Child murders of Robin Hood Hills – Paradise Lost: The Child Murders at Robin Hood Hills is a 1996 documentary film directed by Joe Berlinger and Bruce Sinofsky about the trials of three teenage boys who came to be known as the West Memphis Three in West Memphis, Arkansas. They were accused of the murder and sexual mutilation of three prepubescent boys. The boys on trial for the crime were Jessie Misskelley, Damien Echols and Jason Baldwin. The film was followed by two sequels: Paradise Lost 2: Revelations and Paradise Lost 3: Purgatory.
The film documents the events from the arrests of Misskelley, Echols and Baldwin for the murders of Christopher Byers, Michael Moore and Stevie Branch. Their naked and hogtied bodies were discovered in a ditch in a wooded area of West Memphis, Arkansas, known as “Robin Hood Hills”.
Filmmakers Joe Berlinger and Bruce Sinofsky interview numerous people connected with the case, including the parents of the victims, the parents of the accused, members of the West Memphis Police Department (WMPD) and all the defendants involved in the trial. Berlinger and Sinofsky are not filmed themselves, and the dialogue is provided by the interviewee, rather than using a “Q & A” format.
The film starts with an introduction to the case, before moving on to the arrests of the three teenagers. Much of the community, including the detectives and the victims’ parents believe the murders were committed by the teenagers as part of a Satanic ritual. The community is shown to be politically conservative and strongly Evangelical Christian. Because Misskelley had provided police with a confession, his trial is separated from that of Damien and Jason, and is covered in the first half of the film.
Child murders of Robin Hood Hills Trial coverage
The first trial to be covered in the film is that of Misskelley, a trial which was severed from those of Echols and Baldwin since it was Jessie who submitted a confession. Emphasis is placed on the fact that there is a strong possibility that the confession was coerced. Interviews are conducted with Jessie’s family and friends, Misskelley himself and his attorney Dan Stidham. Misskelley is sentenced to life in prison.
Part two of film documents the trials of Echols and Baldwin. Like the coverage of Misskelley’s trial, there are interviews with both defendants, their attorneys and their families. The families of the victims also share their views.
During the course of the filming, John Mark Byers, the stepfather of one of the victims (Christopher Byers), gives the filmmakers a knife which has blood in the hinge. The filmmakers turn the knife over to police, who examine it; the DNA is similar to that of himself and the boy but the evidence is nonetheless inconclusive since the DNA evidence produced was fragmented and can not provide concrete links.
The film was made in 79 days over a 10-month period filming in the actual Arkansas locations. The movie marks the first time Metallica allowed their music to be used in a movie. A decade later the directors made Some Kind of Monster about Metallica.
The movie was well received by critics, including Siskel and Ebert praising the movie. The film was followed by two sequels. First Paradise Lost 2: Revelations (2000), which suggests that further evidence was missed or suppressed and attempts to prove Echols’ innocence. Followed by Paradise Lost 3: Purgatory (2011).
Following a successful decision in 2010 by the Arkansas Supreme Court regarding recently uncovered DNA evidence, the West Memphis Three reached a deal with prosecutors. On August 19, 2011, they entered Alford pleas, which allow them to assert their innocence and were sentenced to time served, effectively freeing them.
The West Memphis Three are three men who were tried and convicted as teenagers in 1994 of the 1993 murders of three boys in West Memphis, Arkansas. Damien Echols was sentenced to death, Jessie Misskelley, Jr. was sentenced to life imprisonment plus two 20-year sentences, and Jason Baldwin was sentenced to life imprisonment. During the trial, the prosecution asserted that the children were killed as part of a Satanic ritual. A number of documentaries have been based on the case, and celebrities and musicians have held fund raisers in the belief that they are innocent.
In July 2007, new forensic evidence was presented in the case and a status report jointly issued by the state and the defense team stated, “Although most of the genetic material recovered from the scene was attributable to the victims of the offenses, some of it cannot be attributed to either the victims or the defendants.” On October 29, 2007, the defense filed a Second Amended Writ of Habeas Corpus, outlining the new evidence.
Following a successful decision in 2010 by the Arkansas Supreme Court regarding newly produced DNA evidence, the West Memphis Three reached a deal with prosecutors. On August 19, 2011, they entered Alford pleas, which allow them to assert their innocence while acknowledging that prosecutors have enough evidence to convict them. Judge David Laser accepted the pleas and sentenced the three to time served. They were released with ten-year suspended sentences, having served 18 years and 78 days in prison.
Three eight-year-old boys—Steve Branch, Michael Moore, and Christopher Byers—were reported missing on May 5, 1993. The first report to the police was made by Byers’ adoptive father, John Mark Byers, around 7:00 pm. The boys were allegedly last seen together by three neighbors, who in affidavits told of seeing them playing together around 6:30 pm the evening they disappeared, and saw Terry Hobbs, stepfather of Stevie Branch, calling them to come home. Initial police searches made that night were limited. Friends and neighbors also conducted a search that night, which included a cursory visit to the location where the bodies were later found.
A more thorough police search for the children began around 8:00 am on the morning of May 6, led by the Crittenden County Search and Rescue personnel. Searchers canvassed all of West Memphis, but focused primarily on Robin Hood Hills, where the boys were reported last seen. Despite a human chain making a shoulder-to-shoulder search of Robin Hood Hills, searchers found no sign of the missing boys.
Around 1:45 pm, juvenile Parole Officer Steve Jones spotted a boy’s black shoe floating in a muddy creek that led to a major drainage canal in Robin Hood Hills. A subsequent search of the ditch revealed the bodies of three boys. They were stripped naked and had been hogtied with their own shoelaces: their right ankles tied to their right wrists behind their backs, the same with their left arms and legs. Their clothing was found in the creek, some of it twisted around sticks that had been thrust into the muddy ditch bed. The clothing was mostly turned inside-out; two pairs of the boys’ underwear were never recovered. Christopher Byers had lacerations to various parts of his body, and mutilation of his scrotum and penis.
The autopsies, by the forensic pathologist Frank J. Peretti, indicated that Byers died of “multiple injuries”, while Moore and Branch died of “multiple injuries with drowning”.
Police initially suspected the boys had been raped; however, later expert testimony disputed this finding despite trace amounts of sperm DNA found on a pair of pants recovered from the scene. Prosecution experts claim Byers’ wounds were the results of a knife attack and that he had been purposely castrated by the murderer; defense experts claim the injuries were more probably the result of post-mortem animal predation. Police believed the boys were assaulted and killed at the location where they were found; critics argued that the assault, at least, was unlikely to have occurred at the creek.
Byers was the only victim with drugs in his system; he was prescribed Ritalin (methylphenidate) in January 1993, as part of an attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder treatment. The initial autopsy report describes the drug as Carbamazepine, and that dosage was found to be at sub-therapeutic level. John Mark Byers said that Christopher Byers may not have taken his prescription on May 5, 1993.
Memorial for the West Memphis Three victims
The three victims, Stevie Edward Branch, Christopher Byers and Michael Moore, were in the second grade at Weaver Elementary School. Each had achieved the rank of “Wolf” in the local Cub Scout pack, and they were best friends.
Steve Edward Branch
Stevie Branch (November 26, 1984 – May 5, 1993) was the son of Steven and Pamela Branch, who divorced when he was an infant. His mother was awarded custody and later married Terry Hobbs. Branch was eight years old, 4 ft. 2 tall, weighed 65 lbs, and had blonde hair. He was last seen in blue jeans, white T-shirt on a black and red bicycle. He was an honor student. He lived with his mother, Pamela Hobbs, his stepfather, Terry Hobbs, and a four-year-old half-sister, Amanda. Steve Edward Branch is buried in Mount Zion Cemetery in Steele, Missouri.
Christopher Mark Byers
Christopher Byers (June 23, 1984 – May 5, 1993) was born to Melissa DeFir and Ricky Murray. His parents divorced when he was four years old; shortly after, his mother married John Mark Byers who adopted the boy. Byers was eight years old, 4 ft. tall, weighed 52 lbs, and had light brown hair. He was last seen in blue jeans, dark shoes, and white long sleeve shirt. He lived with his mother, Sharon Melissa Byers, his stepfather, John Mark Byers, and his stepbrother, Shawn Ryan Clark, aged 13. According to his mother, he was a typical eight-year-old. “He still believed in the Easter Bunny and Santa Claus”. Christopher Mark Byers is buried in Forest Hill Cemetery East in Memphis, Tennessee.
James Michael Moore
Michael Moore (July 27, 1984 – May 5, 1993) was the son of Todd and Dana Moore. He was eight years old, 4 ft. 2 tall, weighed 55 lbs, and had brown hair. He was last seen in blue pants, blue Boy Scouts of America shirt, orange and blue Boy Scout hat on a light green bicycle. Moore enjoyed wearing his scout uniform even when he was not at meetings. He was considered the leader of the three. He lived with his parents and his nine-year-old sister, Dawn. James Michael Moore is buried in Crittenden Memorial Park Cemetery in Marion, Arkansas.
West Memphis Three victims memorial
In 1994, a memorial was erected for the three murder victims. The memorial is located in the playground of Weaver Elementary School in West Memphis, the school at which all three children attended second grade at the time of the crime. In May 2013, for the 20th anniversary of the slayings, Weaver Elementary School principal Sheila Grissom raised funds for a refurbishment of the memorial.
Baldwin, Echols, and Misskelley
At the time of their arrests, Jessie Misskelley, Jr. was 17 years old, Jason Baldwin was 16 years old, and Damien Echols was 18 years old.
Baldwin and Echols had been arrested for vandalism and shoplifting, respectively, and Misskelley had a reputation for his temper and for engaging in fistfights with other teenagers at school. Misskelley and Echols had dropped out of high school; however, Baldwin earned high grades and demonstrated a talent for drawing and sketching, and was encouraged by one of his teachers to study graphic design in college. Echols and Baldwin were close friends, and bonded over their similar tastes in music and fiction, and over their shared distaste for the prevailing cultural climate of West Memphis, situated in the Bible Belt. Baldwin and Echols were acquainted with Misskelley from school, but were not close friends with him.
Echols’s family was poor, with frequent visits from social workers, and he rarely attended school. He had run off with an early girlfriend. The pair later broke into a trailer during a rain storm and were arrested, though only Echols was charged with burglary. Police heard rumors that the young lovers had planned to have a child and sacrifice the infant; based on this story, they had Echols institutionalized for psychiatric evaluation. Echols denied allegations that he had chased a younger child with an ax, but did admit to attempting to remove a classmate’s eyeball and while detained reportedly sucked blood from another boy’s arm. He was diagnosed as depressed and suicidal, and was prescribed the antidepressant imipramine. Subsequent testing demonstrated poor mathematical skills, but also showed that Echols ranked above average in reading and verbal skills.
Echols spent several months in a mental institution in Arkansas, and afterward received “full disability” status from the Social Security Administration. During Echols’s trial, Dr. George W. Woods testified (for the defense) that Echols suffered from:
… serious mental illness characterized by grandiose and persecutory delusions, auditory and visual hallucinations, disordered thought processes, substantial lack of insight, and chronic, incapacitating mood swings.
At his death penalty sentencing hearing, Echols’s psychologist reported that months before the murders, Echols claimed that he obtained super powers by drinking human blood.
At the time of his arrest, Echols was working part-time with a roofing company and expecting a child with his new girlfriend, Domini Teer.
Chris Morgan and Brian Holland
Early in the investigation, the WMPD briefly regarded two West Memphis teenagers as suspects. Chris Morgan and Brian Holland, both with drug offense histories, had abruptly departed for Oceanside, California, four days after the bodies were discovered. Morgan was presumed to be at least casually familiar with all three murdered boys, having previously driven an ice cream truck route in their neighborhood.
Arrested in Oceanside on May 17, 1993, Morgan and Holland both took polygraph exams administered by California police. Examiners reported that both men’s charts indicated deception when they denied involvement in the murders. During subsequent questioning, Morgan claimed a long history of drug and alcohol use, along with blackouts and memory lapses. He claimed that he “might have” killed the victims but quickly recanted this part of his statement.
California police sent blood and urine samples from Morgan and Holland to the WMPD, but there is no indication WMPD investigated Morgan or Holland as suspects following their arrest in California. The relevance of Morgan’s recanted statement would later be debated in trial, but was eventually barred from admission as evidence.
The sighting of a black male as a possible alternate suspect was implied during the beginning of the Misskelley trial. According to local West Memphis police officers, on the evening of May 5, 1993, at 8:42 pm, workers in the Bojangles’ restaurant about a mile from the crime scene in Robin Hood Hills reported seeing a black male who seemed “mentally disoriented” inside the ladies’ room of the restaurant. The man was bleeding and had brushed against the walls of the restroom. Officer Regina Meeks responded to the call, taking the restaurant manager’s report through the restaurant’s drive-through window. By then, the man had left and police did not enter the restroom on that date.
The day after the victims’ bodies were found, Bojangles’ manager Marty King, thinking there was a possible connection to the bloody man found in the bathroom, reported the incident to police officers who then inspected the ladies room. King gave the officers a pair of sunglasses he thought the man left behind and the detectives took some blood samples from the walls. Police detective Bryn Ridge testified that he later lost those blood scrapings taken from the walls and tiles of the restroom. A hair identified as belonging to a black male was later recovered from a sheet which was used to wrap one of the victims.
Evidence and interviews
Police officers James Sudbury and Steve Jones felt that the crime had “cult” overtones, and that Damien Echols might be a suspect because he had an interest in occultism, and Jones felt him capable of murdering children. They interviewed Echols on May 7, two days after the bodies were discovered. During a polygraph examination, he denied any involvement. The polygraph examiner claimed that Echols’s chart indicated deception. On May 9, during a formal interview by Detective Bryn Ridge, Echols mentioned that one of the victims had wounds to the genitals, and this was felt to be incriminating knowledge.
After a month had passed with little progress in the case, police continued to focus their investigation upon Echols, interrogating him more frequently than any other person; however, they claimed he was not regarded as a direct suspect but a source of information.
On June 3 police interrogated Jessie Misskelley Jr., whose IQ was reported to be 72 (making him borderline intellectual functioning), was questioned alone; his parents were not present during the interrogation. Misskelley’s father gave permission for Misskelley to go with police, but did not explicitly give permission for his minor son to be questioned or interrogated. Misskelley was questioned for roughly twelve hours; only two segments, totaling 46 minutes, were recorded. Misskelley quickly recanted his confession, citing intimidation, coercion, fatigue, and veiled threats from police.
Misskelley was a minor when he was questioned, and though informed of his Miranda rights, he later claimed he did not fully understand them. The Arkansas Supreme Court determined that Misskelley’s confession was voluntary and that he did, in fact, understand the Miranda warning and its consequences. Misskelley specifically said he was “scared of the police” during his first confession. Portions of Misskelley’s statements to the police were leaked to the press and reported on the front page of the Memphis Commercial Appeal before any of the trials began.
Shortly after Misskelley’s original confession, police arrested Echols and his close friend Baldwin. Eight months after his original confession, on February 17, 1994, Misskelley made another statement to police with his lawyer Dan Stidham in the room continually advising Misskelley not to say anything. Misskelley ignored this advice continually and went on to detail how the boys were abused and murdered. Stidham, who was later elected to a municipal judgeship, has written a detailed critique of what he asserts are major police errors and misconceptions during their investigation.
Vicki Hutcheson, a new resident of West Memphis, would play an important role in the investigation, though she would later recant her testimony, stating her statements were fabricated due in part to coercion from police.
On May 6, 1993 (the day the murder victims were found), Hutcheson took a polygraph exam by Detective Don Bray at the Marion Police Department to determine if she had stolen money from her West Memphis employer. Hutcheson’s young son, Aaron, was also present, and proved such a distraction that Bray was unable to administer the polygraph. Aaron, a playmate of the murdered boys, mentioned to Bray that the boys had been killed at “the playhouse”. When the bodies proved to have been discovered near where Aaron indicated, Bray asked Aaron for further details, and Aaron claimed that he had witnessed the murders committed by Satanists who spoke Spanish. Aaron’s further statements were wildly inconsistent, and he was unable to identify Baldwin, Echols or Misskelley from photo line-ups, and there was no “playhouse” at the location Aaron indicated. A police officer leaked portions of Aaron’s statements to the press contributing to the growing belief that the murders were part of a Satanic rite.
On or about June 1, 1993, Hutcheson agreed to police suggestions to place hidden microphones in her home during an encounter with Echols. Misskelley agreed to introduce Hutcheson to Echols. During their conversation, Hutcheson reported that Echols made no incriminating statements. Police said the recording was “inaudible”, but Hutcheson claimed the recording was audible. On June 2, 1993, Hutcheson told police that about two weeks after the murders were committed, she, Echols and Misskelley attended a Wiccan meeting in Turrell, Arkansas. Hutcheson claimed that, at the Wiccan meeting, a drunken Echols openly bragged about killing the three boys. Misskelley was first questioned on June 3, 1993, a day after Hutcheson’s purported confession. Hutcheson was unable to recall the Wiccan meeting location, and did not name any other participants of the purported meeting. Hutcheson was never charged with theft. She claimed she implicated Echols and Misskelley to avoid facing criminal charges and to obtain a reward for the discovery of the murderers.
Misskelley was tried separately, and Echols and Baldwin were tried together in 1994. Under the “Bruton rule”, Misskelley’s confession could not be admitted against his co-defendants and thus he was tried separately. They all pleaded not guilty.
During Misskelley’s trial, Dr. Richard Ofshe, an expert on false confessions and police coercion and Professor of Sociology at UC Berkeley, testified that the brief recording of Misskelley’s interrogation was a “classic example” of police coercion. Critics have also stated that Misskelley’s “confessions” were in many respects inconsistent with themselves and the particulars of the crime scene and murder victims, including (for example) an “admission” that Misskelley “watched Damien rape one of the boys.” Police had initially suspected that the victims had been raped because their anuses were dilated. However there was no forensic evidence indicating that the murdered boys had been raped and dilated anuses are a normal post-mortem condition.
On February 5, 1994, Misskelley was convicted by a jury of one count of first-degree murder and two counts of second-degree murder. The court sentenced him to life plus 40 years in prison. His conviction was appealed and affirmed by the Arkansas Supreme Court.
Echols’s and Baldwin’s trial
Three weeks later Echols and Baldwin went on trial where the prosecution accused the three of committing a Satanic murder. The prosecution called Dale W. Griffis, a graduate of Columbia Pacific University, as an expert in the occult to testify the murders were a Satanic ritual. On March 19, 1994 Echols and Baldwin were found guilty on three counts of murder. The court sentenced Echols to death and Baldwin to life in prison.
At trial, the defense team argued that news articles from the time could have been the source for Echols’s knowledge about the genital mutilation, but the prosecution claimed that Echols’s knowledge, which Echols said was limited to what was “on TV”, was nonetheless too close to the facts, since there was no public knowledge of drowning or that one victim had been mutilated more than the others. Echols testified that Ridge’s description of the conversation (which was not recorded) regarding those particular details was inaccurate (and indeed that some other claims by Ridge were “lies”). The author Leveritt argues that Echols’s information may have come from police leaks, such as Detective Gitchell’s comments to Mark Byers, that then circulated amongst the local public. The defense team objected during cross-examination of Echols when the prosecution attempted to question him about his past violent behaviors, but were overruled.
There has been widespread criticism of how the police handled the crime scene. Misskelley’s former attorney Dan Stidham cites multiple substantial police errors at the crime scene, characterizing it as “literally trampled, especially the creek bed.” The bodies, he said, had been removed from the water before the coroner arrived to examine the scene and determine the state of rigor mortis, allowing the bodies to decay on the creek bank, and to be exposed to sunlight and insects. The police did not telephone the coroner until almost two hours after the discovery of the floating shoe, resulting in a late appearance by the coroner. Officials failed to drain the creek in a timely manner and secure possible evidence in the water (the creek was sandbagged after the bodies were pulled from the water). Stidham calls the coroner’s investigation “extremely substandard.” There was a small amount of blood found at the scene that was never tested. According to HBO’s documentaries Paradise Lost: The Child Murders at Robin Hood Hills (1996) and Paradise Lost 2: Revelations (2000), no blood was found at the crime scene, indicating that the location where the bodies were found was not necessarily the location in which the murders actually happened. After the initial investigation, the police failed to control disclosure of information and speculation about the crime scene.
