Tuesday, May 6, 2014 - 1:15 p.m.
After Forrest Burgess was transported to the Yoknapatawpha County Sheriff's Department following his 911 call, Detectives Murphy and Armstrong interviewed him about what made him call 911 and about issues related to the Laurie Daniels homicide investigation. The interview was recorded with the witness's knowledge and consent.
- Detective T. Armstrong
- Detective S. Murphy
- Forrest Burgess
Detective Murphy: Please give us your name, age, address and occupation.
Forrest Burgess: Forrest Burgess. 25. Unemployed. Address is 126 County Road 432 in Yocona.
Detective Murphy: Talk to us, Forrest. What's going on with this egg thing? Are you honestly afraid of an egg or is this just some setup to try to make us feel sorry for you?
Forrest Burgess: OK, you don't understand. See, it's not just the egg. It's the spiders too. I woke up, and it felt like something was crawling on my head and neck. There were spiders, like 20 of them, in my bed and in my pillow. They come out of your ears. I just knew they had. And when I looked inside my pillow, there were feathers strung together with red wax. I immediately got really scared. I looked around for anyone sneaking around because I thought it happened during my sleep. I mean, spiders only come out of your ears if someone has hexed you. That's a terrible hex!
Detective Murphy: OK…
Forrest Burgess: I ran outside to look for any clues, and I found the egg hanging in the tree. It really scared me. I went closer to inspect, and I saw the beads and the charms and the bone. I'm sure you know how bad that is, detective.
Detective Murphy: Uh-huh. Go on.
Forrest Burgess: It's a death fix. Old school.
Detective Armstrong: Get on with it!
Forrest Burgess: Well, that's it. I didn't need to see any more. I knew it was Dr. Yah Yah. I ran in the house, and I called him. No answer, of course, because he was in Yocona. So I called you guys. And that's that. I need protection. I'll do anything you want if you'll just help me.
Detective Armstrong: So you saw spiders on your pillow and an egg in your tree, and now you're in here wanting to spill your guts to us if we promise to protect you from bugs and groceries?
Forrest Burgess: Yes. All of this has been weighing on me. I can't tell you.
Detective Murphy: What's been weighing on you?
Forrest Burgess: This whole thing has been making me insane, I swear. I don't know who could have done this. But I was scared that it was Dr. Yah Yah coming for me after he'd done Laurie.
Detective Murphy: What is your relationship with Dr. Yah Yah?
Forrest Burgess: I tried to get in with him. When Laurie was down in New Orleans, caught up in him and his voodoo church, I went down and tried to get involved. I just wanted to be near her. But she didn't want me around, so Dr. Yah Yah wouldn't let me come around when she was there. But I just wanted to learn.
Detective Armstrong: Learn what?
Forrest Burgess: I wanted to know what she knew. So I went down there on occasion, and I stayed with him when she wasn't around, which, I gathered, wasn't that much toward the end. I think he had grown displeased with her maybe.
Detective Armstrong: How so?
Forrest Burgess: He just got cranky when I brought her up. He was off-putting, made some remarks that led me to think she was a loser. I think he said she wasn't smart enough or dedicated enough. But he still wanted to have her.
Detective Murphy: OK, and how is this related to your egg incident?
Forrest Burgess: I drove down to see him when I found out Laurie was coming back. I wanted to get a love potion. I didn't tell him who it was for, but I'm pretty sure he knew anyway.
Detective Armstrong: Why would he give you a love potion for Laurie if he wanted her for himself?
Forrest Burgess: I don't know. I think he wanted me to poison her. Because he did say something funny when he gave me the gris-gris. He said, "Burgess, it's gonna take more than a sprinkle of love powder to woo a girl who wants to kill you." I asked him what he meant, and he just laughed.
Detective Murphy: What did you do with this gris-gris he gave you?
Forrest Burgess: I can't remember exactly, but he must've told me to sprinkle it on her food because that's what I did. Maybe the package said sprinkle on food.
Detective Murphy: There were instructions printed on it?
