(Introduction to show begins)
TODD MATTHEWS (Missing Pieces Host): I’m Todd Matthews. This is Missing Pieces and tonight we have an old friend and a new friend actually, Bill Widman. How are you doing Bill?
BILL WIDMAN (Guest): Hey, great. I’m glad to be with you.
TODD: It took a long time but we finally got around to blocking time up with you.
BILL: Well, I’m still here and I’m ready to go.
TODD: Now where are you located at in the country?
BILL: I’m in Chatham County, North Carolina, just outside of Chapel Hill and Carrboro.
TODD: That’s probably very similar to where I am at here in Tennessee. We want to talk to you tonight about…you call yourself a ‘Friend of Debbie Key’.
TODD: So, on December 1st, 1997, that was the last time that Debbie Key was ever seen.
BILL: That was the last time anybody had ever seen her.
TODD: Now how are you connected to Debbie?
BILL: Debbie and I were members of the same circle of friends. I have not had as much contact with her as my other friends, but they all seem to think, for some strange reason, that I should be the one to tell the story, so here I am.
TODD: You’re here. (Laughter) I’ve looked forward to this interview for a long time; I’ve shared a lot of emails with you, and I was kind of saving yours aside because like I’ve said before, yours was a sure thing and I knew you had a story to tell and you had no problem telling it.
BILL: I love telling this story.
TODD: Well I’m glad. And I’m glad she was…
BILL: That’s why I started the website. http://www.debbiekey.org/
TODD: And you’ve got a great website. We have links to your website and you’ll have a permanent page here at Missing Pieces. We’ll have you transcribed and you will be here for as long as we can keep you online with it.
BILL: I appreciate it. I feel that this is a story that needs to be told.
TODD: Okay, can you take us back to December 1st, 1997?
BILL: Okay, December 1st, 1997, yes…it was actually the last day of November in the evening, which that year was Thanksgiving weekend, it was the Sunday night of Thanksgiving weekend, November 30th, and Debbie was out at ‘Sticks and Stones’ which was a really popular watering hole in Carrboro, North Carolina. My good friend, Joy Preslar, who I have known for decades, is a member of a band called Storm Front that often played there, but she wasn’t playing that night. That night, most of our friends were with their families. Debbie was staying at her mother’s place in Durham and she was out there partying; she’s a partygirl and that was her favorite hangout, and when Debbie went out drinking and partying, she usually did so with her friends and I’m sorry to say that she had a tendency to drink too much, but she always felt safe as long as she was with her friends, but that night, because it was Thanksgiving weekend, everybody else had family to be with and I wasn’t there either, and I regret that. Oh God, I can’t tell you how much I regret that. Everyone knew that Debbie was a very sweet person and a very trusting person…
TODD: Uh huh.
BILL: …so we tended to watch out for her. Debbie didn’t seem to understand that there were evil people in this world, you know, she was kind of naïve that way and so we all watched out for her, but we weren’t there for her that night and many of us feel great feelings of guilt over that, and that was the night that Andrew Dalzell, who started hanging out at this place called ‘Sticks and Stones’ which is in Carrboro, North Carolina. He came in and he started hitting on her, and I’m sorry to say, but Debbie was very drunk at that time and not as cautious as she usually is and it was in that parking lot that she was last seen by anyone, by really literally, anyone had seen her in that parking lot with the man called Andrew Dalzell. It took the police a long, long time to get any substantial evidence to link Debbie’s disappearance with this man, and I’m sorry to say that when they finally did, it didn’t hold up in court very well.
TODD: Because that was 7 years later that they actually did make a really good connection to him.
BILL: It was 7 years later that they finally made an arrest.
TODD: Now how did that come about where they actually made the arrest?
BILL: Andrew Dalzell was a person of interest at that time and the police had questioned him and they asked him to come to the Carrboro Police Department the next day and he agreed to do that…
TODD: Uh huh.