According to Mara Leveritt, investigative journalist and author of Devil’s Knot, “Police records were a mess. To call them disorderly would be putting it mildly.” Leveritt speculated that the small local police force was overwhelmed by the crime, which was unlike any they had ever investigated. Police refused an unsolicited offer of aid and consultation from the violent crimes experts of the Arkansas State Police, and critics suggested this was due to the WMPD being investigated by the Arkansas State Police for suspected theft from the Crittenden County drug task force. Leveritt further noted that some of the physical evidence was stored in paper sacks obtained from a supermarket (with the supermarket’s name printed on the bags) rather than in containers of known and controlled origin.
When police speculated about the assailant, the juvenile probation officer assisting at the scene of the murders speculated that Echols was “capable” of committing the murders, stating “it looks like Damien Echols finally killed someone.”
Brent Turvey, a Forensic Scientist and Criminal Profiler, stated in the film Paradise Lost 2 that human bite marks could have been left on at least one of the victims. However, these potential bite marks were first noticed in photographs years after the trials and were not inspected by a board-certified medical examiner until four years after the murders. The defense’s expert testified that the mark in question was not an adult bite mark, while experts put on by the State concluded that there was no bite mark at all. The State’s experts had examined the actual bodies for any marks and others conducted expert photo analysis of injuries. Upon further examination, it was concluded that if the marks were bite marks, they did not match the teeth of any of the three convicted.
Appeals and new evidence
In May 1994, the three appealed their convictions. The convictions were upheld on direct appeal. In 2007, Echols petitioned for a retrial based on a statute permitting post-conviction testing of DNA evidence due to technological advances made since 1994 which might provide exoneration for the wrongfully convicted. However, the original trial judge, Judge David Burnett, disallowed presentation of this information in his court. This ruling was in turn thrown out by the Arkansas Supreme Court.
Knife of John Mark Byers (1993)
John Mark Byers, the adoptive father of victim Christopher Byers, gave a knife to cameraman Doug Cooper, who was working with documentary makers Joe Berlinger and Bruce Sinofsky while they were filming the first Paradise Lost feature. The knife was a folding hunting knife, manufactured by Kershaw. According to the statements given by Berlinger and Sinofsky, Cooper informed them of his receipt of the knife on December 19, 1993. After the documentary crew returned to New York, Berlinger and Sinofsky reported to have discovered what appeared to be blood on the knife. HBO executives ordered them to return the knife to the West Memphis Police Department. The knife was not received at the West Memphis Police Department until January 8, 1994.
Byers initially claimed the knife had never been used. Blood was found on the knife and Byers then stated that he had used it only once, to cut deer meat. When told the blood matched both his and Chris’ blood type, Byers said he had no idea how that blood might have gotten on the knife. During interrogation, West Memphis police suggested to Byers that he might have left the knife out accidentally, and Byers agreed with this. Byers later stated that he may have cut his thumb. Further testing on the knife produced inconclusive results, due in part to the rather small amount of blood, and because both John Mark Byers and Chris Byers had the same HLA-DQα genotype.
John Mark Byers agreed to, and subsequently passed, a polygraph test during the filming of Paradise Lost 2: Revelations in regard to the murders, but the documentary indicated that Byers was under the influence of several psychoactive prescription medications that could have affected the test results.
Possible teeth imprints
Following their convictions, Echols, Misskelley and Baldwin submitted imprints of their teeth that were compared to alleged bite-marks on Stevie Branch’s forehead not mentioned in the original autopsy or trial. No matches were found. Byers had his teeth removed in 1997—after the first trial. He has offered apparently contradictory reasons for their removal: in one instance claiming that seizure medication he was taking caused periodontal disease, and in yet another claiming other kinds of dental problems which had troubled him for years.
After an expert examined autopsy photos and noted what he thought might be the imprint of a belt buckle on Byers’ corpse, the elder Byers revealed to the police that he had spanked his stepson shortly before the boy disappeared.
Vicki Hutcheson recantation
In October 2003, Vicki Hutcheson, who played a part in the arrests of Misskelley, Echols and Baldwin, gave an interview to the Arkansas Times in which she stated that every word she had given to the police was a fabrication. She further asserted that the police had insinuated that if she did not cooperate with them they would take away her child. She noted that when she visited the police station they had photographs of Echols, Baldwin, and Misskelley on the wall and were using them as dart targets. She also claims that an audio tape the police claimed was “unintelligible” (and eventually lost) was perfectly clear and contained no incriminating statements.
DNA testing and new physical evidence (2007)
In 2007, DNA collected from the crime scene was tested. None was found to match DNA from Echols, Baldwin, or Misskelley. In addition, a hair “not inconsistent with” Terry Hobbs, stepfather to Stevie Branch, was found tied into the knots used to bind one of the victims. The prosecutors, while conceding that no DNA evidence ties the accused to the crime scene, said that, “The State stands behind its convictions of Echols and his codefendants.”
Foreman and jury misconduct (2008)
In July 2008, it was revealed that Kent Arnold, the jury foreman on the Echols-Baldwin trial, discussed the case with an attorney prior to the beginning of deliberations and advocated for the guilt of the West Memphis Three as a result of the inadmissible Jessie Misskelley statements. Legal experts have agreed that this issue has the strong potential to result in the reversal of the convictions of Jason Baldwin and Damien Echols.
In September 2008, attorney (now judge) Daniel Stidham, who represented Misskelley in 1994, testified at a postconviction relief hearing. Stidham testified under oath that, during the trial, Judge David Burnett erred by making an improper communication with the jury during its deliberations. Stidham overheard Judge Burnett discuss taking a lunch break with the jury foreman and the foreman reply the jury was almost finished. He testified Judge Burnett responded, “You’ll need food for when you come back for sentencing”, and that the foreman asked in return what would happen if the defendant was acquitted. Stidham said the judge closed the door without answering. He testified that his own failure to put this incident on the court record and his failure to meet the minimum requirements in state law to represent a defendant in a capital murder case was evidence of ineffective assistance of counsel and that Misskelley’s conviction should therefore be vacated.
Request for retrial (2007–2010)
On October 29, 2007, papers were filed in federal court by Damien Echols’s defense lawyers seeking a retrial or his immediate release from prison. The filing cited DNA evidence linking Terry Hobbs (stepfather of one of the victims) to the crime scene, and new statements from Hobbs’ now ex-wife. Also presented in the filing was new expert testimony that the alleged knife marks on the victims, including the injuries to Byers’ genitals, were the result of animal predation after the bodies had been dumped.
On September 10, 2008, Circuit Court Judge David Burnett denied the request for a retrial, citing the DNA tests as inconclusive. That ruling was appealed to the Arkansas Supreme Court, which heard oral arguments in the case on September 30, 2010.
Arkansas Supreme Court ruling
On November 4, 2010, the Arkansas Supreme Court ordered a lower judge to consider whether newly analyzed DNA evidence might exonerate the three. The justices also said a lower court must examine claims of misconduct by the jurors who sentenced Damien Echols to death and Jessie Misskelley and Jason Baldwin to life in prison.
In early December 2010, Circuit Court Judge David Laser was selected to replace David Burnett, who was elected to the Arkansas State Senate, to preside in the evidentiary hearings following the successful appeal.
Plea deal and release
After weeks of negotiations, on August 19, 2011, Echols, Baldwin and Misskelley were released from prison as part of an Alford plea deal, a legal mechanism in which “guilty” pleas are entered but innocence is nevertheless maintained. An Alford plea concedes that prosecutors have sufficient evidence to secure a conviction but reserves the right to assert innocence. Stephen Braga, an attorney with Ropes & Gray who took up Echols’s defense on a pro bono basis beginning in 2009, negotiated the plea agreement with prosecutors. Under the deal, Judge David Laser vacated the previous convictions, including the capital murder convictions for Echols and Baldwin, and ordered a new trial. Each man then entered an Alford plea to lesser charges of first- and second-degree murder while verbally stating their innocence. Judge Laser then sentenced them to time served, a total of 18 years and 78 days, and they were given a suspended imposition of sentence for 10 years. If they re-offend they can be sent back to prison for 21 years.
The Alford plea deal meant that the hearing ordered by the Arkansas Supreme Court in November 2010, scheduled for December 2011 before Judge Laser, became unnecessary. Factors cited by prosecutor Scott Ellington for agreeing to the plea deal included that two of the victims’ families have joined forces with the defense, the mother of a witness who testified about Echols’s confession has questioned her daughter’s truthfulness, and the State Crime Lab employee who collected fiber evidence at the Echols and Baldwin homes after their arrests has died. As part of the plea deal, they can not pursue civil action against the state for wrongful imprisonment.
Many of their supporters as well as opponents who still believe them guilty resented the unusual plea deal. Supporters are pushing Arkansas Governor Mike Beebe to pardon Echols, Baldwin and Misskelley based on their innocence. Beebe plans to deny the request absent evidence showing someone else committed the murders. Prosecutor Scott Ellington said the Arkansas state crime laboratory would run searches on any DNA evidence produced in private laboratory tests in the defense’s investigation. This would include running the results through the FBI’s Combined DNA Index System database. Ellington said that although he still considered the men guilty, the three would likely be acquitted if a new trial were held given the powerful legal counsel representing them now, the loss of evidence over time, and the change of heart among some of the witnesses.
Family and law enforcement opinions
The families of the three victims are divided in their opinions as to the guilt or innocence of the West Memphis Three. In 2000, the biological father of Christopher Byers, Rick Murray, described his doubts about the guilty verdicts on the West Memphis Three website. In 2007, Pamela Hobbs, the mother of victim Stevie Branch, joined those who have publicly questioned the verdicts, calling for a reopening of the verdicts and further investigation of the evidence. In late 2007, John Mark Byers also announced that he now believes that Echols, Misskelley, and Baldwin are innocent. “I had made the comment if it were ever proven the three were innocent, I’d be the first to lead the charge for their freedom,” said Byers. “Every opportunity that I have to voice that the West Memphis Three are innocent and the evidence and proof prove they’re innocent.” Byers has been speaking to the media on behalf of the convicted and has expressed his desire for justice for the families of both the victims and the three accused.
In 2010, district Judge Brian S. Miller ordered Terry Hobbs, the stepfather of victim Stevie Branch, to pay $17,590 to Dixie Chicks singer Natalie Maines for legal costs stemming from a defamation lawsuit he filed against the band. Miller dismissed a suit Hobbs filed over Maines’s remarks at a 2007 Little Rock rally implying he was involved in killing his stepson. The judge said Hobbs had voluntarily injected himself into a public controversy over whether three teenagers convicted of killing the three 8-year-old boys had been wrongfully condemned.
John E. Douglas, a former longtime FBI agent who has interviewed the country’s most prolific serial killers during his years with the FBI and works as a profiler to help police in their searches for violent criminals, said the slayings of the three West Memphis boys weren’t the work of three unsophisticated teenage killers, but that of a single person who set out to degrade and punish the victims. Douglas was formerly FBI Unit Chief of the Investigative Support Unit of the National Center for the Analysis of Violent Crime for 25 years. Douglas stated in his report for Echols’s legal team that there was no evidence for Satanic ritual involvement in the killings, and he agreed that post mortem animal predation explained the alleged knife injuries. Douglas believed that the perpetrator had a violent history and was familiar with the victims and with local geography. He stated that the victims had died from a combination of blunt force trauma and drowning, in a crime driven by personal cause.
Documentaries, publications and studies
Three films, Paradise Lost: The Child Murders at Robin Hood Hills, Paradise Lost 2: Revelations, and Paradise Lost 3: Purgatory, directed by Joe Berlinger and Bruce Sinofsky, have documented this case and are strongly critical of the verdict. The films marked the first time Metallica allowed their music to be used in a movie, which drew attention to the case.
There have been a number of books, including Blood of Innocents by Guy Reel, The Last Pentacle of the Sun: Writings in Support of the West Memphis Three, edited by Brett Alexander Savory & M. W. Anderson, featuring dark fiction and non-fiction by well-known speculative fiction writers, and Devil’s Knot by Mara Leveritt, which also argue that the suspects were wrongly convicted. In 2005, Damien Echols completed his memoir, Almost Home, Vol 1, offering his perspective of the case. A biography of John Mark Byers by Greg Day was published in May 2012.
In 2002, Henry Rollins worked with other vocalists from various rock, hip hop, punk and metal groups and members of Black Flag and the Rollins Band on the compilation album Rise Above: 24 Black Flag Songs to Benefit the West Memphis Three. All money raised from sales of the album are donated to the legal funds of the West Memphis Three. Metalcore band Zao’s 2002 album Parade of Chaos included a track inspired by the case named “Free The Three”. On April 28, 2011, the band Disturbed released a song entitled “3” as a download on their website. The song is about the West Memphis Three, with 100% of the proceeds going to their benefit foundation for their release.
A website by Martin David Hill, containing approximately 160,000 words and intending to be a “thorough investigation”, collates and discusses many details surrounding the murders and investigation, including some anecdotal information.
Investigative journalist Aphrodite Jones undertook an exploration of the case on her Discovery Network show True Crime With Aphrodite Jones following the DNA discoveries. The episode premiered May 5, 2011, with extensive background information included on the show’s page at the Investigation Discovery site. In August 2011, White Light Productions announced that the West Memphis Three would be featured on their new program Wrongfully Convicted.
In January 2010, the CBS television news journal 48 Hours aired “The Memphis 3”, an in-depth coverage of the history of the case including interviews with Echols and supporters. On September 17, 2011, 48 Hours re-aired the episode with the update of their release and interviews from Echols and his wife, and Baldwin. Piers Morgan Tonight aired an episode on September 29, 2011, about them discussing their plans for the future and continued investigations on the case.
West of Memphis, directed and written by Amy J. Berg, and produced by Peter Jackson, as well as by Echols himself, premiered at the 2012 Sundance Film Festival. Actor Johnny Depp, a longtime supporter of the West Memphis Three and personal friend of Damien Echols, was on hand to support the film in its premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival in 2012.
Atom Egoyan directed a dramatized feature film of the case, titled Devil’s Knot, released in U.S. theaters on May 9, 2014. The film stars Reese Witherspoon and Colin Firth.
Jessie Misskelley Jr. (born July 10, 1975) was arrested in connection to the murders of May 5, 1993. After a reported 12 hours of interrogation by police, Misskelley, who has an IQ of 72, confessed to the murders, and implicated Baldwin and Echols. However, the confession was at odds with facts known by police, such as the time of the murders. Under the “Bruton rule”, his confession could not be admitted against his co-defendants and thus he was tried separately. Misskelley was convicted by a jury of one count of first-degree murder and two counts of second-degree murder. The court sentenced him to life plus 40 years in prison. His conviction was appealed and affirmed by the Arkansas Supreme Court.
On August 19, 2011, Misskelley, along with Baldwin and Echols, entered an Alford plea. Judge David Laser then sentenced them to 18 years and 78 days, the amount of time they had served, and also levied a suspended sentence of 10 years. All three were released from prison that same day. Since his release, he has become engaged to his high school girlfriend and enrolled in a community college to become an auto mechanic.
Charles Jason Baldwin
Charles Jason Baldwin (born April 11, 1977) along with Misskelley and Echols, entered an Alford plea on August 19, 2011. Baldwin pleaded guilty to three counts of first degree murder while still asserting his actual innocence. The judge then sentenced the three men to 18 years and 78 days, the amount of time they had served, and also levied a suspended sentence of 10 years. Baldwin was initially resistant to this deal, insisting as a matter of principle that he would not plead guilty to something he did not do. But, he said, his refusing the deal would have meant Echols stayed on death row. “This was not justice,” he said of the deal. “However, they’re trying to kill Damien.” Since his release, he has moved to Seattle to live with friends and is in a relationship with a woman who befriended him while he was in prison. He has stated that he plans on enrolling in college to become a lawyer helping wrongfully convicted persons prove their innocence. Baldwin stated in a 2011 interview with Piers Morgan that he worked for a construction company and he was learning how to drive.
Damien Wayne Echols
Damien Wayne Echols (born Michael Wayne Hutchison, December 11, 1974) was on death row, locked-down 23 hours per day at the Varner Unit Supermax. On August 19, 2011, Echols, along with the two others collectively known as the West Memphis Three, were released from prison after their attorneys and the judge handling the upcoming retrial agreed to a deal. Under the terms of the Alford guilty plea, Echols and his co-defendants accepted the sufficiency of evidence supporting the three counts of first degree murder while maintaining their innocence. DNA evidence failed to connect Echols or his co-defendants to the crime.
Echols, ADC# 000931, entered the system on March 19, 1994. Until August 2011, he was incarcerated in the Arkansas Department of Correction (ADC) Varner Unit Supermax. In 1999, he married while he was in prison.
The mental stability of Damien Echols during the years immediately prior to the murders and also during his trial was the focus of his appellate legal team in their appeal attempts. In his efforts to win a new trial, Echols, 27 at the time of the appeal, claimed he was incompetent to stand trial because of a history of mental illness. The record on appeal spells out a long history of Echols’s mental health problems, including a May 5, 1992, Arkansas Department of Youth Services referral for possible mental illness, a year to the day before the murders. Hospital records for his treatment in Little Rock 11 months before the killings show a history of self-mutilation, and assertions to hospital staff that he gained power by drinking blood, that he had inside him the spirit of a woman who had killed her husband and that he was having hallucinations. He also told mental health workers that he was “going to influence the world.” The appellate legal team argued that Echols didn’t waive his assertion that he wasn’t mentally competent before his 1994 trial because he wasn’t competent to waive it. To assist in the appeals process, Echols’s appellate legal team retained a Berkeley-based forensic psychiatrist, Dr. George Woods, to make their case.
Echols’s lawyers claimed that his condition worsened during the trial, when he developed a “psychotic euphoria that caused him to believe he would evolve into a superior entity,” and eventually be transported to a different world. His psychosis dominated his perceptions of everything going on in court, Woods wrote. Echols’s mental state, while in prison awaiting trial, was also called into question by his appellate team.
Damien Echols at the 2012 Texas Book Festival.
While in prison Damien wrote letters to Gloria Shettles, an investigator for his defense team. Echols sought to overturn his conviction based on trial error including juror misconduct, as well as with the results of a DNA Status Report filed on July 17, 2007, which concluded “none of the genetic material recovered at the scene of the crimes was attributable to Mr. Echols, Echols’ co-defendant, Jason Baldwin, or defendant Jessie Misskelley …. Although most of the genetic material recovered from the scene was attributable to the victims of the offenses, some of it cannot be attributed to either the victims or the defendants.” Advanced DNA and other scientific evidence – combined with additional evidence from several different witnesses and experts – released in October 2007 had thrown the original ruling into question. A hearing on his petition for a writ of habeas corpus was held in the Federal District Court for the Eastern District of Arkansas.
On August 19, 2011, Echols, along with Baldwin and Misskelley, entered an Alford plea. The judge then sentenced them to 18 years and 78 days, the amount of time they had served, and also levied a suspended sentence of 10 years. Echols’s sentence was reduced to three counts of first degree murder. Lawyers representing the West Memphis Three reached the plea deal that allowed the men to walk free. They were transferred to the hearing with their possessions. The plea deal did not technically result in a full exoneration; some of the convictions would stand, though the men would not admit guilt. The counsel representing the men said they would continue to pursue full exoneration.
