Jeff Harte interview
Monday, September 17, 2012 – 9:00 a.m.
Jeff Harte is the owner of the Harte Agency where Annette Wyatt was found murdered.
Detectives Murphy and Parker interviewed him at the Yoknapatawpha County Sheriff’s Department. The interview was recorded with the witness’s knowledge and consent.
- Detective S. Murphy
- Detective E. Parker
- Jeff Harte
Detective Murphy: Good morning, Mr. Harte. Thank you for coming down today.
Jeff Harte: Of course. I still can’t believe this is happening.
Detective Murphy: For the record, could you please state your name and address?
Jeff Harte: Jeff Harte, 392 Country Club Road. Have you found out who did it? I swear, if I ever find them.
Detective Parker: The investigation is still under way. It would help a lot if you could answer a few questions for us.
Jeff Harte: Yes, yes. I’ll do anything to help.
Detective Parker: Can you tell us where you were Saturday night?
Jeff Harte: I was still at the office, finishing up paperwork for some clients I have to meet this week.
Detective Murphy: What time did you get there?
Jeff Harte: Around 9:00 a.m. We’re open from 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. on Saturdays.
Detective Murphy: Was anyone else at the office with you?
Jeff Harte: No. Well, I saw Annette pull into the parking lot as I was leaving. I assumed she was just picking up something she left behind. I was in a hurry, so I didn’t ask.
Detective Parker: Was that the last time you saw Ms. Wyatt?
Jeff Harte: Yes.
Detective Parker: What time did you leave?
Jeff Harte: Around 6:30, maybe 7:00. I decided to take the rest of the night off to spend some time with my wife at home, now that she’s pregnant and needs some more help around the house. But maybe I shouldn’t have. If I had just stayed at the office…
Detective Parker: Who else has access to your office on weekends?
Jeff Harte: All of the agents in my company have keys to the office – Annette, Kurt Grubman, Sofia Church. Like I said, we’re open Saturdays and also Sundays from 1:00 to 5:00 p.m. The agents usually rotate working in the office on weekends. Meg Lancaster, the receptionist, also has a set of keys. She sometimes comes in to help out on weekends when we’re overloaded.
Detective Murphy: So you and Ms. Wyatt were on the rotation for this weekend?
Jeff Harte: It was just supposed to be me this weekend.
Detective Murphy: And you didn’t find it odd that Ms. Wyatt would drop by the office on a Saturday night when she didn’t have to work?
Jeff Harte: Look, our agency deals with a lot of clients. Sometimes all the agents work on weekends whether they’re scheduled or not, either to meet with clients or to prepare for meetings the following week.
Detective Parker: Was anyone else working this weekend besides you and Ms. Wyatt?
Jeff Harte: Just the two of us, as far as I know.
Detective Parker: Do you know what Mrs. Church was doing at the office yesterday?
Jeff Harte: Not specifically, but I’m sure she was working on something for a client. All my agents work really hard.
Detective Murphy: How would you characterize your relationship with Ms. Wyatt?
Jeff Harte: Annette is–was–a great friend and lead agent at Harte Agency, the only one who was there for me in the agency’s early days. Clients would flock to her like moths to a flame. Without her support, I probably wouldn’t be where I am today.
Detective Parker: Aside from business, what else do you know about Ms. Wyatt? Has she spoken to you about her personal life?
Jeff Harte: I can’t tell you much. Annette’s private life was just that – private. She might have been seeing someone recently, but I’ve never seen him, let alone heard his name.
Detective Parker: Did Ms. Wyatt have any enemies at work?
Jeff Harte: Not to my knowledge. She got along fine with everyone.
Detective Murphy: What about in the real-estate business? Anyone who might have been jealous of her success?
Jeff Harte: I’m not sure. Annette came to me about two years ago telling me that Rita Pearce, from Pearce Brokers, our biggest competitor, had approached her with a job offer.
Detective Parker: What was her response?
Jeff Harte: Of course Annette turned her down flat. I couldn’t ask for more loyalty from anyone.
Detective Parker: Have the two of you ever disagreed on any business decisions?
Jeff Harte: Not really. We trusted each other completely. We only ever argued when she kept pressing me to make her a business partner in the agency.
Detective Parker: How often did this topic come up?
Jeff Harte: Quite a few times, more often these past couple of months for some reason.
Detective Murphy: She’s worked for you for how many years?
Jeff Harte: Almost 13 years now.
Detective Murphy: That’s a long time. Why didn’t you make her a partner?
Jeff Harte: Like I told her, it just wasn’t the right time. Especially with the issues we’ve been having.
Detective Murphy: Could you tell us more about that?
Jeff Harte: It started about three months ago. There have been at least four or five clients who just dropped out at the last minute right when we were about to close a deal. Everything would be fine, and the next day we would get a call saying that they were no longer interested in doing business with us.
Detective Parker: That must be rough. Can you name some of those clients?
Jeff Harte: Two days before I was set to close the deal with the Hankins, they leave me a voicemail saying they’ve found a better offer. And Kurt, three hours before his meeting with the Sanders to sign the contract, they call the office to cancel the meeting. And what do you know, all of these clients ended up going to Pearce Brokers.
Detective Murphy: How do you know that?
Jeff Harte: Well, once I realized that these were more than coincidences, I had Annette look into the situation. I told her to investigate the possibility of a mole at the Harte Agency that was relaying information to Pearce Brokers. That was three weeks ago.
Detective Parker: Did anyone else know what Ms. Wyatt was up to?
Jeff Harte: No, this was a secret investigation. The only other person who knew about it besides me and Annette was Elliott Owens.
Detective Murphy: What was his role in all this?
Jeff Harte: Elliott does freelance IT work for our company. He was helping her look for any security breaches in our company database.
Detective Murphy: So what did they find?
Jeff Harte: I don’t know. On Friday, Annette told me that we would know who the leak was on Monday. No matter how much I pressed her, she wouldn’t tell me any more than that. I thought that maybe this was her way of getting back at me for putting off making her a partner, but…. What if she found out something that put her life in danger? I never thought that things would turn out this way.
Detective Parker: Will the investigation for the leak continue? Or has it been put off?
Jeff Harte: With the way things are now, I don’t want anyone else involved. Elliott is still on the case. He’ll have to work on his own for a while, though it seems like he hasn’t made much progress.
Detective Murphy: Mr. Harte, if you were investigating this case, who would you talk to?
Jeff Harte: I would talk to Elliott. He’s the only other person who might know the identity of the leak at the Harte Agency. Maybe Kurt and Meg? They were working more with Annette lately than I was.
Detective Parker: And one last question. Do you own a nail gun?
Jeff Harte: A nail gun? Not for personal use. I bought one for the agency a few years ago as part of an emergency maintenance toolbox.
Detective Parker: And where is that toolbox usually kept?
Jeff Harte: In the workroom by the copy machine.
Detective Parker: When was the last time you saw it there?
Jeff Harte: I have no idea.
Detective Murphy: That’ll be all for now, Mr. Harte. Thank you for coming in today. We’ll be in touch if we have any more questions.
Jeff Harte: I’m happy to help. Annette’s killer needs to be brought to justice. Keep me updated.
Detective Murphy: We will.
Interview ends - 9:24 a.m.