Jonah Dale interview
The detectives spoke to Jonah Dale at the crime scene, after he found his daughter's body and called 911.
Saturday, January 27, 2001 – 9:28 a.m.
Jonah Dale discovered his daughter's body when he arrived at her home to take her and her daughter to breakfast.
Detectives Armstrong and Murphy interviewed him at the crime scene, 311 Elm Street. The interview was recorded with the witness's knowledge and consent.
- Detective T. Armstrong
- Detective S. Murphy
- Jonah Dale
Detective Murphy: For the record sir, could you please state your name and address?
Jonah Dale: My name is Jonah Dale. I live at 805 College Hill Road in Oxford.
Detective Murphy: You told the first officer that the victim is your daughter, Melissa Hammond?
Jonah Dale: Yes, Missy is my girl… my poor little girl.
Detective Murphy: Do you need a moment, sir? To compose yourself?
Detective Armstrong: We can move this down to the station if that's easier for you, sir.
Jonah Dale: No, I'm fine. She's already gone. I mean… they took her… body. Maybe some coffee? We're right here in the kitchen. Y'all want some coffee? I could make some…
Detective Murphy: No, please, don't trouble yourself.
Jonah Dale: I feel like I should be doing something…
Detective Murphy: We do understand, sir, and we're very sorry for your loss. We'll try to make this as quick as possible. Shall we get started?
Jonah Dale: I'm sorry. Of course, please go on.
Detective Murphy: OK. According to Officer Quinlan's report you arrived here about 8:00 this morning?
Jonah Dale: Yes. I come by every Saturday morning to take the girls to breakfast. Kind of a family tradition.
Detective Murphy: So you arrived. Did you ring the bell or just come in?
Jonah Dale: I knocked on the door, like I always do. Then in a couple of minutes, Liddie came to the door and let me in. Right then, I knew something was wrong.
Detective Armstrong: Why's that?
Jonah Dale: Well, Missy doesn't like Liddie to answer the door herself. She's pretty strong on that issue. Missy is real protective of our little Liddie.
Detective Armstrong: Because Liddie is so young?
Jonah Dale: Well, partly. Then too because of her ex-husband, Roger.
Detective Murphy: There was trouble with your daughter's ex-husband?
Jonah Dale: They had a bad divorce. What a mess! Then after the divorce, there was more trouble.
Detective Murphy: What kind of trouble?
Jonah Dale: Roger — that's Liddie's father — he gets riled pretty easy. Anyway, they had quite a few tussles after the divorce, and Missy couldn't take it anymore. There was a real ugly incident back last summer, and after that, Missy got the court to give her an order that has kept him away from her and Liddie ever since then.
Detective Murphy: You daughter had an Order of Protection against her ex-husband?
Jonah Dale: I suppose that's what they called it. Long story short, he's not allowed to come near her or Liddie. So, Missy worried about that some, worried Roger might just show up at the door anyway.
Detective Armstrong: Do you think that's something he would do?
Jonah Dale: One thing I'll say for the boy, he really does love Liddie. I'm sure it ain't easy for him not to see her. I know if it were me, I'd be suffering over that.
Detective Armstrong: Had your daughter said that her ex-husband had done this? Come by unannounced?
Jonah Dale: Oh, no. He never did that I know of. Just she worried that he might. Like I said, she's pretty protective, and she does fret a lot about things that never happen. My daughter is just nervous sometimes.
Detective Armstrong: OK, got it. So, Liddie answered the door. Then what happened.
Jonah Dale: I asked her, where was her mama? She didn't answer right away. She didn't look right. I thought maybe she was sick or something. Then she says in little voice, "Mama's in bed." I can't say why, but something in me said something was real wrong. So I went back to her room.
Detective Murphy: To your daughter's bedroom?
Jonah Dale: Yes. I knocked on the door, and she didn't answer. I called out to her and no answer.
Detective Murphy: The bedroom door was closed?
Jonah Dale: Partly. I didn't want to just barge in, if she was getting dressed or something.
Detective Murphy: And when she didn't answer, then you went inside?
Jonah Dale: Soon as I saw her I knew.
Detective Murphy: Knew what?
Jonah Dale: That she was…
Detective Murphy: Dead? How did you know?
Jonah Dale: She was just so still. And pale. I went over to the bed and could see she wasn't moving or breathing, but I just couldn't believe it, you know? I… I, I touched her cheek… like ice…
Detective Armstrong: Did you touch your daughter in any other way? Did you try to revive her, put your arms around her, anything like that?
Jonah Dale: Yes, I did. I held her hand and stroked her hair. I knew she couldn't hear me, but I… Sorry, I suppose I shouldn't have done that... I just couldn't believe it. I just talked to her yesterday on the phone. She sounded so happy and cheerful. Anyway, then I called y'all.
Detective Armstrong: Then what did you do?
Jonah Dale: I went back to Liddie. There she was, sitting on the sofa, quiet as a china doll. I called my cousin Johnny, and he and his wife, Adele, came and got Liddie and took her back to their place.
