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Follow-up interview with Matthew Owens

June 27, 1997, Owens was contacted by telephone and came to the station voluntarily.

A = Armstrong
O = Owens

A:Thanks for coming. Let's start --
Owens: No problem.
A: -- at the beginning. Specifically when did you start watching the victim?
O: I guess it was around the beginning of February. The first week. I don't know which day.
A: What was your motive?
Owens: Like I said before. Purity brought bad times. I wanted her to know what she was doing.
A: What do you mean by bad times?
O: The thing with Val. Other things.
A: Such as?
O: You don't understand. When she showed up, it all fell apart. Everything. My life.
A. When she showed up in January?
O: Yeah, I guess. But also from before, the fact that she was in Val's life.
A: Please try to be specific, Mr. Owens. What happened?
O: Aside from Val?
A: Yes.
O: For starts my parents split up. They told me over the phone. Families aren't supposed to do that.
Armstrong: When was that?
O: January. January 17th is when I heard.
A: What else?
O: Oh, the usual. You know, job stuff. It's hard when you have a criminal record. It made me angry. I was living pretty poor.
A: What else?
O: I guess that's it. You wouldn't understand.
A: No, I don't. What could have possibly made you blame Purity?
O: Obvious - it's obvious. Everything about her made me angry. She's about everything I hate. No morals. And she's a criminal like me, but she's not paying for it. Hypocrisy.
A: There was no criminal record for the victim. What do you mean by criminal?
O: She's a killer. She killed her kid. And Val - I still feel like they met and then the next thing you know, Val is dead.
A: We've already discussed this. Is there anything new to add? Why else was she a criminal?
O: I guess it just bugged me that she was a hypocrite morally. Everyone felt sorry for her when really she was corrupt.
A: Did anyone feel sorry for you?
O: No.
A: Why not?
O: I don't let them.
A: You don't talk to people?
O: No. My problems - I keep them to myself. I like it that way.
A: But you chose Purity as a scapegoat.
O: I guess so -- but no, it's more than that. Not just a scapegoat. I felt like in a way her being here caused it. Her moral force had an active role in everything. I guess that's crazy.
A: How poor were you?
O: I didn't buy textbooks. I didn't go out. I barely covered rent. Poor.
A: Poor enough to take bribes?
O: What?
A: Did someone pay you to watch her?
O: No. No. (laughs) I wish! I could be rich by now.
A: What about the film? Where did that come from?
O: Look, I did eventually get a job. I'm not proud of it - I worked at the cafeteria on campus. I did have some cash. And she was a priority. She came right after the rent.
A: What about Ego Shovel? They weren't paying you?
O: Who?
A: What do you know about Ego Shovel?
O: Ego Shovel?
A: Yes.
O: Never heard of him. Or it. What is it, some kind of code?
A: Never mind. What other jobs have you had?
O: Not much. Like I said, it's tough. I've worked in a couple of restaurants. A few bit parts, no big roles yet.
A: Tell me what you saw when you watched her.
O: Not much. She was pretty tame. She was hardly around. She talked on the phone a lot. Sometimes she danced around in her room.
A: What kind of music?
O: I have no idea. Maybe none. She never had it up loud. But she danced fast. Lots of bouncing around.
A: What else?
O: She wrote letters. And read.
A: Did you ever see her with anyone?
O: The roommate.
A: Anyone else? Did you see a boyfriend?
O: No. Never.
A: Never?
O: Look, I wasn't there every night. I might have missed something. Is that OK with you?
A: Did you ever follow her? Watch her somewhere other than the apartment?
O: Once I went to the shelter. I almost got caught. After that, just at her place.
A: You never followed her or saw her at Cooter's farm?
O: No.
A: But you know about it?
O: Heard of it.
A: What have you heard?
O: Someone mentioned a wild party there once. Just someone in class.
A: You've never been there?
O: I work too hard for that kind of stuff - parties. Not my scene.
A: So back to Ms. Knight. She was pretty much a solitary type?
O: As far as I could tell. Like I said, sometimes she wasn't there and sometimes I wasn't there.
A: What did you do when she wasn't there?