Forrest Burgess: I… don't remember.
Detective Armstrong: You better start remembering. You fed this gris-gris to the same girl whose head turned up in a bucket! Maybe you killed her with that junk.
Forrest Burgess: No, I didn't. That's not what was supposed to happen!
Detective Murphy: Do you know of any reason why Dr. Yah Yah would want to kill Laurie?
Forrest Burgess: I… don't know the full dynamics of their relationship. I know she used to run to him when the chips were down, and he'd do whatever she wanted. He's a hound, man. He's a sucker to that woman. But he ain't above killing her.
Detective Armstrong: You're not really in a position to be making accusations, so I'd be careful with that if I were you. If you don't know why Dr. Yah Yah would want to kill Laurie, why would he want to kill you?
Forrest Burgess: I don't know, man. I guess he was jealous. That's what this is about, right? You gotta know this dude. He doesn't work by your police logic.
Detective Murphy: Have you seen Dr. Yah Yah in Oxford or Yocona?
Forrest Burgess: No.
Detective Murphy: When was the last time you saw him?
Forrest Burgess: I last saw him about two days before I went to get Laurie from the airport. That's when I got the gris-gris. After that… that's when everything went to hell.
Detective Murphy: You picked Laurie up in Memphis?
Forrest Burgess: Uh, yeah.
Detective Murphy: Why didn't you tell us that before?
Forrest Burgess: I— I was afraid to. Like I said, everything went to hell after that.
Detective Armstrong: Start talking. What happened?
Forrest Burgess: Something went wrong with the gris-gris. I called Dr. Yah Yah that night after I'd picked her up. I called him and said, "You know that gris-gris? Well, it's ****** somebody up bad. Tell me what to do." And he said, "You little shit, it better not be Laurie." I told him it was, and I told him that I'd sprinkled the stuff on red beans and she ate it.
Detective Armstrong: Uh-huh. And what did he say?
Forrest Burgess: He told me it had rattlesnake venom in it, and that it would make her blind and could even kill her if taken in a large enough dose. I told him how much I'd given her, and he said it wouldn't be enough to kill her but that I should get her to a hospital.
Detective Armstrong: Why would he tell you to take her to a hospital if he wanted you to kill her?
Forrest Burgess: I don't know that he did want me to kill her. Hell, maybe he just wanted me to turn myself in right then and there. It would have saved a lot of trouble, and Laurie probably wouldn't be dead.
Detective Armstrong: Yeah, just blind.
Forrest Burgess: Look, I got the idea about the potion because it has really worked, or so Dr. Yah Yah told me. Callie told me too. It was her idea. She was joking, but it made sense to me. I needed everything I could get. So I went to get this love gris-gris, and I had no idea it was poisonous. I didn't know I was just supposed to sprinkle it on her pillow.
Detective Armstrong: That was really stupid. You're responsible for this, you know?
Forrest Burgess: I know… Please…
Detective Murphy: So, now you think Dr. Yah Yah has come to Yocona to exact revenge on you?
Forrest Burgess: I don't know. He must be here. But like I said, I haven't heard from him except for the spiders and the egg. I don't know anything about his intentions.
Detective Murphy: Do you have any proof that the spiders and egg came from Dr. Yah Yah?
Forrest Burgess: I know the man and his reputation. That's proof enough for me.
Detective Armstrong: Did you know your name was found written on a scrap of paper, rolled up and stuffed in the mouth of a dead rattlesnake in Dr. Yah Yah's apartment? Do you know what that means?
Forrest Burgess: Y– yes. I can imagine.
Detective Armstrong: From what I hear, these hexes are pure New Orleans voodoo death stuff. You're liable to choke on your coffee right here. Heck, Dr. Yah Yah may be lurking around the station here. He's liable to have put strychnine in your chemical coffee whitener.
Forrest Burgess: What? You gave me poisoned coffee? Here, take it. I'm not drinking it now!
Detective Murphy: OK, gentlemen, this isn't productive. Forrest, you obviously don't know anything valuable about Dr. Yah Yah, at least nothing you're willing to talk about. Let's start at the beginning. Tell us how you found out Laurie Daniels was flying into Memphis on March 29th.
