Guest Author - Vance R. Rowe
Jason Baldwin, Damien Echols, and Jessie Misskelley, Jr., also now known as the West Memphis Three were found guilty in a 1994 trial for committing the murders of three young boys, in West Memphis, Arkansas, in 1993. The prosecuting attorney told the court, during the trial, that the boys were killed as part of some sort of Satanic ritual. Damien Echols was sentenced to die. Jessie Misskelley, Jr. was sentenced to life in prison plus he has to serve two 20 year sentences after that. Jason Baldwin was sentenced to life in prison.
On May 5, 1993, three 8-year-old boys vanished from their neighborhood in Robin Hood Hills. Michael Moore, Steve Branch, and Christopher Byers were last seen around 6:30 PM by three neighbors. In affidavits signed by these neighbors, they stated that they also saw Terry Hobbs walking around the neighborhood, shouting for them. Hobbs is the step-father of Steve Branch. Christopher Byers’ adoptive father first called police around 7PM. Police, family and friends did a search, as best they could at night. A more organized and stronger search began the next morning on May 6, 1993.
The searchers covered all of West Memphis for the missing boys, but focused mainly on their neighborhood of Robin Hood Hills, where the boys were last seen. Hours into the search, nothing had turned up until a juvenile parole officer named Steve Jones, saw a black sneaker in a muddy canal. The canal was drained of water and the search intensified in the gulley. Soon, the bodies of the three boys were found.
The boys had been stripped of their clothes and their hands and legs were hog-tied behind their backs with their own shoelaces. Their clothes were soon found as well. Some of them were found wrapped around sticks and then stuck down into the mud. The subsequent forensic report stated that one boy, Christopher Byers had multiple cuts and lacerations to his body as well as his genitals. These “multiple lacerations” were declared as the cause of his death. The other two boys, Michael Moore and Steve Branch were found to have died of “multiple injuries while drowning”.
In 2007, there was new DNA evidence discovered and both, the State and the defense team, agreed that some of the DNA evidence found at the scene cannot be attributed to the victims or the defendants. In 2010, the Arkansas Supreme Court made a favorable decision on the new evidence and the West Memphis Three agreed to plea bargains, called the Alford Pleas. The Alford Pleas allows the defendants to maintain their innocence but agree that the district attorney has enough evidence to convict the three of them.
The West Memphis Three were then sentenced to 18 years and 78 days, the amount of time that the three had already served, plus the judge handed down a 10-year suspended sentence on them.
In 2013, a movie came out called ”Devil’s Knot”. It is from the book of the same name and is based on this case.