Tuesday, January 12, 2021 – 12:03 p.m.
Staff members at the Yoknapatawpha County Library identified John Atherton as a regular patron who teenage girls might identify as a "creepy church guy."
Corrie Townsend subsequently confirmed their identification of the man she and Katie encountered on their visits to the library.
Detectives Armstrong and Murphy spoke with John Atherton in a private conference room at the library.
- Detective T. Armstrong
- Detective S. Murphy
- John Atherton
Detective Murphy: Good morning, sir. I'm Detective Murphy. This is Detective Armstrong. Would you please state your name and address for the record?
John Atherton: My name is John Atherton. My address is 207 Hathorn Road. What can I do for you detectives on this glorious day that the Lord has made for us?
Detective Murphy: How old are you, Mr. Atherton?
John Atherton: I'm blessed to have reached the age of 29, ma'am.
Detective Murphy: Do you recognize either of the young ladies in these photos?
John Atherton: I do believe I have seen both of them in here from time to time. I'm afraid I don't know their names, though.
Detective Murphy: Have you ever spoken to either of them?
John Atherton: Many times.
Detective Murphy: What did you talk about?
John Atherton: I told them about the good Lord and the blessings that He bestows on us all.
Detective Murphy: And what else?
John Atherton: I reminded them that the body is a temple and should be dedicated to the glory of God.
Detective Murphy: Meaning?
John Atherton: The Lord has blessed men with many gifts, but men are also vulnerable to the sin of lust. Because of that, it's their responsibility to be modest in dress and conduct at all times lest the Deceiver use them as tools to tempt men into sin.
Detective Murphy: How did they respond?
John Atherton: They were resistant to the Lord's message at first, but I think I was getting through to them.
Detective Murphy: So you spoke to them about this more than once?
John Atherton: Oh, yes. Many times.
Detective Armstrong: Hang on a minute, man. Are you telling us that you thought it was appropriate for an adult male to tell teenage girls he doesn't know how they should be dressing and behaving?
John Atherton: The Lord commands us to spread His Word.
Detective Armstrong: Tell us everything you did on Sunday.
John Atherton: I attended services at the Church of Our Glorious Lord and Savior. Then I came here to the library to study the scripture.
Detective Armstrong: And harass teenage girls.
John Atherton: it pains me to see how the evils of the world have hardened you and made you so cynical. I pray the Lord will touch your heart and restore the joy he always intended you to experience in his creation.
Detective Armstrong: How long did you spend here at the library on Sunday?
John Atherton: I was here until it was time to go to evening services.
Detective Armstrong: And when was that?
John Atherton: About 5:30 p.m. The services start at 6:00 p.m.
Detective Armstrong: You didn't eat anything on Sunday?
John Atherton: I'm sorry?
Detective Armstrong: You said you went to church, you came to the library, you went to church, but you never mentioned getting anything to eat.
John Atherton: I brought a peanut butter sandwich and an apple with me in my bag, and there's a water fountain here.
Detective Armstrong: That's slim pickings. You didn't go out to get a snack or anything?
John Atherton: I don't require much. The Lord sustains me.
Detective Armstrong: Okay. How about this? Have you ever been to the Kangaroo Express on University?
John Atherton: I have.
Detective Armstrong: When was the last time?
John Atherton: I couldn't say.
Detective Armstrong: Were you there on Sunday?
John Atherton: No.
Detective Armstrong: So we aren't going to see you anywhere on the security video?
John Atherton: The Lord knows I did nothing to harm that girl.
Detective Armstrong: What girl?
John Atherton: The one whose photo you showed me. She was murdered on Sunday, wasn't she?
Detective Armstrong: You know about that, huh?
John Atherton: It was on the news. I've been praying for her soul and for her loved ones.
Detective Murphy: And I'm sure they're grateful, Mr. Atherton. What time did evening services wrap up on Sunday?
John Atherton: Just before 8:00 p.m.
Detective Armstrong: That's a long service.
John Atherton: No amount of time is too long to give glory to God.
Detective Murphy: Where did you go after evening services?
John Atherton: I went home, where I ate a light supper, spent time in prayer and meditation, and then went to bed.
Detective Murphy: Do you live alone?
John Atherton: I do.
Detective Murphy: Did you see or talk to anyone after you got home?
John Atherton: I did not.
Detective Murphy: Okay, Mr. Atherton, we're going to check out your story. If we need anything else, we'll be in touch.
John Atherton: Have a blessed day, detectives.
Interview ended – 12:22 p.m.