Tuesday, February 20, 2001 – 11:10 a.m.
Jonah Dale was Missy Hammond's father.
Detectives Armstrong and Murphy re-interviewed him at the Yoknapatawpha County Sheriff's Department.
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: Mr. Dale, thank you for coming in for this interview. We have a few follow-up questions, which shouldn't take long.
Jonah Dale: Anything I can tell you… if it will help find who did this to her… Sorry, I still can't believe this has happened. Don't know what will become of poor little Liddie.
Detective Murphy: It was my understanding that your daughter named you as Liddie's guardian in the event of her death.
Detective Armstrong: Has something changed in the custody status of your granddaughter, sir?
Jonah Dale: No. Not officially. But the Hammonds… I'm sure you're aware they have money and influence in this town.
Detective Murphy: Yes, we're aware of their standing in the community.
Jonah Dale: It wouldn't surprise me if they challenged the custody.
Detective Murphy: Have they indicated that they intend to do so? Have you received word of such intent?
Jonah Dale: They're very attached to her. Adore her, really. Almost as much as they adore their son.
Detective Murphy: You believe they'll try to seek custody or help your son-in-law regain custody of his daughter?
Jonah Dale: Of course I do. I'm just a working stiff, ma'am. I don't make any kind of money. I do OK… but if they want to take it to court, there won't be much I can do.
Detective Murphy: Have you been served with any papers? Legal documents?
Jonah Dale: No. Not yet. But every time I hear someone knock on the door or the phone rings, my heart stops for a second. Sorry, detectives. Just an old man's worryings. Maybe they'll do the right thing and let her stay with her family.
Detective Armstrong: The Hammonds are her family too, right?
Jonah Dale: Yes, I suppose you're right.
Detective Murphy: Do you have any reason to believe they aren't Liddie's family?
Jonah Dale: What do you mean, ma'am?
Detective Murphy: It's our understanding that your daughter had plans to have a blood test done to determine paternity. Do you know anything about that?
Jonah Dale: I wouldn't say I know anything about it. Had my suspicions, but no proof of nothing.
Detective Armstrong: Did you suspect that Roger Hammond is not your granddaughter's father?
Jonah Dale: She don't seem to have any Hammond in her if you know what I mean? Doesn't really look like any of them. Sure doesn't act like any of them. She's a Dale, through and through.
Detective Armstrong: Yes, sir, but did your daughter ever tell you that she was planning on having the paternity test? Did she ever tell you she believed that Roger Hammond wasn't Liddie's father?
Jonah Dale: Not outright. You have to understand how Missy was. She didn't come out and say things like that. More like she thought out loud, wondering why Liddie didn't favor her father and such. But she never mentioned any test, no.
Detective Murphy: Did you ever meet your daughter's boyfriend, JP Wallace?
Jonah Dale: Not really. Saw him a few times, but we weren't on any kind of friendly basis.
Detective Murphy: Any particular reason?
Jonah Dale: Wasn't the type I warmed to if you know what I mean. You could see he was trouble from a distance. No reason to get up close.
Detective Murphy: And Missy was aware of your feelings towards him?
Jonah Dale: She knew he wouldn't be the type I'd've picked for her, but children have to do things their own way. Can't make them see things before they're ready to.
Detective Armstrong: You think your daughter would have realized he wasn't a good choice for a companion eventually?
Jonah Dale: Yeah, I guess I did. Least, I hoped she would. She had a nice boyfriend through most of high school, Steve. After him, her choices got worse and worse. There was Roger, a spoiled, useless devil, and then there was this one, JP. But she was a grown woman, made her own choices. I stayed out of it.
Detective Armstrong: Mr. Wallace seems to think you may have had something to do with your daughter's death.
Jonah Dale: He what? That lowlife! How could anybody think such a thing? She was my little girl. I never did anything but love her and try to raise her best I could. I'd give my own life if I could bring her back to life, back to her little girl.
Detective Murphy: You didn't argue or have any falling out with Missy?
Jonah Dale: No, never! Oh sure, we argued sometimes about me being over-protective, especially when she was growing up. She always wanted to be so independent, didn't want any help. I had to make her take money from me, so she and Liddie could have what they needed. Roger wasn't always so good about paying the support like he was supposed to. We argued about that sort of thing. But I never raised a hand to my child. Never!
Detective Murphy: Do you know anything about the rope found in the basement of your daughter's home?
Jonah Dale: Hmm… I helped her lug that armchair home after she bought it in a second-hand store. Had to tie down the trunk. That could have been the rope that I used. I really don't know. I work in a hardware store, always have this and that laying around: tape, rope, tools, nails, tacks, what-have-you.
Detective Armstrong: When was that? When you helped her bring home the recliner?
Jonah Dale: A couple months ago, not too long before Christmas, I guess. Maybe Liddie was using it for a jump rope. I don't think I took it home with me, but I honestly don't remember.
Detective Armstrong: Did Liddie play in the basement often?
Jonah Dale: Yeah, some. I made her a dollhouse that was too big for her room, so she had that down there. And she liked to jump rope and play her radio and sing along down there. Guess she was pretending it was her own apartment like her mama did when she was little.
Detective Armstrong: Do you know what happened to the screen for the basement window?
