.
Detective Armstrong: Thank you. And you are the archery coach at Yoknapatawpha County High School, correct?
Travis Lancaster: Yes, that's correct. I also teach history.
Detective Armstrong: How well did you know Frederick Miller?
Travis Lancaster: He's been my assistant coach on the archery team for about a year. We've known each other as acquaintances for about ten years, ever since I started teaching here.
Detective Murphy: When was the last time you saw Mr. Miller?
Travis Lancaster: I saw him on Thursday in the teachers' lounge. We exchanged greetings, but I was on my way out when he came in. I had some papers to grade.
Detective Armstrong: How did he seem to you when you saw him?
Travis Lancaster: I only saw him for a second. He seemed like he was in a hurry or something.
Detective Murphy: What gave you that impression?
Travis Lancaster: I don't know. He just seemed rushed. He was looking at his phone as he came through the door.
Detective Murphy: Were you and Mr. Miller close?
Travis Lancaster: I guess not really. We got along okay, but Frederick can be a bit difficult. He always has something to say about how we could be doing this or that “more effectively,” as he would put it. We had a few minor disagreements but not about anything very important.
Detective Armstrong: Do you remember what those disagreements were about?
Travis Lancaster: Just little things here and there. Like he was always getting on the students for leaving their backpacks and things around, so he insisted that we buy some kind of lockers or cubbies for them to use during competitions. I told him it wasn't necessary and that our budget was already strapped as it was. He huffed about it and made a few passive-aggressive comments, but that's typical.
Detective Armstrong: Did he always react like that when the two of you had a disagreement?
Travis Lancaster: Yeah. He always believes he knows what's best, and I think it bothers him that he doesn't get to make the final decisions.
Detective Armstrong: That must be annoying.
Travis Lancaster: Yeah, tell me about it. That guy drives me up the wall sometimes. But we still get along usually.
Detective Murphy: Have you noticed any changes in Mr. Miller's behavior lately?
Travis Lancaster: Actually, yes. All week it seemed like he was on edge. Like he was stressed out about something. I asked him if everything was okay, and he was really short with me, saying he was fine, he just had a lot of work to do.
Detective Murphy: You say he seemed stressed out. What specifically gave you that impression?
Travis Lancaster: He was just frazzled. He seemed distracted a lot, like he kept getting lost in thought. I don't know. He just seemed worried about something, I guess.
Detective Armstrong: Did you believe him when he said he was just stressed about work? Or did you think there was more to it than that?
Travis Lancaster: I thought maybe there was more to it than that, maybe something in his personal life. But we don't really talk about our personal lives with each other, so I just let it go.
Detective Murphy: How do you think Mr. Miller's students felt about him?
Travis Lancaster: He holds his students to a high standard, and he can be strict. But I think most students appreciate having a consistent structure, and his expectations were never arbitrary or unreasonable. He wasn't the most fun teacher, but he was a good teacher.
Detective Murphy: Did he ever mention any of the students in his other classes?
Travis Lancaster: He did say something a couple weeks ago that I had been meaning to ask him about. Something about how the archery team might have one less member soon. I assumed that meant that someone on the team was failing his class, which means they'd lose academic eligibility. But he didn't say who it was.
Detective Murphy: Who do you think it might've been?
Travis Lancaster: Several of the students keep their grades just high enough to maintain eligibility, but I haven't had to take anyone off the team for that reason in quite a few years. I know Scott Rice had to do summer school last year. Other than that, no one stands out.
Detective Armstrong: Did Mr. Miller ever have trouble with any of the students?
Travis Lancaster: Well, his daughter, Lizzie, is on the archery team, and there's some drama there because he doesn't approve of her dating Marc Huddleston, another student on the team. I've sensed some tension between Frederick and Marc sometimes, but I never saw any kind of outright conflict.
Detective Armstrong: Why do you think Mr. Miller didn't want his daughter dating this Marc Huddleston?
