Friday, April 27, 2012 - 2:17 p.m.
A woman who gave her name as Rhea Hall came into the Yoknapatawpha County Sheriff's Department saying she wanted to talk to someone about the skull a middle school student brought to school last month. She was referred to Detectives Armstrong and Murphy, who conducted the following interview which was recorded with Ms. Hall's knowledge and consent.
- Detective T. Armstrong
- Detective S. Murphy
- Rhea Hall
Detective Armstrong: Thank you for coming in, Ms. Hall. Will you please state your name and address for the record?
Rhea Hall: My name is Rhea Delores Hall, and I'm living at 2399 Jackson Avenue here in Oxford.
Detective Murphy: I understand you wanted to talk to someone about the skull a boy took to school in March. Why did you wait so long to come forward?
Rhea Hall: I just heard about it and thought I should talk to y'all.
Detective Armstrong: OK, Ms. Hall. Why don't you tell us about this in your own way?
Rhea Hall: Well, thanks, but please call me Rhea. Well, I'm from Biloxi. After Katrina, me and my family, we were ... what do you call it? Displaced. Our home was destroyed and we moved around for a while, trying to get settled again. We were in Jackson for a while, but things weren't working out there, so we tried Tupelo. But my husband got laid off after about a year, so we came here. My sister, Myra ‒ Myra Simpson ‒ lives here in Oxford, and she found a place for us we could get on short notice. We were only there about six months when my husband got a good job in Memphis. We were up there a couple years till that job went away too. This economy, I tell you what.
Detective Murphy: It sounds like you've had quite a time. Did you say you have some information about the skull?
Rhea Hall: I'm coming to it. So anyways, after Memphis we came back here and stayed with my sister for a while till we got back on our feet, but now we got jobs and our own place. Well, the other day me Myra was talking over coffee. You know, catching up on all the news and such. Well, she tells me about this kid at her boy's middle school who took a skull to school. Her boy, Charlie, was there on the playground when this kid pulls a skull out of his backpack. You could've knocked me over with a feather when she told me the kid was RJ Brandt.
Detective Armstrong: You'd never heard the name of the boy involved before that?
Rhea Hall: We don't have kids, so I don't hear all the school gossip. And I stay away from the news. I got enough bad news. I don't need to go out looking for more.
Detective Murphy: So you know RJ Brandt?
Rhea Hall: RJ and the whole Brandt bunch: Ronny, Heather, Gracie.
Detective Armstrong: You must've known them a long time, since you were all back in Biloxi, if you knew Gracie.
Rhea Hall: Huh?
Detective Murphy: Gracie Brandt died of SIDS before Katrina.
Rhea Hall: No, ma'am. You must've gotten some bad information somewhere. I only knew them for a few months back when we was neighbors on Brittany Drive, the first time me and my husband lived here.
Detective Armstrong: So how old was this Gracie you knew?
Rhea Hall: Well, I don't rightly know how old. I only saw her once, and she was sleeping. I'd say maybe a toddler; 18 months, two years. Just guessing, you understand, from seeing her sleeping there in her crib. Pretty little thing.
Detective Murphy: Tell us about that seeing her that time.
Rhea Hall: One night kind of late, Heather comes banging on our door in a panic. Seems RJ cut his hand on a piece of glass and was bleeding like a stuck pig. She had to take him to get stitches. Said the little girl had been sick all day and was finally asleep. Ronny wasn't no place to be found, and Heather didn't want to drag the little girl out in the night. She asked me if I'd go over to her house to sit until she got back.
Detective Murphy: Go on.
Rhea Hall: It was sort of strange. We was never friends ‒ barely spoke. But she was in trouble and needed my help, and I ain't one to leave the poor thing hanging, so I went over to her house.
Detective Armstrong: You'd never seen the child before?
Rhea Hall: No. I was shocked to even know she existed. Them Brandts were strange though. Kept to themselves. Weren't friendly at all. Then when Heather come home from the hospital, she swore me to secrecy. Said they were protecting Gracie and didn't want people to know about her. I didn't ask why. I just got out of there. They gave me the creeps.
Detective Armstrong: And then?
Rhea Hall: When I heard about the skull, I sort of put two and two together and wondered if you had seen little Gracie. Wouldn't surprise me if they done something to her. Poor little thing.
Detective Murphy: Did you ever see Gracie after that night?
Rhea Hall: Nope, that was the only time. Never talked to them again neither. We moved away not long after that, and we never saw them again.
Detective Murphy: And when was that exactly, the night you stayed with Gracie?
Rhea Hall: Oh, that must've been, I don't know, three years ago or thereabouts maybe? I don't remember exactly.
Detective Armstrong: Have you seen the Brandts since you moved back to Oxford?
Rhea Hall: Nope. Guess our paths never crossed. Thank goodness. I didn't like them people. Something about them was just plain strange.
Detective Murphy: Thank you for coming in, Rhea. You've been very helpful.
Rhea Hall: Glad to be of help. I hope you find that little girl and she's OK.
Detective Armstrong: Yes, ma'am. We hope so too.
Interview ends: 2:31 p.m.