COLUMBIA — Detective David Wilson made himself a promise: He would find Mitchell W. Kemp.
He was pretty sure he knew who was involved in Kemp's disappearance — missing since 2004 and presumed dead — but he couldn't make a case without a body.
In the course of his investigation, Wilson's attention was drawn to Tausha L. Fields, the mother of Kemp's youngest daughter and former wife. He interviewed her extensively in 2008 and followed her lead to an unmarked grave south of Columbia.
Wilson, who works for the Boone County Sheriff's Department, testified Friday in Fields' murder trial. Fields is now charged with first-degree murder and armed criminal action for the Aug. 24, 2004 killing of Kemp. Throughout the fifth day of proceedings, prosecutors showed hours of footage taped during the first four of Wilson's interviews with Fields.
In the interviews, Fields told detectives from several law enforcement agencies she had no role in and very little knowledge of Kemp's murder. Earlier this week, Fields' attorneys acknowledged that many of her early statements made to detectives were lies.
Both sides agree that Fields brought Kemp to the farm she shared with then-husband, Gregory W. Morton, where Morton shot Kemp and Fields helped bury him on the property.
The sides dispute the nature of her involvement: Prosecutors argued the murder was Fields' idea and the result of her manipulation of Morton, while defense attorneys argued she participated because she was terrified of Morton.
Morton, who testified earlier this week, pleaded guilty to shooting Kemp in June 2009. Charges against Morton were downgraded from first-degree to second-degree murder in exchange for his testimony against Fields. He is expected to be charged next week.
Four videos were shown Friday, three of which show interviews — conducted May 20, May 21 and July 30, 2008 — between Fields and detectives at police departments in Alabama and Louisiana. During these interviews, a blonder, heavier Fields claimed she didn't know Morton was planning to kill Kemp and that she was out running errands during the murder.
"The only part that I've had is that I kept my mouth shut," Fields told Wilson on May 21, 2008.
Fields said Morton woke her up in the middle of the night following the murder and told her what he'd done. During the interviews, Fields described to detectives what Morton told her about the crime and what she remembers of that day.
She said Morton later made her swear on her daughter's life she would never tell anyone.
Fields said in the interviews that she wasn't surprised Morton killed someone.
"You just have to know Greg," she said, adding that if it wasn't Kemp, "it would've been someone else."
Throughout the interviews, Fields fretted about her young daughter, Lexie Kemp.
"I need you to tell me I'm going to go home to my daughter tonight," Fields told Wilson on May 20, 2008.
On the tapes, Fields also said she worried that Morton would find out she had talked to police. She repeatedly asked detectives for assurances that they would find Morton before he found her and Lexie.
During the interviews, Wilson encouraged Fields to "just let it out" and be forthcoming about everything she knew. He asked her repeatedly about her memory of that day — how did Kemp get to the property, what happened to Kemp's van, where the body was — and warned Fields that lies and omissions could turn her from a witness into a suspect.
"It's time to get this over with and get on with your life," Wilson said in the interview. "You're telling me stuff, but you're not doing a thing to help yourself. I am doing my damndest to help you."
The fourth video was taken on Morton's Deer Park Road farm, where Kemp's body was eventually found. Fields traveled to Missouri in June 2008 to show investigators where she thought the grave might be. On camera, Fields wandered across the property, turning in circles and pointing vaguely, while detectives trailed after her.
After that visit, Fields indicated an area, but extensive investigation yielded nothing.
In the July interview, Fields said the visit overwhelmed her and she was confused by changes to the property. Wilson told Fields he believed she was innocent of the murder, but that he thought she was withholding some information; he said he believed she knew where the body was and that she needed to tell him so he could arrest Morton and bring closure to Kemp's relatives.
"I don't give a damn about Greg Morton," Wilson told Fields in the July interview. "I don't give a damn about you. I'm doing it for the Kemp family."
During that interview, Wilson again provided Fields with maps of the Deer Park property. Fields indicated another spot — this one near the farm's southeast corner —where she was certain Kemp's body would be found.
Fields said in the interview that months before the murder, Morton had dug a deep hole in that area. She said the hole was filled in soon after Kemp's death.
Wilson testified Friday that Kemp's remains were found in early August 2008, when Fields returned to Boone County and led investigators to the second spot.
Fields' attorneys are expected to question Wilson, a witness for the state, when proceedings continue Monday at 8 a.m.