Travis Lancaster: I'm really not sure. Marc is a good kid. He gets good grades, and he's got the highest ranking on the archery team. I just assumed that Frederick didn't want her dating at all. He's old fashioned and uptight about everything, so it wouldn't surprise me.
Detective Murphy: So, the team members are given rankings. Are they awarded with some kind of trophy? Certificates, patches, pins, anything like that?
Travis Lancaster: No trophies, but the student with the highest ranking in the district is given the Championship Pin. Marc got his pin at our last competition.
Detective Murphy: Is Marc the only person on the team that has one of these pins?
Travis Lancaster: Yeah. He was actually driving everyone nuts last week because he lost it. That kid is always losing things.
Detective Armstrong: As far as you know, does anyone on the archery team ever go bowhunting?
Travis Lancaster: Oh yeah, quite a few of the students do. A group of them go on hunting trips together pretty frequently.
Detective Armstrong: Which students are those?
Travis Lancaster: Marc Huddleston is always the leader of the pack. He and Riley Simms. I think Scott Rice and Alex McCallister usually go with them too.
Detective Murphy: Are they the only students you know of that go bowhunting?
Travis Lancaster: I'm sure a lot of the students do, but I don't know which ones. I only know about this group because they tell me about their trips sometimes. Oh, come to think of it, J.T. Ginn has talked to me about going bowhunting with his dad as well.
Detective Armstrong: We understand that the parents are very involved with the team. Are there ever any conflicts there?
Travis Lancaster: Oh, all the time. The parents are more competitive than the students at times.
Detective Armstrong: Did any of the parents ever clash with Mr. Miller?
Travis Lancaster: Oh, sure. Frederick was never one to give in to pressure or appease anyone who claimed something was unfair when he knew it wasn't. So naturally, there were some arguments.
Detective Murphy: Meaning that sometimes parents think that their children should be given higher rankings, that kind of thing?
Travis Lancaster: Yeah, pretty much. "The target distance isn't right," or "it's not fair that my kid has to go last," and so forth. I always have to explain that we adhere to the rules and regulations set forth by AIMS — Archery in Mississippi Schools — and that they need to take it up with them if they have a complaint.
Detective Armstrong: Were there any parents in particular that had a lot of these kinds of disagreements with Mr. Miller?
Travis Lancaster: A few of them are a bit more outspoken than others. Brian Holt's mom, Brenda, was arguing with Frederick last week over the practice schedule or something like that. And Jimmy Bragg's mom, Stephanie. She came to me on Tuesday, saying that she had seen Frederick and Marc arguing, and she was concerned about how he was interacting with the students.
Detective Murphy: What do you think she meant by that?
Travis Lancaster: Well, she said Frederick was yelling at Marc, and Marc seemed really “shocked and hurt.” Her words, not mine. But I kind of brushed it off. Stephanie and a lot of the other parents have a tendency to be a bit melodramatic.
Detective Armstrong: You didn't believe her?
Travis Lancaster: I believed that Marc and Frederick were arguing, probably about Frederick's dating ban or whatever it is. But I can't picture Frederick yelling at a student in the way she described. These parents just love to spread gossip.
Detective Murphy: Do you have any reason to believe that any of the parents or students would have wished to harm Mr. Miller?
Travis Lancaster: No, I really couldn't imagine that.
Detective Murphy: One last question, Mr. Lancaster. What were you doing on Thursday evening, between the hours of 7:00 and 10:00 p.m.?
Travis Lancaster: I was at home with my wife. We just watched some TV and went to bed around 9:30.
Detective Murphy: We're asking everyone to provide fingerprint and DNA samples. Would you be willing to supply those today?
Travis Lancaster: Um, sure, I guess so.
Detective Murphy: Okay, thank you very much, Mr. Lancaster. We'll get that taken care of and let you get on with your day. We'll be in touch if we have any more questions. If you think of anything else in the meantime, please contact us.
Travis Lancaster: Will do.
Interview ended – 10:56 a.m.