Benny Dees interview
Friday, March 4, 2022 – 10:00 a.m.
Benny Dees was one of the teens involved with Oxtales in 2020.
Detectives Armstrong and Murphy interviewed him at the Yoknapatawpha County Sheriff's Department.
- Detective T. Armstrong
- Detective S. Murphy
- Benny Dees
Detective Armstrong: Hi, Benny. Thanks for stopping by.
Benny Dees: Yeah, okay. But can we make it quick? I have to get to work by 11:00 a.m.
Detective Armstrong: We'll try to get you out of here on time, but we need to ask you some questions about Andrea Stover. Before we go any further, would you please state your name and address for the record?
Benny Dees: Benny Dees, 242 Pea Ridge Road.
Detective Armstrong: Thank you. Now, why don't you start by talking about how you met Ms. Stover?
Benny Dees: Didn't we already go through this, like, two years ago? Can't you just look at your records or something?
Detective Armstrong: Please, Benny. We need to review everything again in light of what's happened. Could you start at the beginning?
Benny Dees: Whatever. Fine. Larry, Mark, and I were taking Mr. O'Shea's drama class. Larry was on the team with me. He and I were pretty tight, and Mark was cool too. They were more into the whole acting thing, though. Mark was always in plays.
Detective Armstrong: Go on.
Benny Dees: Anyway, they wanted me to do this volunteer thing where we'd go work at a theater. We got to skip the term paper for drama class if we did it, so I said okay. We got assigned to Oxtales, and that was that. Mr. O'Shea came with us the first time and introduced us to Andrea, but after that, we just went on our own.
Detective Murphy: It was once a week?
Benny Dees: Yeah. Four hours every Sunday.
Detective Murphy: And what exactly did you do?
Benny Dees: Like, mostly backstage stuff. Setting up lights, painting sets, and s***. Sometimes we'd have to do hella boring stuff like stuff envelopes with flyers Owen brought or sort the mail. It was better than class, I guess.
Detective Armstrong: Benny, I have to ask you to watch your language. It just isn't necessary.
Benny Dees: Whatever. Sorry.
Detective Murphy: So you weren't involved in acting?
Benny Dees: No way. I guess Mark might have wanted to—he still hangs with that crowd—but not me.
Detective Murphy: But you knew what the play was about?
Benny Dees: Sure. Some nasty story about what's his name, Faulkner, getting off with a black girl.
Detective Murphy: How much interaction did you have with Ms. Stover?
Benny Dees: None, pretty much. We worked mostly with Frank Tuttle on the stage stuff, and sometimes Dale King would give us the office projects. I mean, Andrea knew who we were and all that, said hi and all that, but that was it.
Detective Murphy: You never spent time with her on your own?
Benny Dees: No.
Detective Murphy: You weren't seeing each other romantically?
Benny Dees: No. We talked about it when she wasn't around, like wasn't she a hottie and all that. We all thought she was a total badass and wanted to hang out with her. She didn't give us the time of day. She was off and on with Frank, mostly.
Detective Murphy: Was Ms. Stover dating anyone else in the group?
Benny Dees: No, not that I know.
Detective Murphy: How did she and Frank get along at rehearsal?
Benny Dees: Fine.
Detective Murphy: What about Ms. Stover's relationship with Mr. King?
Benny Dees: He was pretty uptight. I got the impression they didn't get along like everyone else.
Detective Murphy: Did Ms. Stover get along with the actors?
Benny Dees: Yeah, sure. No problems as far as I could see.
Detective Murphy: Did you know the playwright, Ethan Lewiston?
Benny Dees: Yeah. He was cool.
Detective Murphy: How did he get along with Ms. Stover?
Benny Dees: Fine. They mostly talked about wording and stuff. They would sometimes get pissed at each other, but then everyone did at some point. Sometimes Andrea would be busting everyone's balls about the schedule. Sometimes she and Ethan would fight about wording or some s***—sorry—and some days, Frank and Sheila would be on each other's nerves. It was just like a totally dysfunctional family, only no one was related.
Detective Murphy: What about Owen Norris? Did you ever meet him?
Benny Dees: Yeah, he came by, like, twice. We were introduced, shook hands, and all that, but I never talked with him. He was totally weird.
Detective Murphy: In what way?
Benny Dees: He just wore weird clothes and s***. Sorry. Like, three-piece suits with vests and pocket watches and all that, like an old guy, only he wasn't that old. Gloves and a hat and all. The times I saw him, he didn't do much, just stood around waiting to talk with Andrea, and then he would leave.