Echols co-wrote the lyrics to the song “Army Reserve”, on Pearl Jam’s self-titled album. Punk musician Michale Graves, formerly of The Misfits, has written music to coincide with Echols’s poetry. Echols and Graves released an album titled Illusions, in October 2007. His poetry has appeared in the Porcupine Literary Arts magazine (Volume 8, Issue 2), and he has written non-fiction for the Arkansas Literary Forum. Since his release, he has published a non-fiction book about both his childhood and incarceration, Life After Death (Blue Rider Press, 2012), which includes material from Echols’s previous memoir entitled, Almost Home: My Life Story Vol. 1, self-published while still in prison. Echols has relocated to Salem, Massachusetts with his wife and has no intentions of returning to Arkansas. In an interview with Piers Morgan, he stated that he would like to have a career in writing and visual arts.
The Real West Memphis Three
Chris Byers, Michael Moore, and Stevie Branch
Welcome West Memphis Three Facts:
If you are reading this website you have probably spent a few hours watching one or more of the five movies/documentaries about this case. You may have read one of several books about the murders. Maybe you’ve read some of the thousands of newspaper and magazine articles about the case. Nearly all of them are biased toward the supposed innocence of the West Memphis Three. You can read this entire website in about 30 minutes. Please take that brief time to educate yourself about the facts of this case most of the movies/books/articles leave out.
If you would like to dispute, discuss, or ask questions about the facts contained on this page, please visit our Facebook discussion group. There are many people there (both West Memphis Three supporters and non-supporters) who will be happy to discuss and debate the facts with you. You can also post on the Facebook page to alert us to any mistakes on this web page:
On May 5th, 1993 three eight year old boys were murdered in West Memphis, Arkansas. Damien Echols, Jason Baldwin, and Jessie Misskelley were arrested, tried and convicted of killing Michael Moore, Stevie Branch, and Chris Byers. In 2011, they pled guilty to the crimes using an Alford Plea, yet were released from prison with time served. There are many important facts left out of the documentaries, books, and most media coverage about the West Memphis Three (WM3) case.
Here are just a few:
FACT – JESSIE MISSKELLEY CONFESSED NUMEROUS TIMES:
The Paradise Lost and West of Memphis documentaries and the book and movie Devil’s Knot completely leave out the fact Jessie Misskelley confessed to the murders numerous times both before and after he was convicted.
May 6, 1993: The morning after the murders, Jessie’s friend, Buddy Lucas, stopped by Jessie’s house. Buddy said Jessie told him he “hurt” some boys in West Memphis the night before. He then broke out in sweat, cried, and gave Buddy a used pair of sneakers (presumably the ones he wore to the crime scene).
June 3, 1993: With consent from his father, Jessie was taken to the West Memphis Police Department for questioning. He was being questioned because he was a known friend of Damien Echols, who was a suspect in the murders. With additional written permission from his father, he was read his Miranda rights and given a polygraph exam, which he reportedly failed. The documentaries imply that Jessie was interrogated for 12 hours before confessing. That is a lie. Jessie arrived at that police station at 10:00am and confessed at 2:20pm. Only 2 1/2 hours of that time was spent in actual interrogation.
June 7, 1993: Jessie’s own family members believed he could have been involved with the murders. Jessie Misskelley Sr. was interviewed by KAIT-TV just days after his son’s arrest. On camera, Jessie Sr. admitted Jessie Jr. may have been with Echols and Baldwin at the crime scene.
Reporter: “Was he with them?”
Misskelley Sr: “He could have been with them, but he didn’t have anything to do with it I don’t believe.”
June 11, 1993: Many recent reports suggest Jessie immediately recanted. He did not. He confessed again to his own attorneys eight days later.
August 19, 1993: Jessie Misskelley met with his attorney, Dan Stidham, at the Clay County Detention Center and gave a statement that continued to confirm his guilt.
February 4, 1994: On the day he was sentenced to life plus 40 years for the murders, he got in a police car and confessed to the officers all the way to prison.
February 8, 1994: He put his hand on a Bible and swore to his attorney (Dan Stidham) that he, Damien, and Jason committed the murders. Further, he told Stidham that he was drunk on Evan Williams whiskey during the murders and the broken bottle could be found where he threw it on the ground under a bridge in West Memphis on his way home from the crime scene. Stidham told prosecutors he would believe his client’s confession if he could find that bottle. So Stidham, WMPD Inspector Gary Gitchell, and the prosecutors drove to West Memphis to look for it. They found a broken Evan Williams bottle in the exact area that Stidham indicated Jessie said it would be. According to Prosecutor John Fogleman, Stidham directed the group to search the I-40 underpass nearest to Wal-Mart (near the current sight of Kroger), and the men found the broken bottle in that location. Further corroborating this story is the fact that Jessie mentioned in this 2/8/94 confession that Vicki Hutcheson was the one who bought him Evan Williams whiskey on the day of the murders. When the attorneys called Hutcheson she confirmed that she did, indeed, buy Jessie a bottle of Evan Williams on the day of the murders.
Here is a good retelling of the finding of the Evan Williams bottle by case researcher “St. Alphonse.” According to “St. Alphonse” this is the story as it was told to him by Prosecutor John Fogleman, Prosecutor Brent Davis, and WMPD Inspector Gary Gitchell:
February 17, 1994: This time, Jessie confessed to the prosecutors. At the start of the confession the prosecutors noted that Jessie had not been promised any deals for his testimony. His attorneys begged him not to give this confession, but he gave it anyway.
October 24, 1994: A cell mate of Jessie’s named Michael Johnson wrote to prosecutor Brent Davis begging him to keep Jessie behind bars. He said Jessie told him details of the crime. He described Jessie as a “cold, morbid person.” Johnson got all the facts correct, except one. He told Davis that the WM3 left a woman’s “nightgown” at the scene. No nightgown was found at the scene. However, fibers consistent with Jason Baldwin’s mother’s bathrobe were found on one of the victims. Maybe Jessie called the bathrobe a “nightgown” while mentioning it was a piece of evidence linking the WM3 to the crime. Perhaps Johnson just got this fact a bit mixed up in his retelling of Jessie’s morbid tale. You can read Johnson’s letter at the following link.
Recent Years: For years, rumors have circulated around Arkansas that Jessie continued to confess to his counselors in prison. So far, none of those counselors have spoken publicly. But other associates of Jessie have spoken about his more recent confessions. Many years before the WM3 were released, a WM3 supporter who posted on the WM3 discussion boards as “TrueRomance” befriended Jessie Misskelley. Her real name may have been “Lindsey.” She wrote and received letters to Jessie, talked to him on the phone, and also visited him in prison. She immediately ceased believing in the three’s innocence after having a conversation with Jessie in prison where she asked him directly if he had been involved in the murders. According to her, the answer he gave caused her to stop all contact and become a “non” (a non believer in WM3 innocence). We don’t know what Jessie told her, she has never disclosed that information, but it clearly wasn’t good. Below is an excerpt from a post she made on a WM3 discussion board. The original post cannot be found and the exact date of the post is unknown… it was possibly around 2006. The post still exists because it was copied to other WM3 discussion groups. For clarification, when she refers to “the KGB,” that is a knickname for WM3.org founders Kathy Bakken, Grove Pashley, and Burk Sauls. Here is what “TrueRomance” had to say:
“If I was going to let this case consume my life I felt like I needed to research things more aggressively and ask Jessie some point blank questions I never had. I felt like it was the only fair thing to do. If I’m risking my peace of mind and throwing myself 110% into this then I’m going to know beyond a shadow of a doubt that the person I’m putting MY good name on the line for is being honest and is innocent. After all my research and questions I found out things were much different than I originally thought. Its also different when you ask someone a point blank question and you dont get the answer you were expecting. And don’t reply to this and tell me to cite this and provide that because I did that little dance with supporters for long enough and I dont care whether anyone agrees with me. The information I found is readily available to anyone who wants to look at it, but any supporter still stuck in that conspiracy mentality is only going to twist it. I was lied to over and over by supporters, the KGB, and consistently withheld information on that side. Once I “became a non” I was offered a wealth of information, never once misled, and never once forced to believe the same as anyone else. I never got that when I was a supporter. So do I believe the three are guilty? Yes. And if any supporter wants to pull this over to the other board or make fun of me or my lifestyle, my physical appearance, or social class (which theyve done in the past), feel free. I got two things out of this situation that youll never have and that is an education and the truth.”
You can read the entire post from “TrueRomance” about her prison relationship with Jessie Misskelly at the following sites:
FACT – DAMIEN ECHOLS WAS MENTALLY ILL AT THE TIME OF THE MURDERS:
The documentaries all fail to mention that Damien Echols had an extensive mental health record (more than 500 pages long) at the time of the murders. In 1992 he was sent to psychiatric hospitals twice by court order and once by his own parents. His parents were concerned about his involvement in what they described as “witchcraft” and “devil worship” and wanted him out of their home. In September 1992 Damien’s parents told his mental health physician they were “frightened of him and what he can do, not only to them but to other children that reside in the home.”
The mental health documents are public record because Damien’s attorneys presented them as evidence in the sentencing phase of his trial. It was a last-ditch effort by Echols’ attorneys to convince the jury he was mentally ill, and possibly spare him from the death penalty. Despite their jaw-dropping revelations about Echols’ mental health at the time of the murders, these records are never mentioned in any of the documentaries.
The documents (often called Exhibit 500 or E500) reveal that Echols:
-Described himself as a homicidal, suicidal, schizophrenic, manic depressive, sociopath (the handwriting on this document is his own)
-Set fires at school
-Believed he was possessed by a spirit named “Rosey”
-Believed he was a god/Christ
-Believed he “got power” by drinking blood
You can read his entire mental health file here:
A brief index for this huge file can be found here:
Other documents (outside of the Exhibit 500) reveal reports of cruelty to animals, including an incident where several witnesses (including Jason Baldwin’s own cousin – Joe Bartoush) reported he stomped a dog to death in 1992. It’s a documented fact many murderers start by killing animals, before moving on to humans.
Was Damien persecuted and framed for murder by a bunch of redneck cops in West Memphis because he was interested in Wicca, listened to Metallica, and wore black? No. Was he a suspect because police officers in West Memphis knew he was a mentally ill psychopath capable of murder? Yes.
FACT: DAMIEN ECHOLS HAD A WELL-DOCUMENTED TASTE FOR BLOOD:
You can find detailed documentation about Damien’s taste for blood in this excellent article by WM3 case researcher Fred J. Walsh:
Damien Echols’ Blood Sucking
A fairly chronological guide to documented accounts of his blood sucking/drinking/licking.
(#1) Charter Hospital of Little Rock, June 1992
“Trying to suck blood off peers who have scratched themselves.” (E500, p265)
(#2) Craighead County Juvenile Detention Center, September 1992
A Charter Hospital psychological assessment written on September 10 described his return to juvie:
“Transferred to Crittenden, one of the kids at the detention hall cut his wrists, Damien grabbed his arm and began to the suck the blood, smeared it over his body and said he’s a devil worshipping vampire. Says he’s not a vampire but a witch. He is in isolation and suicide watch.”
Joyce Cureton, director of the Craighead County Juvenile Detention Center, reported on the incident:
“Approx. three hours after Damien arrived, he was sitting in rec. area with several other residents. One of the boys had scraped his arm a little, and it was bleeding some. Without warning, Damien grabbed the arm that was bleeding, and began to suck the blood from it. The boys all stated he had been saying he had not taken his medication the night before, and he was about to ‘go off on them.’ Damien was asked why he did this, and he stated ‘I don’t know.'”
In a psychological evaluation dated 9/15/92, Echols offered his own account of the incident:
“While at the Detention Center, he reportedly grabbed a peer and began “sucking blood from the peer’s neck”. According to Damien, he relates that the peer was aware that he was going to do this. Staff reports that Damien was not remorseful for his behavior. Damien indicated that he sucked blood in order to get into a gang. He denies that it was any type of ritual”
“… Damien laughed when he was called “a blood sucking vampire”. He relates he does not know why people think this. He was placed in isolation in the Detention Center until he could be admitted to Charter Hospital. The other peers were afraid of him. Damien denies that he rubbed the blood all over his face.”
“… He denied intent to harm himself or others at the time of the exam. He did admit to sucking blood out of the peer’s neck. He related that the peer had hurt his neck, and he subsequently sucked the blood.”
While Echols laughed off vampire label he allegedly gave himself, he also went out of his way to convince one social worker that he actually believed himself a vampire…
“Damien Echols … seemed to withhold no information and readily answered questions concerning his religious beliefs and the fact that he believes that he is a vampire and does worship the devil. It was the social worker’s opinion that Damien was not disclosing information for the purposes of shock, that he was simply disclosing what he currently is believing… [H]is behaviors could best be described as odd and bizzare. Damien smiled at inappropriate times. He cut his eyes back and forth as if he was responding to external stimulation. He seemed to be giggling at something that he was saying or a private joke that was unknown to this social worker.”
Pretty fantastical stuff, right? And yet this professed belief in blood-drinking was further corroborated a few months later…
(#3) Counseling Sessions and Social Security Application, January-February 1993
On January 25, Sherry Dockins filed a longer “Individual Progress Note”.
“Focus of today’s session is spent talking with Damien about his feelings of death. He brought with him to session a poem that he had written during the past week. The theme of this poem centered around death and power. Damien explained that he obtains his power by drinking blood of others. He typically drinks the blood of a sexual partner or of a ruling partner. This is achieved by biting or cutting. He states “it makes me feel like a God”. Damien describes drinking blood as giving him more power and strength. He remembers doing this as far back as age 10. He does not remember where he learned to do this.”
(#4) Tiffany Allen witnesses a fight between Jason Baldwin and another kid, 1992-1993?, report from 10-93
RIDGE: WHAT OCCURRED DURING THAT FIGHT?
ALLEN: WELL, JOHN HIT HIM [JASON] HARD AND HE STARTED BLEEDING AND THEN AFTER THE FIGHT AND EVERYTHING DAMIEN BENDS DOWN PUT HIS FINGER IN, DIPS INTO THE BLOOD AND THEN STICKS IT IN HIS MOUTH
(#5) Jessie Misskelley mentions D’s blood licking/drinking in the first hour of his being questioned by police, 06-03-93 has seen Jason Baldwin get in Fight
with a guy and got his nose busted and Damien stuck his Finger in the blood and licked it. Occurred in lakeshore. Damien is Sick (in head) Drinks Blood
SOURCES: Notes of Mike Allen and Bryn Ridge
(#6) Jessie Misskelley includes a licking blood detail in his confession to Stidham and Prosecutors, 02-17-94
DAVIS: What, what was Damien doing during this time?
MISSKELLEY: Well the one that got cut on his face, he stuck his finger on his cheek and slicked the blood off of it.
(#7) Damien Echols tells interviewer he didn’t drink blood — he licked it, 1994-1996?
FACT – DAMIEN ECHOLS HAS DABBLED IN MANY RELIGIONS… FROM BAPTIST, TO CATHOLIC, TO BUDDISM, TO WICCA, TO SATANISM. THE MURDER INVESTIGATION WAS NOT A “WITCH HUNT.”
During the trials, prosecutors successfully demonstrated Echols dabbled in many religions and belief systems. Growing up in West Memphis he sometimes attended Baptist youth group sessions and he spent some time studying Catholicism at St. Michael Catholic Church. Many of the journals and books confiscated from his bedroom after the murders had occult related themes. He converted to Buddhism in prison. He and his wife, Lorri Davis, were married in a Buddist ceremony in 2005.
After Lorri helped free him from prison, they moved into movie maker Peter Jackson’s apartment in the Tribeca section of New York City. They lived there rent-free until they left NYC in September 2012 and purchased a $290,000 home in Salem, Massachusetts – home of the Salem witch trials. Damien has said he believes that Salem (with its touristy witch supply shops and tarot card readers) is the only place in the world where he fits in. The early 1800s era house where he resides in Salem serves as home base for him to pursue his many current interests. Judging from his Tweets and recent interviews those interests include:
-Tarot card reading
-Tattooing his “mark” (a crudely drawn black X) on his murder groupies for $200 a pop
-Getting matching tattoos with his new best buddy, Johnny Depp
-Traveling the nation promoting his book, “Life After Death” (published September 2012)
-Traveling the nation promoting his movie “West of Memphis” (released in December 2012)
-Working as a motivational speaker (according to his agent’s website he charges “under $10,000”)
-Collecting (presumably fake) human skulls
-Admiring and posting photos of artwork depicting torture and murder
-Selling his own prison artwork for as much as $3,500 for an original and $150 for a print. At a January 2013 exhbit at Sacred Tattoo Art Gallery in NYC he had more than $50,000 worth of his “prison art” for sale. One of his artworks depicted a screaming child being attacked by three butterflies. (Could the butterflies have been Damien, Jason, and Jessie?) That piece alone sold for $1,700
-Writing near daily Tweets about various occult related topics
-Running an occult “faith healing” center. On 4/16/13 Echols opened his “Hermetic Reiki” center in Salem: “@damienechols: The Hermetic Reiki center is up and running. If you’d like to make an appointment email firstname.lastname@example.org.” Reiki involves rubbing your hands on the body of another person to heal them by transmitting your “Life Force” to them. Yes, that’s right, Echols is a “faith healer.” He charges $130 hour for this “service.”
-And last, but not least, narcissistically writing and talking about his favorite subject… himself.
Even die-hard supporters are growing tired of his incessant Tweets about “moon water” and “magick.” For what it’s worth, the murders took place during a full moon and “magick” is a term frequently used by Aleister Crowley.
Were the murders a true satanic ritual? No. Did Damien’s interest in the occult coupled with his mental illness play a role? Probably so. Was the city of West Memphis (and later the jury) in a state of “Satanic Panic?” No. That is a myth created by the Paradise Lost documentary makers because it made a good story.
The trials were moved out of West Memphis nearly one hour away to Jonesboro (Echols and Baldwin) and Corning (Misskelley) in order to give the defendants a better shot at seating fair, unbiased juries. Members of those juries were far removed from any alleged “Satanic Panic” in West Memphis. “Satanic Panic” only existed in the minds of some documentary makers who were attempting to make a buck by sensationalizing their movie at the expense of justice for three dead little boys.
FACT – THERE IS EVIDENCE THE WM3 COMMITTED THE MURDERS:
The documentaries leave out the considerable physical and circumstantial evidence presented at the trials. Some recent mainstream media reports go so far as to say “no evidence was found.” Nothing could be farther from the truth. The murderers slicked off the creek bank and washed away most of the physical evidence in the muddy water. Despite their efforts, a few items
Green fibers microscopically similar to a shirt found in Echols’ home and red fibers microscopically similar with a bath robe found in Baldwin’s home were found on the victims.
The defense retested the fibers in 2012 and claim they do not match. However, the people who retested the evidence were paid by the defense, the fibers have decayed over the years and
are now of poor quality, and the original criminalist who examined them has died and cannot defend attacks against her original findings.
What appeared to be blue candle wax was found on a book (called Never on a Broomstick) in Echols’
bedroom. A small blue candle was also found on a table in Domini Teer’s bedroom. (Domini Teer was Echols’ girlfriend at the time). Why is this important? Because blue candle wax was found on the shirt of victim Stevie Branch. It was never proven that the waxes matched, but this strange coincidence was mentioned in the prosecution’s closing argument.
The Lake Knife
A knife was found submerged blade down in the pond directly behind Jason Baldwin’s home. Damien’s ex-girlfriend, Deanna Holcomb, testified that the knife was similar to a knife that belonged to Damien. She said Damien’s knife was unique because it had a compass on the end. During the trial, a knife distributor testified that the lake knife had a missing compass.
Several years ago, a veteran West Memphis Three case researcher named Shaun Wheeler revisited what had been described as a human bite mark on Stevie Branch’s forehead. Wheeler had two forensic odontologists (dentists) compare the wound to the missing compass slot on the handle of the lake knife. According to Wheeler, forensic odontologists Homer Campbell and Peter Loomis are experts in both tool mark and bite mark identification.
Campbell and Loomis both report that the round slot where the compass had been matched the wound on Branch’s forehead. These are transcriptions of emails Wheeler says were sent to him by Campbell and Loomis.
