Wednesday, March 2, 2022 – 9:15 a.m.
Rex Mickles was the assistant district attorney who prosecuted the case against Andrea Stover. He's now in private practice.
Detectives Armstrong and Murphy interviewed him at the Yoknapatawpha County Sheriff's Department.
- Detective T. Armstrong
- Detective S. Murphy
- Rex Mickles
Detective Murphy: Hi, Rex. Nice to see you again.
Rex Mickles: Good to see you both. I hear you two are still staying busy.
Detective Armstrong: Yeah, I'm not sure that being busy cops is a good thing for the town. Sometimes I wish we had less business.
Rex Mickles: I'm sure.
Detective Murphy: Okay, you know the drill. Could you state your name and address, please?
Rex Mickles: Rex Mickles, and I live at 119 Chestnut Street, Oxford, Mississippi.
Detective Murphy: We need to talk to you about the murder of Andrea Stover. What was your relationship with the victim?
Rex Mickles: I prosecuted her in the spring of 2020. I was an assistant district attorney at the time.
Detective Murphy: What do you remember about the case?
Rex Mickles: Well, I can give you my files so you'll have all the details, but my main memory is of the attention the case got. Small town, allegations of child abuse and stuff like that. You're guaranteed a firestorm of attention when you have those circumstances.
Detective Armstrong: Andrea Stover got the longest prison sentence—
Rex Mickles: Not big enough to satisfy some people.
Detective Armstrong: I'm sure. But still, she had far more time on the books than anyone else. Why?
Rex Mickles: Mainly, I think it was because of her attitude. She was completely unrepentant. She kept going on about art and freedom of expression.
Detective Murphy: Gee, I've never heard those statements before. Not in Oxford. I can't believe anyone here would say that.
Rex Mickles: I know. It wasn't my first time hearing it either, but Oxford is kind of a funny place. You've got all the artists and so on, but then it's still a small Southern town. There's this constant friction. We were always getting calls about stuff at the Juke Joint or one thing or another. I'd been involved in an investigation into a band who performed explicit lyrics at a concert a couple of years earlier, so they assigned me the Oxtales case.
Detective Armstrong: But back to Stover…
Rex Mickles: Yeah, it was her attitude. She refused to plea bargain, she refused to apologize, just refused everything. She could have gotten off a lot easier. For a while, I felt a little sorry for her.
Detective Armstrong: Why?
Rex Mickles: Ben Morgan and the Concerned Oxford Parents group—which, of course, included our mayor Claire Windham early on—along with Norman Higgins, they were all screaming for her head. They were acting like Stover was Jeffrey Dahmer or something.
Detective Armstrong: What did you do?
Rex Mickles: There wasn't a lot we could do. We gave Stover plenty of opportunities to help herself, and she always refused. Eventually, my boss just gave up and said, "If she wants to rot in prison for her art, then let her."
Detective Murphy: So Ben Morgan and COP put a lot of pressure on you?
Rex Mickles: Oh, yeah. They called my office constantly—and not just my office. They called my home. Dozens of times a day. They even demonstrated at my house one time when they found out about the possibility of a plea bargain. It was way over the line. I had a good record as a prosecutor and was known for being tough on crime.
Detective Armstrong: They came to your house? That's not right. How did you handle it?
Rex Mickles: At one point, I told Ben and Claire, "I'd be able to do a better job of prosecuting this case if you would leave me alone and let me get some sleep at night." They were so worried about Stover getting off the hook that they would call me at all hours of the night to put pressure on me.
Detective Murphy: What about Norman Higgins?
Rex Mickles: Same thing. He just wouldn't let up. Press conferences all the time, demonstrations. Ridiculous really.
Detective Armstrong: What role did the teenagers' parents play in all this?
Rex Mickles: They were the same. The boys themselves didn't want to participate. They didn't feel like they'd been hurt in any way, and they liked Stover and the theatre company. But their parents? You would have thought their children had been murdered the way they acted.