Detective Murphy: Johnny who?
Jonah Dale: Johnny McPhail. Thank God for him and Adele. They came right over. They wanted to stay and wait with me, but I wanted Liddie out of the house before they came to take Missy. Didn't want her to see that.
Detective Murphy: Did your granddaughter tell you anything about her mother? Did she offer any explanations?
Jonah Dale: She asked if her mama was sick. I told her yeah, she was. I just couldn't tell her the truth. But I think she knew. Children seem to know these things whether you tell them or not.
Detective Armstrong: Yes, children do sense things. What else did Liddie say to you?
Jonah Dale: She said her mama was sleeping when she come home from her visit with her grandparents, the Hammonds. They're Roger's parents. So, she put on her PJs and got into bed with her mama and went to sleep.
Detective Armstrong: Does she often spend time with her paternal grandparents?
Jonah Dale: Every Friday afternoon and evening. They pick her up at school, have some dinner, take her skating or to a movie or something, and bring her back about 8:30.
Detective Armstrong: How long have the Hammonds been doing that?
Jonah Dale: I don't know. A few months, I guess. Maybe longer. I don't really know. You'd have to ask them.
Detective Murphy: The Order of Protection against their son didn't stop those visits?
Jonah Dale: Even though Roger doesn't see Liddie, Missy doesn't want to punish Liddie's grandparents, you know? They can't be responsible for their son being a jackass. So Missy agreed to the arrangement. Too, Liddie loves her grandparents and wants to see them, so Missy didn't have the heart to say no.
Detective Armstrong: Wouldn't the Hammonds have noticed something when they brought Liddie home, if your daughter was already deceased or incapacitated at that time?
Jonah Dale: Well, they don't come in when they bring her back. They just wait for her to get in the house and flash the porch light to let them know she's inside and OK.
Detective Armstrong: Why's that?
Jonah Dale: Like I said, the divorce was pretty bad. The Hammonds don't get on well with Missy either. Well, Mrs. Hammond anyway. So they avoid contact with each other.
Detective Armstrong: So, the last time you spoke to your daughter was yesterday? About what time was that?
Jonah Dale: Around lunch time. We talked about having breakfast this morning. Missy always works on Saturdays, so we were going to have breakfast, and then Missy was going to go to work, and me and Liddie were going to go bowling and rent a movie later. After Missy was done with work, we were going to have some dinner. You know, the usual family things.
Detective Murphy: Did she mention anything that was bothering her?
Jonah Dale: No, but she wouldn't have anyway. My daughter doesn't like to worry me, so even if something was bothering her, she wouldn't have said. You could ask Johnny. I know she liked to confide in him sometimes.
Detective Armstrong: Do you know if she had any plans after work yesterday?
Jonah Dale: She didn't say, but I think she was going to spend some time with that fellow she was seeing.
Detective Murphy: What's his name?
Jonah Dale: JP Wallace. I only met him one time. Can't say I cared much for him.
Detective Armstrong: Any particular reason?
Jonah Dale: Kind of rough around the edges, if you know what I mean. I guess fathers never think any man is good enough for their daughters. Ain't that right?
Detective Murphy: You know how we can contact Mr. Wallace?
Jonah Dale: His number's probably in her book. I don't know where he lives or works or anything. Like I said, I only met him the one time, and I guess that was a couple, three months back.
Detective Murphy: Do you think this JP Wallace was capable of hurting your daughter?
Jonah Dale: I don't know. Maybe.
Detective Armstrong: What about your former son-in-law?
Jonah Dale: I don't know. I mean, he and Missy were on the outs, but he's Liddie's father. What father would kill his child's mother? Have to be a monster to do that, if you ask me.
Detective Murphy: Are you aware of anyone threatening your daughter?
Jonah Dale: No, I'm not. Though, I think she thought maybe somebody had tried to break in not too long ago. The back door looked like somebody tried to jimmy it. I replaced the locks and put in dead bolts for her right after that.
Detective Armstrong: Do you know if she called the police when that happened?
Jonah Dale: Oh yes, she did. They took a report, but it didn't look like anything was taken. We don't even know if he got in.
Detective Murphy: Anything else you can tell us?
Jonah Dale: I don't know.
Detective Murphy: When you came in, did you notice anything that seemed out of place, anything like that?
Jonah Dale: No, not really… well, I think she must've spilled something on the floor, looked like a stain by her chair in the living room. But I haven't been here for a week, so could have been Liddie spilling her Coke or something.
Detective Murphy: OK, we'll check that out.
Jonah Dale: OK.
Detective Armstrong: We are going to need to talk to your granddaughter… in a few days.
Jonah Dale: I figured. I just want her to have some time, first. You know?
Detective Armstrong: Yes, sir, we understand.
Jonah Dale: I'd like to go be with her now, if that's OK with you folks.
Detective Murphy: Of course. Thank you for answering our questions. And we are very sorry for your loss.
Jonah Dale: Thank you, ma'am.
End interview – 10:03 a.m.