“I believe the injuries to the left forehead and upper lid of the left eye were produced by the knife recovered or one similar. I also sent the photos of the injuries and the knife to another for evaluation and he agrees. Have fun with this and thank you for sending it to me.” -Homer Campbell
“Bingo. The circular mark sure looks like the butt of the survival knife. The measurements fit. The diameter of the injury is 30mm, and the diameter of the prominent circular area of the butt of the knife is 29.8mm. The 3 lacerations under the eyebrow look like they were made by the serrations on the back side of the knife. The measurements also fit here. The lacerations measure 11.2mm between them, and the serrated points on the knife vary between 11.1 and 11.4 mm. Of course the photo with the wooden ruler is blurry depicting these serrations but I can still measure them.” -Peter Loomis
Also worth noting, the lake knife’s missing compass many have had a metal pin. Some have speculated the metal pin could have caused the “x-mark” injury in the center of Stevie’s forehead. This is what the missing compass on the lake knife is believed to have looked like. Note the metal pin in the middle: http://thewm3revelations.files.wordpress.com/2013/03/knives-survival-knife-with-compass-black-hk-8838b-c.jpg
This video illustrates how the lake knife could have caused the wound on Stevie’s forehead: http://m.youtube.com/watch?v=4zgf1Epw3TM
An extremely in-depth discussion on this topic with additional pictures of the lake knife compared to the injuries can be found here: http://thewm3revelations.wordpress.com/tag/west-memphis-three-murder-damien-echols-jessie-misske/
The Bloody Necklace
Though never presented to the jury, a necklace belonging to Damien Echols had blood from two DNA sources on it. One source was consistent with his own blood. The second source was consistent with the blood of both victim Stevie Branch and co-defendant Jason Baldwin. The bloody necklace was discovered late in the trial. It was not presented to the jury because doing so would have caused a continuance in the trial to give the defense time to examine the new evidence. It could have also led to a mistrial and a severance of the Echols and Baldwin cases. Prosecutors claimed the sample was used up in the original testing, so the blood on the necklace cannot be re-tested.
The victims were tied with three distinct knots. This pointed to three killers involved in the murders.
Blood at the Crime Scene
In the Paradise Lost documentaries you will hear people say that “no blood was found at the crime scene.” Many people have used that to theorize that the murders took place somewhere else and the bodies were later dumped in the ditch (an idea sometimes referred to as “The Man Hole Theory”). It’s a tactic used by the WM3 defense team to attempt to frame “alternative suspects” such as Terry Hobbs. The fact is, Luminol testing in May 1993 revealed significant amounts of blood at the crime scene. Luminol is a chemical that glows when it is exposed to blood, but it was not admissible in court in 1994. The blood revealed by the Luminol clearly shows that the murders occurred exactly where Jessie Misskelley said they did. As one law enforcement official described it, the crime scene “lit up like a Christmas tree” when Luminol was applied.
Eyewitnesses also played a role. One of the centerpieces of the case involved the Hollingsworth family who knew Damien and claimed to see him walking near the crime scene, covered in mud, on the night of the murders. The witnesses claim that he was walking with his girlfriend Domini Teer. (Domini would later become the teen mother of Damien’s only child, Seth, who was born shortly after Damien’s arrest). The witnesses were actually relatives of Domini and knew Damien and Domini well. Prosecutors made a convincing argument that Jason Baldwin and Domini had a similar build and hairstyle at the time of the murders and could have been easily confused for one another in the dark. Regardless of who was with Damien, the Hollingsworth family was adamant that they saw Damien walking with someone near the crime scene on the night of the murders. There is no record that that Hollingsworth family has ever recanted this story.
FACT – ECHOLS, BALDWIN, AND MISSKELLEY DID NOT HAVE ALIBIS. SOME OF THE “ALIBIS” PRESENTED IN WEST OF MEMPHIS ARE LESS THAN TRUTHFUL:
None of the three had an alibi that held up in court for the hours in which the murders occurred. Echols and Misskelley attempted to provide alibi witnesses, but they were all discredited on the stand during the trials. Jason Baldwin’s “alibi” was so flimsy, his attorney did not even bother to present it.
Jessie Misskelley’s Failed Alibis:
In the documentary West of Memphis, Jessie Misskelly’s alibi witnesses tell a story that Jessie was wrestling in a nearby town on the night of the murders. The fact is, Jessie Misskelley’s jury heard these witnesses and did not believe their conflicting stories. The movie presents a wrestling contract and a picture of Jessie in wrestling gear and seems to suggest that these items are from May 5th, 1993. Yet the movie presents no proof these items are from May 5th, 1993.
Damien Echols Failed Alibis:
In a 2010 interview with CNN, Damien Echols made the following claim:
“At the time the police say the murders took place I was actually on the phone with three different people. The problem was, my attorneys never called them to the stand.” -Damien Echols
You can watch that interview here (it’s at the very beginning):
There are actually four girls that Damien has claimed to talk to on May 5th, 1993. Why didn’t his attorneys call them to the stand? Here’s why. Because not a single one of them could account for his whereabouts from 5:30pm to 9:20pm on May 5th, 1993. The murders are widely believed to have occurred between 6:45pm and 8:00pm. In fact, some of the “phone girls” statements actually place Damien WITH Jason Baldwin during that time. Their statements would not have provided alibis for Damien. To the contrary, they would have provided evidence that he was out of his
home between 5:30pm and 9:20pm with Jason Baldwin on the night of May 5th, 1993. The “phone
girls” would have made much better prosecution witnesses than defense witnesses. Echols should be thankful they weren’t called as witnesses in 1993. Here are summaries of their 1993 police
( 1 ) Holly George: Damien claimed he talked to Holly George on May 5th, 1993. Holly told police she didn’t talk to Damien that evening. She said she spoke with him much earlier in the afternoon, around 3:00pm or 4:00pm.
( 2 ) Heather Cliett: Damien claimed he spoke with Heather Cliett on the evening of May
5th, 1993. Cliett said she’d been unable to reach Echols until 10:30pm. She also mentioned that Holly George told her that Echols had been “out walking around” on May 5th, 1993.
( 3 ) Domini Teer: Damien’s girlfriend, Domini Teer, said she last saw Damien around 5:00-5:30pm on May 5th, 1993. She said she did not speak with him again until Damien called her around 10:00pm that night.
( 4 ) Jennifer Bearden: Most damaging to Damien’s case is Jennifer Bearden. Bearden told police in a 9/10/93 statement that she called Jason’s house between 4:15pm and 5:30pm on May 5th, 1993. She says Jason answered the phone and she talked to Jason and Damien for about 20 minutes. Damien told her he and Jason were “going somewhere” and to call him back at 8:00pm. When Bearden called Damien’s house at 8:00pm his grandmother answered. Damien’s grandmother told Bearden that Damien “wasn’t there.” In her police statement, Bearden says she finally reached Damien around 9:20pm. This is an exchange with officer Bryn Ridge and Bearden during her 9/10/93 statement:
RIDGE: About what time was that call you made to Jason’s?
BEARDEN: Between, it had to be somewhere in between 4:15 and 5, something like that 5, 5:30
RIDGE: Who answered the phone at Jason’s?
RIDGE: And did you talk to Damien?
BEARDEN: Yeah I talked to Jason about 5 minutes and the (inaudible) with Damien and he wasn’t talking because they were playing video games with his little brother Matt
RIDGE: Okay, and after that conversation you had with him
BEARDEN: He said him and Jason were going to go somewhere, him and Jason were going somewhere and that he, um, wanted me to call him later at his house around 8 and I said okay.
RIDGE: Okay, did he say where he was going to go?
RIDGE: Okay, and when you called back about 8.
BEARDEN: His Grandmother said he wasn’t there, and I was suppose to call back around 9, and I called back around 9:20, 9:30 and I talk to him for a little bit, but then I had to get off the phone, because I wasn’t suppose to be on the phone after 9:30.
During her conversation with Damien around 9:20pm on May 5th, 1993 Bearden says Damien told her he had been “out” with Jason. He claims they had been driven somewhere by Jason’s mother, Angela Gail Grinnell:
RIDGE: Okay, after that last call and you talked to Damien, did you ask him where he had been that evening?
BEARDEN: I said where did you and Jason go, and he said, uh, his Mom just took us some where, he didn’t really say where, because like –
RIDGE: Who’s Mom took him somewhere?
Problem is, Damien was lying. Jason’s mom could not have driven them anywhere because she told the prosecutor she was at work from 3:00pm until 11:00pm on May 5th, 1993:
FOGLEMAN: OKAY, WHAT HOURS DO YOU WORK THERE?
ANGELA: I WORK FROM 3 TO 11
In West of Memphis, Bearden can be seen reading from a police report saying that “she had been on the phone with Damien and Jason during the afternoon after school and until about 9:30pm.” This is offered up as proof that Damien was on the phone with Bearden all night on May 5th until 9:30pm. This poorly written police report distorts the facts of Bearden’s full police statement in which Bearden clearly states that she spoke with Damien before 5:30pm and after 9:20pm and that he was “out” with Jason in between (during the same time the murders were occurring). This is yet another example of how West of Memphis and the other documentaries distort the facts to make the WM3 appear innocent, when the facts clearly point to guilt.
This list of inconsistencies and outright lies was compiled by WM3 case researcher Fred J. Walsh:
– Place of residence
Told a 2010 interviewer at the time of the crimes he had lived in Marion, AR, and told Larry King it was within 10 or 15 miles of West Memphis. At trial Mr. Echols testified that his residence was at Broadway Trailer Park in West Memphis, within 2 miles of crime scene.
– Frequency of travel within West Memphis
Testified in 1994 to walking around West Memphis “frequently”; in a 2010 interview stated he went to West Memphis “hardly at all.”
– Familiarity with area around victim neighborhoods
Testified in 1994 to walking through those neighborhoods 2-3 times a week, and in fact had lived across from Robin Hood Hills in Mayfair Apartments as a child for a time; also answered affirmatively on a police questionnaire that he was familiar with Robin Hood Hills. But in a 2010 interview Mr. Echols denied that familiarity with the crime scene area, and said it was a residential area, and thus out of bounds for him, as he would only go to West Memphis for Walmart, and such.
– Alibi on the Stand
Agreed with prosecutor that his visit to some family friends was moved around depending on the hours he needed to cover.
– Initial Changes to Alibi Story
Alibi story changed between police interviews with Mr. Echols on May 9 and May 10, with respect to (1) who had picked him up from Laundromat near Jason’s Uncle’s house; (2) who had gotten in the car as passengers; (3) when the pick-up occurred; and (4) where they went afterwards.
– Further changes to Alibi Story
While awaiting trial, Mr. Echols told his defense investigator in July 1993 that at 7:45pm he had fielded a phone call from a 12-year-old girl that lasted 60-90 minutes. The girl, meanwhile, said she reached him not until around 9:30pm and that they had spoken only briefly; an earlier attempt to reach him at 8 or 9pm had indicated he was out; and when she asked him where he’d been that evening, he’d told her with co-defendant Jason Baldwin. In August 1993 Mr. Echols revised this story, saying that the girl had tried to reach him but her call was denied because he had given instructions to his mother not to take it, because he was at home with his girlfriend, Domini — a claim that is refuted by all accounts of Domini’s activities that day.
– Friendship with Jessie Misskelley
In his book Almost Home (2005) Mr. Echols maintained he had known Misskelley enough to say a few words when he saw him. Currently, former FBI profiler and WM3 advocate John Douglas broadcasts Echols’ contention that he “didn’t even really know” Misskelley. But if we go back to the time of the investigation, the accounts of peers and community members like Domini Teer, Jim McNease, Jason Crosby, Deanna Holcomb, and others, maintain an actual friendship between Echols and Misskelley, and place the two together at Echols’ house, walking around town, and at community events in 1991-1993.
– Origin and Extent of his Psych History, aka Exhibit 500
Currently Mr. Echols says his documented psych history for 1992-1993 — a large set of documents generated by various mental health professionals during his 3 hospitalizations for suicidal and homicidal impulses, detailing among other things the threats to his parents that led to their telling health professionals they did not want him to return to their household, because “they are frightened of him and what he can do, not only to them but to other children that reside in the home” — was actually a document written by a single perjured woman, and engineered by Jason’s lawyers to cast suspicion on him. Neither of these contentions is true. Further, Mr. Echols has told Piers Morgan that he wasn’t a troublemaking kid (despite multiple school suspensions for fights and fires, and the three hospitalizations), and typically portrays his various well-documented mental issues, including diagnosed psychoses, as simply “depression.”
– Shane Divilbiss Attack (School Fight)
In his hospital papers Mr. Echols told mental health professionals that he had attempted to gouge out his classmate’s eyes with fingernails sharpened to points, which is corroborated by Shane Divilbiss’s own account. In more recent tellings, Mr. Echols has changed this story to *appearing as though* it was an attempt to gouge the eyes, when actually he was being pulled off Divilbiss, and just trying to hang on, so it only looked like an attempted eye gouging.
– Mark Gardner Rape Allegations
In the mid-90s Mr. Echols made allegations about being violated by a prisonmate, but recanted them and then reclaimed them over time. An investigation by law enforcement indicated no merit to his claim, and certain reporters indicated that the claims were recanted and restated as a method of attracting attention to the need for prison reform. Mr. Echols’ story waffled on whether rapes had occurred, and which of the two men had crawled into the other’s cell via a removed cinder block. (WM3 advocate Mara Leveritt reported the hole too small for Gardner to have crawled through, so apparently that version of their story was demonstrably false.) Whatever the real story is, Mr. Echols definitely changed his account.
– Softball Girls
At trial Mr. Echols dismissed their claims to have heard him publicly saying he did it, and called them liars, from the stand. More recently he told Dateline that while he doesn’t remember saying those things, IF he had said them, it would have been “like a joke.”
– No eating utensil in prison
Claimed no access to eating utensil. Arkansas Dept of Corrections reps say that inmates are granted use of an industrial plastic spork that Mr. Echols apparently declined to use.
ECHOLS: “I had to learn to use a fork again. You know I hadn’t eaten with a fork in 18 1/2 years.”
PIERS MORGAN: Why?
ECHOLS: “They don’t give you forks in there.”
PIERS MORGAN: How do you eat?
EHOLS: “With your hands.”
– Prison Visits from Mom and Sister
Mr. Echols has stated in recent interviews that his mother and sister visited him in prison only a handful of times, and twice, respectively. Pam and Michelle have publicly stated otherwise, and maintain he’s not telling the truth about that. Given Mr. Echols’ track record with the truth, I’d tend to believe them.
– Relationship with Son
According to public statements of his adult child’s mother, Domini, she reacted badly to a People magazine interview, that had Mr. Echols talking about his efforts as a Dad. Domini maintains he hasn’t been putting in any effort (he’d been out to Tempe, AZ for publicity event and hadn’t called his son) and resents his remarks, and that he had not been responsive to attempts to reach out via private means.
If Mr. Echols had a better track record with the truth, his words might be taken more seriously by those who have been listening well.
FACT – ECHOLS FREQUENTLY WALKED AROUND WEST MEMPHIS AND WAS VERY FAMILIAR WITH THE CRIME SCENE PRIOR TO THE MURDERS:
“He began to walk the moment he got to town, in the morning, at night, when he was anxious or bored or simply awake, through the rain and later the snow…. In his heavy black leather jacket and sunglasses, he wandered all around town, quietly but purposefully, like a ghost looking for something to haunt.”
Long, frequent walking is a habit Echols developed in his teen years as a resident of West Memphis, AR — but you might not know that, to hear him tell it, today. In 2010 Echols told an interviewer he “didn’t go to West Memphis a lot, at all,” having lived outside West Memphis in Marion. He dismissed the Robin Hood Hills crime scene area as a wooded, residential area that he was unfamiliar with, and never would have been in — noting that his occasional trips to West Memphis
would have been expressly purposeful, citing Wal-Mart as a destination.
These contentions fly in the face of the available documentation, including Echols’ own 1994 testimony. At the time of arrest, per his testimony, Echols lived at Broadway Trailer Park in
West Memphis, not in neighboring Marion. And he testified to walking around West
Memphis “a lot” with co-defendant Jason Baldwin.
DE: We [Jason and I] like to walk around a lot just with no place particular in
mind. Just start out walking and walk around all day.
Q: Did you walk quite a bit around West Memphis, then?
DE: Yes, I did.
When shown a map of the neighborhoods around the Robin Hood Hills crime scene, Echols told the prosecutor he would have passed through the area “2-3 times a week,” in part because those neighborhoods were nearly smack dab between his own residence and those of best friend Jason Baldwin and girlfriend Domini Teer.
Further, Echols has offered in his books vivid memories of having lived as a child, for a time, at Mayfair Apartments which overlooked Robin Hood Hills. And the Sanders family, longtime friends of his own, lived in West Memphis about 1.25 miles west of the crime scene, another reason for Damien to be in the residential area frequently.
That Damien walked around West Memphis “a lot” is further evidenced by the accounts of fellow defendant Jessie Misskelley and stepfather Jack Echols:
“…Damien he don’t stay in one place long, he always walk around, he always go to West Memphis… he goes to West Memphis a lot…and he walks around.” – Jessie Misskelley, Dec 1993
“There were other times when Damien had so much energy he did not know what to do. He
got really excited and kind of hyper and he always walked at these times. Damien walked to some of the parks in the area, to some of his friends houses, and across town. He told me that he sometimes got confused because he was sure where he needed to go but when he got there he felt like he was in the wrong place. I though that he meant that he changed his mind about where he wanted to go but he told me that it was not like that. Damien did not decide where he was supposed to walk to but got a feeling about where he should be but, when he got where he was going, his feeling changed and he had to go somewhere else. He was real frustrated at these times and I did not know how to help him. I did not really understand what he meant about not knowing where he wanted to be. I sometimes
felt that I should have done a better job trying to figure out what he was talking about and maybe then I could have made things a little better for him.” – Jack Echols, September 2000
Note Jack Echols citing “parks in the area” as his stepson’s favorite haunt. Damien himself
listed “woods, park” as the two resources he used in the community:
Taking long walks is no crime, and obviously the above documentation is not intended as
proof of guilt but is merely meant to show that Echols will lie about things which do not flatter his innocence stance, regardless of how easily the lies can be checked out. And because reporters typically do not know the facts, he’s never called on it.
(This synopsis courtesy of case researcher Fred J. Walsh)
FACT– TWO OF THE STAR WITNESSES AGAINST TERRY HOBBS IN WEST OF
MEMPHIS ARE CONVICTED FELONS:
Baxter County, Arkansas residents “Cody” Curtis Gott and Christian “Blake” Sisk are former friends of Terry Hobbs’ nephew, Mike Hobbs Jr. Their interviews were late additions to the film. They went on camera for West of Memphis in January 2012 to talk about what they call “The Hobbs Family Secret.” They claim that Mike Hobbs Jr. told them that he heard that his uncle, Terry Hobbs, was involved in the murders. Gott and Sisk were on probation for felony burglary of their high school when producer Amy Berg interviewed them and got them to tell their “Hobbs Family Secret” tale on camera. In May 2013 they were sent to prison on new charges. Sisk was sentenced to 10 years in prison. Gott was sentenced to 7. There have only been a few media mentions of the fact that these star witnesses against Terry Hobbs are young convicted felons from Mountain Home, AR with lengthy arrest records. Here is an excerpt from a Memphis Commercial Appeal article written by Marc Perrusquia on October 29, 2012:
“…details are surfacing on the criminal backgrounds of two witnesses featured in West of Memphis, a 2-1/2 hour film financed by Lord of the Rings director Peter Jackson and coproduced by Echols and his wife along with documentarian Amy Berg. In the film and in affidavits given by the defense early this year to prosecutor Scott Ellington, two men, both in their early 20s, say they learned Hobbs once confessed to a relative that he killed the three boys – something described as ‘the Hobbs Family Secret.’ Baxter County (Arkansas) Circuit Court records show the men, Cody Curtis Gott, 20, and Christian Blake Sisk, 21, both of Mountain Home, Ark., pleaded guilty in 2010 to felony burglary and misdemeanor theft in connection with a school break-in. Both were charged again this fall with felony drug dealing. According to the Baxter County Sheriff’s Office, Gott was charged in September with delivery of methamphetamines and cocaine and Sisk with delivery of a controlled substance and carrying prohibited weapons. Court records show Sisk also has been convicted of terroristic threatening. Defense spokesman Lonnie Soury said Friday the men, despite their records, passed polygraphs and are credible. ‘Too many things point to the Hobbs family,’ Soury said. ‘… Put these people under oath. That’s all we’re asking.’ Terry Hobbs, 54, denies any involvement in the murders. He’s said in a series of public statements he believes the West Memphis Three are guilty and that efforts to blame him are motivated by profit.”