Forrest Burgess: Laurie called the house one day. This is back when I was living with Callie and Stephanie. I picked up the phone and was startled to hear her voice. I was elated, but she didn't want to talk to me. I gave the phone to Callie, and they talked for a bit.
Detective Murphy: Did you hear what they talked about?
Forrest Burgess: I could tell by listening to Callie's side of the conversation that Laurie was coming home. Callie wrote the info down on a sheet of paper by the phone, so I had that.
Detective Murphy: But Laurie asked Callie to pick her up, not you. Right?
Forrest Burgess: Yeah. But then there was that message.
Detective Murphy: What message?
Forrest Burgess: The one where Laurie told Callie not to pick her up.
Detective Murphy: You heard that message?
Forrest Burgess: Yeah.
Detective Armstrong: I thought Callie got that message after she kicked you out.
Forrest Burgess: Well, maybe. I don't know.
Detective Murphy: So you knew about that message… how?
Forrest Burgess: I don't know. I mean, I moved out, yes, but it wasn't like I never went there after that.
Detective Murphy: You didn't think it was strange that Laurie would call Callie and ask her for a ride, and then call her back a few days later and leave her a message saying she didn't need a ride with no explanation?
Forrest Burgess: Uh… I don't know.
Detective Murphy: Was that typical behavior for Laurie?
Forrest Burgess: She did it to me.
Detective Murphy: But did she usually act like that with Callie?
Forrest Burgess: I don't know.
Detective Armstrong: How can you not know? You and Callie lived together. You went to New Orleans looking for Laurie together. You never had any conversations that might tell you how Laurie usually acted with her?
Forrest Burgess: I don't know.
Detective Murphy: OK, so for whatever reason, Laurie leaves the message for Callie, and you find out about it. What then? You decided you'd go pick her up yourself?
Forrest Burgess: Yeah.
Detective Murphy: How did you know she hadn't gotten someone else to give her a ride?
Forrest Burgess: I don't know. I guess I didn't really care. I just thought… I thought if she saw me there, she'd come with me.
Detective Armstrong: How did you know she was still coming? That she hadn't cancelled her trip?
Forrest Burgess: I don't know. I just figured… I just wanted to see her. It never even occurred to me that she might not be coming. I just wanted to pick her up myself.
Detective Armstrong: Why?
Forrest Burgess: I wanted to talk to her and let her know that I still cared about her. She wouldn't listen to me. The few times I got to actually speak with Laurie, she would never let me tell her how I felt. So I was going to make it happen. That was all, I swear.
Detective Murphy: Were you under the influence when you arrived at the airport?
Forrest Burgess: Yes. I'd been drinking and smoking some grass to settle me down. I was pretty nervous, as you can imagine.
Detective Murphy: Did her plane arrive on time?
Forrest Burgess: Yep. And she was surprised to see me waiting for her at baggage claim.
Detective Murphy: What did she say when she saw you?
Forrest Burgess: She just kept asking over and over where Callie was. I told her I could take her to Oxford, but she kept denying me. She started to make a scene, and then I told her I had some ecstasy in the car.
Detective Armstrong: And?
Forrest Burgess: She seemed slightly more willing to go after that.
Detective Armstrong: Uh-huh. After you told her or after you dosed her with the X?
Forrest Burgess: After I told her. I wouldn't do something like that.
Detective Armstrong: You wouldn't give her some drug she didn't know about?
Detective Murphy: Why was she asking where Callie was after she'd told Callie not to pick her up?
Forrest Burgess: I don't know.
Detective Murphy: Did you pick up any luggage?
Forrest Burgess: She had a carry-on bag. That was it.
Detective Armstrong: No big suitcase?
Forrest Burgess: Well, we didn't wait around at baggage claim. She could have forgotten though. She seemed pretty out of it.
Detective Murphy: Did you leave the airport immediately?
Forrest Burgess: Yeah, pretty much.
