West Memphis Three still seek justice 11 years after their release from prison

Featured photo: Damien Echols and actor Johnny Depp in Little Rock

On this day 11 years ago an Arkansas man walked off death row and was freed, but technically he remains convicted of the murders he profusely claims he didn’t commit. Damien Echols, along with cohorts Jason Baldwin and Jessie Misskelley Jr. made Alford pleas on this day in 2011, and it ended 18 years of incarceration for the men collectively known as the “West Memphis Three.”

The three have claimed for decades they had nothing to do with the brutal murders of three boys – Stevie Branch, Christopher Byers and Michael Moore – who vanished from their West Memphis neighborhood May 5, 1993. Echols has been in a recent fight with the state to get advanced, touch DNA testing done.  

A judge denied the request in June, and Echols recently filed an appeal. Journalist George Jared spent time with Echols and Baldwin before the June hearing. Jared has written more than 100 stories about the case and a book, “Witches in West Memphis.”

Echols told Jared that the day he set foot in West Memphis was the first time he’d done so since his arrest June 4, 1993. Prosecutors claimed the three eight-year-old boys, who were found nude and tied ankle to wrist with their own shoelaces in a drainage ditch, were killed in an occult ceremony. They had been bludgeoned and drowned in the watery creek.

The man, who was identified by authorities as the ringleader, told Jared he spent years dealing with post-traumatic stress disorder in the years that followed his prison release.

He was stunned when Circuit Court Judge Tonya Alexander denied the testing.  

“We are extremely disappointed in the judge’s decision which was based upon a narrow interpretation of the law and one that failed to allow justice to be served. All I asked for was the right to seek to identify the DNA of the real killer (s). We are appealing that decision and are confident that the Arkansas Supreme Court will see it differently. The sad fact is that those responsible for the murders of three children in 1993 have breathed a sigh of relief now that the state of Arkansas is once again in their corner,” Echols said.   

Prosecutors have been fighting the testing and have never given a public statement as to why they oppose further evidence gathering in the internationally famous case. In fact, Prosecutor Keith Crestman told Jared in April 2021 that he was going to ask a court to order the evidence to be destroyed. Authorities later that year claimed the evidence had been destroyed in a fire or lost. That proved to be untrue and all the evidence was found in the West Memphis Police’s Department’s evidence room in December 2021.

Why authorities made those claims has never been divulged.

Jared interviewed all three while they were incarcerated including a Death Row interview with Echols in 2010. Baldwin told Jared in June he’s in good spirits and hopes that his and his cohorts names will be cleared and the killer or killers in the case will finally be brought to justice.

Echols (left) talking to reporter and author George Jared

The journalist has written about many murder cases through the years, and he just recently released a book about the unsolved murder of 18-year-old Deborah Sue Williamson.  

“Silent Silhouette” details his and former Army counterintelligence officer Jennifer Bucholtz’s investigation into the case. It includes interviews, case files, interviews with witnesses and persons of interest. The case has haunted the city of Lubbock, Texas for many years and has surprising connections to Northeast Arkansas. 

“Debbie’s case is solvable and we need the public’s help,” Jared said. “We have to create the largest web of people possible to catch this killer. We developed some powerful leads in this case.”

Another person that Jared recently interviewed in the West Memphis Three case is Stevie’s stepfather, Terry Hobbs. WM3 supporters have grilled Hobbs through the years after a hair that is a likely mitochondrial DNA match for him was found in the ligature that bound Michael.  

Hobbs told Jared he didn’t kill his step son or his friends. When asked if wanted the evidence tested, Hobbs first said, “If the West Memphis Three want it tested then I don’t.” He later clarified his position by saying he could support testing if all the evidence in the case was tested, not just the ligatures.  

In an interview on the Mysterious Circumstances podcast hosted by Justin Rimmel, Hobbs said he hopes the judge “does the right thing” and orders the evidence destroyed. Hobbs has never been identified as a suspect in the case, and police admit the hair is likely his, but say it could have gotten on the victim through secondary hair transfer.  

A timetable for the appeal to be heard has not been released.



6 Comments

  1. Why would anyone not want to know the answer to this, who are we going to hurt
    If nothing comes of the testing, then it’s over. If I were one of the families I want to know the correct people are held accountable

  2. I totally remember an interview with the police stating that evidence in the case was “destroyed in a fire”! How convenient!! It’s always a fire, flood, etc…never is any police officers doing??

  3. No “loving parent” would want any evidence to be missing!! Very suspicious in deed!! His violent, pedophile background should have been investigated in the very 1st documentary!!!!

  4. I remember when this happened. If I were the parent of one of the boys a police officer or even just a resident of West Memphis I would want it tested. I’m not family, resident, or a police officer but I would like to know the truth. I think after losing years of their lives these boys deserve for the truth to be found and so do those defenseless 8 year old boys. I don’t understand why they can’t do dna tests on the evidence you wouldn’t think they have something to hide.

  5. Wasn’t Terry Hobbs’ DNA found at the murder scene? They say: “Oh, that was probably Mr Hobbs’ son’s DNA”. Excuse Me? Don’t you mean his step-son? Don’t you think step-father/step-son’s DNA would be different?

  6. I have watched many documentaries and done so much research on this case and I never believed these boys killed anyone. As someone who works in a prosecutors office I am appalled that the prosecutors on this case would not agree to the testing, if they have an open and shut case and did from the beginning why not allow it. Why lie and say it was destroyed in a fire. It is clear an investigation was never done on this case. I just hope and pray that something good comes of this and the WM 3 are finally cleared and they get Justice for being wrongfully accused.

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