There are numerous problems with “The Hobbs Family Secret” tale that Gott and Sisk are telling:
1. Mike Hobbs and his son have denied ever saying that Terry Hobbs killed Michael, Chris, and
2. The Gott/Sisk statements are hearsay. While they might work in a movie, the statements are likely inadmissible in a court of law. “Terry Hobbs’ brother’s son says he heard someone say that his uncle did it” would not cut it in a real courtroom.
3. Gott and Sisk may have a grudge against Mike Hobbs Jr. According to Mike Hobbs Sr., Gott and Sisk made up “The Hobbs Family Secret” in order to retaliate against Mike Jr. According to Mike Hobbs Sr., his son provided information to authorities on the Mountain Home High School break-in that led to the arrest and felony conviction of Gott and Sisk.
4. The WM3 defense team claims Gott and Sisk “passed polygraph tests.” However, the defense team chose the testers and paid any fees that may have been charged related to that testing. The results have not been analyzed by anyone other than the defense team for accuracy. Plus, polygraph tests are seldom admissible in court.
5. Gott and Sisk may have had a financial motivation. According to the defense timeline of events, the “Hobbs Family Secret” tip came in to the WM3 defense team phone “tip line” on December 11th, 2011. On December 16th Gott, Sisk, and a 3rd unnamed informant were flown to Washington, D.C. to meet with WM3 attorney Steve Braga and WM3 PR agent Lonnie Soury. There, they signed affidavits and were polygraphed. It is unclear whether there was an award connected with the “WM3 phone tip line” in December 2011. However, by February 2012 an anonymous donor had contributed a $100,000 reward to that tip line. At the very least, convicted felons Gott and Sisk got an all-expense-paid trip to D.C. out of the deal.
6. As noted above, because Gott and Sisk are convicted felons with extensive criminal records, they would not make credible witnesses against Terry Hobbs in court. Below is a (lengthy) partial listing of their numerous brushes with the law. The source of much of this information can be found here:
CHRISTIAN BLAKE SISK CRIMINAL RECORD:
According to the Mountain Home Police website on 2/10/10 someone burglarized Mountain Home High School in Baxter County, AR. The items taken during the burglary were frozen pizzas, a scale, speakers, and medication. On 7/2/10 Sisk was arrested for that crime and charged with Felony Commercial Burglary and Misdemeanor Theft of Property. On 10/21/10 he pled guilty and received 48 months (4 years) probation.
14TH CIRCUIT DIVISION 3
On 7/22/10 Sisk was accused of Terroristic Threatening, a misdemeanor. On 10/21/10 he pled guilty and received 12 months probation.
14TH CIRCUIT DIVISION 3
Sisk was charged with Felony Delivery of Controlled Substance, Felony Unlawful Use of a Communication Device, and a Felony Proximity Enhanced Penalty in connection with an alleged drug deal to an undercover informant on 6/25/12. Sisk appeared in court in Baxter County on these charges on 10/25/12. According to the Baxter Bulletin Sisk pled
not guilty to Delivery of Marijuana, Unlawful Use of a Communication Device and Distribution Near Certain Facilities in connection with these charges.
14TH CIRCUIT DIVISION 4
Sisk was charged with Felony Delivery of Controlled Substance and Felony Proximity Enhanced Penalty for allegedly selling drugs to an undercover informant. According to an article in the Baxter Bulletin he was arraigned on 9/13/12 and pled not guilty to charges of selling an ounce of “medical quality” marijuana on June 26 for $350. According to the article he posted bond and was released from jail. (This article is archived under the heading “Man accused of
fleeing arraigned” and can only be obtained by paying for it).
14TH CIRCUIT DIVISION 4
According to the Baxter County Sheriff’s website, a warrant was
issued for Blake Sisk on 10/11/12 for “Delivery of a Schedule 4 or 5 Controlled
Substance.” His bond was set at $5,000. You can see his mug shot here:
12/8/12-Driving While Intoxicated
Sisk was arrest for DWI on 12/8/12. He was caught driving left of center. His bond was set at $870.
Booking Number: 20123256
2/8/13 – Failure to Appear
According to the Baxter County Sheriff he was charged with Failure to Appear on 2/8/13.
Booking Number: 20130247
4/17/13 – Wanted in connection with a burglary/beating
Press Release from the Baxter County Sheriff 4/17/13:
One man is in custody and another man is being sought in connection with a residential burglary and felony battery of a person that occurred last month. On March 21, 2013, Sheriff’s Deputy Chuck Menschik took a report from 1702 Old Military Road in rural Mountain Home from a person saying he had been pulled out of his bed while he was sleeping, was held down, and was then beaten. Items of personal property were also stolen from the residence. The victim knew the assailants and provided their identity to Sheriff’s Investigators. The victim later sought medical attention at
Baxter Regional Medical Center and later at another medical facility. The victim was found to have sustained serious physical injuries. A follow-up theft report was taken the next day, March 22nd, by Sheriff’s Corporal Scott Thrasher. Reported stolen from the residence was a personal safe, a Walther PPKS .380 pistol (which had already been reported stolen on March 21st), and Iphone 4, an Ipod touch, several knives, a camcorder, and Clonazepam tablets. These items were collectively valued at approximately $700. Later this same day, one of the suspects, identified as 21 year old
JACOB EDWARD CAPLE of Lakeview, Arkansas, was apprehended at the Mountain Home Walmart on a shoplifting charge and had in his possession at that time the stolen pistol. Some of the other stolen items were found inside this
suspect’s vehicle. CAPLE was taken to the Sheriff’s Office and questioned by Sheriff’s Investigator Trey Edings. CAPLE admitted to Investigator Edings that he and the other suspect the victim had named, 21 year old CHRISTIAN BLAKE SISK of rural Mountain Home, had gone to the victim’s residence on the date in question. They kicked in the door, pulled the victim out of bed, and then beat him. Investigators applied for felony bench warrants for the arrest of JACOB EDWARD CAPLE and CHRISTIAN BLAKE SISK. JACOB CAPLE surrendered himself to the Detention Center this morning and has been booked in on charges of:
Battery in the Second Degree – Felony
Residential Burglary – Felony
Theft of Property (Firearm) – Felony
Theft of Property – Misdemeanor
JACOB CAPLE is being held in lieu of $25,000 bond, with an appearance scheduled in Baxter County Circuit Court for April 25th. Sheriff’s Investigators are currently looking for the second offender, CHRISTIAN BLAKE SISK. Anyone
knowing his current whereabouts is asked to contact the Sheriff’s Office.
5/2/13-Sentenced to 10 Years in Prison
On May 2, 2013 Blake Sisk pled guilty to several charges, including residential burglary.
He was sentenced to 10 years in the Arkansas Department of Corrections.
CODY CURTIS GOTT CRIMINAL RECORD:
According to the Mountain Home Police website on 2/10/10 someone burglarized Mountain Home High School in Baxter County, AR. The items taken during the burglary were frozen pizzas, a scale, speakers, and medication. On 6/29/10 Gott was arrested for that crime and charged with Felony Commercial Burglary and Misdemeanor Theft of Property. On 10/20/10 he pled guilty and received 60 months (5 years) probation.
14TH CIRCUIT DIVISION 3
According to a 9/14/12 article in the Baxter Bulletin, Gott was accused of selling about 1.5 grams of methamphetamine for $150 on 4/19/12. He also received a Felony Proximity Enhanced Penalty. According to the article he appeared in court on that charge on 9/13/12, pled not guilty, and was released on bond. (This article is archived under the heading “Man accused of fleeing arraigned” and can only be obtained by paying for it).
This is Gott ‘s mug shot from that arrest:
5/13-Sentenced to 7 Years in Prison
In May 2013, Cody Gott was sentenced to 7 years in the Arkansas Department of Corrections for commercial burglary and probation revocation.
FACT– TWO OTHER ALLEGED “WITNESSES” AGAINST TERRY HOBBS ARE CONVICTED RAPISTS:
In March 2013 two Crittenden County, Arkansas men (Billy Wayne Stewart and Bennie David Guy) gave sworn statements that alleged that Terry Hobbs, David Jacoby, L.G. Hollingsworth, and Buddy Lucas killed Christopher Byers, Michael Moore and Stevie Branch. Stewart and Guy claimed to have information that the murders happened after the boys stumbled upon Hobbs and the other men as they did drugs in the woods. This information was presented to a judge by attorney Ken Swindle, attorney for Terry Hobbs’ ex-wife. (Read more about this aptly-named attorney here:
http://arkansasnews.com/sections/news/arkansas/court-upholds-5-year-old-student%E2%80%99s-suspension-swearing.html). Swindle failed to mention to the judge and the media that Stewart and Guy were convicted rapists that were serving 40 years (Guy) and 70 years (Stewart) on rape and other charges. In 1996, Bennie Guy pled guilty to raping an 11-year-old girl in an Arkansas motel room. He had also been convicted of sexual assault in Texas in 1996 and was serving that 40 year term concurrently with the one in Arkansas. On top of all that, he escaped from jail in 1997 and was serving 6 years for that. He was denied parole in 2008. Despite this, he was miraculously released on parole on June 11, 2013. He had severed just 17 years of the 40 he should have served for raping a little 11-year-old girl. Why was Guy released from prison just months after his assistance with the WM3 case? Coincidence? You be the judge.
Despite his criminal history
Parole came over objections from Crittenden officials
By Gary Meece
West Memphis Evening Times
While a convicted rapist’s release worksheet noted that he had eight supporters backing his release earlier this month, the two public officials who made official comments were adamantly against his release by the state Parole Board. West Memphis 3 tipster Bennie David Guy was paroled out by the Arkansas Parole Board after serving 17 years of a 40-year sentence despite objections from Crittenden County officials.
In his note to Institutional Release Services, which was seeking recommendations concerning
Guy’s potential parole, Tommy Trammel, chief deputy for the Crittenden County Sheriff’s Department at the County Jail, wrote: “object due to criminal history.”
In his response on the form, Circuit Judge Victor Hill had even stronger words concerning Guy: “I recommend that this inmate serve every minute of his sentence.” Names of supporters were not made public. The Parole Board does not release the names of citizens (other than public officials) who comment for or against the potential parole of an inmate.
Guy now is languishing in a East Texas jail. Guy, a former resident of Earle, went from the state
prison system’s Ouachita River Correctional Unit directly to the Gregg County Jail; besides his Arkansas charges, Guy was sentenced to 40 years in Texas in July 1996 on a charge of sexual assault by a habitual offender and was serving that term concurrently while in Arkansas.
Concerning Guy’s status in Texas, “I am unable to give you any information about the above referenced case. I can confirm that he was booked into the Gregg County jail on June 11, 2013. There
are no hearings set at this time,” Terri Shepherd, court administrator for the 124th District Court, said in an e-mail response to a query.
Officials at the Gregg County District Attorney’s office said Monday afternoon that they were awaiting paperwork to determine the next stage in handling Guy’s case and no paperwork had been received yet. Guy’s appeal of his case on various legal grounds to U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Texas was denied in 2009.
In April, Ken Swindle, an attorney representing the mother of one of the victims, presented new allegations in the 20-year-old murders of three West Memphis 8-year-olds by relying on sworn statements from Guy and another convicted Crittenden County rapist; both were then serving time in the Cummins Unit of the Arkansas prison system.
Billy Wayne Stewart and Guy alleged that Terry Hobbs, David Jacoby, L.G. Hollingsworth and Buddy Lucas killed Christopher Byers, Michael Moore and Stevie Branch on May 5, 1993, after the boys stumbled upon them getting high in the woods near the service road in West Memphis.
Neither statement mentioned Stewart’s or Guy’s circumstances or extensive criminal histories.
Whatever the dispensation of his case in Texas, Guy is under supervised probation according to the Arkansas legal system until July 24, 2035. Guy’s case came under scrutiny prior to his involvement in the West Memphis 3 case, as he had sought parole after learning that DNA collected after
the rape was not a conclusive match to his DNA; the Arkansas Supreme Court ruled that the lack of DNA evidence did not exonerate him in the case.
He had gotten support from the activist group the Innocence Project but had failed in
various appeals to the courts.Terry Hobbs, stepfather to Stevie Branch, has denied the allegations made by Guy and Stewart, as has Jacoby, a friend who helped Hobbs search for the boys on May 5, 1993.
Hollingsworth died in a traffic accident in 2001. The sworn statements by Guy and Stewart were
based on alleged admissions from Buddy Lucas. Because of his friendship with Jessie Misskelley Jr., Lucas was interrogated extensively in the 1993 investigation but never has been a suspect in the case.
Misskelley, Damien Echols and Jason Baldwin, teens living in local trailer parks at the time of the
killings, were convicted of the murders in 1994 and were released from prison in 2011 in a special plea deal in which they were released on suspended sentences in exchange for guilty pleas. The case has been the subject of four movie documentaries, and the so-called West Memphis 3 have received extensive support from music and film personalities.
Baldwin, who lives in Seattle, has become an activist working with the Innocence Project, and has cofounded his own group, Proclaim Justice Inc., a nonprofit organization currently based in Lakeway, Texas, near Austin. Its Web site states it is “a 501(c)(3) non-profit corporation dedicated to winning freedom for inmates who are factually innocent of the crimes for which they were convicted.” The organization continues to attempt to stir up public support for the WM3. Guy, who was 53 when his allegations came to light this spring, was serving a sentence of 40 years issued on Aug. 5, 1996, for rape – habitual offender, from Crittenden County. He had pleaded guilty to the rape of an 11-year-old girl in a motel room on May 27, 1995; he had been on probation at the time of the offense. He also had been sentenced to six years in 1997 for escape, second degree, and had a prior conviction for robbery, for which he was given a two-year sentence in 1994.
Stewart, 49, continues to serve a total time of 70 years on a rape sentence handed down in 2011. He has a string of other felony convictions dating back to 1983. Last week, the Evening Times reported that two other men making allegations against Terry Hobbs are now in prison. Tipsters Christian Blake Sisk and Cody Curtis Gott appeared in last year’s “West of Memphis,” which was
produced by Damien Echols.
Prosecuting Attorney Scott Ellington has said he believes Echols, Misskelley and Baldwin are guilty and he has seen no evidence to convince him otherwise.
FACT – MISSKELLEY AND ECHOLS FAILED THEIR POLYGRAPH TESTS:
Echols and Misskelley both consented to polygraph tests. Baldwin did not. The original polygraph examiner, West Memphis Police Detective Bill Durham, believed Echols and Misskelley showed signs of deception when answering questions about their involvement in the murders. These results were later disputed by other examiners who were paid by the defense.
Misskelley’s polygraph results:
Echols’ polygraph results:
FACT – “THE SOFTBALL GIRLS” HAVE NOT RECANTED:
Jodee Medford was one of the so-called “softball girls” who told jurors she heard Damien Echols boasting to other kids at the softball field about killing the children. A frequent supporter lie is the false claim that Jodee Medford has “recanted.” No public records exist stating that Jodee has recanted. Some people may have misunderstood an affidavit by Jodee’s mother, but nowhere in the affidavit does the mother say her daughter has recanted her story.
On the witness stand during his trial, Echols denied bragging to Medford and others that he killed the children. But in a more recent interview with CBS’ 48 Hours, Echols admitted that he may have bragged at the softball park about killing the boys. He said “it would have been, like, a joke.” You can see him say it on this video at time mark 12:50.
This means Echols perjured himself at trial when he denied, on the witness stand, that he bragged about the murders at the softball park. The CBS reporter, Erin Moriarty (a long-time champion of the innocence of the WM3), did not bother to ask Echols about his perjury.
FACT– FOUR OUT OF THE SIX SURVIVING PARENTS OF THE VICTIMS BELIEVE THE WM3 ARE GUILTY:
Supporters of the West Memphis Three and lazy journalists often say “even the parents of the victims think the West Memphis Three are innocent.” The fact is Todd and Dana Moore (parents of Michael Moore), Terry Hobbs (step-father of Stevie Branch), and Steve Branch (father of Stevie Branch) all still firmly believe the WM3 are guilty as charged. Melissa Byers (mother of Chris Byers) died believing they were guilty. The parents who claim the WM3 are innocent are Mark Byers (step-father of Chris Byers) and Pam Hobbs (mother of Stevie Branch). It is worth noting that these are the two parents who have made the most TV, print, and film appearances. Click on this link for newspaper columns by Todd Moore and Terry Hobbs. Though these columns were likely written with some help from attorneys, they capture the true feelings that both men have repeatedly expressed over the years.
FACT – THE WM3 WERE NOT “FORCED” TO ACCEPT THE ALFORD PLEA:
After years of steadfastly upholding the verdicts of two Arkansas juries, The Arkansas Supreme Court finally relented to pressure from WM3 celebrity supporters and the WM3’s all-star defense team. In December 2010 the Arkansas Supreme Court granted an evidentiary hearing scheduled for December 2011. The purpose of the hearing was to allow Judge David Laser to hear any “new evidence” the defense had gathered over the years that might justify a new trial. Judge Laser was a new judge who replaced the original trial judge – Judge David Burnett.
But instead of presenting that evidence to Judge Laser at the December hearing, the defense went to a new prosecutor (Scott Ellington) in the summer of 2011 and suggested a deal. Their clients would plead guilty using a legal maneuver called an “Alford Plea” in exchange for time served. The new prosecutor inexplicably accepted the deal. No one “forced” the WM3 to plead guilty. It was their own idea.
Instead of presenting their “new evidence” and gaining complete exoneration, the slick WM3 defense team convinced a newbie prosecutor he could get rid of a difficult case if the WM3 could plead guilty and be released from prison. Now, that same defense team and a slew of celebrity WM3 supporters are hounding Arkansas officials for full exoneration. Without full exoneration, the WM3 will forever remain convicted child killers and convicted felons.
This is the transcript of the in-chambers hearing prior to the public Alford Plea hearing on 8/19/11.
In it, there are repeated mentions by the State that the Alford Plea was the brainchild of the defense. (Example: End of page 31, beginning of page 32). This leaves no doubt that the WM3’s own
attorneys came up with the idea for their clients to plead guilty.
Even Mara Leveritt, champion of the innocence of the WM3, concedes that the Alford Pleas were the defense’s idea. She talks about it in this article:
Innocent people with solid evidence of innocence do not plead guilty. Period.
Misskelley Alford Plea:
Echols/Baldwin Alford Plea:
FACT – THE WM3 HAVE NOT BEEN “EXONERATED”:
Contrary to recent media reports, the WM3 have not been “exonerated,” found “not guilty,” or been “proven innocent.” They remain convicted and confessed murderers who were rightfully convicted by two juries. The primary way they could be exonerated is if an alternate suspect is tried and convicted through the judicial process.
Previous efforts to frame alternate suspects such as Mark Byers, step-father of Chris Byers, have failed. Now, the WM3 and their supporters are relentlessly attempting to do the same thing to Terry Hobbs, step-father of Stevie Branch. By some estimates, the “Free the WM3” movement has spent as much as $20 million to find “new evidence” that someone else committed the murders. When given the opportunity to present that evidence at a December 2011 evidentiary hearing, the
WM3 instead chose to plead guilty.