O: Left.
A: Did she seem happy?
O: No. Yes. Like everyone. Sometimes she cried. In the armchair in the corner of her room. She would just sit there and cry.
A: Did she ever seem suicidal?
O: Oh no. Nothing like that. Toward the end I think she was worn out. You know, nervous.
A: Because she knew about being stalked.
O: Right.
A: When was the last time you saw her?
O: The night of March 2, when I almost got caught.
A: Never afterwards?
O: No. I came by a couple of times but she was gone.
A: All right. We've talked about what you saw. What about when you called? Did you talk to her on the phone?
O: Yeah. No. I mean, I called a couple of times to scare her. Hung up, you know, heavy breathing and all that. I told her someone's watching. Just a few calls. I wanted to scare her. We didn't really converse.
A: But she took the calls?
O: Yeah. Oh yeah. She would always listen. I was always the one who hung up. Sometimes she would start asking questions. Not in a panicked way either. Just wanting to know more about me.
A: Did you ever answer?
O: No. A couple of times when she asked stuff I laughed, or I just kept saying I was watching.
A: When was the last time you called?
O: A couple of days before I almost got caught. I guess it was right around the first of March. I didn't call that often.
A: What about the notes? They seem to imply you knew something about the kidnapping.
O: Like I said, I could tell something bad was going down. I just felt it. It wasn't like her to be gone so long.
A: But the map -
O: Look, let's get this straight. I sent notes to her, and I talked to her on the phone. But the poetry - that's not me. I didn't send anything to you in the mail - only the note I put on the car.
A: Can you prove it?
O: I'm just not that creative. Trust me.
A: We'll need more than that.
O: It's not me. Look, if it were me, I wouldn't have sent you clues. I'm not that arrogant. Pride comes before a fall.
A: Do you have a computer?
O: (laughs) Oh sure! I can hardly afford rent, and you think I have a computer?
A: All right. What about the ransom note?
O: Not me.
A: You said you were poor.
O: Yeah, but so was she. That's something - she was always counting her money. She would take it out of her wallet and count it. She would sit there staring at the dollar bills, holding them in her hands and staring at them.
A: What else?
O: She and her roomie argued a lot. They would always be looking at the phone bill and talking about it and getting upset. She paid for her rent in cash.
A: How much do you know about Knight's family in Arkansas?
O: Nothing. Just what's on your site. Enough.
A: Enough to know they're wealthy?
O: I guess. If her dad's a lawyer, sure. But I don't think like that. It wouldn't occur to me to go after money like that. I want to do what's right.
A: Do you know Jake Rohleen?
O: No. Never met him.
A: Have you ever been to Memphis or Jackson?
O: Oh sure. Both.
A: Specifically when were you last in Memphis?
O: Last summer. I went to a concert. I even went with a couple of friends so you can check it out. OK?
A: What about Jackson?
O: I went to audition at New Stages-Jackson right after Christmas. December 28 was the date.
A: Have you ever been out of the country?
O: No.
A: Do you have a passport?
O: No. I don't get it. Why is this important?
A: Never mind. Do you go to church?
O: Sometimes.
A: Which one?
O: The First Baptist Church on Lamar.
A: Describe it.
O: what does this have to do with anything?
A: Please, Mr. Owens. We're almost through.
O: Okay, It's in town. There's a parking lot. The church is modern looking.
A: Is land around it?
O: No.
A: A cemetery?
O: No.
A: How often do you go?
O: I have no idea. Whenever I need to sit and meditate on stuff. I guess I last went the weekend after I heard she was dead.
A: What did you think about?
O: How this world is a pretty sick place.
A: You weren't glad?
O: No. I don't believe in violence like that. I just want people to understand what's right. I never hurt her. I don't have the mind for it. I don't believe in killing.
A: All right. Tell me, what are you doing now?
O: I'm still around. Looking for more work -- I want to do theatre work.
A: All right. Thank you, Mr. Owens. Good luck.
O: Thank you.

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