In 1994, teenagers Damien Echols, Jessie Misskelley, Jr., and Jason Baldwin were arrested and tried for the murders of three young boys in West Memphis, Arkansas. At the time, the prosecution asserted that the boys were murdered as part of a satanic ritual. All three of the accused were convicted of the murders and sentenced to life imprisonment and, in Echols case, the death penalty (which was never carried out by the State). Following the submission of new DNA evidence in 2010, the State of Arkansas negotiated a plea agreement with all three of the accused and allowed them to submit Alford pleas which essentially asserts that while the three acknowledge that the State has enough evidence to convict them, they maintain their innocence. The three were then released on time served.
For many, this was enough to exonerate the three teenagers, now grown men. However, there is still a mountain of evidence against them that seems to contradict the State of Arkansas’s decision to release. Below is all the evidence against the West Memphis Three as posted by LuckyBallAndChain in Reddit’s Unsolved Mysteries sub which supports the case that the three not only committed the murders they were accused of but that the State of Arkansas has now aided them in getting away with it.
The Case Against The West Memphis Three
This post begins as a reply to another poster claiming there was “no substantial evidence” against the West Memphis Three.
No substantial evidence? Excuse me.
- Damien has never come up with an Alibi for where he was during the murders. Well, actually he has, per Damien: > “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 (source)
Really? Lets examine these three (actually four) other peoples testimony, shall we? Do they exonerate him like he suggests? In a word, no. They weren’t called because they exposed Damien’s alibi for the total lie it was.
- 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. (source)
- 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. (source)
- 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. (source)
- Jennifer Bearden – The one Damien misses out because it’s most damaging. 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. (source)
So where were Damien and co for four to five hours that happen to coincide with the time of the murders? Well we don’t know. Damien told Jennifer that Jason’s mom had driven them somewhere… which was a lie because she was at work til 11pm (source). It’s strange that he can’t come up with an alibi that holds up isn’t it? Surely if he’s innocent, he just needs to tell us where he was? So why doesn’t he?
- Jessie Misskelley has no alibi either. I know, you’re about to say he was in a karate tournament, but he wasn’t. The so-called photos depict a different event a month prior, and the “witnesses” all gave conflicting testimony. This alibi only emerged after a previous alibi (he was at a party with 12 other people) fell apart (source)
- And nor does Jason Baldwin, after an attempt to get his brother and a friend (Ken Watkins) to lie for him, he stopped trying to construct one; to the point that in 2008 his lawyer stood up in court and said he couldn’t find a reliable alibi witness for Jason. (source). It’s really weird that three totally innocent men all tried to fabricate alibis for the same period of time that just happens to correspond with a murder they’re suspected of. Really weird that.
- Blue wax found on the bodies matched wax found in Damien’s room and a candle belonging to his girlfriend (Photo of candle taken during search)
- The Knife – multiple people testified it was Damien’s knife, including his ex-girlfriend Deanna Holcomb (source). She said Damien’s knife stood out because it had a compass, and the knife manufacturer testified that the knife found was missing a compass (source)
- But it doesn’t end there. The so called “bitemark” on Stevie Branch (photo) perfectly matches the diameter of the compass slot, complete with central wound for the pin (picture of knife with compass to compare). It’s shocking that an innocent man’s knife would match not just the knife wounds, but other contusions on the body too.
- A necklace was found (too late to be included in trial evidence) in Damien’s possession that was covered with blood. Tests proved that the DNA on it was consistent with Damien, Jason and… Stevie Branch. (source)
- The three boys were tied with three, distinct, unique knots. This usually points to three distinct killers and is almost unheard of in cases involving just one suspect (source)
- Paradise Lost claims “there was no blood at the crime scene” which is… wrong. Completely. Here are the Luminol test results. “It lit up like a Christmas tree […] there was a lot of blood there”
- Damien was seen, by a family that knew him very well near the crime scene on the night of the murders. The Hollingsworth Family, who correctly described Damien’s clothes, thought they saw him with his girlfriend. They have never retracted this statement and gained nothing by coming forward, except to have their credibility attacked again and again by WM3 researchers looking to discount their sighting. Despite this, one of the key reasons Narlene Hollingsworth was called to testify was her reputation for brutal honesty, even when it came to her own children. (more info on The Hollingsworth Sighting)
- Green Fibres found at the crime scene matched a shirt in Damien’s home (source). Red fibres that the police suspected were from a bathrobe in Misskelley’s home but stressed that they couldn’t match them, were retested by the defense in 2008 and found not to match. It’s odd that they would retest the fibres known to not be a match, but not the ones that were a match, isn’t it? What’s even odder is that they neglected to mention that owing to evidence decay, most crime labs refused to retest for the defense, saying that after all this time they would have decayed too much and that “any findings, would be deeply suspect – no matter which side they favored”. Odd that they forgot to mention this.
- Damien is a liar. Straight up. He lies to his supporters to make his innocence seem more compelling and lies to make himself seem more of a martyr. A few examples:
- “I lived 15 miles away from West Memphis and the crime scene” (2010 interview, Larry King interview). He lived in a trailer park in West Memphis, less than two miles away from the crime scene.
- “I never went to West Memphis… Hardly at all” (2010 interview). He was known for walking around West Memphis constantly, and testified in 1994: “I walk around frequently… there’s not much to do”
- “I wasn’t familiar with Robin Hood Hills before the murders… it was a residential area, and I only went to West Memphis to go to Walmart and stuff” (2010). In 1994, in response to the question “how often do you go to Robin Hood Hills?” Damien responded “two, three times a week? Probably more”.
