Rev. Tommy Sanders interview
Thursday, January 16, 2014 - 5:25 p.m.
Thomas Sanders is a pastor at First Baptist Church, 800 Van Buren Avenue. Detectives Armstrong and Murphy talked to him in his office at the church. The interview was recorded with the witness's knowledge and consent.
- Detective T. Armstrong
- Detective S. Murphy
- Reverend Tommy Sanders
Detective Murphy: Thank you for taking the time to talk to us, Reverend Sanders.
Reverend Sanders: Oh, not at all. I want to do anything I can do to help. This is a truly terrible thing. Are you sure it was Caitlin and Cameron you found?
Detective Armstrong: I'm afraid so, sir. The identification isn't official yet, but that's just a technicality. We're sure.
Reverend Sanders: Unfathomable. Who would do something like that to two innocent kids?
Detective Murphy: That's what we're trying to find out. We were wondering if we could ask you a few questions about the Maxwell family.
Reverend Sanders: Of course. I'll tell you whatever I can.
Detective Murphy: How long have they been members of your church?
Reverend Sanders: Oh, ever since they moved here, I believe. Must be 20-some-odd years now.
Detective Murphy: How would you characterize them as church members?
Reverend Sanders: I don't think anyone's ever asked me anything quite like that before. The Maxwells are very active in the church. Of course, we haven't seen as much of Caitlin and Cameron since they started spending so much time out of town, but they always come to services when they're here. I'm afraid Austin is at that age where they tend to pull away from the church, try life without it. But he'll be back. They always come back once their lives start to settle down a little.
Detective Murphy: What about Todd and Robin Maxwell?
Reverend Sanders: Oh, yes. They're very generous with their offerings and their time. Robin is a vital part of our Music & Worship Arts ministry. Todd serves on two committees. The church wouldn't be the same without them.
Detective Murphy: Are you aware of any trouble in the Maxwell family?
Reverend Sanders: Well, there was that unfortunate business with Austin, as I'm sure you know, but I think the family's made their peace with that. We've been praying for them.
Detective Murphy: Other than that, any issues in the family? Anything they disagreed over?
Reverend Sanders: They're a very close family. I haven't seen any indications of trouble between them.
Detective Armstrong: Did you see Caitlin or Cameron when they were in town for Christmas?
Reverend Sanders: Yes. They came to weekly services, of course, and to the Christmas Eve service. And Caitlin came by to help with a few outreach projects.
Detective Armstrong: Not Cameron?
Reverend Sanders: Caitlin's always been interested in our community engagement efforts.
Detective Armstrong: Other than seeing them at services, did you have a chance to talk to either Caitlin or Cameron?
Reverend Sanders: We exchanged pleasantries after the services, of course, but that's about all. I did speak to Caitlin for a few minutes one night when she was here stuffing envelopes.
Detective Armstrong: What did you talk about?
Reverend Sanders: I don't feel comfortable sharing that.
Detective Armstrong: OK, let's put it this way. Did she seem to be upset? Angry? Depressed? Anything like that?
Reverend Sanders: She was unhappy to an extent, but I'd say it was more with herself than anyone else.
Detective Armstrong: Did she seek your advice or counsel?
Reverend Sanders: Again, that's not something I can discuss with you.
Detective Armstrong: How about this? Did she ever seek your help at any time with anything she might've been dealing with in her life?
Reverend Sanders: Of course. When she's wrestling with an issue or a question, she sometimes comes to me, but obviously, I can't discuss any of those details.
Detective Armstrong: Did she ever share with you how she felt about skating?
Reverend Sanders: She loves it. She's proud to be carrying on her father's legacy. Skating is grueling, and sometimes she struggled with the demands on her time and the things she had to give up. But she was determined to stick with it. Her father and Cameron are counting on her.
Detective Armstrong: I can see how Cameron counted on her for skating, but how did her father count on her?
Reverend Sanders: Todd is a good man, and he was a great skater himself once. It's very important to him that his children do well in competitive skating, better than he was able to do before his injuries injuries forced him to retire from competition.
Detective Armstrong: If Todd were out of the picture or decided for whatever reason that he didn't want them to skate anymore, do you think Cameron and Caitlin would've continued skating?
Reverend Sanders: I really couldn't say, especially because I don't think Todd would ever change his mind about that. But even if he did, Caitlin and Cameron have put in so much work for so many years. It's hard to imagine them walking away from it.
Detective Murphy: You seem to know quite a bit about the Maxwells.
Reverend Sanders: As I said, they've been members of the church for a long time, and they're very active in church activities. We've spent a lot of time together over the years.
Detective Murphy: Is there anything in their family dynamic that makes you think any of them could've had anything to do with what happened to Caitlin and Cameron, even unintentionally?
Reverend Sanders: The Maxwells are good Christian people. I can't imagine any way any of them could have anything to do with hurting Caitlin or Cameron, much less– I'm sorry. This is all so incredible. I've had parishioners die before, of course, but never anything like this.
Detective Murphy: Yes, sir. You've been a big help so far. If you can just bear with us for a few more minutes, we'll get out of your hair.
Reverend Sanders: Of course. What else can I tell you?
Detective Armstrong: Actually, there's something you can do for us, if you're willing.
Reverend Sanders: If I can, I'll be happy to help.
Detective Armstrong: Good. I assume y'all are planning a memorial service for Caitlin and Cameron?
Reverend Sanders: Of course, but it's in the very early stages still. I'm not sure when it'll be. We don't know when– we don't know yet when we'll be able to bury them.
Detective Armstrong: I understand. Once you get the plans in place, we'd like to have some plainclothes investigators attend the service, and we'd also like to have some people outside the church, just to keep an eye on things.
Reverend Sanders: Oh, I don't know about that. The purpose of a memorial service is to help bring comfort and closure to the mourners, the family and friends of the ones who've passed on. I'm not sure it would be appropriate to do something like that.
Detective Armstrong: I understand your concerns, Reverend, but the fact is we don't know yet why Caitlin and Cameron were killed or who did it. Or if this person or people might have something against the rest of the Maxwell family or against someone else in Caitlin and Cameron's lives. For everyone's safety, we'd like to attend the service, just in case. We'll be discreet.
Reverend Sanders: You think the killer might actually come into the church and attend their memorial?
Detective Murphy: We don't know for sure, but it's a distinct possibility. We'd like to make sure nothing else happens to the Maxwell family or to any of the other people that cared about Cameron and Caitlin.
Reverend Sanders: Well, when you put it like that, I don't see how I can say no.
Detective Murphy: Thank you, Reverend. I promise you we'll minimize the disruption as much as we can. Hopefully, you won't even know we're there.
Detective Armstrong: One more thing, Reverend. We don't want the killer or killers to know that we're at the service because we don't want them to do anything disruptive or unfortunate. We'd really appreciate it if you didn't tell anyone – not the Maxwells, not anyone at the church, not your staff – that we're planning to be here. The fewer people who know, the better.
Reverend Sanders: I understand. Of course. I won't say a word.
Detective Armstrong: Thank you. I think that's all we need from you today. We'll be in touch about the details.
Detective Murphy: Thank you again for your time. If you think of anything you think might help us find who did this to Cameron and Caitlin, please let us know. We'll keep it confidential.
Reverend Sanders: Thank you, and I will.
Interview ends: 5:54 p.m.