Friday, January 6, 2017 – 9:30 a.m.
Ben Morgan is the president of Concerned Oxford Parents (COP), the group that fiercely opposed Oxtales productions.
Detectives Armstrong and Murphy interviewed him at the Yoknapatawpha County Sheriff's Department.
- Detective T. Armstrong
- Detective S. Murphy
- Ben Morgan
Detective Armstrong: Good morning, Mr. Morgan. Thank you for coming in. For the record, will you please state your name and address?
Ben Morgan: Ben Morgan. I live at 213 Washington Avenue.
Detective Armstrong: As you know, we're talking to people about Andrea Stover's death.
Ben Morgan: I really don't know how I can help, Detective. I didn't know Ms. Stover personally. In fact, I never met her.
Detective Armstrong: Oh, but you certainly knew of her. You're president of the organization COP, I understand?
Ben Morgan: Yes, that's true.
Detective Armstrong: Well, to begin with, tell us something about your organization. You know, background information like how long it has been in existence, why was it formed, things of that nature.
Ben Morgan: Detective, you must think I'm very naive. I'm sure you have all that information in your files.
Detective Armstrong: Humor me, Mr. Morgan. We need all the information and help we can get.
Ben Morgan: Our group is Concerned Oxford Parents. That is exactly what we are: concerned parents who want to protect the children of Oxford physically and emotionally from those hazards and influences that can adversely affect them.
Detective Murphy: Can you be more specific, Mr. Morgan? What influences are you talking about?
Ben Morgan: Well, for example, we have a committee that keeps abreast of books, movies, and plays that we believe are dangerous to the minds of our innocent children. They, in turn, inform the entire organization, and we decide how to combat this negative influence.
Detective Murphy: What methods do you use to combat that negative influence?
Ben Morgan: Well, we use direct mail and email. We distribute flyers, demonstrate by picketing — that sort of thing. We contact our community representatives and the press to inform them of things they may not be aware of.
Detective Murphy: How long has your group been in existence, Mr. Morgan?
Ben Morgan: We started in 2013. The mayor, Claire Windham, was our first president. She was instrumental in getting the group started and later becoming active in our opposition to the play, "Snopes."
Detective Murphy: How was Mayor Windham involved?
Ben Morgan: Claire was a strong leader who mobilized the entire community to prosecute those Oxtales people for their terrible influence on the minors who were associated with the theatrical group. You realize, of course, if we had not contacted the District Attorney's office — and kept after them — there might not have been any prosecutions for that piece of filth they called a play.
Detective Murphy: How did you learn about "Snopes"?
Ben Morgan: The parents of one of the children who worked on the production were appalled that their son had been exposed to such raw sexual content and came to us for help. They have since become members of our Concerned Oxford Parents so they can actively participate in the fight to protect our children from the pollution of pornography and the influence of those who peddle it. They realize the importance of speaking out publicly and in the media.
Detective Armstrong: How many are in COP, Mr. Morgan?
Ben Morgan: We have about 200 paid members, but they're not all active all the time. We have a core of about 40 active participants.
Detective Murphy: So you became aware of Ms. Stover through one of the minors who was working on the play?
Ben Morgan: Yes, from Jack and Sue Dees. Their son is Benny. They had gone to a performance of the play Benny was so proud of and were horrified at what he had been subjected to. They wanted to do something about it but didn't know where to start, so they came to us. We were happy to get involved.
Detective Armstrong: You got in touch with the DA's office to press for an indictment?
Ben Morgan: Absolutely. We made sure they were apprised of the situation and the people who were involved.
Detective Murphy: But you appear to have concentrated on Ms. Stover. Any particular reason?
Ben Morgan: She was the driving force behind the production. This child who was working on the play talked only about her and her great influence on him. His parents didn't realize what an insidious influence this was until they saw the play.
Detective Armstrong: You based your opinion purely on the input of one or two irate parents?
Ben Morgan: No, of course not. Our Arts Committee went to see the play and was outraged at the blatant sexuality of the nude dancing and simulation of the sex act. They recommended that our group actively engage in getting the play stopped. We wanted the people responsible for the production prosecuted for letting innocent children work backstage and thereby being contaminated by the profanity they call art.
Detective Murphy: So you took it upon yourselves to alert the community to this danger in what way?
Ben Morgan: We wrote letters and emails to the mayor, city council, and District Attorney's office. Then we followed up with phone calls. We kept at them until they did something about it. Then we informed the community by contacting the press, distributing flyers and organizing demonstrations of protest.
Detective Armstrong: Were you satisfied with the resulting sentences of Ms. Stover and the other people who were prosecuted?
Ben Morgan: I thought the court was extremely lenient with her sentence. She should have been put away for longer and been unable to return to our community. And the other people got off easily with fines and community service. The court was much too lenient to our way of thinking.
Detective Murphy: I take it you weren't happy when Ms. Stover returned to Oxtales after her release?
Ben Morgan: You take it right, Detective. We were appalled that she was reinstated as director of Oxtales and was allowed to prepare the production of another blasphemous piece of trash. She was a registered sex offender, after all.
Detective Armstrong: Then it might be said you're not sorry Ms. Stover is dead?