BILL: …but he went home and told his parents about it and his parents got a lawyer, and the lawyer was a man named James Williams, and he went to the Carrboro Police Department in Dalzell’s place and told them that his client will not be available for questioning. So it was 7 years later that they finally got something…Andrew Dalzell was a suspect, but only a suspect, or rather a person of interest, they didn’t have any physical evidence, but he was working at a hobby shop at University Mall, called Hungate’s, where he was fired for stealing merchandise, stealing from the cash register and a whole lot of things that they didn’t even know about at the time. So being suspected as a murderer was enough to make him paranoid and at that time he was living at an apartment in Carrboro that his parents were paying the bill for. This poor guy has never been able to keep a job for very long and had been living off of his parents basically; he had an apartment where they were footing the bill. Anyway his neighbors were giving him dirty looks because everyone thought that he was the killer, so he asked the Carrboro Police to come and provide security for him while he was moving out of his apartment when he was planning to go to Stanley, North Carolina, to stay with some relatives, and it was at that time that the Carrboro Police had noticed merchandise from Hungate’s Hobby Shop at University Mall, that he used to work at, and that he had a lot of these and they had notified Hungate’s, who apparently had not done a good job keeping track of their inventory. They were not even aware that he had stolen so much of their merchandise, that the Carrboro Police had reported seeing in his apartment. They told him he was fired because he was caught stealing from the cash register but he had also stolen a credit card receipt from a customer, which he had used for an online purchase, about $100 worth, for Russian mail-order brides, so they made a warrant out for that. And the Carrboro Police Detectives went to…a man who was District Attorney at that time, Carl Fox, who is now a judge in Orange and Chatham County, and so they made up a warrant for stealing merchandise and credit card fraud and that’s what the warrant for his arrest was actually for when they went to arrest him in Stanley in Gaston County. For 7 years the Carrboro Police have been working very hard to find some kind of physical evidence to link him with the murder of Debbie Key, and try as hard as they did, they couldn’t find anything, so they used this. They used this to their best advantage. They thought that if they arrested him without telling him what he was arrested for, he might spill, and he did. He actually did. They got a confession from him, but the judge didn’t like the way they got it, and you know, that upset a lot of people, including me…especially me. Yes, I was outraged.
TODD: Did you ever see the confession? Were you able to read a copy of the confession?
BILL: Yes…well, actually my friend, Joy Preslar, she had worked very closely with the Carrboro Police. The Carrboro Police, I have to say, have been very good to us. We’ve all talked to them, all of Debbie’s friends have talked to the Carrboro Police and we told them everything that we knew and they have been very, very cooperative with us, and I feel a very strong motivation to emphasize that the Police Department of Carrboro, North Carolina, have really done a conscientious job and I feel like I have to defend them, especially since the judge had reprimanded them the way that he did. He threw the confession out of court. They got a confession from Dalzell but the judge threw it out of court because he didn’t like the way they got it. I say, “They got it!”
TODD: Yeah. Yeah.
BILL: You know, they did what they had to do to get the confession and I find no fault with them for that.
TODD: Wow. So you say that you have read the confession, then?
BILL: Joy has read the confession. Joy has posted in the Debbie Key website what she had read from the confession and her response to that. http://friendsofdebbie.blogspot.com/2007/06/more-comment-from-joy.html Joy Preslar and I are very good friends, we’ve known each other for over 20 years and we have a really close relationship. She has really worked hard to bring this case to justice. Joy and Debbie were very, very close and, hey, she got me involved in the story.
BILL: So, yes, she was a very loyal friend and she was devastated when Debbie…she took this harder than anybody else and she’s worked very hard with the police, with the press, and with me, you know, to bring some kind of closure to this case, and being such a good friend, I have tried my very best to be supportive of her and that’s why I started the website.
TODD: Now how long have you had your website up?
BILL: I officially became the manager of the website in June 2007. There was a website started in 2005, actually 2006, because it was January 2005 that the trial was concluded, and every one of us was severely disappointed with the results of the trial, because they let the killer go…
TODD: Now where is he today?
BILL: …on a technicality!
BILL: On a mere technicality, they turned a dangerous person loose on the streets, and I was outraged, and so Joy and I decided, “Hey, we need to get together a website and tell the story,” so we did.
TODD: Now where is Andrew today?
BILL: Andrew, today, is in Stanley, North Carolina, living with relatives.
TODD: Have any of you had any contact with him?
BILL: He’s hoping that the story does not catch up with him.
TODD: Oh yeah, wow, but it’s going to, there’s no way around it.