Detective Murphy: Did you notice any particular tensions during the "Snopes" rehearsals? Any issues keep coming up?
Benny Dees: It wasn't like I was hanging out watching. I was working—painting or hauling stuff around—so I didn't really catch much. But Dale was usually bit— uh, complaining about how the play was gratuitous and too much sex, yadda yadda, and Andrea wanted to go ahead as planned. That was the main theme.
Detective Armstrong: Your parents didn't mind you being involved?
Benny Dees: They didn't know what it was about. I just told them I was doing a special volunteer project for Mr. O'Shea, and they were thrilled. It was another gold star to put on my college applications, you know. It made me look all serious. It's kind of funny. They were the ones who told me to make the video in the first place so I could submit it with my applications.
Detective Murphy: What exactly was on that video?
Benny Dees: I took it from backstage 'cause I wanted to show what I was doing. So there's a lot of me working the sound and light cues and s***. I guess maybe there's five minutes showing what's onstage, and a lot of that's from the wings. The whole thing is 20, 25 minutes max.
Detective Armstrong: How did you feel about your parents using the video to help prosecute Ms. Stover? Did you take part in that?
Benny Dees: F*** no. Sorry.
Detective Armstrong: So you didn't testify against Ms. Stover?
Benny Dees: I didn't say that. I just wasn't part of handing over the video. They made me take the stand and say how it was I got to be part of the backstage crew, but I wouldn't say anything else. They wanted me to say all this stuff about how explicit the play was and crap like that, how I was corrupted, but I told them screw that, no way.
Detective Murphy: Your parents wanted you to say those things?
Benny Dees: Yeah.
Detective Armstrong: How did you feel about the whole thing—about what happened?
Benny Dees: It was stupid. I don't understand what those COP people were all pissed about. MTV is way worse.
Detective Murphy: Did you have much contact with Andrea during the trial before she was incarcerated?
Benny Dees: None at all.
Detective Murphy: What did you think of her decision to fight the charges?
Benny Dees: That rocked. Like I said, the whole thing was stupid, and she wasn't afraid to say so.
Detective Armstrong: So let me get this straight. You're saying that while you volunteered at Oxtales, you knew Ms. Stover, but you weren't friends. You didn't have any contact with her at all during the trial. But then you wrote quite a few letters to her. What was going on?
Benny Dees: I wrote her, but she didn't write me back. Let's put it that way.
Detective Armstrong: Meaning what exactly?
Benny Dees: She wasn't interested in what I had to say.
Detective Armstrong: Which was what?
Benny Dees: I wanted to let her know I thought she did the right thing, and she was cool and all that. I had a total h***-on for her.
Detective Armstrong: Please, Benny. In English.
Benny Dees: Sorry. Back in your day, I guess the word was "crush."
Detective Armstrong: She never responded to any letters?
Benny Dees: No.
Detective Murphy: I understand you went to visit Ms. Stover. What happened?
Benny Dees: She didn't want to see me. Nothing happened. I got pretty pissed, and the guard was threatening to call someone to escort me out of there, so I bailed.
Detective Murphy: Did you ever go back?
Benny Dees: No.
Detective Murphy: You stopped writing after a couple of months. Why?
Benny Dees: Let's just say there are other fish in the sea. I moved on.
Detective Armstrong: You weren't angry at Ms. Stover for rejecting you?
Benny Dees: Not for that, no.
Detective Armstrong: For other things?
Benny Dees: I guess I was kind of pissed for what happened, like the bull**** with my parents and all that. Sorry. I guess I felt like if I hadn't gotten involved or if she stopped us from being involved, none of it would have happened, and I would still be on track for medical school. So yeah, I guess I wasn't too happy with her for a while. But I moved on. I've been thinking the way I'm headed now is more interesting, you know? Off the beaten path.
Detective Murphy: While Ms. Stover was incarcerated, did you continue working with Oxtales?
Benny Dees: Not really. I hung out there sometimes. Like, I'd stop by to say "hi" to Frank and all that, see what they'd heard from Andrea. They were all cool, so I wanted to stay in touch. But I didn't do any plays or anything. My parents pretty much put the kibosh on that.
Detective Murphy: What about since Ms. Stover's release? Did you see her at all?
Benny Dees: No, and I didn't really want to.
Detective Armstrong: Seeing as how you moved on, as you put it, and weren't angry with her anymore, why wouldn't you want to see her?