Detective Murphy: You seem like you think a lot of it was blown out of proportion. Did you disagree with the prosecution?
Rex Mickles: No. Stover and the rest of the theatre group broke the law, and my job was to prosecute lawbreakers. And I did it to the best of my ability, just like I prosecuted all my cases. But let's be honest here … what really happened?
Detective Murphy: You tell us.
Rex Mickles: Three teenage boys, ages 15 and 16 or so, saw simulated sex scenes. Now, their parents probably won't admit it, but I'm sure these kids had already seen adult videos by then. They're teenage boys. What do you expect? You take movies, the internet, hell, cable TV. All of them have shown what these kids saw in that play and then some. I hardly think these kids were exposed to anything they hadn't seen before, and I find it hard to believe they were scarred for life as a result.
Detective Murphy: So, as far as you were concerned, it wasn't the crime of the century.
Rex Mickles: Hardly. I think Ben Morgan, Claire Windham, Norman Higgins, and the parents all overreacted. With the way they screamed and yelled, you would have thought that the theatre group was raping two-year-old babies. They were on a witch-hunt.
Detective Murphy: But you still prosecuted.
Rex Mickles: Of course. We can't lose sight of the fact that Stover did break the law—that is not in dispute—and it was my job to prosecute her. So to answer your original question, I didn't disagree with the prosecution. I just disagreed with the reaction in the community.
Detective Murphy: You mentioned that the kids were reluctant to help the prosecution. What other impressions did you have of them?
Rex Mickles: Benny Dees is a good kid. Wants to be a doctor, from what I'm told. I gathered that he really couldn't care less. He always said that he was only taking drama to get a requirement out of the way. Larry Eastman seemed to have a good time with theatre but wasn't crazy about it. I heard he went to school at the University of Alabama.
Detective Murphy: And the third kid?
Rex Mickles: Mark Gable was the one who was most put out by the prosecution. Everyone says he was really into acting. Supposedly, he's at Ole Miss getting a degree in drama or something. He seemed very protective of Stover and really upset that she was getting in trouble.
Detective Armstrong: What did you think about the other members of Oxtales?
Rex Mickles: You know, I don't really remember that much about them. I'm sure there are more details in my files, but the attention all seemed to be on Stover. All the rest of them sort of just blended into the background. They all seemed like okay folks. Just artsy types who didn't know when to stop. A few of them got slaps on the wrist, but the real witch-hunt never got around to them. Ben Morgan, Claire, and Higgins and that crowd that was screaming for blood? They only focused on Stover.
Detective Murphy: Do you know what happened to Stover after she got out of prison?
Rex Mickles: I don't have any specifics. She came back here, registered as a sex offender, and got on with her life as far as I'm told. I have lunch at the Beacon with the old crowd every week, and they said she was assigned to Vincent Fischer for probation. But that's about all I know.
Detective Armstrong: All right now, Rex. Enough of the small talk. Do you have an alibi for the night of Andrea Stover's murder?
Rex Mickles: I was having dinner with John Wayne Gacy.
Detective Murphy: One of these days, your sense of humor is going to get you in trouble.
Detective Armstrong: You're lucky we like you, Rex.
Rex Mickles: Lucky? Shoot, if it weren't for me, you two would still be in uniform, writing parking tickets on Sorority Row. I'm the one that got you two knuckleheads all those convictions.
Detective Murphy: No way. It was our stellar police work that made the prosecutions possible. We did our jobs so well that all you had to do was show up. The convictions were already made. You just had to not screw it up.
Rex Mickles: That might be true. I don't know, guys. When was she killed? Sunday night? I think me and the wife had dinner with Dr. Cochran that night. I'll double-check for you.
Detective Murphy: No hurry, Rex. Thanks for talking to us.
Rex Mickles: Sure. You guys stop by the Beacon sometime. We eat lunch there every Thursday at 12:30 p.m.
Detective Armstrong: We'll see you there.
Interview ended – 9:48 a.m.