Transcript of Interview with Melvin Little conducted by Louella Harper 3/27/1980
Melvin: The last one was that poor little girl. How stupid could he be?
The Reverend came to me. Usually he came in through the front door, but this time he came in through the back. He said, “Mr. Little, you’ve got to help me. Now they’re accusing me of killing my own daughter.”
It wasn’t his blood daughter, but I knew what he meant.
I said, “Reverend, you say you didn’t kill this girl.” He always told me he was innocent of the crimes of which he was accused. I said, “You’re my client, so I have to believe you, but I’m afraid I just can’t defend you anymore.”
Louella: How did he take your decision?
Melvin: Well, he was unhappy, but what could he do? I had to draw the line somewhere. He begged and begged, but I wouldn’t relent. I told him to get out of my office.
June 14, 1977
Melvin was working at his desk when he heard a loud thumping sound coming from the back of the building. His secretary, Lorrie, had not yet arrived, so there was no one to yell at to go see what the commotion was all about; Melvin had to investigate the problem himself.
As he entered the back hallway that led to the supply closet, the rattling thump continued, and it became evident that someone was banging on the emergency exit door.
He pushed the metal bar in the center of the door and it opened to the alleyway. There he saw a tall man dressed in an expensive three-piece burgundy suit anxiously looking over his shoulder.
“Hello Reverend,” Melvin said.
The Reverend rushed in past him. “As much money as I’ve made for you, I should have my own key to your office.”
“I’m surprised about that myself,” Melvin said. “I’ll put it on Lorrie’s list of things to do.” He followed the Reverend into his office, skirted around his client and took a seat behind his desk where he could watch as the Reverend paced the room.
“We need a plan here,” the Reverend said. “We need to come up with a strategy.” A vein protruded from his forehead.
“All right,” Melvin said. He reached under a stack of papers and pulled out a yellow legal pad. “No charges have been filed yet, but I expect they will soon. I’ve already arranged bail, so you shouldn’t have to remain in jail for long.”
“The press is everywhere. They’re circling around me like vultures. I barely made it out of the house this morning. I think someone has betrayed me.”
“Addresses are a matter of public record,” Melvin said.
“I bet it was that reporter who came to my house yesterday. The one from the Sentinel.”
“Who was that? Easton? If Jim had a scoop, I imagine he’d keep it to himself.”
“It’s different this time,” the Reverend said. “Everything is different.”
“Reverend, I’m not going to sugarcoat this for you. The killing of that girl attracted a lot of attention, and attention puts pressure on the politicians, who then put pressure on investigators. They’re going to go after someone real hard and you’re in the only man in their searchlight.”
“So, what are you going to do?” asked Reverend Baxter. He held his gaze on his lawyer as he slowly came around the side of the desk.
Melvin swiveled toward the man encroaching on his space. “I’ll get you out of this the same as always. I just wanted you to know that this is a high profile case and the DA is going to come after you. I wanted to let you know what you were in for.”
The Reverend came right up to Melvin’s chair, trapping him in the corner.
Melvin leaned back as far away from the Reverend as he could go, until the back of his chair touched wood paneling.
The Reverend bent down at the waist, flattened his hands against Melvin’s shoulders, and stared menacingly into Melvin’s eyes, now only inches away from his own. His voice was soft but clear. “And I want to let you know what you’re in for if you don’t.”
A little bell jingled at the front of the building.
“That will be Lorrie,” Melvin said quietly. He cleared his throat.
The Reverend rose to his full height and looked in the direction of the door.
“We’re back here, Lorrie!” Melvin called.
The Reverend flashed a disdainful look in Melvin’s direction. He buttoned the front of his jacket and adjusted his lapels before returning to the client’s side of the desk.
Melvin loosened his tie. For a moment there was silence as he watched the Reverend. He took a deep breath. “There’s going to be a lot more press coverage this time. You’ll just have to get used to the vultures circling. I’m going to have to defend you in the media even more than in the courtroom, but you shouldn’t speak to any more reporters. They’ll only twist your words to sell papers. They don’t give two figs about what’s true and what isn’t.”
Lorrie poked her head in. “You need something, Mel?”
“No, Lorrie. Just coffee. Would you like a cup, Reverend?”
The Reverend shook his head. “Caffeine makes me anxious.”
“That’ll be all then Lorrie.”
Melvin stood up and walked around his desk. He placed his hand on his client’s back and escorted him out of the office. “You just go home and try not to worry about any of this. You’ve got the best lawyer in the state working for you.”
He pushed open the door, and the Reverend stepped out into the sunlight. Across the street, a man seemed to recognize them. He dropped a cigarette and started toward him. “Hey, Reverend. Reverend Baxter!”
His voice lured others who had congregated at the front of the building. Suddenly reporters were all around, barking questions.
“Keep moving, Reverend,” Melvin said. “Get to the car.” The Reverend put his head down and barreled through the gathering crowd while his lawyer held up one hand, as if for peace. “Reverend Baxter won’t be answering any questions at this time.”
The reporters continued to shout questions.
Reverend Baxter maneuvered to his car. He flung himself into the driver’s seat and closed the door.
Reporters surrounded the vehicle. They shouted questions through the open window. Some took pictures of him sifting through his ring of keys for the one that would start his car.
A female reporter thrust a microphone into his face. “Reverend Baxter, is it true you had a life insurance policy on your stepdaughter?”
Baxter found the key and slipped it into the ignition. “Lady,” he said, gunning the engine. “If you don’t get that fucking microphone out of my face, I’m going to run over you.”
The woman backed away two steps and stood there stunned, while the Reverend drove away.
Go to Chapter 22