Jonah Dale: It was old and ripped up. I took it out a couple weeks before Missy— before it happened to her. I was going to cut a new screen and put it in. I forgot about it though. Still have it in my workshop. Maybe if I'd've fixed it…
Detective Armstrong: Mr. Dale, it's been my experience as a police officer that if someone wants to break into a home, a screen won't stop them.
Jonah Dale: I expect you're right, but I keep thinking about what I could've done. Keep thinking about how I talked to her that day. She was so up and happy… it just doesn't make sense.
Detective Armstrong: Do you remember what time you talked to Missy on the day of her death?
Jonah Dale: It was around lunchtime. I had a couple minutes before I had to get back to work and I just wanted to say hi.
Detective Murphy: Where were you when you called her?
Jonah Dale: At the store.
Detective Murphy: And where was she?
Jonah Dale: At the beauty shop.
Detective Armstrong: Any particular reason you didn't wait and just call her that evening? At home? Instead of calling her while y'all we both at work?
Jonah Dale: Well, Friday night was her date night, and it's not a good idea for your daddy to call you when you're on a date. At least, she didn't think so. I wanted to make sure we were all having breakfast and to see how long she was going to be working the next day.
Detective Murphy: Why?
Jonah Dale: Just wanted to know how much time me and Liddie would have to goof off during the afternoon. We were all going to have dinner later, and I was thinking we could go somewhere nice. Wanted to make reservations.
Detective Armstrong: Were you celebrating anything?
Jonah Dale: Yeah, a little bit. I made my final mortgage payment that week, and I guess I wanted to celebrate a little. She didn't know it, but I was going to help her buy a new car with the little extra I was going to have.
Detective Murphy: Couldn't the Hammonds have helped her out with a car? Since that's their business?
Jonah Dale: The Hammonds had no love for my daughter. They think she wronged their son, and they had no use for her. Except to be able to see Liddie.
Detective Armstrong: You don't like the Hammonds much, do you?
Jonah Dale: No, sir, I don't. They treated my daughter like a second class citizen and their son like a prince. Always buying things for Liddie to try to make her mother look bad. Taking her out to that brand new skating rink and to expensive restaurants. Buying her fancy clothes. Just trying to buy the child's love.
Detective Murphy: Did Missy allow Liddie to keep the expensive gifts?
Jonah Dale: Not all of them. And that caused all hell to break loose too. Liddie would pout and pout and tell Missy she'd go live with her daddy and leave her all alone if Missy didn't let her keep them.
Detective Murphy: But your daughter had sole custody, correct? Roger Hammond had no visitation rights whatever?
Jonah Dale: Not any legal rights, if that's what you mean, but something tells me that he was finding a way anyhow.
Detective Armstrong: You believe that Roger Hammond was seeing Liddie secretly?
Jonah Dale: Yes. Funny things she'd say sometimes. Like how her daddy said this or that. Or how she and her daddy went someplace. Then when I'd ask her about it, she'd say she meant before, when she used to see him.
Detective Murphy: So it's your belief that the Hammonds were facilitating your son-in-law in seeing Liddie?
Jonah Dale: I sure wouldn't put it past them. They think because they got the money, they can break the rules. I knew ol' Tommy Hammond when he was in school, and he was all right. The minute he married Gloria, he became a snob just like his wife and her family. After years of that, it rubs off.
Detective Armstrong: Did you ever see Liddie with her father after his visitation was revoked?
Jonah Dale: No, I never did. Like I said, I just had a suspicion, but nothing I could prove.
Detective Murphy: Did you ever tell Missy about your suspicions?
Jonah Dale: No, I never did. Didn't want to stir up trouble, if you know what I mean. She had enough worries without my adding something to them that I wasn't even sure about. Maybe I should've told her, but I didn't.
Detective Murphy: OK, Mr. Dale, just a couple more questions. According to our records, on the morning you discovered your daughter's body, you talked to your cousin, Johnny McPhail for seven minutes and the 911 call only lasted four minutes.
Jonah Dale: Uh-huh.
Detective Murphy: Can you explain why you were on the phone so long with your cousin?
Jonah Dale: I was pretty rattled, don't really remember how long I talked to him. My girl was dead, and my Liddie was white as a ghost. I was just rambling on and on, and he was trying to settle me down before y'all got to the house. Reckon he was afraid I was going be a blubbering fool when y'all arrived and I wouldn't be able to tell you nothing. And he was worried that Liddie would see me all upset and kept saying I had to think of her and pull myself together.
Detective Murphy: OK. And that morning when you arrived, you're certain the television was on?
Jonah Dale: Yes, ma'am.
Detective Armstrong: But you don't remember what lights were on?
Jonah Dale: Well, I know a couple were on. It was kinda overcast that day, had to have some lights on. But no, I don't remember which ones.
Detective Armstrong: Anything else you can tell us?
Jonah Dale: Nothing to tell but something to ask. Liddie's been wanting her mama's necklace. It says "#1 Mom" on it. Liddie gave it to her mama on Missy's last birthday. I helped her pick it out for her. Do you folks have it? We can't find it in the house anywhere.
Detective Murphy: I can check the inventory list for you and get back to you on that. Off the top of my head, I don't know.
Jonah Dale: I'd appreciate it, ma'am.
Detective Murphy: Thanks for your time.
End interview – 12:03 p.m.