- He literally agreed with the prosecutor on the stand that he was moving events around depending on what time he needed to cover. You see him cover for this in Paradise Lost by saying he was “Daydreaming”
- In his book “Almost Home” Damien claims he “barely” knew Jessie Misskelley. The testimony of Domini Teer, Jim McNease, Jason Crosby, Deanna Holcomb, and about 15 others testifies to a friendship between the two, with everyone mentioning them walking around town together, attending events, turning up at people’s houses together and so on. It’s a total lie, and a poor one.
- Claimed Marc Gardner “raped” him in prison. He later retracted the whole thing after investigation proved he hadn’t. The prison at the time said he retracted the claims after he was told a report would be published that called him “a manipulative pathological liar”. He was concerned about the effect this would have on his supporters.
- Claims his mom and sister never visited him in prison (“maybe one or two times… but not often.. my sister only came twice and stopped coming after”). Prison records prove he’s lying and that his mother visited weekly, while his sister came fortnightly or once a month when she was busy.
- He told Piers Morgan that the prison forced him to “eat with his hands”. “I had to learn to use a fork again”, a claim that is demonstrably bullshit.
Odd that an innocent man lies enough to be called a “manipulative pathological liar”.
- Misskelley and Echols failed their polygraph tests (Echols’ results | Misskelley’s results). Not conclusive, but interesting.
- It’s frequently claimed that Jodee Medford and the Softball Girls (the girls who heard Damien brag about the murders) have recanted their stories. They haven’t. It’s based on a misunderstanding of a declaration by Medford’s mother and ascribing her words to Jodee: http://callahan.8k.com/wm3/d_medford_declaration.html
The Confessions – Jessie didn’t confess “once” after hours of questioning. That’s another lie.
- May 6th 1993 – The day after the murders, Jessie told his friend Buddy Lucas that he’d “hurt some boys” the day before. He then cried and gave Buddy a pair of sneakers (source)
- May – June 1993 – Jessie is heard crying, praying and apologizing in his room. He would later be diagnosed with PTSD, after witnessing a “traumatic event” that people still think he completely made up.
- June 3, 1993 – Jessie arrived with his father for questioning and confesses. This is where people imply he was questioned for 12 hours. He wasn’t. He arrived at 10am and confessed at 2:20pm. Only two hours of that time was interrogation (source)
- June 11, 1993 – Jessie confesses to his attorneys (source)
- August 19, 1993 – Jessie Misskelley met with his attorney, Dan Stidham, at the Clay County Detention Center and confessed again (source)
- February 4, 1994 – On the day he was sentenced, Jessie confessed to the officers driving him to the prison (source)
- February 8, 1994- Jessie put his hand on a Bible and swore to his attorney (Dan Stidham) that he, Damien, and Jason committed the murders. As proof, 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. Stidham told prosecutors he would be force to believe his client’s confession if he could find that bottle. So Stidham, WMPD, and the prosecutors drove to West Memphis to look for it. They found a broken Evan Williams bottle in the exact area that Jessie said it would be. (source)
- February 17, 1994 – Jessie confesses again, this time to the prosecutors. His attorneys begged him not to give this confession, but he gave it anyway (source)
- October 24, 1994 – Jessie’s cell mate wrote to the prosecutors begging him to keep the WM3 in prison, saying Jessie had repeatedly confessed to the crime in detail and describing it as “awful” and “cold”. He had no reason to do this, it was no benefit to him.. he was simply disturbed by the campaign to release the WM3 after what Jessie had said (source)
- 1994 – Present Day – Jessie continued to confess, possibly to prison counselors (heavily rumored and hinted at by his own attorney and said to be the reason Damien Echols fell out with him) but definitely to fans, most notably one known as TrueRomance, who as a result of what Jessie told her switched from one of their most vocal supporters to the total opposite and her story can be read here
Oh let’s finish on my absolute favorite one: Satanic Panic.
- Worried that the case would be branded an example of “Satanic Panic” the trial was moved over an hour away to Jonesboro (Echols and Baldwin) and Corning (Misskelley) in order to give the defendants a better shot at seating fair, unbiased juries. All those “damning” stories in the West Memphis papers? The jury never saw them. All those damning rumors? The jury never heard them. The jury was mostly under 30, with very little religious influence (Jonesboro is a college town, and it was thought the younger Jury pool would favor the WM3, to the point that the state was accused of bias against the prosecution…)
Yeah you’re right, they’re totally innocent.
I was a formally a big supporter, but as I read the case files it seemed more and more likely to me they did it.. and the trouble was that the majority of people only had a biased view of the case… There was so many things that didn’t add up for me. The supporters just refused to even consider the possibility they did it and I found myself believing more and more in their guilt. It was upsetting because I too was a mentally ill, weirdo in a small town and I related to Damien because of that (and a lot of people I admired like Jello Biafra, Henry Rollins, Eddie Vedder, etc were big supporters).
Ultimately the fact it became a punk/alternative cause célèbre bothered me so much that I became really passionate about showing people the evidence against Echols and co, and reminding them that three eight year old boys were brutally murdered and they should be the ones front and center, not Damien.
And as a reminder of how horrific this crime was:
During his initial police interview, Echols stated that the killer probably urinated in one or more of the boys’ mouths, apropos of nothing.
Urine was later found in the stomachs of 2 of the victims, but that information was given by phone only to Gitchell, and not before May 16th, 1993. There is no possible way Damien Echols could have had case- specific information unless he was there or knew someone that was that told him what occurred, as the detective interviewing him at the time was clueless to that fact during the interview. At the time Damien mentioned this detail, no one would have known about this, except those directly involved with the crime. Damien attempted to explain this away by saying he was “thinking about what I would have done if I was the killer”.