A series of documentaries following the doubt cast on the law enforcement’s investigation and the high-profile supporters rallying behind the teens imprisoned later dubbed the “West Memphis Three”.
In 2011, after spending nearly two decades in prison, three Memphis West individuals who were released from prison had enough evidence against them to admit their guilt while still proclaiming their innocence. The prosecution allowed them to enter an Alford plea.
The Overlooked West Memphis Three
Who Were the Individuals Stevie Branch, Michael Moore, and Christopher Byers?
Stevie Branch, Christopher Byers, and Michael Moore.
The argument continues to this day, and nobody has a conclusive response.
According to USA Today’s report in 2018, the city situated in the Bible Belt was identified as the most hazardous in the state, with crime and poverty rates being considerably above the national average. West Memphis faces numerous issues similar to its renowned counterpart, positioned opposite Memphis, on the western side of the Mississippi River.
Stevie, Michael, and Christopher, who were eight-year-olds, were in second grade at Weaver Elementary School and were both Cub Scout members and best friends.
On the afternoon of May 5, 1993, three friends were enjoying a warm spring afternoon outdoors. According to WMC-TV affiliate NBC Memphis, Pamela Hicks, Stevie’s mother, spoke to her son last time and he asked for permission to go bike riding with his friends.
“According to the report, it was allegedly stated that Jamie Clark Ballard and Carlos Seals, who lived in West Memphis, were the final two individuals to have witnessed the boys before their demise.”
Byers Mark John, the stepfather of the missing boys, reported the boys missing to the West Memphis Police Department at approximately 8 p.M. The local newspaper, Memphis Flyer, reported the missing boys.
The bodies of the boys were found in a drainage channel later that day. The authorities initiated a thorough investigation for the boys in the location where they were last observed playing – a forested region near Interstate 40 called “Robin Hood Hills” – the next day.
What was the cause of death for Stevie Branch, Michael Moore, and Christopher Byers?
According to a nearby newspaper, the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, it was stated that Christopher’s demise was due to “various wounds,” whereas Michael and Stevie perished as a result of “various wounds accompanied by drowning.” It was revealed that the young boys had been bound and forcibly undressed.
Although wild creatures might have been responsible, authorities suspected that his murderer was responsible and had mutilated his genitals. Christopher also had a fractured skull.
The boys’ clothing and bicycles were discovered scattered around the crime scene, indicating that Echols and Baldwin lodged an appeal in 1996.
What Was the Reason for the Arrest of Damien Echols, Jason Baldwin, and Jessie Misskelley, Jr.?
On May 7, Damien W. Echols, a high school dropout who resided in a trailer park and stood out in the conservative small town, was questioned extensively by investigators. He was quickly singled out due to his preference for donning entirely black attire and his fondness for heavy metal music, horror, and science fiction. Moreover, he also delved into the study of Wicca, a belief system that encompasses aspects of paganism and witchcraft.
“He’s like some wacko cult member,” high school teacher Jim Ferguson told The New York Times at the time of the murders.
As per the appeal, “during the moment Echols uttered the statement, there was no general awareness that one of the children had been mutilated more intensely than the rest.” Provoking doubt, as he claimed that one of the boys had probably been mutilated to a greater extent than the others, the intention behind the murder might have been to intimidate someone. Echols speculated about the manner in which the boys died when questioned.
According to The New York Times, Misskelley was notorious for engaging in physical altercations and causing disturbances within the community. Similar to Echols, Misskelley dropped out of high school. Another teenager who came under investigation was Jessie Misskelley Jr., Aged 17, and later involved in the inquiry was Jason Baldwin, aged 16, who was a friend of Echols. In reality, Baldwin and Echols claimed to have minimal acquaintance with Misskelley.
In 2010, Echols conveyed to 48 Hours, “I didn’t genuinely consider him whatsoever, to be frank.” “He was simply an individual who was somewhat on the outskirts of my and Jason’s existence,” Echols expressed.
In a 1996 appeal, he relinquished his entitlement to legal representation and ultimately admitted to his participation in the killings, identifying Echols and Baldwin as his partners in crime. He was detained for a period of 12 hours and interrogated in the absence of his parents. However, it was Misskelley’s testimony, after being brought in for questioning on June 3, 1993, that resulted in the apprehension of the teenagers.
As per the 1996 appeal, he made extravagant assertions that he had participated in Satanic ceremonies, informing the officers, “They indulged in wild parties and, as a ritual to join, slaughtering and consuming canines.” The Arkansas Times newspaper noted that his admission contained several factual inaccuracies and contradictions.
He thought that he might be given a monetary reward, and he stated in the appeal that he was scared of the officers. According to court documents obtained by Oxygen.Com, Misskelley argued in a later appeal that his confession was involuntary, due to his mental capacity and an IQ of 72.
In 2010, his lawyer Dan Stidham informed 48 Hours, ‘however, he transformed himself from a witness to a collaborator,’ he believed he was assisting by contributing to the narrative.
Although Misskelley recanted his confession, his attorney noted in the 1996 appeal that corroboration primarily served as evidence, with exhibits and testimony being among the statements used against him in court.