Now, they are presenting their evidence in the court of public opinion through numerous books, movies, and media interviews. WM3 supporters have even offered a $200,000 reward to compel people to “remember” things that might point to the innocence of the WM3. Despite tremendous pressure from the WM3 attorneys, celebrity supporters, and the WM3 PR team so far nothing has been presented to prosecutors in Arkansas that is compelling enough to reopen the case and charge an alternate suspect with the murders. Until that happens, the WM3 will remain guilty as charged.
FACT – EVEN IF “THE HAIR” DOES MATCH TERRY HOBBS, THAT DOESN’T MAKE HIM GUILTY OR THE WM3 INNOCENT:
After years of efforts to frame step-father Mark Byers with the murders failed, the WM3 defense team and makers of the documentaries Paradise Lost 3 and West of Memphis have turned to a new red herring suspect… step-father Terry Hobbs. Many recent media reports claim that “Hobbs’ DNA was found on a victim.” That sounds pretty compelling, but it’s not exactly true.
When most people hear the word “DNA” they assume that means something like blood or semen. This “DNA” is actually a hair fragment found on a shoestring used to hog tie Michael Moore. The defense often says the hair was “tied into” the shoestring. But there are currently no publicly available photographs or documents to prove that claim.
Experts paid by the WM3 defense team claim that they determined through lab tests that Terry Hobbs is a “possible source” of that hair. Problem is, 1.5% of the rest of the population is also a “possible source” of that hair. That means that more than 4.5 MILLION Americans are also “possible sources” of that hair. In addition, Michael Moore frequently visited the Hobbs home. The hair could have easily landed on Moore’s shoestring through secondary transfer as he played there. The hair is meaningless and will never lead to the conviction of Terry Hobbs.
Paid defense experts also report that a second hair found on a tree stump near the crime scene weeks after the murders could have come from Hobbs’ friend, David Jacoby. But it also could have come from 7% of the rest of the population. A whopping 21 MILLION Americans are also possible owners of the hair found on the tree stump. The “Jacoby hair” is completely meaningless as evidence in court.
The WM3’s own hired expert called the hairs “weak evidence” during a 2007 press conference. How the hairs have suddenly become “strong evidence” in West of Memphis is beyond explanation:
“The two hairs that I know about – the one that could have in fact come from Mr. Hobbs and the one that could have in fact come from David Jacoby – constitute what I call weak evidence. Because there are other people it could have come from and there isn’t any way to really prove our selection of possible sources for that hair. I don’t think – my personal opinion – I don’t think that that hair evidence would be enough to convict Mr. Hobbs or Mr. Jacoby or anyone that would be in a similar situation because it’s simply not strong enough. The percentages I gave of people who could be the source of those hairs are 1.5% of the population in the respect to one hair and 7% in respect to the other hair. That’s not particularly strong evidence and especially in the context of what most people are accustomed to with DNA testing.” – Thomas Fedor, Forensic Serologist
FACT – THE WM3 DEFENSE TEAM CHANGES THEIR INJURY THEORY TO FIT EACH NEW RED HERRING SUSPECT:
The West Memphis Three defense team once categorized some of the victims’ injuries as “bite marks.” If you are new to this case, you may not be aware the defense theory evolved from a human causing the purported bite marks, to a veritable zoo of animals inflicting the victims’ injuries. The WM3 originally tried to portray stepfather Mark Byers as “the real killer.” A defense expert testified at a post-conviction hearing he suspected there was at least one human bite mark on victim Stevie Branch. Defense experts also speculated human bites were on the other two victims.
When Byers had his teeth extracted because he needed dentures, many WM3 supporters
concluded it only could mean one thing: Byers had murdered the children. The documentary Paradise Lost 2: Revelations is built around the premise Byers may have murdered the boys. Many WM3 supporters felt the stepfather’s teeth being removed was proof positive of guilt. Despite years of trying, the WM3 defense was never able to pin the crime on Byers. He had a good alibi,
nothing to connect him to the crime, oh… and he’s the innocent step-parent of a victim.
Things changed when Terry Hobbs (step-father of victim Stevie Branch) was determined by the defense to be a “possible source” of a hair found on a shoestring used to tie up victim Michael Moore. Problem is, that hair is also a possible match for 1.5% of the rest of the population. That means that more than 4.5 MILLION Americans are also “possible sources” of that hair. In addition, Michael Moore frequently visited the Hobbs home. The hair could have easily landed on Moore’s shoestring through secondary transfer as he played there.
Despite these facts, the defense suddenly adopted an animal predation theory to explain the boys’ injuries. The purpose was to try to discredit the Misskelley confessions, to foster Hobbs as a
“suspect,” and to bring into question the State’s forensics evidence. The transition to a new alternate suspect and new injury theory was seamless. The defense would soon maintain that the castration of Chris Byers with a knife was, in fact, the work of alligator snapping turtles. This theory would appear in West of Memphis, a documentary produced by Peter Jackson and Damien Echols. Other wounds and injuries on the murdered boys were attributed to a wide range of animals and all claims of human bite marks ceased.
For more detailed information on this subject, click here:
FACT – “MR. BONJANGLES” DIDN’T DO IT:
Around the time the boys were reported missing on the night of May 5th, 1993 a bleeding, muddy African American man stumbled into the women’s bathroom of the Bojangles chicken restaurant about a mile from the crime scene. WM3 supporters often complain about one piece of evidence that was lost… blood scrapings from that bathroom at Bojangles. While it is a shame the samples were lost, the man in Bojangles could not have committed the murders. According to the restaurant manager (Marty King) “Mr. Bojangles” had a “blue cast type brace on his arm that had white Velcro on it.” A disoriented, one armed man could not have subdued and hogtied three boys. Could he have been a witness? Yes. Was he the murderer? No.
FACT – CELEBRITIES ARE NOT CRIME EXPERTS, THEY MAKE MISTAKES, AND
MOST DON’T KNOW ANY MORE ABOUT THIS CASE THAN YOU DO:
Johnny Depp, Peter Jackson, Natalie Maines, Eddie Vedder, Henry Rollins, Dave Navarro, Marilyn Manson… the list of WM3 celebrity supporters goes on and on. The argument goes that all these celebrities wouldn’t put their careers on the line to support child killers. When you watch interviews with these celebrities nearly all say they became involved in the case after watching the Paradise Lost documentaries. Chances are, that’s how you learned about this case as well. Problem is, if you’ve really read all the information on this website, you now know that the Paradise Lost series contains lots of things that make the WM3 appear innocent, while leaving out virtually all the facts that point to guilt. Many of these celebrities joined the Free the WM3 crusade with only half of the facts. None will ever destroy their careers by admitting that the WM3 might be guilty. Their reputations now rely on the WM3 being “innocent” and they are sparing no expense to continue to attempt to prove it.
FACT – THE WM3 WERE NOT “WRONGFULLY CONVICTED”:
Don’t let all the shameless profit-seeking movies, documentaries, and books fool you. The WM3 were found guilty by two juries based on solid physical and circumstantial evidence. They remain guilty (yet free) men because they got a lucky break from a prosecutor who was new to the case. They have not proven that they were “wrongfully convicted” or “falsely convicted,” as they often claim. Once they entered guilty pleas through the Alford agreement, the burden fell on them to prove their innocence. More than a year after their release, they have failed to do so.
FACT – THE STATE OF ARKANSAS SHOULD NOT HAVE RELEASED THE WEST MEMPHIS THREE WITHOUT A SECOND JURY TRIAL:
Here are some facts about the ill-fated Alford Plea:
-One of Damien Echols’ attorneys approached his old law school buddy, Arkansas Attorney General Dustin McDaniel, about the idea of an Alford Plea in the summer of 2011. An Alford Plea allows a person to plead guilty, while claiming innocence. McDaniel sent Echols’ attorneys to prosecutor Scott Ellington.
-Ellington had been on the job less than one year when he made the call to release the WM3. In a panel discussion about the case just days after the release of the WM3, Ellington publicly admitted he did not read the entire West Memphis police case file before letting the WM3 out of prison.
-Ellington was, most likely, misled by slick WM3 attorneys into believing real evidence of innocence existed when it didn’t.
-Ellington likely thought this case would “go away” if he let the WM3 out of prison in exchange for guilty pleas.
-As part of the Alford Plea, the WM3 had to agree not to sue the state of Arkansas for wrongful conviction. Some have speculated that the State of Arkansas freed the WM3 for fear the WM3 might sue for millions if they were exonerated in a second jury trail. But the fact is, Arkansas is one of 23 states that does not have a statute allowing exonerated people to sue for wrongful conviction.
-The WM3 defense team is believed to have sent prosecutor Ellington all of the evidence that they would have presented at the 2011 evidentiary hearing. Plus, they have sent him additional “evidence” gathered by movie makers during the making of Damien Echols’ movie West of Memphis. If this evidence hasn’t been sufficient for Ellington to re-open the case and prosecute Terry Hobbs, why does anyone think the “new evidence” would have been enough to win them a new trial? The evidence was insufficient to win a new trial, the defense knew it, and that’s why they approached Ellington with the Alford Plea.
-The state of Arkansas denied justice for both the West Memphis Three and the three eight-year-old victims by allowing a new prosecutor and a bunch of defense attorneys to decide the outcome of this case. If the WM3 are indeed innocent, they now have to live as convicted murderers and felons the rest of their lives. More likely, the state of Arkansas released three child killers to walk among us in a failed effort to get rid of a complicated, expensive, politically unpopular, and time consuming case.
FACT – DAMIEN’S DISTURBING PET NAME FOR HIS GROUPIES IS “CHUPACABRAS”:
Justin Bieber has his legion of “Beliebers,” but what does Damien Echols call his growing flock of murder groupies on Twitter? “Chupacabras” of course! The Chupacabras are even using hash tags like #teamchupacabra and (Look out! They’re taking over!) #chupacabranation. Here’s just one example of a Tweet from the Chupacabra-in-Chief to his flock of groupies:
“@damienechols: Tonight is the full moon, my little Chupacabras. Step outside and howl just to see your breath in the air.”
So what, you ask, is a Chupacabra? A Chupacabra is a mythical vampire-like, blood-sucking creature. The literal translation is “goat sucker.” Oh. Ok. Right. What else would a guy who’s been repeatedly documented licking/drinking blood call his followers? There’s a certain kind of genius to it. It seems Damien has found a way to call his groupies “suckers”…. and have them like it! Here are a few select Tweets from #teamchupacabra:
@damienechols: Movie stars are the ones who have “fans”. I’d rather have Chupacabras.
@Redangel325: @damienechols I think we started something… #teamChupacabra now we need shirts. Hahahaha
@Mr_Nerjer: @damienechols I’m in with #teamchupacabra!
@damienechols: @Redangel325: @damienechols I want to be #teamChupacabra
@marciejb10: @damienechols Chupacabrafragilisticexpialidocious #teamChupacabra
@effektedchik: @damienechols I think the constant travelling calls for #teamchupacabraairlines with moonwater inflight refreshments!
@dolface79: @damienechols #teamchupacabra leader is a tough job…but someones gotta do it!
@AlainaBaina5: @damienechols goat suckers for life #teamchupacabra
@dixiefairy: @damienechols I’m proud to be part of Chupacabra Nation!
@fairygirl1975: @damienechols #teamchupacabra winning
@damienechols: @thewickedbelle: @damienechols: if being a chupacabra is wrong, I don’t wanna be right! 🙂 #chupacabrapower
You couldn’t make this stuff up if you tried.
FACT – DAMIEN ECHOLS IS NUTS. HERE ARE JUST A FEW SELECT QUOTES FROM HIS WRITINGS :
“I see a perfect explosion, God’s ammunition dump, going up in the flames of righteousness, Satan storming heaven, his artillery captain, a fiercely grinning fool with red flayed cheeks, Damien by name, never to be Michael Hutchison (Echols’ birth name) again. The end is near. Kiss your ass goodbye people, it’s time to pay up. Now is the Judgment. I am the Judge.” -Damien Echols
“Everyone will pay because everyone is too stupid to open their eyes. This is the final times and I am the new Messiah. Wake up and smell the crud faggets, I don’t care whether you are saved or not. Everyone pays the price.” -Damien Echols
“My body is changing but that medicine is making it happen a lot more slowly than normal. I am outgrowing my skin. I am eating packs of sugar and Koolaid to give my body the extra energy it needs to make its change. Soon people will know I am the Christ just by looking at me.” -Damien Echols
“Even after I die, people are going to remember me forever. They’re going to talk about me for years. People will tell their kids stories. It will be like I’m the West Memphis boogey man. Little kids will be looking under their beds before they go to bed. Damien might be under there.” – Damien Echols
FACT – VERY FEW JOURNALISTS RESEARCH THIS CASE (BEYOND WATCHING THE DOCUMENTARIES) BEFORE INTERVIEWING THE WM3. IF YOU ARE A REPORTER WHO IS TOO LAZY TO DO YOUR OWN RESEARCH, HERE IS A LIST OF QUESTIONS TO ASK DAMIEN ECHOLS. PRESTIGIOUS JOURNALISM AWARDS AWAIT THOSE BRAVE ENOUGH TO ASK THESE QUESTIONS:
( 1 ) Why did you (Echols) tell Larry King you lived in Marion “10-15 miles from crime scene” when at the time of the crimes, by your own testimony, you lived at Broadway Trailer Park in West Memphis, less than 2 miles from the crime scene?
( 2 ) Why have you (Echols) told interviewers you went to West Memphis “hardly at all” when you in fact lived there at the time of the murders, and testified to walking around West Memphis with Jason Baldwin “frequently?”
( 3 ) Why have you (Echols) told interviewers you were unfamiliar with crime scene neighborhood
where victims lived? You testified in 1994 to walking through that neighborhood “2 to 3 times a week.” In your first book, you vividly recount living in Mayfair Apartments, across from crime scene.
( 4 ) Why have you (Echols) dismissed reports of your mental illness as the work of “3rd & 4th-hand rumors” when 1st-hand documentation from mental health professionals, peers, and law enforcement officers clearly demonstrate your mental illness in 1992-1993?
( 5 ) When you (Echols) personally reported to the Social Security Administration in 1992 that you were plagued with the following issues – “Homicidal, Suicidal, Manic Depression, Schizophrenia, Drug Abuse, Alcohol Abuse & Sociopathic” – how much of that self-assessment was legitimate? If
some of those assessments were not legitimate, why did you report them in an application for disability benefits?
( 6 ) Awaiting trial, why did you (Echols) write that your body was changing via Koolaid packs, transforming you into “the Christ?”
( 7 ) If you (Echols) were a “white Wiccan” at the time of your arrest, why did you write imagery of yourself as “Satan’s artillery captain” storming Heaven? Why did your talk about overseeing
Armageddon, with reminders to yourself about “choosing Disciples before Halloween?”
( 8 ) How do you (Echols) reconcile your contention that you were on the phone with four different girls when the crimes occurred (6:30pm-9:00pm), with the fact that 1993 statements offered by those girls do not cover your alibi for the hours from 5:00pm-9:20pm?
( 9 ) Why did Jennifer Bearden report in 1993 that your grandma told her you (Echols) were “out” when she called at 8:00pm on May 5th? Why did Bearden tell police that you told her you were “out” somewhere with Jason Baldwin that night when she did finally reach you by phone around 9:30pm on May 5th? Why did Heather Cliett suggest to police you were with Jason that night,
and why did she report that Holly George told her you were “out”that night walking around? Since these alibis with your “phone girls” have failed, where exactly were you between 6:30pm and 9:00pm on May 5th, 1993?
( 10 ) When you (Echols) spoke with the WMPD on May 10th, 1993 why did your account of May 5th differ sharply from the story your girlfriend, Domini, told? You said she was dropped off at home before 3pm; her own account put her home at 7pm.
( 11 ) Why, at the trial, did you (Echols) smirk at the testimony of the “softball girls” and call them liars from the stand? Did you admit to perjury when you told reporter Erin Moriarty that you might have told the girls at the softball park you killed the boys, but you were just “joking.”
( 12 ) What is the truth of the Mark Gardner rape allegations that you (Echols) have submitted and withdrawn at points? If the rape allegations were false, why did you make them? If they were true, exactly how did Gardner “force” you to crawl through a removed cinder block so he could rape you?
( 13 ) Was Joe Bartoush’s account of you (Echols) killing a dog (partially corroborated by Heather Cliett, Blaine Hodge, and your large collection of animal skulls) true? If it was not true, why would Jason Baldwin’s own cousin (Joe Bartoush) offer this damaging information to police, especially with you and Jason in peril of going to prison for triple murder?
( 14 ) When you (Echols) said that, like Manson & Bundy, you would be remembered by the world, was this what you had in mind?
( 15 ) Do you (Echols) feel your parents were truthful when they told your doctors in September 1992 that they did not want you living in their home any more, for fear your would harm them & the children in the house? If not, why would they offer that statement?
( 16 ) Why, in recent interviews, do you (Echols) categorize Exhibit 500 as a document written by one woman, and submitted by Jason’s lawyers to attack you? Exhibit 500 is actually a collection of
documents written by mental health professionals documenting your three stays in mental hospitals for suicidal/homicidal impulses in 1992. It was compiled by your own defense team and submitted in the sentencing phase in an attempt to secure leniency for you. Why are you attacking Baldwin and his attorneys for a document your doctors wrote and YOU submitted to your jury?
(17) For many years you (Echols) accused step-father Mark Byers of the murders. More recently, you have pointed the finger at step-father Terry Hobbs. You’ve even implied that Mr. Bojangles could be involved. If you didn’t commit these murders, who did?
(18) How much money have you (Echols) made off your books, your documentary, your artwork, your speaking engagements, your tattoo work, and other murder-related business ventures since your release in August 2011? How much in donations would you estimate you have received over the years from WM3.org, Peter Jackson, Johnny Depp, and other benefactors?
-Most of these questions were written by long-time case researcher, Fred J. Walsh
DONATIONS NEEDED FOR WEAVER READING GROVE MEMORIAL UPGRADES:
Sunday, May 5th 2013 marked the 20th anniversary of the murders of 8-year-old Cub Scouts Michael Moore, Chris Byers, and Steve Branch in West Memphis, Arkansas.
A fund has been set up to honor the boys by making upgrades and improvements to their
memorial at their former school, Weaver Elementary in West Memphis. The memorial is called “The Weaver Reading Grove.” It was constructed in 1994 on the playground of Weaver Elementary. It consists of a gazebo, benches, and a memorial stone honoring the boys. In honor of the 20th anniversary, people from around the world donated money to build a flower bed with 20 yellow roses buses around the gazebo.
Sheila Grissom, principal of Weaver Elementary, has set up a fund to pay for maintenance of the memorial and to make upgrades to the adjoining playground. If you would like to make a donation in memory of Michael, Chris and Steve to the Weaver Elementary Reading Grove/ Playground Fund, please send your donation to the school at the following address:
Weaver Elementary Reading Grove/Playground Fund
1280 East Barton Ave.
West Memphis, AR 72301
For more information contact Sheila Grissom, Weaver Elementary School principal, at email@example.com
This web page serves as a place to store and preserve the true and original facts of this case as they become more and more skewed daily by the “exonerate the WM3” publicity machine and various “in it for profit” movie makers and book writers. It is maintained by a group of people who have followed and researched this case for years, many since 1993.
If you would like to dispute, discuss, or ask questions about the facts contained on this page, please go to Facebook and “like” this discussion group. There are many people in this group who will be happy to discuss and debate the facts with you. You can also use this Facebook page to alert us to any mistakes on this page:
West Memphis Three Facts
ADDITIONAL WEBSITES AND INFORMATION:
The following websites offer a wealth of factual information about the WM3 case.
