Interview: Canvass of Church Members
Detectives Armstrong and Murphy interviewed members of the Brandt family's church in the meeting room of the church. The interviews summarized are some of the most typical or relevant to the investigation and are representative of all interviews conducted.
Name: Valerie Perkins
Miss Perkins was RJ's Sunday School teacher last year. She said RJ was very withdrawn and didn't make friends easily. He didn't raise his hand to answer, and when called upon, he didn't know anything about the Bible. She was concerned that RJ was not receiving proper guidance at home because he would show up for church dressed in all black, sometimes with earrings and black nail polish. Miss Perkins felt that RJ was disturbing her class just by his presence, and she was relieved when he moved up to the next grade and a different class. Miss Perkins said the Brandt parents were not very sociable either. She had attempted to get to know them, but they didn't seem to want to.
Name: Dr. Paul Simmons
Dr. Simmons has been the Reverend for the Church of Christ for ten years and has always been helpful to the members of the community that needed it. So when Hurricane Katrina hit and the call went out to help, Dr. Simmons offered. The Brandt family was one of three that came to Oxford sponsored in part by the Church of Christ. While the other two families moved out of Oxford shortly thereafter, the Brandt family stayed. The Brandt family received support from the Church for a time, but Dr. Simmons would not divulge the amount.
He said the Brandt family did come to Church, but did not offer to help with volunteer work or with any Church ministries. Dr. Simmons said he has tried to involve the Brandt family in small get-togethers with other families, but they always declined. The times that he attempted to visit the Brandt family at home, RJ was the only person there. RJ did invite him in one time, and Dr. Simmons discovered that RJ liked professional wrestling. Dr. Simmons introduced RJ to Mason York, another member of the Church, who also liked wrestling. Dr. Simmons believed that they had even gone to a match together.
Name: Mason York
Mr. York was introduced to RJ by Dr. Simmons because of a shared interest in professional wrestling. Mr. York and RJ would talk after Church about various wrestlers and what had happened in wrestling that previous week. They got along so well that Mr. York offered to take RJ to a wrestling event in Little Rock, Arkansas. Mr. York said that RJ was a good kid, just misunderstood because he was not very outgoing. Mr. York said he felt that the all black clothes and attitude was merely a cry for love from his parents. Mr. York said he was somewhat concerned about RJ and his home life.
Name: Bernice Brown
Mrs. Brown is the official greeter for the Church of Christ, and said she always says hello to the Brandt family, but hasn't had any conversations with them. She had even made an attempt to visit them at their home before Christmas but had found only RJ there. He merely opened the door, saw who it was, and closed it. Mrs. Brown said when the door was opened she thought she could smell burning cigarettes but wasn't sure. She had talked to Ronny Brandt on the phone, but he told her they were too busy to have visitors. Mrs. Brown also said she noticed a lot of beer bottles sitting outside the residence when she went over, and hoped that RJ was not drinking.