Chas Laughlin interview #2
Tuesday, July 22, 2014 - 1:00 p.m.
Charles "Chas" Laughlin is the owner and operator of Laughlin Automotive & Body Shop at 2522 University Avenue and Andy Fine's employer. Detectives Armstrong and Murphy re-interviewed him at the Yoknapatawpha County Sheriff's Department. Mr. Laughlin was accompanied by private legal counsel, M. Dennis Grisham. The interview was recorded with the witness's knowledge and consent.
- Detective T. Armstrong
- Detective S. Murphy
- Chas Laughlin
- Dennis Grisham
Detective Armstrong: Thank you for taking the time to come down here and talk with us, Mr. Laughlin. Before we start, will you please state your full name and address for the record?
Chas Laughlin: Charles Laughlin. You already know I live at 310 N 16th St, Oxford, Mississippi. Kinda hard to turn down an invitation after you guys had me stuck for blood and pulled my hair out. What do you want with me now?
Detective Armstrong: We have some details to clear up, sir. Just routine.
Dennis Grisham: Before we go too much further and waste more time on this witch hunt, you should know I've advised my client to exercise his Constitutional right to remain silent and not answer your questions.
Detective Murphy: Good, we can get this over with and get him in jail faster.
Chas Laughlin: Jail? For what? I didn't do nothing.
Detective Murphy: We're going to start with obstruction of justice for all those lies you told us, which will give us enough for a warrant to toss that shop you run. We just might find the repair records of all your customers, and then we just might find a customer or two who got billed for work that wasn't done. And if you sent one of them a bill through the mail, that's mail fraud. $10,000 fine for each count. That's federal time, too.
Dennis Grisham: There's no reason…
Detective Murphy: I sure hope you can live without income from the shop for three weeks, Chas.
Chas Laughlin: Three weeks!?
Detective Murphy: That's how long, at least, it'll take to process that place. Nothing's going in and out. Oh, and it'll all make good information for civil suits by your customers, too. Does your lawyer here know civil law as well? Hope you already paid him, 'cause your accounts are going to be frozen solid.
Chas Laughlin: I need that business!
Dennis Grisham: Baseless allegations that will never stand up in court.
Detective Murphy: They pay us to try, counselor. Stand up, Chas, and turn around. Won't take me but a second to get these cuffs out.
Chas Laughlin: I can't afford all that. Denny, do something!
Dennis Grisham: There's not much I can do at this point, Chas.
Detective Armstrong: Sit down, Mr. Laughlin. Let's just everybody relax. I'm sure Mr. Laughlin will cooperate with us, won't you, sir? After all, there's too much at stake. There's no need for us to go rooting around your business and disrupting it, is there, Mr. Laughlin?
Chas Laughlin: I told you, no.
Detective Armstrong: Of course not. If nothing's there, you don't need us to waste our time picking apart your records and inventory. Who knows what we might find? After all, you don't have anything to hide, and all we're really interested in is clearing up these few little discrepancies, just for our records, you understand.
Detective Murphy: Let me take this guy in!
Detective Armstrong: Cool off, Murphy. Sorry, Mr. Laughlin. Are you OK, sir? Need a glass of water or anything?
Chas Laughlin: No, I'm OK. I'll talk to you, I guess.
Dennis Grisham: Chas, I really must insist…
Chas Laughlin: Shut up, Denny.
Detective Armstrong: We're very grateful for your cooperation, sir. Now, Mr. Laughlin, in our earlier interview, you told us that you couldn't trust Andy to do anything more important than run errands. Yet you sent him to Memphis to pick up parts. How do you explain that?
Chas Laughlin: It's just picking up parts. No big deal. Nothing interesting about that.
Detective Armstrong: You also told us you only said two words to Andy on July 3rd and that you two got along fine. We know you had an extensive conversation with him a few weeks before then and that you were angry afterwards, from the day of the conversation right up until the day Andy disappeared. What was the nature of that conversation?
Chas Laughlin: I'd really rather not talk bad about—
Detective Murphy: Forget this. Let's get the warrant.
Chas Laughlin: OK, OK. I didn't say anything 'cause I'm an ex-con, and I knew how it would look, OK? But I been living right ever since we moved here. On the straight and narrow.
Detective Murphy: Uh-huh. So you and Andy had a fight.
Chas Laughlin: I wouldn't call it no fight. Nobody got hurt.
Detective Armstrong: What did go on, Mr. Laughlin?
Chas Laughlin: Look, Andy — he…
Dennis Grisham: Chas, you don't have to say anything, so don't.
Chas Laughlin: Denny, I need to clear this up. Fine did some repair work on a vehicle. And then he, uh, he put down on the work order that he'd replaced a two ball joints and a power steering pump, and flushed the tranny and brake lines and replaced the fluid. I signed off on the work, but I was in a hurry to get home that night and didn't check.
Detective Armstrong: This is relevant to your… disagreement with him in what way?
Chas Laughlin: That afternoon Fine came to me and told me he didn't do any of it, but charged the customer for the parts and labor. I threatened to fire him, but he tells me he'll take the work order and show it. With my signature on that work order, it would all be on me. Said he wanted a raise and a nice cash bonus, otherwise he'd go to first to the customer and then to the law.
Detective Armstrong: And you gave him the money? How much?
Chas Laughlin: Yeah. I had to. A couple hundred, I don't remember exactly. He had me by the short hairs, and we both knew it.
Detective Murphy: A couple of other mechanics wound up hurt pretty bad after they tried to cheat you in the past. That's what happened to Andy, isn't it? He pulled a fast one on you, and you were going make sure it didn't happen again — ever.
Chas Laughlin: Those were accidents. Hey man, I been around, made some mistakes, but I learned from them. I could've taken Andy Fine apart, but I didn't, did I? No. I knew how to take care of it.
Detective Murphy: You eliminated the problem. Andy just had an accident, only more serious.
Dennis Grisham: Chas, I'm most strongly recommending you say nothing more.
Chas Laughlin: It's OK, Denny. I ain't as dumb as these cops think I am. All I had to do was check the records, find out which car he worked on, then get that car in and have the work done right. Andy got me for some money, but once the car was squared away, the little creep would have nothing on me.
Detective Murphy: So you checked the paperwork and then got even with Andy Fine. Got him drunk on that 12-pack and then killed him. Did you cut off his hand because that's the hand he used to take your money?
Chas Laughlin: Hey, you ain't pinning that asswipe's death on me. Whoever did Andy Fine did all right by me, but I didn't do him. I might have wanted to, but I know how the system works. Offing somebody attracts too much heat.
Detective Murphy: Unless you hide the body really well. You gotta dig deeper next time, Chas.
Dennis Grisham: This really has gone far enough.
Detective Armstrong: We want to help you, Mr. Laughlin, but you have to help us. Maybe Andy came back later that night for another bonus and you'd had couple too many out of that twelve pack, and maybe you just lost control. It would be understandable. Maybe he started a fight, and you took him out in self-defense and then panicked and hid the body. If that's what happened, now's a good time to help yourself out. Any later, and coming clean won't do anything for you.
Dennis Grisham: That's it! Chas, not another word, not one! Are you charging my client?
Detective Armstrong: Not at this time.
Dennis Grisham: Then we're done. This interview is over. He's free to go?
Detective Murphy: Yeah, but keep yourself where we can find you, Chas.
End interview - 1:22 p.m.