The WM3 case may, quite possibly, be the most well-documented criminal case on the planet thanks to a website called “Callahan’s.” It contains thousands of documents and trial transcripts related to the case. It is a nonbiased website maintained by two guys who believe the WM3 are innocent and one who believes they are guilty. It speaks volumes that three of the guys who know the most about the case don’t agree on guilt vs. innocence. If they aren’t 100 percent sure, how can you be?
This is a fact-filled page maintained by long-time WM3 case researcher David Klein. It contains numerous comment sections for questions and answers. There is a related Facebook page for case discussion: https://www.facebook.com/wm3truth
Midsouth Justice is a message board that has a discussion area for the Byers/Moore/Branch murder case.
This is a list of coincidences that would have had to occur for the WM3 to be innocent. It was compiled by WM3 case researcher Tom Walker.
Greg Day is the Author of “Untying the Knot,” which he wrote with Mark Byers. Mark Byers, stepfather of victim Chris Byers, has lately claimed the WM3 are innocent. But Greg Day doesn’t agree. He has researched the case for seven years, he strongly believes the WM3
are guilty, and he’s blogging about it.
They met while he was on death row. She was a crusader, he was a convicted murderer. They married while he was still in prison and she fought for years for his release. Sounds like the story of Damien Echols and his wife Lorri Davis, right? Wrong. It is the story of Billy and Jodie Sinclair. If ANYONE on the planet should sympathize with Damien Echols it should be Billy Sinclair, right? They share the exact same story. The only problem is, Billy Sinclair doesn’t believe a word Damien Echols says. Sinclair has won many prestigious writing awards and now works as a paralegal. After serving 25 years on death row, he knows a murderer when he sees one. He’s written several blogs about his firm belief in the guilt of the West Memphis Three.
Pat Brown is one of the nation’s foremost criminal profilers. She has provided crime commentary, profiling, and forensic analysis for just about every major TV network and is the author of several books on criminal profiling. She has researched the case in-depth and believes the West Memphis Three are guilty. This is a link to one of her blogs about the WM3.
Damien Echols doesn’t have crime blogger Trench Reynolds fooled. Reynolds believes the WM3 are guilty and has written numerous, interesting blogs on the subject.
Some of Damien’s new neighbors in his new hometown of Salem, Massachusetts aren’t very happy about having a convicted and confessed child killer living in their neighborhood. This fact-filled discussion thread about Echols was first posted by a Salem resident named Mike Blatty. Blatty is the son of William Peter Blatty, author of the book The Exorcist. The main character in that book is a demon-possessed priest named Damien. According to the book Blood of the Innocents (page 185) a copy of The Exorcist was found in Damien’s bedroom when he was arrested for triple murder. Blatty is just one of a growing number of people who have actually taken the time to research the case in-depth. He believe that the WM3 are guilty. The numerous threads on Damien Echols were taking up so much space on the community message board that the subject was moved to its own page. It’s called “Salem Resident Damien Echols” and it is filled with information about Echols written mainly by his new (and pretty unwelcoming) neighbors in Salem.
Thank you for taking the time to read this page. Come back often for frequent factual additions and updates. We’ll end on a quote borrowed from WM3Truth website author David Klein. It also applies here:
“If you read this whole page and still believe you’re just like Damien Echols, please get some psychiatric help before you kill a bunch of people.”
Jessie Miskelley confession
Part 1 of Jessie MissKelley’s Initial first confession. This particular confession took place on June 3rd 1993 (about a month after the murder of three innocent 8 year old boys).
Here is a link to the transcribed confession so you may follow the audio with the text if you so wish:
Both the audio and the transcript are unedited and in full.
Tip: Google “callahn8k exhibit 500” – then go to documents 111, 054, 086, 006, 082, 093, 052. Callahan8k is an independent site that merely presents the facts in the form of transcripts, documents and audio. You won’t find opinions there – so you may have to actually form your own (which considering the comments section may be a real challenge to some of you). A lot of this information was not available to the jury/court/Paradise Lost film makers or indeed you. Now, it is and the above file numbers are a great place to start your research. Good luck!!
Paradise Lost: Child Murders at Robin Hood Hills Movie
Part 2 – The Child Murders at Robin Hood Hills (1996) Partie 2
Appuyer sur la touche “sous-titres” en bas de la video pour les activer.
NOTES ON INTERVIEWS WITH ECHOLS, TEER, AND BALDWIN (DETECTIVE BILL DURHAM, MAY 9, 1993)
On May 9, 1993, Shane Griffin and I talked with Damien Echols, Dominic Teer and Jason Baldwin at 5:00PM, in the front yard at Jason Baldwin’s house at 245 W. Lake Dr. S., Lake Shore.
They said that on Wednesday, 5-5-93, that they had gone to Jason’s uncle’s house and Jason had cut the lawn. Unsure of time they went or address. It is somewhere off Dover behind Blockbuster Video. Damien phoned his father to pick them up at the laundrymat at Missouri and N. Worthington. They said they were picked up at 6:00PM and Damien’s father took Jason and Dominic home and Damien went home.
Shane Griffin, at this time started asking the questions on the sheet (questionaire) and did complete the sheet on Damien. He was asking Jason the questions when Jason Baldwin’s mother arrived. We were standing in the front yard at Jason Baldwin’s house trailer. Mrs. Baldwin was very upset and accused us of picking on her son and said she did not want us talking to him. I attempted to reason with her but to no avail. We, then left.
INVESTIGATIVE REPORT (May 10, 1993)
CASE FILE NUMBER 93050666
DATE OF REPORT: 05-10-93
Questionaire for May 10 Interview (Image)
Detective Bryn Ridge’s Notes on Interview (Link to Images)
Polygraph Test and Report
ON 05-10-93, DAMIEN WAYNE ECHOLS WHO IS ALSO KNOWN AS MICHAEL WAYNE HUTCHISON CAME TO THE WEST MEMPHIS POLICE DEPARTMENT FOR AN INTERVIEW CONCERNING ANY INFORMATION THAT HE MAY HAVE CONCERNING THE ABOVE NOTED HOMICIDE. PRESENT DURING THE INTERVIEW WERE LT. JAMES SUDBURY OF THE CRITTENDEN COUNTY DRUG TASK FORCE, MYSELF DETECTIVE B. RIDGE, AND DAMIEN. A SUBJECT DESCRIPTION WAS FILLED OUT THAT CONTAINED INFORMATION ABOUT DAMIEN’S RESIDENCE, HIS VITAL STATISTICS, AND HIS FAMILY. AT THIS POINT DAMIEN WAS NOT CONSIDERED TO BE A SUSPECT AND ONLY GENERAL KNOWLEDGE QUESTIONS WERE BEING ASKED. DAMIEN WAS VERY CALM AND EVEN COLD AS HE ANSWERED THE QUESTIONS CONCERNING HIS BACKGROUND AND ANY KNOWLEDGE HE MAY HAVE HAD CONCERNING THE HOMICIDE.
DAMIEN STATED THAT HE WAS A MEMBER OF A WHITE WITCH GROUP THAT HE REFERRED TO AS WICCA. HE STATED THAT HIS BELIEF WAS THERE WAS A GODDESS AND NOT A GOD. HE STATED THAT EVERYONE IN THE GROUP WORKS TOWARD A DIVINE LIGHT UPON REACHING THAT STATE THEY BECOME LIKE GODS THEMSELVES. HE HAS BEEN A MEMBER OF THIS GROUP FOR ABOUT 5 YEARS HE STATED.
DAMIEN STATED THAT HE HAD MET ONE PERSON THAT HE CONSIDERED TO BE A PRIESTESS. HE STATED THAT THE PERSON HE MET WAS DEANNA HOLCOME WHO HE STATED LIVED IN THE HARBOR YARD, HARDIN VILLAGE AREA OF MARION ON CABRALE COVE. HE STATED THAT SHE WORSHIPPED CATS IN WHAT SHE DID WITH HER FORM OF WITCHCRAFT.
DAMIEN STATED THAT ON TUESDAY 050493 HE WAS AT HOME FROM WHEN HE GOT OUT OF BED AT ABOUT 10:30 TO 11:00 A.M UNTIL HE GOT UP AT ABOUT 12:00 NOON WHEN HE LEFT AND WENT TO LAKESHORE. HE STATED THAT HE HAS A LOT OF FRIENDS AT LAKESHORE SINCE HE USED TO LIVE THERE WITH HIS STEPFATHER JACK ECHOLS.
DAMIEN WAS WEARING A NECKLACE THAT HE CLAIMED THAT HE HAD JUST BOUGHT AT THE MALL OF MEMPHIS ON THE SATURDAY BEFORE THIS INTERVIEW. THE NECKLACE HAD A PENTAGRAM AS A PENDANT THAT DAMIEN EXPLAINED MEANT SOME TYPE OF GOOD SYMBOL FOR THE WICCA MAGIC THAT HE WAS IN.
DAMIEN STATED THAT ON WEDNESDAY HE WAS WITH JASON BALDWIN AND DOMINI TEER AND THAT THEY HAD GONE TO JASON’S UNCLE’S HOUSE ON CENTER STREET IN WEST MEMPHIS. HE COULDN’T GIVE A SPECIFIC ADDRESS BUT SAID THAT IT WAS NEAR ALEXANDER’S LAUNDRY MAT WHERE HE STATED THAT HE CALLED HIS MOTHER TO PICK HIM UP.
HE STATED THAT HIS MOTHER PICKED HIM UP ALONG WITH DOMINI TEER AND TOOK DOMINI HOME. DOMINI IS DAMIEN’S GIRLFRIEND WHO IS PREGNANT WITH DAMIEN’S BABY. DOMINI LIVES IN LAKESHORE TRAILER PARK WITH HER MOTHER. DAMIEN STATED THAT AFTER HE AND HIS MOTHER DROPPED DOMINI OFF THAT HE ALONG WITH HIS MOTHER, SISTER (MICHELLE), AND FATHER (JOE HUTCHISON) HAD GONE TO THE RESIDENCE OF SUSAN SANDERS AND VISITED FOR A WHILE. HE STATED THAT HE WAS AT THEIR RESIDENCE AT ABOUT 3:00 TO 5:00 PM ON THAT DATE AND AFTER LEAVING THE RESIDENCE HE WENT HOME WHERE HE STATED THAT HE GOT ON THE PHONE WITH A HOLLY GEORGE WHO HE STATES LIVES IN BARTLETT, TENNESSEE. HE STATED THAT HE GOT OFF OF THE TELEPHONE WITH HOLLY AFTER TALKING FOR A LONG TIME AT ABOUT 11:30 PM THAT NIGHT.
DAMIEN STATED THAT ON THURSDAY HE WENT TO LAKESHORE WHERE HE STATED WITH DOMINI. HE STATED THAT HE HEARD THE BOYS WERE MISSING FROM JASON BALDWIN WHILE HE WAS A LAKESHORE THAT DAY. HE THEN STATED THAT HE HEARD THAT THE NEWS THAT THE BOYS WERE MISSING FROM JASON’S MOTHER.
DAMIEN STATED THAT STEVE JONES FROM THE JUVENILE AUTHORITY HAD BEEN BY TO SEE HIM A DAY OR TWO BEFORE AND THAT STEVE HAD TOLD HIM ABOUT HOW THE BOYS TESTICLES HAD BEEN CUT OFF AND THAT SOMEONE HAD URINATED IN THEIR MOUTHS. HE STATED THAT STEVE STATED THAT COULD HAVE BEEN THE REASON THAT THE BODIES WERE PLACED IN THE WATER SO THAT THE URINE COULD HAVE BEEN WASHED OUT.
DAMIEN HAD AN OPINION FOR WHO COULD HAVE DONE THE MURDERS AS BEING SOMEONE SICK AND THAT IT WAS SOME TYPE OF THRILL KILL. HE ALS STATED THAT THE PENIS WAS A SYMBOL OF POWER IN HIS RELIGION KNOWN AS WICCA. HE ALSO STATED THAT THE NUMBER 3 WAS A SACRED NUMBER IN THE BELIEF.
WHEN ASKED ABOUT JASON BALDWIN HE DESCRIBED A JASON BALDWIN THAT LIVED IN WEST THAT WAS NOT HIS FRIEND JASON BALDWIN. HE CLAIMED THAT THE OTHER WAS MEAN AND THAT HE HAD BEEN KNOWN TO KILL SNAKES WHICH HE CLAIMED WAS JUST FOR THE “HELL” OF KILLING. THIS JASON WAS DESCRIBED AS BEING ABOUT 5’9″ TALL, 18 YEARS OLD, AND 300 POUNDS. HE STATED THAT HE THOUGHT JASON WAS KNOWN TO SMOKE DOPE BUT, HE WAS NOT QUEER.
DAMIEN STATED THAT HE KNEW L.G. HOLLINGSWORTH THROUGH DOMINI. HE THOUGHT THAT L.G. WAS A RELATIVE BY MARRIAGE. HE STATED THAT L.G. WAS KIND OF WEIRD IN THAT ON ONE OCCASION HE WANTED TO TRADE GIRL FRIENDS WITH DAMIEN FOR A NIGHT.
WHEN ASKED ABOUT WHAT HE HAD HEARD ABOUT HOW THE MURDERS HAD OCCURRED HE STATED THAT THEY PROBABLY DIED OF MUTILATION. HE STATED THAT HE HEARD THAT SOME GUY HAD CUT THEM UP. HE HEARD THAT THEY WERE PLACED IN THE WATER AND THAT THEY MAY HAVE DROWNED. HE STATED THAT BECAUSE OF WHAT HE HAD HEARD HE BELIEVED THAT AT LEAST ONE OF THE BOYS HAD BEEN CUT UP. HE STATED THAT ONE OF THE BOYS MAY HAVE BEEN CUT MORE THAN THE OTHERS. DAMIEN FELT THAT THE HOMICIDE MAY HAVE BEEN FOR THE PURPOSE OF TRYING TO SCARE SOMEONE.
DAMIEN STATED THAT HE FELT THAT IT WS PROBABLY ONE PERSON BECAUSE IF IT WERE MORE THAN ONE PERSON SOMEBODY WOULD PROBABLY TELL ABOUT IT SOONER OR LATER. HE SAID THAT THERE WOULD BE A FEAR OF SQUEALING BY ONE OF THE PERSON IN THE ACT IF IT WERE MORE THAN ONE PERSON.
WHEN ASKED IF THE WATER HAD ANY TYPE OF MEANING IN THE WICCA OR BLACK MAGIC, DAMIEN STATED THAT WATER WAS A DEMON TYPE SYMBOLISM AND THAT ALL PEOPLE HAVE A DEMONIC FORCE. HE FURTHER STATED THAT PEOPLE HAVE CONTROL OVER THE DEMONIC FORCE IN THEM.
WHEN ASKED ABOUT HOW HE THOUGHT THE PERSON FELT THAT HAD DONE THE HOMICIDES, HE STATED THAT THE PERSON PROBABLY FELT GOOD ABOUT WHAT HE HAD DONE AND THAT HE FELT GOOD THAT HE HAD THE POWER TO DO WHAT HE HAD DONE.
WHEN ASKED WHY HE THOUGHT THE VICTIMS WERE SO YOUNG, HE STATED THAT THE YOUNGER THE VICTIM THEN THE MORE INNOCENT THE VICTIM WOULD BE. THAT IN TURN MEANT THAT THE MORE INNOCENT THE VICTIM WOULD BE THE MORE POWER THAT THE PERSON WOULD HAVE GOTTEN FROM THE SACRIFICE.
DAMIEN WENT FURTHER TO EXPLAIN THAT IN HIS WICCA RELIGION HE KNEW THAT EVIL DONE COMES BACK THREE TIMES. HE STATED THAT MEANT THAT ANY EVIL DONE BY A PERSON WOULD BE REWARDED BY THE PERSON DOING THE DEED HAVING THREE TIMES THE EVIL DONE TO HIM IN REVENGE.
DAMIEN STATED THAT HIS FAVORITE BOOK OF THE BIBLE WAS THAT OF REVELATIONS BECAUSE OF THE STORIES IN IT ABOUT WHAT WAS BEING DONE BY THE DEVIL AND THE SUFFERING DONE BY PEOPLE AT THE HANDS OF THE DEVIL.
DAMIEN STATED THAT HE FIGURED THAT THE KILLER KNEW THE KIDS WENT INTO THE WOODS AND EVEN ASKED THEM TO COME OUT TO THE WOODS. HE STATED THAT THE BOYS WERE NOT BIG, NOT SMART, AND THEY WOULD HAVE BEEN EASY TO CONTROL. HE ALSO FELT THE KILLER WOULD NOT HAVE BEEN WORRIED ABOUT THE BOYS SCREAMING DUE TO IT BEING IN THE WOODS AND CLOSE TO THE EXPRESSWAY. HE FURTHER STATED THAT THE KILLER PROBABLY WANTED TO HEAR THE SCREAMING.
DAMIEN MENTIONED THAT HE THOUGHT THAT IT WAS SCARY THAT WE WERE DOING PSYCHOLOGICAL PROFILES AND THAT HE WAS ON AN ANTIDEPRESSANT THAT HE SAID WAS AMIPROMIN.
WHEN ASKED WHAT HE THOUGHT THE PERSON WHO KILLED THE BOYS WAS FEELING NOW, DAMIEN STATED THAT THE PERSON PROBABLY THOUGHT IT WAS FUNNY AND THAT HE DIDN’T CARE WHETHER OR NOT HE GOT CAUGHT.
WHEN ASKED WHAT KINDS OF ITEMS WE SHOULD BE SEARCHING FOR, HE STATED THAT WE SHOULD BE LOOKING FOR STONES IN THE AREA, CANDLES, A KNIFE, AND SOME TYPE OF CRYSTALS.
DAMIEN WAS ASKED WHAT KIND OF CIGARETTES HE WAS SMOKING AND HE STATED THAT HE SMOKED THE CHEAPEST BRAND THAT HE COULD FIND.
DAMIEN STATED THAT HE FELT THE MURDERER WOULD BE SOMEONE LOCAL AND THAT THE PERSON WOULD NOT FLEE FROM THE AREA.
DAMIEN WAS ASKED ABOUT HIS SEX LIFE AND HE STATED THAT HE NOW THOUGHT SEX WAS BORING.
IT WAS NOTED THAT DAMIEN HAD THE TATOO OF “E”, “V”, “I”, AND “L” ACROSS HIS LEFT KNUCKLES AND HE STATED THAT JASON BALDWIN HAD THE SAME TATOO ON HIS KNUCKLES.
AT THIS TIME DAMIEN WAS ASKED IF HE WOULD SUBMIT TO HAVING HAIR SAMPLES TAKEN AND BLOOD SAMPLES. HE STATED THAT HE DID NOT OBJECT TO THE SAMPLES BEING TAKEN. IT WAS FURTHER ASKED IF HE WOULD BE WILLING TO TAKE A POLYGRAPH EXAMINATION IF ONE COULD BE SCHEDULED AND HE AGAIN STATED THAT HE WOULD TAKE THE TEST.
LT. SUDBURY THEN LEFT THE ROOM AND ATTEMPTED TO SET UP A POLYGRAPH EXAMINATION TO DETERMINE IF HE WAS BEING TRUTHFUL IN HIS STATEMENTS. I ASKED DAMIEN IF HE CONSIDERED HIMSELF TO BE INTELLIGENT AT WHICH TIME HE STATED THAT HE THOUGHT HE WAS VERY INTELLIGENT. HE STATED THAT HE DROPPED OUT OF SCHOOL BUT THAT HE WAS SELF TAUGHT AND THAT HE WAS VERY SMART AND MORE INTELLIGENT THAN MOST PEOPLE.
LT. SUDBURY HAD ASKED QUESTIONS THROUGHOUT THE INTERVIEW THAT HE HAD LISTED. LT. SUDBURY KEPT NOTES HIMSELF AS TO THE ANSWERS THAT DAMIEN HAD GIVEN TO HIS QUESTIONS.
AT THIS TIME DAMIEN WAS TURNED OVER TO DETECTIVE DURHAM FOR A POLYGRAPH EXAMINATION.