Ben Morgan: No, Detective, I am very sorry Ms. Stover is dead, but not that she won't be able to contaminate our community with her pornographies anymore.
Detective Murphy: Do you have any plans if Oxtales continues with their plans for staging "The Trees"? According to their flyers, their plans were to stage a performance pretty soon.
Ben Morgan: Our vigilance will not be deterred by the death of that unfortunate, misguided young woman. We shall continue to be ever-watchful and poised to take the same action as if she were here.
Detective Murphy: I see. I understand COP had been distributing flyers about Andrea Stover since her release from prison. Do you have one you can show us? Or at least tell us what it said?
Ben Morgan: It warns everyone that a known sex offender was back in our community, spreading her filth, and alerts the community to be aware of this danger to our innocent children. I have a flyer in my briefcase. Here, you can see for yourself.
Detective Murphy: What was Ms. Stover's reaction to the flyers? Do you know?
Ben Morgan: No, it's not my concern what a convicted sex offender thinks about our flyers.
Detective Murphy: Not even if the flyers affect their lives or their families' lives? Or possibly puts them in harm's way?
Ben Morgan: That is not my concern, Detective. My concern is protecting our innocent children from the harmful influence of such an immoral person as Andrea Stover. After all, she brought it on herself.
Detective Murphy: Has your activity surrounding Ms. Stover since her release had any effect on your membership, Mr. Morgan?
Ben Morgan: We've had some inquiries from prospective new members since her return, but we haven't lost anyone for that reason. Some people do drop out because of other commitments, of course. Most of them return eventually.
Detective Armstrong: Did you or any of your group have any contact with Ms. Stover since her return?
Ben Morgan: I never contacted her, and I don't know of any of our members who did.
Detective Murphy: None of your members phoned her anonymously warning her to stop her pornography or else?
Ben Morgan: No, Detective. I don't know that anyone in our organization did that. Of course, we can't control what our members do individually. I suppose it's possible someone called her on their own to express their displeasure with her actions, but I have no specific knowledge of that.
Detective Armstrong: Is Norman Higgins a member of your group?
Ben Morgan: No, he isn't.
Detective Murphy: But you do know him?
Ben Morgan: Oh, my yes. Norman and I have had many spirited conversations.
Detective Armstrong: I'm surprised he isn't associated with COP. I thought maybe you had shared concerns.
Ben Morgan: Yes, we do. But Norman has tunnel vision. His only interest is in sex-related crimes and those who commit them — or cause them to be committed. He was concerned about Ms. Stover's return to Oxford because of the harm that could result because of her influence on someone who might hurt children.
Detective Murphy: That seems to me to be right in line with what I understand of COP's goals, yet he didn't join you?
Ben Morgan: That is but one of our goals, Detective. We see the greater picture. Norman only sees one thing. For example, we are very pro-family. That is the traditional family — a mother, a father, and children. We do not condone families with two so-called parents of the same sex. We also watch very carefully what books are available to our innocent children in our libraries and schools.
Detective Murphy: Meaning?
Ben Morgan: Meaning, if we learn of a book that is a bad influence, such as the Harry Potter books, being added to one of our public or school libraries, we are not silent about informing our school districts or library boards of our displeasure with their choices. We also advocate abstinence until marriage, so we oppose sex-education in the schools.
Detective Murphy: You don't think children need to be educated about sex?
Ben Morgan: Such personal things should be left to the family. We don't want our children to be taught birth control methods because it only encourages pre-marital sex.
Detective Armstrong: But Norman Higgins isn't concerned about sex ed or the Harry Potter books?
Ben Morgan: Norman feels these things are a waste of time. He prefers to spend all his time on his one issue — sex-related crimes and those who commit them.
Detective Murphy: It really doesn't affect this case, but just out of curiosity, what objection do you have to the Harry Potter books?
Ben Morgan: They are about magic and wizardry. It is a Wicca training program and an instrument of Satanism. We do not believe in the occult, nor do we believe that innocent children should be exposed to the idea that one can use magic to bypass human limitations and the authority of God. It's important that parents know the danger of exposing young minds to these dangerous concepts.
Detective Murphy: Thank you for that information, Mr. Morgan. That's a very … interesting perspective. Now tell me, do you have any theories about who might have killed Ms. Stover? Could any of your group be involved?
Ben Morgan: I imagine it could be one of her circle of immoral friends and colleagues. You can never be sure what people like that are capable of doing. No, I don't think any of our group would be involved. We're rational people who attack a problem through proper channels and by responsible means.
Detective Armstrong: Like harassing an assistant district attorney and his family at their home.
Ben Morgan: A man's home is subject to God's law the same as any other place in His creation.
Detective Murphy: Where were you Sunday night, Mr. Morgan?
Ben Morgan: It was Sunday night, Detective. I was where I always am on Sunday night — at church. After church, our family got together with other church families at my home for refreshments. You can check with Pastor George of the First Church of Oxford on Molly Barr Road. He was there with us and stayed to discuss some church business. I'm president of the board and a deacon. He didn't leave until after 11:00. Then I went to bed.
Detective Murphy: Thank you for coming in, Mr. Morgan. We may be contacting you again. In the meantime, if you think of anything that might help us, please give us a call.
Ben Morgan: Certainly, Detective. Goodbye.
End interview 10:12 a.m.