TODD: So, somebody has had contact with him? Have you heard from him through your website?
BILL: No, I have not had contact with Andrew Dalzell. John Allore (Episode 28) has had contact from the mother of Andrew Dalzell, criticizing him for ‘Bad Dream House’ which I thought was an awesome story that John has written http://baddreamhouse.blogspot.com/ but no one in the Dalzell family has ever contacted me, though several friends of Debbie Key have.
TODD: So we need to link that story here as well, at this point in the interview so that people can connect over to that one. Now how did you… now, you are good friends with John Allore, how did you two hook up?
BILL: When he wrote ‘Bad Dream House’…
TODD: So that was the hook.
BILL: …I read that story and it gave me goosebumps, and I sent him an email and I said, “Hey, you know I appreciate what you said. I appreciate it.” I had heard that he had attended the trial of Andrew Dalzell and all of the support he had given, so when I took over the Debbie Key website I depended on him very much for support and for material to add to the website, and I have developed a very, very strong appreciation for him, for the moral support he has given me. So, yes, I consider John Allore a very good friend…
TODD: Have you ever met John in person?
BILL: …and friends of Debbie Key as well.
TODD: Have you and John met in person?
BILL: No, we have never met in person, and this is strange, because we’re both in the Chapel Hill area, but I’m on the south side of Chapel Hill and he’s on the north side. He works in Durham and I work and live in Chatham County, which is south of Chapel Hill, so physically our paths have never crossed but by email and through his website and Friends of Debbie Key, our paths have crossed many times.
TODD: And isn’t it amazing the relationships people can develop just over the telephone and over email?
BILL: Yes, it’s amazing, yes. Now that we have entered the age of the Internet, we can be friends with people we’ve never actually seen and John Allore has given great support to our cause and I am very grateful to him for that.
TODD: So what’s next with it?
BILL: I often visit his website.
TODD: And I see it a lot, and you’ve got the blog and the website going on. What’s next? I mean you’ve done so many things to get the message out there, and you have, and now we’re doing this show and taking things a little further, but you know, they’ve let this guy go, we don’t know where Debbie’s body is, what’s got to happen before we can figure out what happened?
BILL: That is a major issue with us right there; we have never found her body. Debbie Key’s body has never been found, and a question I am most frequently asked is, “If you never found her body, how do you know she’s been murdered?”
TODD: Uh huh.
BILL: Well you have to read the whole story, I’m sorry I can’t answer that question in one sentence.
TODD: You’ve got the confession.
BILL: If you’re familiar with the story, you’ll understand. The body of Debbie Key has never been found but we know she’s been murdered because she wouldn’t leave her car in the parking lot of ‘Sticks and Stones’, unlocked, with her purse and her jacket still inside. You know, Debbie, even when she was drinking, even when she was on a binge, she locked her purse in her trunk so she wouldn’t get ripped off.
TODD: And you’ve got the confession as well.
BILL: And we’ve got the confession! We’ve got the…yes, we actually did get a confession.
TODD: So even though he’s never been convicted…he can’t be convicted, the judge threw it out, with that, you know he still left you a great tool, because now you know for a fact that something has happened to her, so now if a body is found, how easily, since this has been thrown out, will you be able to connect it back with Dalzell?
BILL: The Carrboro Police, who have been very open and honest with us, though still reserved, have told us that if and when the body of Debbie Key is ever found, evidence supporting Dalzell’s confession will also be found with it…they didn’t tell us any more than that. Great efforts have been made by friends of Debbie Key to find that body, and you can read about that in the website.
TODD: So…but you have to think, you know, he walked away 4 years ago, he’s had 4 additional years to further hide any particular evidence. He’s had plenty of time.
BILL: That is true. That is true, and my friends have spent a great deal of effort searching the woods and the ponds of Orange County, North Carolina, for her remains.
TODD: Do you have any idea…
BILL: I’m proud of them for that.
TODD: Oh, really, you know you can’t give up.
BILL: I’m proud of them for the efforts that they have made.
TODD: Well it’s important never to give up hope. Do you have any idea, and I don’t know if you can say this on the air or not, is there anything that you’re hanging on to that you…something that’s leading you to a specific area or a certain place or a certain scenario?