Benny Dees: Look, it was a school project. I'm done with school, so the question is, why would I want to see her? I'm not a stalker or some weird s*** like that. Sorry.
Detective Armstrong: All right. Did you know anything about how she was doing?
Benny Dees: Just through Mark. He was going to have a part in their new play about trees or some s*** like that. Sorry. He said she seemed fine.
Detective Murphy: Do you know anything about whether she was dating anyone since her return?
Benny Dees: Mark said she and Frank were at it again. Other than that, no. That chapter of my life is closed, okay?
Detective Murphy: So you and Mark Gable are still in touch?
Benny Dees: Sure. He's in school, so it's not like we're hanging out a lot. But I see him at a party here and there. He's totally into the acting thing. He's going to major in theater arts and move to Hollywood and all that.
Detective Murphy: What about Larry Eastman?
Benny Dees: I don't hear much from him. He's at Alabama now. All of us got together over break. It was good. But, you know, I'm holding down a job, paying rent, and they're still doing the school thing.
Detective Armstrong: Speaking of which, why aren't you in school along with them?
Benny Dees: What kind of question is that?
Detective Armstrong: Benny, I'm going to level with you. I know you. Behind all that language, you've got a brain. Those letters you wrote prove it. You're a smart kid, one of the smartest. But you dropped out. What's going on with that?
Benny Dees: School just isn't for me.
Detective Armstrong: I don't buy that.
Benny Dees: I don't care.
Detective Armstrong: When did you drop out?
Benny Dees: Last spring. All the stuff that happened made me think about what I was doing. I didn't want to end up like my parents. I needed to get out and on my own. So I just backed off on the school thing. Like I said, I was pretty pissed at the time about everything that happened, pretty pissed at everyone, and I just wanted some room to breathe.
Detective Armstrong: Now that you have it, what do you think of how it's turned out?
Benny Dees: Hey, I've got my own place, my own money, a decent job. I'm all set.
Detective Armstrong: Not as decent a job as, say, being a doctor.
Benny Dees: Look, a******, did my parents pay you to do this?
Detective Armstrong: No. It just seems to me like you're still pretty angry from the way you're acting. I'm trying to figure out what that's all about.
Benny Dees: I don't have to answer any of this.
Detective Armstrong: No. But if you don't, I'm going to wonder why you don't cooperate.
Benny Dees: I don't f***ing believe this! You don't think I had anything to do with it, do you?
Detective Armstrong: Just answer the question.
Benny Dees: Okay. So maybe my job isn't so hot. I guess if I had to do it all over again, I wouldn't. I'd be at school taking the easy route. As far as blaming people for it, I don't know. You'd kind of have to blame every f***ing person down the line, starting with my parents. It's no one person. It just happened.
Detective Armstrong: So you regret it?
Benny Dees: It's not like a tragedy. I'm not homeless or s*** like that. It's a decent job. We can't all be professors and s***. I can still get back onto the whole overachiever track if I want to—which I don't.
Detective Armstrong: All right, Benny, thank you. One final question. Where were you Sunday night?
Benny Dees: Hold on. I thought if I answered the question, I'd be off your s*** list.
Detective Armstrong: We need to know everyone's whereabouts that night. Just answer the question, and do try to leave out the profanity.
Benny Dees: Okay. Whatever. I worked the 3:00 to 11:00 p.m. shift at Cobbs Seafood, so I was there until then. Then three or four of us went and hung out at Square Pizza. I guess I got home like around 2:00 a.m.
Detective Murphy: Did you see anyone when you got home?
Benny Dees: No. I was totally wiped. I just went right to bed.
Detective Murphy: What did you do the next morning?
Benny Dees: Slept until my housemate woke me up to tell me what happened. Noon or so.
Detective Armstrong: Benny, to your mind, is there anyone you suspect of having been involved in Ms. Stover's death?
Benny Dees: Isn't that your job to figure out?
Detective Armstrong: Just answer the question.
Benny Dees: I guess not. I can't think of anyone.
Detective Murphy: No one in Oxtales?
Benny Dees: No way. They were like a family, like I said—totally dysfunctional, but everyone liked each other deep down, pretty much. I really can't think of who would do that. It just blew me away.
Detective Armstrong: All right, Benny. We don't want to make you late for work. If you think of anything else, will you give us a call?
Benny Dees: Yeah. Whatever.
Interview ended – 10:48 a.m.