AFTER A TIME DETECTIVE DURHAM CAME AND MET WITH ME AND OTHER OFFICERS AND REPORTED THAT DAMIEN HAD BEEN UNTRUTHFUL AND ACCORDING TO THE POLYGRAPH WAS INVOLVED IN THE MURDERS. IT WAS DETERMINED AT THIS TIME DETECTIVE DURHAM AND LT. SUDBURY WOULD CONTINUE THE INTERROGATION THAT HAD BEGUN WHEN IT WAS DISCOVERED THAT HE WAS BEING UNTRUTHFUL.
Polygraph Test and Report for Damien Echols (West Memphis Police, May 10, 1993)
IN 1. HAVE YOU EVER TAKEN A POLYGRAPH TEST BEFORE?
SR 2. IN REGARD TO THE MURDER OF THOSE THREE YOUNG BOYS, ARE YOU GOING TO TELL THE TRUTH DURING THIS TEST?
R 3. AT ANY TIME WEDNESDAY OR WEDNESDAY NIGHT, WERE YOU IN ROBIN HOOD HILLS?
C. 4. HAVE YOU EVER KILLED A CAT OR A DOG?
R. 5. WERE YOU PRESENT WHEN THOSE BOYS WERE KILLED?
C 6. HAVE YOU EVER TAKEN PART IN DEVIL WORSHIP?
R. 7. DID YOU KILL ANY OF THOSE THREE BOYS?
IN 8. HAVE YOU TAKEN ANY DRUGS OR MEDICATION TODAY?
R. 9. DO YOU KNOW WHO KILLED THOSE THREE BOYS?
10. DO YOU SUSPECT ANYONE OF HAVING KILLED THOSE THREE BOYS?
POLYGRAPH REPORT (May 10, 1993)
Polygraph chart for Echols, showing responses to questions 6 – 10.
TO: DET. RIDGE DATE OF EXAM MAY 10,1993
COMPLAINANT NUMBER CASE FILE NUMBER 93-05-0666
SUBJECT DAMIEN WAYNE ECHOLS
ADDRESS 2706 SOUTH GROVE DLN.
CITY/STATE WEST MEMPHIS,AR. D.O.B. 12-11-74
PURPOSE OF EXAMINATION: HOMICIDE INVESTIGATION
IN THE PRETEST INTERVIEW, THE SUBJECT DENIED HAVING BEEN IN ROBIN HOOD HILLS ON WEDNESDAY, MAY 5, 1993. HE DENIED BEING PRESENT WHEN THE VICTIMS WERE KILLED AND DENIED HAVING KILLED ANY OF THE VICTIMS. HE ALSO SAID HE DID NOT KNOW WHO KILLED THE THREE VICTIMS.
POLYGRAPH REPORT (May 10, 1993)
Polygraph chart for Echols, showing responses to questions 6 – 10.
A TEN QUESTION POLYGRAPH TEST WAS FORMULATED AND THREE POLYGRAPH CHARTS WERE CONDUCTED. THE TEST CONTAINED THE FOLLOWING RELEVANT QUESTIONS:
Q.#3. AT ANY TIME WEDNESDAY OR WEDNESDAY NIGHT, WERE YOU IN ROBIN HOOD HILLS? “NO”
Q.#5. WERE YOU PRESENT WHEN THOSE BOYS WERE KILLED? “NO”
Q.#7. DID YOU KILL ANY OF THOSE THREE BOYS? “NO”
Q.#9. DO YOU KNOW WHO KILLED THOSE THREE BOYS? “NO”
Q.#10.DO YOU SUSPECT ANYONE OF HAVING KILLED THOSE THREE BOYS? “NO”
IT IS THE OPINION OF THIS POLYGRAPH EXAMINER THAT THIS SUBJECT RECORDED SIGNIFICANT RESPONSES INDICATIVE OF DECEPTION WHEN HE ANSWERED THE ABOVE LISTED RELEVANT QUESTIONS IN THE MANNER NOTED.
CONCLUSION: DECEPTION INDICATED
IN THE POST TEST INTERVIEW, THE SUBJECT DENIED ANY INVOLVEMENT IN THIS CRIME. AFTER APPROXIMATELY FORTY-FIVE MINUTES, I ASKED THE SUBJECT WHAT WAS HE AFRAID OF? HE REPLIED: “THE ELECTRIC CHAIR”. HE THEN SAID THAT HE LIKED THE HOSPITAL IN LITTLE ROCK. (HE SAID HE HAD BEEN TREATED THERE FOR MANIC-DEPRESSION) AFTER A SHORT PERIOD OF TIME, THE SUBJECT CEASED TO DENIE HIS INVOLVEMENT. (ADMISSION THROUGH ABSENCE OF DENIAL) HE THEN SAID: “I WILL TELL YOU ALL ABOUT IT IF YOU WILL LET ME TALK TO MY MOTHER.” DETECTIVE RIDGE BROUGHT HIS MOTHER IN TO MY OFFICE TO TALK TO HIM. AFTER TALKING TO HIS MOTHER HE AGAIN DENIED BEING INVOLVED IN THE MURDERS. AFTER APPROXIMATELY TWENTY MINUTES, I ASKED: “YOUR’E NEVER GOING TO TELL ANYONE ABOUT THIS BUT YOUR DOCTOR, ARE YOU?” HE REPLIED: “NO”.
ARKANSAS STATE CRIME LABORATORYMEDICAL EXAMINER DIVISION
Case No.: ME-331-93 Date of Examination: May 7, 1993
Name: BYERS, Christopher Mark
Age: 8 years Race: White Sex: Male
Place of Death: West Memphis, Arkansas County: Crittenden
CAUSE OF DEATH: Multiple Injuries.
MANNER OF DEATH: Homicide.
Ethyl Alcohol: Blood—Negative
Drug Screens: Blood—Acid & Neutral Drugs—5.737 ug/ml Carbamazepine
Basic Drugs—None Detected
Blood Type: O+
Oral smear/swabs: No semen found
Rectal smears/swabs: No semen or blood found.
Frank J. Peretti, M.D. * William Q. Sturner
Assoc. Medical Examiner Chief Medical Examiner
*Pathologist of Record
9 Page Report/Page 1
NAME: BYERS, Christopher M. DATE: 5-7-93 NO: MEA-331-93
EXTERNAL DESCRIPTION: The body was that of a well developed, well nourished nude white male. The hands were bound to the feet in “hog-tied” fashion. The fingernails were short and intact, with dirty beds. The body was covered with dried mud, leave and debris. There were multiple injuries situated on the body which are described further below in detail. The body weighed 52 pounds, was 48 inches in height and appeared compatible with the reported age of 8 years. The body was cold. Rigor was present and fixed to an equal degree in al extremities. The body was pale with minimal posterior fixed lividity. The scalp was brown, wavy, and blood-soiled. A 3/4 inch old scar was present on the right forehead and a 1/4 inch old scar was present adjacent to the bridge of the nose. An old hypopigmented scar was present on the front of the chest. The irides were brown. The corneae were cloudy. The sclerae and conjunctivae were slightly congested, with no petechial hemorrhages. The teeth were natural and in good condition. The neck, chest and abdomen were unremarkable, except for the injuries to be described. There were injuries noted to the anal/genital area which are described below in detail. The upper and lower extremities show no abnormalities, except for the injuries and bindings to be described further below. The lower extremities show the presence of a few old healed scars. Abundant amount of feces was present about the anus.
DESCRITION OF INJURIES:
The body was received nude and was covered with dry mud, leaves and debris. There was washer woman wrinkling of the hands and feet. The hands were bound to the ankles behind the back in a “hog-tied” fashion. Strands of hair-like material were found on the left posterior thigh and under the bindings of the left ankle. The right wrist was bound to the right ankle with a black shoe lace and the left wrist was bound to the left ankle with a white shoe lace.
The right ear was abraded and contused. The inferior aspect of the right ear showed multiple linear abrasions measuring 1/2 inch to 1 1/4 inch. On the bridge of the nose were multiple abrasions. Situated between the nose and the upper lip was a semi-lunar abrasion measuring about 1/8 inch. A 1/4 inch abrasion was present at the lateral aspect of the lower lips. A 1/8 abrasion was present on the midline of the lips. The mucosal surfaces of the lower lip showed a 5/16 inch laceration. The frenulum was contused and was surrounded by a 1/2 inch contusion. Multiple superficial bite marks were present on the mucosal surfaces of the right and left cheeks.
9 Page Report/Page 2
NAME: BYERS, Christopher M. DATE: 5-7-93 NO: MEA-331-93
A 3/16 inch laceration was present above the left upper lip.
Situated on the superior aspect of the bridge of the nose was a 3/16 inch abrasion.
Situated above the left eyebrow were two abrasions measuring respectively 1 inch and 3/4 inch. Situated on the right eyelid was a 1/2 inch by 1/2 inch contusion. Adjacent to the medial aspect of the left eye was a 1/8 inch abrasion.
A 1/8 inch abrasion was present adjacent to the lateral aspect of the left eyebrow.
Situated on the left zygomatic region were two circular abrasions, each measuring 3/16 inch. Below these was a 1/4 by 1/8 abrasion.
The left ear was contused and situated behind it were five linear abrasions measuring respectively 1/2 inch, 7/16 inch, 1/2 inch, 7/16 inch, and 3/4 inch. A 1/8 inch abrasion was present on the helix of the left ear. In front of the left ear were five haphazardly oriented abrasions, measuring 5/16 inch to 1 3/4 inch.
Situated on the left parietal scalp was a 1 1/4 inch laceration.
Reflection of the scalp showed hemorrhage in the soft tissues underlying the laceration. There were multifocal, subgaleal contusions with associated edema.
There were no fractures noted to the calvarium, however, the base of the skull shows multiple fractures. In the left posterior cranial fossa was a fracture measuring 3 1/2 inches in length. Extending from this fracture were multiple radiating fractures which involved the entire posterior left cranial fossae. Situated on the left posterior medial cranial fossa was a 1/4 inch ovoid punched out fracture. A 1 inch fracture also involved the left middle cranial fossa.
The brain showed multifocal subarachnoid hemorrhage involving the left posterior cerebral and cerebellar hemispheres. Associated fracture contusions were present.
Situated on the left side of the neck were a few scattered abrasions.
Subsequent autopsy of the neck showed no hemorrhage in the strap muscles of the neck. The hyoid bone and larynx were intact. No petechial hemorrhages were noted. No fractures were noted.
9 Page Report/Page 3
NAME: BYERS, Christopher M. DATE: 5-7-93 NO: MEA-331-93
Genital and Anal Injuries:
The anal orifice was markedly dilated. Examination of the rectal and anal mucosa showed them to be diffusely hyperemic and injected. There were no injuries present.
The skin of the penis, scrotal sac and testes were missing. There was a large gaping defect measuring 2 3/4 inch by 1 1/2 inch. The shaft of the penis was present and measured 2 inches in length. The gaping defect was surrounded by multiple and extensive irregular punctate gouging type injuries measuring from 1/8 inch to 3/4 inch and had a depth of penetration of 1/4 inch to 1/2 inch. Some of these wounds showed hemorrhage in the underlying soft tissue, others did not. In between the thighs there were multiple areas of yellow abrasions with skin slippage. The medial aspect of the left thigh showed a yellow abrasion.
Situated on the posterior surface of the left buttocks was a 1/2 by 1/4 inch contusion and a 1 3/4 inch linear abrasion.
Situated on the posterior surface of the right buttocks were two faint contusions, each measuring about 1/2 inch by 1/2 inch.
The left buttocks showed five superficial cutting wounds measuring from 1/2 inch to 2 1/8 inch.
Situated on the right buttock region were multiple linear superficial interrupted cuts measuring from 3/16 to 1/2 inch and were interspaced by a distance of 1/8 inch. Scattered linear abrasions were present about the anal orifice.
Injuries of Right Leg:
Situated on the right anterior thigh was a 1 by 1 3/8 inch reddish contusion. Below this contusion was a patterned contusion consisting of two ovoid red-purple contusions, the superior one measuring 3/4 by 7/16 inch, and the inferior one measuring 3/4 by 1 1/8 inch. Extending from both of these contusions, the superior one measuring 5 3/16 inches and the inferior contusion measuring 4 1/2 inches. The interspace between these two linear contusions was about 3/4 inch.
A 1/4 inch abrasion was present on the anterior surface of the right leg.
The ankles showed evidence of yellow-red binding abrasions. On the left ankle below the binding abrasion was a 3/4 inch by 1/2 abrasion.
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NAME: BYERS, Christopher M. DATE: 5-7-93 NO: MEA-331-93
Situated over the posterior right thigh and leg were multiple scattered abrasions and contusions. A 2 1/2 by 2 3/4 inch contusion was present above the ligature binding site of the right ankle.
Injuries of the Left Leg:
A 1/4 inch abrasion was present on the right knee. Situated below the right knee were three red contusions measuring 3/4 inch, 1/4 inch, and 1/2 inch each. A 3/4 by 1 inch abrasion was present on the left ankle. The posterior surface of the left lower leg and ankle show confluent contusions.
Multiple scattered abrasions were situated over the upper back region.
Injuries of Right Arm:
Scattered abrasions were present over the right arm and forearm. A yellow binding abrasion which was not surrounded by contusion was present on the right wrist.
Injuries of Left Arm:
Multiple scattered abrasions are present on the anteroposterior surfaces of the left arm. A binding abrasion was present on the left wrist and at the superior margin of this abrasion was a faint red-purple contusion.
BODY CAVITIES: The body was opened by the usual thoraco-abdominal incision and the chest plate was removed. No adhesions or abnormal collections of fluid were present in any of the body cavities. No petechial hemorrhages were present. All body organs showed diffuse pallor. The subcutaneous fat layer of the abdominal wall was 1/2 inches thick. There was no internal evidence of blunt force penetrating injury to the thoraco-abdominal region.
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NAME: BYERS, Christopher M. DATE: 5-7-93 NO: MEA-331-93
WEIGHT OF ORGANS: (in grams)
HEAD: (CENTRAL NERVOUS SYSTEM) Injuries of the head were previously described. Sections through the cerebral hemispheres, brain stem and cerebellum revealed no nontraumatic lesions.
NECK: Examination of the soft tissues of the neck, including strap muscles, thyroid gland and large vessels, revealed no abnormalities. The hyoid bone and larynx were intact and showed no evidence of fracture or hemorrhage.
CARDIOVASCULAR SYSTEM: The pericardial surfaces were smooth, glistening and unremarkable; the pericardial sac was free of significant fluid or adhesions. The coronary arteries arose normally, followed the usual distribution and were widely patent, without evidence of significant atherosclerosis or thrombosis. The chambers and valves exhibited the usual size-position relationship and were unremarkable. The myocardium was dark red-brown, firm and unremarkable; the atrial and ventricular septa were intact. The aorta and its major branches arose normally, followed the usual course and were widely patent, free of significant atherosclerosis and other abnormality. The vena cava and its major tributaries returned to the heart in the usual distribution and were free of thrombi.
RESPIRATORY SYSTEM: The upper and lower airways contained a slight amount of vomitus. The mucosal surfaces were hyperemic. The pleural surfaces were smooth, glistening and unremarkable bilaterally. The pulmonary parenchyma was salmon-pink, exuding slight amounts of blood and frothy fluid. No focal lesions were noted. The pulmonary arteries were normally developed, patent and without thrombus or embolus.
LIVER AND BILARY SYSTEM: The hepatic capsule was smooth, glistening and intact, covering a pale brown parenchyma with no focal lesions noted. The gallbladder contained 3 ml. of green, mucoid bile. The mucosa was velvety and unremarkable. The extrahepatic biliary tree was patent, without evidence of calculi.
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NAME: BYERS, Christopher M. DATE: 5-7-93 NO: MEA-331-93
ALIMENTARY TRACT: The tongue was without evident recent injury. The esophagus was lined by gray-white, smooth mucosa. The gastric mucosa was arranged in the usual rugal folds and the lumen contained 1 ounce of red-tan fluid with a piece of chewing gum. The small and large bowel were unremarkable. The anal and rectal mucosae were hyperemic and injected. The pancreas had a normal pink-tan lobulated appearance and the ducts were patent. The appendix was present.
GENITOURINARY SYSTEM: The renal capsules were smooth and thin, semi-transparent and stripped with ease from the underlying smooth, red-brown cortical surface. The cortex was pale. The calyces, pelves and ureters were unremarkable. The urinary bladder was contracted and contained no urine. The mucosa was gray-tan and smooth. The prostate and seminal vesicles were unremarkable. The testes were missing.
RETICULOENDOTHELIAL SYSTEM: The spleen had a smooth, intact capsule covering red-purple, moderately firm parenchyma; the lymphoid follicles were unremarkable. The regional lymph nodes appeared normal.
ENDOCRINE SYSTEM: The pituitary, thyroid and adrenal glands were unremarkable.
MUSCULOSKELETAL SYSTEM: Muscle development was normal. No atraumatic bone or joint abnormalities were noted.
Ethyl Alcohol: Blood—Negative
Drug Screens: Blood—Acid & Neutral Drugs—5.737 ug/ml Carbamazepine
Basic Drugs—None detected
Blood Type: O+
Oral smears/swabs: No semen found.
Rectal smears/swabs: No semen or blood found.
MICROSCOPIC:Skin—left ankle—intact epithelium. No hemorrhage.
Skin—left wrist—intact epithelium. No hemorrhage.
Skin—right ankle—intact epithelium. No hemorrhage.
Skin—left wrist—intact epithelium. No hemorrhage.
Anal orifice—no hemorrhage.
Penis—Bacterial colonies. A few ghost remnants of red blood cells are identified in vessel and soft tissues.
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NAME: BYERS, Christopher M. DATE: 5-7-93 NO: MEA-331-93
I. Multiple Injuries:
a. Multiple facial contusions, abrasions, and lacerations.
b. Contusions and abrasions of ears.
c. Left parietal scalp laceration.
d. Fractures of base of skull.
e. Subarachnoid hemorrhage of cerebral and cerebellar hemispheres with fracture contusions.
g. Abrasions of front of neck with no evidence of neck muscle injuries.
II. Genital mutilation with absence of scrotal sac, testes, skin and head of penis, with multiple surrounding gouging and cutting wounds.
III. Dilated anus.
IV. Bindings of wrists to ankles behind back in “hog-tied” fashion.
V. Multiple contusions, abrasions, and lacerations of torso and extremities.
VI. Terminal aspiration.
VII. No evidence of disease.
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NAME: BYERS, Christopher M. DATE: 5-7-93 NO: MEA-331-93
This 8 year old, white male, Christopher Byers, dies of multiple injuries.
Investigation of the three circumstances of death revealed that the decadent was on of three children (see related cases MEA-329-93 and MEA-330-93) that were found in a ditch which contained approximately 2 to 2 1/2 feet of water, approximately 150 yards southwest of Blue Beacon Truck Wash on the south service road at Interstate 40 and 55, West Memphis, Arkansas. The decadent was reported missing at approximately 6:00 PM on May 5, 1993 and his nude body was found the afternoon of May 6, 1993. When found the body was nude and the wrists were bound to the ankles bilaterally.
Autopsy demonstrated bindings of the hands and feet behind the back in a “hog-tied” fashion with shoe laces. There were multiple abrasions, contusions and lacerations of the facies which resulted in hemorrhage and fracturing of the skull. The skin of the penis, scrotal sac and testes, were missing. Surrounding the perineum were multiple cutting wounds. The anus was dilated with a hyperemic mucosa. There were no injuries present. Spermatoza were not detected in the oral and anal smears. In addition, there were multiple and extensive contusions, abrasions, and lacerations involving the torso and extremities. No alcohol was detected. Carbamazepine was detected in sub-therapeutic levels.
MANNER OF DEATH: Homicide
Frank J. Peretti, M.D.* William Q. Sturner
Assoc. Medical Examiner Chief Medical Examiner
*Pathologist of Record
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