BILL: Well, I’m almost embarrassed to say that, but most of our leads have come from a person claiming to be psychic…
BILL: …who, I’m sorry to say, has failed to establish credibility with most of us.
TODD: I mean that just goes to show you how desperate people are.
BILL: Friends who are looking for a body are going to take any lead they can find.
TODD: Well especially when you have nothing.
BILL: When you have very little, you’re going to use whatever you have.
TODD: You’ll take anything you can get a hold of and, unfortunately, I think there are people out there…
BILL: When that psychic said, “Look for the body here,” we went there. We went there and we dug through the soil and we turned over logs and rocks, and we searched, but we didn’t find her remains, but not for lack of effort.
TODD: You know I do think there are people out there that do have a gift, or an ability, to point somebody in the right direction.
BILL: Yeah, I believe that there are people who have this gift…
TODD: Uh huh.
BILL: …but not everyone who claims to have the gift, does. So some of us are embarrassed that we had a psychic detective on our team, who proved to be a basket case, but I hope people will understand that people desperate for answers, will take whatever means they can find and use it to the utmost.
TODD: Now what about the website, have you ever received any email or phone tips?
BILL: Yes. Oh yes. Yes. It seems that most of the visitors to my website are not registered bloggers and most people prefer to contact me through the ‘contact’ tab of the website and I’ve gotten lots of emails. Whenever I get a lead as to where Debbie’s body might be found, I contact the Carrboro Police Department and we have a file on leads where we continue to search throughout the area for Debbie’s body. We haven’t found it yet, but we haven’t given up yet either. You know some day we’re going to find the skeleton somewhere, and if the Carrboro Police are correct, which I assume that they are, there will be a clue that will lead to the arrest and conviction of Andrew Dalzell.
TODD: Wow, this is, you know for her family and her loved ones to actually know…and you talk about doing desperate things, it makes you just want to go and grab that guy and just shake it out of him, I mean…
BILL: Oh, yeah…
BILL: Oh, yeah. Oh, lots of people have contacted me asking me where Andrew Dalzell is right now.
TODD: Uh huh. Well…
BILL: He’s in Stanley, North Carolina, that’s all I know, but I’ll tell them that. I am sorry to say, we are all sorry to say, that Debbie’s mother has passed away since Debbie’s disappearance. We deeply regret that she passed away without seeing closure to this case, but Debbie is survived by a sister, her name is Susan Gagnon and I’ve had the pleasure of meeting her and she’s seeking closure.
TODD: Now what about…and I’m looking at the website, what about a reward?
BILL: I don’t think anyone…to my knowledge no one has posted a reward, yet, for information leading to...
TODD: Do you think it would help?
BILL: …for evidence or leading to the conviction or anything like that.
TODD: Because the job is half done, I mean usually you have a body with no person (suspect), but now you have the person but no body…
BILL: Yes, yes.
TODD: …so you’ve got a living link here.
BILL: And you know, it’s been said many times how this is in sharp contrast with the case of Theresa Allore (Episode 28). We have a suspect but no body, whereas John Allore’s sister has a body but no suspect.
TODD: It’s just like a mirror image.
BILL: Yes, that has been emphasized many times. It’s almost like the negative contrast.
TODD: Yeah, and you’re just perfect to help each other in working on something like this, even though it’s the opposite, but there will be so many similarities in it and hopefully your relationship will help you learn from each other and hopefully help both of you.
TODD: But the reward though, that’s interesting.
BILL: When families of murder victims communicate with each other, we find a lot of parallels and a lot of contrasts and this helps us answer a lot of questions…
TODD: Uh huh.
BILL: …and I am very grateful for the Internet for giving us such opportunities.
TODD: If I didn’t have the Internet, I’d be completely clueless. I mean that was the missing link for the work that I work on, you know all of this would be impossible without the Internet; I wouldn’t even know who you are without the Internet. It’s just amazing.
BILL: Many people have ominous visions of the 21st century, but this is one of the positives that I see of the modern age that we can use very much to our advantage.
TODD: Well it’s like they say, it’s hardwired in your DNA to communicate and this gives us an amazing way of doing so. You know I’ve literally talked to people on three continents today through email, and it’s normal, that’s a normal day.
BILL: I love it that I can talk to people all over the world, you know, and I can get this story out there, and I especially love it when they respond.
