Gerald Archer interview
Sunday, July 12, 2020 – 2:10 p.m.
Gerald Archer is vice president of the Oxford branch of BancorpSouth.
Detectives Armstrong and Murphy interviewed him at the Yoknapatawpha County Sheriff's Department.
- Detective T. Armstrong
- Detective S. Murphy
- Gerald Archer
Detective Armstrong: For the record, Mr. Archer, could you please state your full name and address?
Gerald Archer: My name is Gerald Archer, and I live at 812 Lincoln Ave in Oxford. I suppose you want to talk about Philip Fontaine. I don't know how much I can help, but I'll do my best.
Detective Armstrong: Mr. Fontaine was a customer at your bank, wasn't he? How long have you known him?
Gerald Archer: Yes, and a good customer at that. We've serviced the family accounts for many years.
Detective Murphy: You two have a good relationship?
Gerald Archer: I didn't know Mr. Fontaine really well, but we were friendly. He was a gentleman.
Detective Armstrong: How often did he do his banking with you?
Gerald Archer: Sometimes twice a month, sometimes as often as twice or three times a week.
Detective Armstrong: Was he the only one to conduct his banking business at your branch, or did he send employees to deposit or withdraw money for him?
Gerald Archer: Usually, Mr. Fontaine himself. Occasionally, Joey Beecher, his handyman, would make deposits for him.
Detective Armstrong: Did Joey Beecher ever make withdrawals on Mr. Fontaine's behalf?
Gerald Archer: Deposits, yes. Withdrawals, no.
Detective Armstrong: Any recent major withdrawals?
Gerald Archer: Mr. Fontaine withdrew $15,000 the day he was murdered. All in brand new hundreds.
Detective Armstrong: What was that for?
Gerald Archer: I don't make it my business to inquire about what my customers use their money for. I keep it for them, and when they ask for it, I give it to them. We follow federal and state regulations for reporting, and in cases such as when Mr. Fontaine makes large withdrawals like that one, we record the serial numbers off the bills. But beyond that, we're not nosy.
Detective Armstrong: Did Mr. Fontaine make regular withdrawals of large sums of money?
Gerald Archer: He didn't seem to have a schedule. That would have attracted my attention.
Detective Armstrong: Did Mrs. Fontaine have access to the accounts?
Gerald Archer: They were all joint.
Detective Armstrong: Did she make any routine, large withdrawals?
Gerald Archer: No. Oh, she'd take out $1,000, once $3,000, and the next day there'd be something in the paper about her generous donation to Ole Miss. Folks said that was a sure sign Grant had gotten into trouble again.
Detective Murphy: Do you know Bruno Coleman?
Gerald Archer: Sure. He's a good customer, too.
Detective Armstrong: Do you know anything about what kind of a relationship Mr. Coleman and Mr. Fontaine had?
Gerald Archer: I've heard other people describe their relationship in less than glowing terms, but I'm not going to speculate. As far as I'm concerned, Mr. Coleman is a good customer. That's really all I'm concerned about as a banker.
Detective Armstrong: But did they get along?
Gerald Archer: I will tell you this. I don't go by what people tell me or by what I might hear, but I do know what I see.
Detective Armstrong: What did you see?
Gerald Archer: Mr. Coleman threatened to kill Mr. Fontaine.
Detective Armstrong: When did that happen?
Gerald Archer: Let's see. I don't recall the exact date. Sometime in the last two or three months, maybe?
Detective Armstrong: And what exactly happened?
Gerald Archer: By chance, they both came into the bank on the same day at the same time, something I'd been dreading. There was a shouting match. Mr. Coleman said something about how Mr. Fontaine needed to pay as much attention to his family as he did to his business.
Detective Armstrong: How did Mr. Fontaine take that?
Gerald Archer: He said something about how Mr. Coleman couldn't stand to be an also-ran. He took a swing at Mr. Coleman with that cane of his. He missed. Mr. Coleman moves pretty fast for a man his age. My staff had to rush over and restrain them both.
Detective Armstrong: Then what did Mr. Coleman do?
Gerald Archer: Mr. Coleman said if Mr. Fontaine ever came after him with that cane again, he'd kill him. There's a lot of bad blood between them, goes back a long time.
Detective Murphy: Was anyone else present during this altercation, other than you and your staff?
Gerald Archer: No. Mr. Fontaine sometimes had his handyman with him, like when he was withdrawing a large amount of cash, but he was alone that day.
Detective Murphy: You say Mr. Fontaine's handyman sometimes handled Mr. Fontaine's cash?
Gerald Archer: Not cash usually, not by himself. He occasionally brought in checks for deposit, but that was what Mr. Fontaine wanted.
Detective Murphy: You didn't approve?
Gerald Archer: It's not for me to approve or disapprove, but I got a bad feeling about him. Don't trust the guy. He seems shifty.
Detective Murphy: If Mr. Fontaine trusted Joey Beecher, then he couldn't have been too bad.
Gerald Archer: Hard to tell sometimes, but he grew up a troubled kid. I'm not one to hold that against anyone, mind you, but his behavior is erratic.
Detective Murphy: How did Mr. Fontaine treat Mr. Beecher?
Gerald Archer: Joey was apparently well-paid for his work, but I know his wife wanted more money. I hear the tellers gossip. I'm not sure if Joey wasn't satisfied with his lot in life or if it was his wife who wasn't satisfied. Personally, I think she was jealous of the Fontaines.
Detective Armstrong: What about Mr. Fontaine's wife? What's your take on her?
Gerald Archer: A beauty, a real sweet woman. She was exactly what Mr. Fontaine wanted: the trophy wife.
Detective Murphy: Was Mrs. Fontaine happy?
Gerald Archer: I don't think so, but I don't really know. Somehow, I just don't see that happening. I've heard their marriage was troubled, but they didn't make their problems public. If Ashley's marriage bothered her a lot or if she wanted more money, I don't think she'd kill him. I personally think she'd find another way to work out her problems.
Detective Armstrong: What about his son, Grant?
Gerald Archer: Another very troubled kid. I really don't like to talk about troubled kids, so I'm going to hold my words back. All I'll say is he needs help.
Detective Murphy: Did he have access to the Fontaine accounts?
Gerald Archer: Mrs. Fontaine set up an account for him and made deposits into it, but he was not a signatory to the other major accounts. Mr. Fontaine did not let him near the big money.
Detective Murphy: Thank you, Mr. Archer. We'll be in touch.
Interview ended – 2:45 p.m.