Detective Murphy: Where did you go?
Forrest Burgess: Well, she wanted to go to her parents' house, but she took that ecstasy and the more she started rolling, the more she just kind of zoned out.
Detective Armstrong: But?
Forrest Burgess: But then she got real bitchy, and when I told her we were going to my place, she started freaking out.
Detective Armstrong: And where was "your place" at that time?
Forrest Burgess: Bobby Wannamaker's house out at Sardis Lake.
Detective Murphy: What did you do when Laurie started freaking out?
Forrest Burgess: I had to give her some downers, she was so out of it. We had gotten some liquor too.
Detective Murphy: What kind of downers did you give her?
Forrest Burgess: Diazepam.
Detective Murphy: And what kind of liquor?
Forrest Burgess: Rum, I think.
Detective Murphy: Did you have some?
Forrest Burgess: No. My stomach can't handle it.
Detective Armstrong: Did she tell you why she had come home?
Forrest Burgess: She wasn't making a whole lot of sense. She must've done some heavy drinking on the plane. But I gathered that she was tired of being on the road. And she seemed to be angry at her parents. She kept saying she was going to show them what they had made of her, like it was their fault that their daughter was falling apart.
Detective Murphy: And what happened when you arrived at Mr. Wannamaker's house at Coles Point?
Forrest Burgess: I guess it was around 3:00 or so when we got home. She passed out, and I guess I did too for a while. I woke up a few hours later, but she was still dead to the world, so I started making dinner.
Detective Murphy: The red beans?
Forrest Burgess: Yeah.
Detective Murphy: And then what?
Forrest Burgess: I was so messed up, man. I just remember playing loud music and drinking and getting more and more ****** up. God, it was like I was trying to create this nightmare. I was scared and nervous and totally out of control.
Detective Murphy: So then what happened?
Forrest Burgess: All I remember is that when she finally woke up, we ate. And before I gave Laurie her bowl, I sprinkled the beans with the gris-gris. She was still bitching about being at my place. She wanted to go home, but she was bitching about that too. And she was drinking too, getting more and more ****** up just like me.
Detective Murphy: How long after she ate the red beans did she get sick?
Forrest Burgess: Damn, I don't know. It was a little while after we ate 'cause we talked for a while before she got so sick. It was a disaster. I was loaded to the gills, and we talked about getting back together. She was adamantly against it.
Detective Armstrong: What did she say?
Forrest Burgess: She kept telling me that I didn't know what I wanted, that she wasn't right for me and that this was a bad time for me to be popping up in her life again. She kept talking about how messed up and rotten she was.
Detective Armstrong: What did she mean by that?
Forrest Burgess: Hell if I know. She kept saying that I was clueless, that I didn't know what she had been through as a kid. She said she didn't want me around because I reminded her of all that. And then she started puking and going crazy. She was sick and insane. I had to restrain her.
Detective Armstrong: How did you do that?
Forrest Burgess: It sounds crazy, but I made her lay on the floor, and I put the sofa cushions on top of her and sat on them. I didn't know what else to do.
Detective Armstrong: How did she like that?
Forrest Burgess: She kept shouting about how she couldn't see anything, and I told her it was because she was under a mountain of cushions. But when I let her up, she couldn't see with her eyes open. That's when I called Dr. Yah Yah.
Detective Murphy: What happened after he told you she would go blind?
Forrest Burgess: I freaked out. I can't remember. I know I tried to kill myself in the bathtub, but then I passed out. Woke up in the bathtub freezing. I was still out of it, but at least I could put together the scene.
Detective Murphy: And how was Laurie?
Forrest Burgess: She had split. All the doors were open, and the place was wrecked. I just ran out back to find her. There's a path that leads down to the lake. I ran down there and didn't find her. I splashed around thinking I might find her underfoot. But she was nowhere, and it was starting to get light. So I grabbed my stuff and got the hell out of there.
Detective Murphy: And what about her bag?
Forrest Burgess: I don't know. She must have took it with her 'cause it wasn't in my car. If she left it at the house, I'm sure Wannamaker would have found it.