TODD: Well I really think that we’re going to have to work on something to try to get a reward going. You know that turns up the pressure, because we’ve got the guy, we know he confessed…
BILL: That’s one thing we haven’t done is posted a reward for information leading to the conviction.
TODD: And I think we can work on that. I think there are a few things we can do to work on that, so we’ll talk about that more…
BILL: Yeah, we should definitely work on that.
TODD: …in the future, and have you back for an update, I think so. We can waterboard and make him tell us…
TODD: We can torture somebody, I guess, but I think this will be the equivalent of it, for somebody to know that nobody is giving up and we’re only going to keep on increasing the pressure and eventually somebody, somewhere, has a piece of missing data here.
TODD: Somewhere, somehow, they have a piece of the data that’s missing.
BILL: But one thing that Debbie has certainly left behind is a loyal group of friends…
TODD: Uh huh.
BILL: …who work very hard to tell her story.
TODD: And I think you’ll win.
BILL: And I’m honored to be their representative.
TODD: And you’ve done a great job.
BILL: Thank you.
TODD: You have, you’re all over the place on the Internet.
BILL: We are of modest financial means but, hey, if we find anyone willing to put up a reward, we will certainly support them.
TODD: Well we’ll have to work on that, I think we can work on that.
BILL: Oh yes, definitely.
TODD: Do you think you’re going to win? In the end, do you see the light of day?
BILL: I’m optimistic. I am very optimistic. Andrew Dalzell is a simple-minded person and even his friends and family admit this. He has a long history of getting in trouble with the law; he is bound to get in trouble with the law again. This poor guy has been described as a dim bulb, he has psychological problems, which is why his family and his defense attorney have worked so hard to defend him. Someday he’s going to crack. Someday he’s going to slip up. He’s walking a dead-end street. I’m confident that someday he’s going to run into a confrontation with the law that he can’t wiggle out of and this will come flying back at him. This guy can’t go far. He’s a person who is in very bad shape, who has never been able to keep a job for more than a couple of weeks, who has been living off of his parents most of his life. He can’t go too far. This case will eventually be solved.
TODD: I think so.
BILL: I am confident in that.
TODD: I am too. You know I have a good friend, he’s the Las Vegas Clark County Coroner, Michael Murphy, and he’s always so positive with, “It’s going to happen. We’re going to win.” And I said, “What makes you think so?” and he said, “Good always wins,” he said, “That’s just the bottom line. Good always wins. It might take time, but good always wins.” And I like his confidence in that and he says it with every fiber of his being, he means it and he believes it truly, and he’s had a very good success rate and I think a positive attitude helps.
BILL: I believe that too. I believe that too. I believe that it’s only a matter of time that this case will be solved, but in the meantime I’m willing to do whatever I can do to make that happen sooner.
TODD: Well, I think we can work on a few things together and you know your page with Missing Pieces, we’ll continue to update it as new stories become available and if you have new information, we can add additional tape at some point, and I know we’re going to have you back again at some point with an update and hopefully a very positive update at some time in the near future. I’ve got my fingers crossed and we’ll stay positive with that. There is just so much that we can do now. You know that’s what I try to do with Missing Pieces, connect a lot of pieces together, and I guess what we’re trying to build is an 800-pound gorilla. We’ve got to put something together that people just simply cannot ignore, there are just too many people involved in it, there are just too many people that need answers, want answers, demand answers and I think we’re going to make some positive action. I know we are.
BILL: Well Debbie Key may not have been nearly as famous as Eve Carson, who I’m sure you’ve read about.
TODD: Oh yeah.
BILL: Debbie wasn’t a famous person, but she left behind a very loyal group of friends, and each of us, and I am very proud to say, is very committed to bringing justice to her case.
TODD: Well there’s no doubt about that. I know you’re going to do everything you can do.
BILL: I’m very optimistic that within our lifetime, we will see closure.
TODD: And then what do you do?
BILL: I’m very thankful to all of the people, especially the blogging team of ‘Who Killed Theresa?’ http://whokilledtheresa.blogspot.com who have been immensely supportive, I am very thankful to, but yeah, we will see closure to this case in our lifetime, I am sure.