According to the Los Angeles Times, in February 1994, he received a life sentence for one charge of premeditated murder and two charges of unintentional murder. He was convicted.
Echols was sentenced to death by lethal injection, while Baldwin was given life without parole. They were both found guilty on three counts of murder, according to the Arkansas Times, which deemed it the murder capital. The prosecution argued that they had murdered the boys in a Satanic ritual, and later, Baldwin and Echols went on trial.
Which Celebrities Backed The West Memphis Three?
Johnny Depp (L) andDamien Echols.attendDamien Echols.In Conversation With Johnny Depp at Barnes & Noble Union Square on September 21, 2012 in New York City. Photo: D Dipasupil/FilmMagic
The date of the killings suggested that the murders in Satanic were close to a pagan holiday, and the amount of victims testified to the fact that it was a holiday associated with occult practices. Dale Griffis, an expert on the occult, also suggested that the murders in Memphis West were linked to Satanism, which contributed to the widespread fear and panic known as the “Satanic Panic.” The lack of physical evidence and questionable investigation tactics by law enforcement were highlighted in the case, and this critical look at the case was first examined in three documentaries: “The Robin Hood Hills Murders: A Lost Paradise,” which aired on HBO in June 1996.
Can I empathize with being judged based on your appearance instead of your true identity, as opposed to those who opposed to it? Depp Johnny, including prominent activists, celebrities, and several well-known musicians like Eddie Vedder from Pearl Jam, have also expressed their understanding of this issue.
Two tribute albums, “Free The West Memphis 3” (2000) and “Rise Above: 24 Black Flag Songs to Benefit the West Memphis Three” (2002), assisted in generating funds for their continuous legal expenses.
What Proof Exists in the Case of the West Memphis Three?
Rebecca Sapp/WireImage captured a photo of Jason Baldwin and Damien Echels from “West of Memphis” as they arrived on the red carpet at the Arlington Theater in Santa Barbara, California on February 4, 2012. They were attending the Cinema Vanguard Award Tribute honoring Jean Dujardin and Berenice Bejo.
The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reported that in 2007, a fresh round of DNA testing revealed that none of the genetic material found at the crime scene matched Echols, Baldwin, or Misskelley. Despite the repeated appeals made by the West Memphis Three, both the Arkansas State and U.S. Supreme Courts denied their requests.
As per court records acquired by Oxygen.Com, a strand of hair discovered in one of the restraints utilized to secure the boys was identified to be in line with Terry Hobbs’ DNA, who happens to be Stevie’s stepfather. Moreover,
As per legal records, David Jacoby, an acquaintance of Hobbs, was discovered to possess matching DNA with an additional strand of hair discovered on a tree stump in close proximity to the location of the crime.
Jacoby and Hobbs have never been named as suspects in the case and have denied any involvement in the murders.
As per the Arkansas Times, the recent DNA examinations provided by attorneys employed by the West Memphis Three revealed no connection between them and the killings that occurred in 1993. During the autumn of 2010, the Arkansas Supreme Court mandated a fresh hearing to examine the evidence for Echols, Baldwin, and Misskelley.
When Were The West Memphis Three Freed From Incarceration?
The West Memphis Three were then presented with a plea bargain by prosecutors.
As reported by The New York Times, Baldwin, aged 34, along with Echols and Misskelley, both aged 36, were set free on Aug. 19, 2011, following their acceptance of an Alford plea. This plea enabled them to assert their innocence while pleading guilty to charges of first- and second-degree murder.
According to the Arkansas Times, Echols stated, “I am not guilty, just like Jason and Jessie, but I opted for this choice because I did not desire to endure any more days confined behind those prison walls. I yearn to exist and persist in advocating for our purity. It was crucial to seize this chance for liberation, despite the fact that justice can be flawed and imperfect at times.”
West Memphis authorities confirmed that some evidence in the case “may have been destroyed” during a fire that occurred approximately 15 years ago.
What is the Current Location of the West Memphis Three?
Lorri Davis andDamien Echols.at a panel entitled “Wrongfully Accused,” part of the Death Becomes Us true crime festival. Photo: Clarissa Villondo
In jail in 1999, he tied the knot with Lorri Davis, his spouse, with whom he currently resides in New York City. “High Magick: A Guide to the Spiritual Practices That Preserved My Life on Death Row” is his latest published work, one of three literary works he has published subsequent to his liberation.
Baldwin established the non-profit organization Proclaim Justice, which supports individuals who have been wrongly convicted, in Austin, Texas, where he currently resides. Following his release, Misskelley has remained in West Memphis and maintained a low public presence. According to the bio on the website, he is pursuing a higher education and intends to enroll in law school.
Despite Hobbs’ consistent denial of any participation, he has been connected to the homicides of his stepson and his two closest companions, Stevie, Michael, and Christopher, yet no additional arrests have been made.
In June 2019, during an interview with WATN affiliate ABC Memphis, Hobbs stated, “I still believe in my heart that Echols Damion and Jason, along with Jessie, are responsible for what happened to our children.”
Even now, it remains uncertain as to who is accountable for the murders.