Will Sands, uncomfortable witness
Friday, October 18, 2013
Key witness in the Flores trial talks about his testimony
Fontaine murder trial: Jury Deliberations Day 5
It's Friday afternoon and bartender Will Sands is getting ready for a big football weekend at The Roadhouse. Most current and former Oxford residents know Will from the times they've stopped in for a drink or a meal or both.
He's the guy behind the bar with the quick service, a welcoming smile, and a willing ear, whether you want to pour out your troubles, analyze the latest Ole Miss injuries, or just share that great joke you heard today.
The Roadhouse is always busy and Will is used to coping with chaos, but this month, he's also been caught up in a different kind of chaos over at the Yoknapatawpha County Courthouse.
As usual, Will's first thought is how to make the experience a little easier on everyone else.
Will never expected to be a witness in a murder trial, but that's where he found himself last week when prosecutor Calvin Dollarhide called him to the stand in the Benito Flores trial.
Twenty-one months ago, it was just another Saturday night at The Roadhouse. Customers filled every table and barstool, and Will was behind the bar. But it turned out that one of those customers that night was Benito Flores, who's now on trial for murdering Philip Fontaine.
Will has a bartender's gift for remembering faces, and he was able to give detectives enough information about a man he saw that night who looked like he'd been in a fight that the investigators were able to identify that man as Benito Flores.
Now, almost two years later, Will was at a different kind of bar, testifying as a prosecution witness in the Flores trial.
Crime Beat got a chance to talk to Will about his role in the case over a burger and a beer at The Roadhouse.
Crime Beat: So, Will, what can you tell me about Benito Flores?
Will Sands: Now, Kemper, you don't want to talk about that. It's almost the weekend. Why don't you take the rest of the day off? Can I get you another beer?
CB: No, thanks. Come on, Will. Did you know Benito Flores before all this happened?
WS: Well, now, I wouldn't say I knew him, but I'd seen him around.
CB: I was in court for your testimony, and it sounded like Benito had been causing problems for The Roadhouse for a while.
WS: That's all old news. We don't have trouble like that around here anymore.
CB: So drug dealers aren't hanging out in the parking lot anymore?
WS: That's right. You saw it when you came in. Did you see any of those characters out there?
WS: No, you didn't. The sheriff's department did a real good job taking care of that. Real good.
CB: Did they get it cleaned up around the same time as they needed you to be a witness in the Flores trial?
WS: Now, Kemper, don't go creating trouble where there isn't any. They did their job, same as I'm doing mine and you're doing yours.
CB: If you say so. So how did you end up telling the detectives about Benito being here the night Philip Fontaine was killed?
WS: They asked me to come in and talk to them. I just answered their questions.
CB: What made them want to talk to you?
WS: I don't know.
CB: You didn't ask?
WS: I just answered their questions like the good citizen I am.
CB: As a good citizen, when did you first suspect that Benito Flores killed Philip Fontaine?
WS: I'm just the bartender, Kemper. It's not my job to decide who's guilty and who isn't.
CB: So you think he didn't do it?
WS: Old Will is just here to make sure everybody has a good time, not to judge people.
CB: You know that the Flores defense has accused Grant Fontaine of killing his father?
WS: Yeah, I read about that on your site.
CB: Thanks. Do you think Grant could have done it?
WS: I don't know. All I know is Grant wasn't here that night.
CB: Benito Flores says he was.
WS: I heard that.
CB: So Flores lied?
WS: You know, I think what I heard Benito said was that he saw Grant in the parking lot, not inside.
CB: So Grant could've been in the parking lot that night?
WS: I never saw him out there, but we were real busy that night.
CB: Before all this happened, you had a pretty close relationship with the Fontaine family, didn't you?
WS: I only saw them when they came in The Roadhouse, but they were good customers, good tippers.
CB: You knew them a little better than that, right?
WS: No better than any other regular. The Fontaines and I don't exactly run in the same circles, you know.
CB: So do you think Grant killed his father?
WS: I don't know who did it.
CB: Come on, Will. You know everything that goes on in this town. You've got to have some idea who killed Philip Fontaine.
WS: You know, if we keep talking, your burger's going to get cold, so I'm going to leave you to it. I need to go check on those folks at the end of the bar. Thanks for coming in, Kemper. Always great to see you.
The first week of deliberations ended without a verdict. The jury will take the weekend off and resume deliberations Monday morning.