TODD: What are you going to do when it’s over…when you do have the answers? Say it comes tomorrow, what do you do with your time? Because you put a lot of time into this, and I’ve been faced with this same problem, you know, what do you do now? Now that it’s over, what do you do?
BILL: Oh, God…um…
TODD: I mean, you do actually miss it.
BILL: We will probably have a grand celebration. (Chuckles)
TODD: Well hopefully there’ll be some other people that you guys can help because you’ve pulled together a really good team effort and maybe there are some other people that can benefit from your work, I’m sure of that.
BILL: Yes, I’m thinking about that too. That with all of the work that we have put into this and with all of the attention that we have focused on crime in our community, and what we can do about it, and with the murder of Eve Carson that occurred early this month, and a lot more people becoming aware of crime in our community and what we can do about it, I’m sure that this will be a great lesson for all of us, that we can all benefit from, and with the worst tragedies, I believe that there always is some good that can be harvested from this, and I hope that the good that can be gleaned from our efforts will continue after we’re gone. And, yes, I am optimistic about that. I believe that the efforts that we have put into solving this case, will not be wasted.
TODD: No, it won’t.
TODD: Everything you ever do for somebody, it all comes back, it all comes back, it does.
BILL: I believe that very strongly.
TODD: Even when you don’t know, it all comes back. I’ve had it happen.
BILL: We have to realize that there are a lot of things that we don’t know.
BILL: We have to always be conscious of that.
TODD: Well you’ve certainly made me feel better today. I feel that Debbie’s in good hands. I know you’ve not found her, but I know that she’s got people committed to finding her and I just have a lot of confidence in you.
BILL: When you have that many people that love you and support you, something good has got to manifest out of that.
TODD: Oh, it has. Now look at this community that has come together because of this.
BILL: The community has come together…
TODD: It’s unreal.
BILL: …and the recent murder of Eve Carson has done a great deal to bring public awareness to this. Yes, murder happens to good people, not just to down and outers and the drug pushers, but the good people too, the people who are well-known respected members of our community. Eve Carson’s murder has really brought that to the surface of public awareness, and I’m sorry that this happened, it’s a tragedy, but I’m glad that it’s raising public awareness about this.
TODD: Oh, everything has to have a positive side and you’ve got to look for that positive.
BILL: You would not believe how many emails I’ve been getting about the Eve Carson case in Chapel Hill.
TODD: It’s raised the bar, and we’ll put a link to that particular story on your case file too, so that’s going to be great and the people that are listening to the show can go on and read about that, and I just feel good about it.
BILL: The more people become aware, the stronger we become.
BILL: Yes sir.
TODD: And they’re going to have crazy people like us working on it.
BILL: Yeah, crazy people like us, and God bless us every one. We’re the ones who really make a difference, aren’t we?
TODD: (Laughter) I’ve had people say, “Why? Why do you people do this to yourselves?” and I say, “I don’t know.” But when I do a show like this with you or some of the other work that I do, I feel so good, after you get it put in the box and you put it out there for people to see, there is such a feeling there.
BILL: People have asked me this so many times, “Why are you doing this? Why do you care so much about Debbie Key? Why do you care so much? Why are you putting all of this effort and all of this energy into this case?” You said it Todd, thank you very much. (Laughter)
TODD: You’re just crazy.
BILL: Yes, there’s a reason we do this…
TODD: There is.
BILL: …and it’s hard to explain to someone who has never been there.
TODD: Unfortunately by the time that people really truly realize exactly why it’s because they’ve experienced something really bad themselves. I’ve had people that the first time that they’ve been involved with a missing person, it was their next of kin, and then they say, “I had no idea. I had no idea it was this bad.”
BILL: Or someone close to you.
BILL: Whenever it’s someone close to you that this happens to, you get involved. You can’t help it.
TODD: No, there’s no way.
TODD: Well, Bill, it’s been great having you here. You did a great interview. You put out a lot of information.
BILL: Well thank you. I am willing to do whatever I can.
TODD: Well, we’re going to continue to talk to you. We’re going to say goodnight to our audience and I’ve got a couple of ideas to run past you, and then we’ll be back again next week with another show.
BILL: It is a great honor Todd. Thank you.
TODD: Mine as well. Goodnight everybody.
BILL: I appreciate this very much.
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