Detective Murphy: Do you remember where it was? I mean, if she was blind as you say, was it somewhere that she could have found it just by crawling around and feeling for it?
Forrest Burgess: I don't remember where we put it.
Detective Murphy: Did you see any of the contents of her bag?
Forrest Burgess: No.
Detective Armstrong: Why didn't you call 911 after you found out you may have blinded her? I mean, you called them after you found the stupid egg in your tree. Why not when you blinded someone?
Forrest Burgess: I was scared, man. I wasn't thinking straight, obviously. I mean, shit, I tried to kill myself.
Detective Armstrong: You're a sad failure, man. I think you're full of it.
Detective Murphy: Where did you go when you left the house?
Forrest Burgess: I went to look for her. I drove all around Coles Point and rode into Sardis. Then I rode toward Oxford. I rode by her parents' house, but I didn't stop.
Detective Armstrong: Were they home?
Forrest Burgess: Maybe one of them was there. I remember getting flustered and driving off. I rode up toward Wall Doxey State Park off Highway 7 and jimmied my way into one of their cabins and got some sleep.
Detective Armstrong: When did you get the speeding ticket?
Forrest Burgess: That morning after I left Coles Point looking for Laurie.
Detective Armstrong: Were you under the influence of anything at that time?
Forrest Burgess: I don't know. Maybe, but mostly I was really freaked out. It's a wonder the cop didn't take me in.
Detective Murphy: Where did you go after you were at Wall Doxey?
Forrest Burgess: To Callie's. They let me crash on the couch. I told them Wannamaker had kicked me out.
Detective Murphy: This was before he actually kicked you out?
Forrest Burgess: I guess. I don't know. I never went back to Coles Point after that.
Detective Armstrong: Why not?
Forrest Burgess: Man, I was so freaked out. I had to lay low for a while. I just… I didn't know what had happened.
Detective Murphy: And you never heard anything else from Laurie?
Forrest Burgess: Nothing. Callie had been waiting for her to call, I remember. When she never did, I think Callie just dismissed it. After that phone message, Callie had pretty much given up on Laurie. She didn't believe she was really coming to Oxford.
Detective Murphy: And you never checked in with Laurie's parents?
Forrest Burgess: No. I'm telling you, I stayed with Callie for another day, then Paul let me move in.
Detective Armstrong: Who else in this town practices voodoo?
Forrest Burgess: Nobody that I know of. As far as real-deal voodoo, nobody around here is into it. Maybe some blacks in the county.
Detective Armstrong: How much did you practice?
Forrest Burgess: I was into it after I hung out with Dr. Yah Yah a few times. I got into the spells and stuff. I don't know. I wasn't in it as much as Laurie.
Detective Murphy: Why didn't you come forward to begin with? Why have you been lying?
Forrest Burgess: I was so scared I might've killed her. You mess somebody up like that, and then they disappear and turn up weeks later all… you know, like she was. I've been sick with this! I haven't slept ever since. And now I've got a ******* voodoo priest trying to kill me. You've gotta call a witchdoctor in. I've gotta reverse this stuff.
Detective Armstrong: But you didn't kill her?
Forrest Burgess: No!
Detective Armstrong: How do you know?
Forrest Burgess: What do you mean?
Detective Armstrong: How do you know that poison you fed her didn't kill her?
Forrest Burgess: Dr. Yah Yah said it wasn't enough to kill her. And I didn't— I would never— I couldn't do that to her.
Detective Armstrong: What? Poison her? Apparently you could and you did.
Forrest Burgess: But that was an accident! That other— what happened… the… parts. I could never do that to her. I loved her. I still do.
Detective Murphy: OK, I think that's enough for now. Forrest, I'm going to tell you the truth. You're in deep trouble. You've lied to us all along, and quite honestly, I think you're still not telling us the whole story. The officers are going to book you now, and I want you to spend some time thinking about what you've told us and what you've left out. We'll be talking to you again.
Interview ends - 2:33 p.m.