West Memphis, Arkansas- On Wednesday May 5, 1993 three eight your old cub scouts and best buds Michael Moore, Stevie Branch and Chris Byers ventured into the RobinHood Hill Woods after 6:30 PM.
While their worried parents made numerous calls to police and actively looked for them in the area into the late evening, there was no sign of them in spite of neighbors going door to door. Unfortunately there was a shift change at the West Memphis Police Department, and no detectives were called in until the following morning.
That critical error by the WMPD is the start of a voluminous list of mishaps and negligence that would plague this case from the onset, and quite possibly earn Damien “Icky” Wayne Echols (a/k/a Michael Wayne Hutchison) Charles Jason Baldwin, and Jessie Lloyd Misskelley, Jr, a new trial.
I was asked to review this case and present my findings to a colleague who had been privately retained in this case, with the agreement that I would publish my investigative report regardless of the conclusions I reached
In the interest of disclosure, I am admittedly a big fan of Johnny Depp and Eddie Vedder and I wanted nothing more than to let them know they could count me in as the newest advocate for “free west Memphis 3”.
First, The Good News?
At the onset of my research, I thought it was pretty clear that there absolutely was juror misconduct in the Echols/Baldwin trial, which has yet to be ruled on for the defense team, and I agree that the same judge who heard the instant case should not have heard the appeal, especially in a capital case.
As a practical matter, lawyers, specifically defense attorneys, are charged with extracting the “guilt or innocence fact” as it relates to the crime and zealously defending their clients rights and presumption of innocence.
Conversely, the prosecution is charged with presenting a case they believe will result in a conviction of the indictment as presented, while adhering to the rules of criminal procedure under the Arkansas supreme court.
I think it is a fair statement to say that in both trials, neither endeavor was accomplished and we should all be uncomfortable with how it could threaten our collective rights under our constitution should it go unaddressed in general, and not just in this case with these defendants.
The larger issue at hand, is changes to DNA statutes and the states plain language misapplication of the “actual claim of innocence” under rule 37.
Simply put, it means that the new evidence, testing, the evidence of any jury misconduct, when evaluated with all other evidence both inculpating and exculpatory whether or not it was presented at trial, is a second bite of the apple- FOR BOTH SIDES.
The burden, however, is on the defense to argue that a new jury would likely acquit all three based on the totality of that evidence today. It should be noted that the Supreme Court will rule on this hearing as to whether or not a new trial is warranted giving EQUAL weight to direct, physical and circumstantial evidence, which is also the charge to a jury.
I support the hearings to begin December 5, 20011, with cameras present because I believe in transparency and the law is clear that it provides for “higher burdens” in capital cases.
I purposely studied trial transcripts pleadings and filings in advance of all actual evidence and exhibits because I did not want any basis I had for procedural errors to influence my opinion.
My advance apologies for those reading that are new to the facts of this case for leading with the caboose, there is a method to my engineering.
To an extent, I can bifurcate the issues of guilt or innocence vs. our rights under the constitution to due process.
I am less open to it given the recent verdict in the murder trial of Casey Anthony, where the similar problem but different verdict of no direct physical evidence tied to the accused resulted in her jury acquittal, but that is not the only topical comparison one can make between these two cases, more on that in the final installment of this series.
Brief Background: West Memphis Three Support
The HBO Series Paradise Lost, a documentary filmed by Joe Berlinger & Bruce Sinofsky’s company Creative Thinking International with the full participation of both the prosecution and the defense, paid for a portion of the defense of Echols and Baldwin directly to their lawyers and to them by way of a trust in the name of their attorneys. Once the victim’s families learned of this, each of the victim’s families was paid an undisclosed honorarium for their participation in 1994, prior to its airing in 1996.
Although Baldwin and Echols benefited financially from the arrangement, they sued their attorneys Dan Stidham and Val Price for ineffectiveness of counsel and conflict of interest.
Loosely translated, they have accused them of not hiring defense expert witnesses and well, ineffectiveness.
It is due to that ruling we are sort of “where we are now.
That said, the funding for expert witnesses for these proceedings have been and continue to be paid in part by Arkansas Take Action (ATA), founded by Lorri Davis, Echols wife.
The major celebrity fundraisers and contributors to West Memphis Three via ATA cite “Paradise Lost” as the impetus for their personal advocacy and sponsorship.
I can’t say that I would have blamed them then, as it was not until the series aired, and the “slant” of innocence of the accused by the producers became known to the prosecution and the families, and all but one family member of one of the victim’s declined participation in its sequel. Naturally my first reaction to various organizations, including ATA post conviction fund raising for the defense of 3 convicted murders was a violation of the son of Sam law.
Not in Arkansas. A convict can use funds raised on its behalf for its defense. Let’s hope recently elected Senator David Burnett, the former judge on this case has amending that law on his action item list this year.
Playing to The CSI Effect- Excellent Strategy
Last November, In response to a united appeal decision by the Arkansas supreme court, previously denied by the circuit court in 2007 and argued by famed attorney Dennis Riordon on behalf of Echols, Baldwin and Misskelley, the west Memphis three were granted a new evidentiary hearing to take place on December 5, 2011 based on further DNA, fiber and hair analysis.
It is the goal of the defense team to use the hearing to win a new trial.
Last month, the case status update reports new DNA findings exclude all three suspects. There are 2 spots on a victim’s shoe that are the profile of a common unidentified male, and another spot with a different male profile.
It is the defense’s position that this exonerates Echols, Baldwin and Miskelley, because it does not belong to them, which was stated similarly in just about every news article as well.
It does nothing of the kind, as there were over a dozen WMPD personnel on scene who could absolutely be the origin of the DNA.
The defense claims it is “not their job as a defense team” to establish whose DNA it is.
While that is true, presenting that evidence as exculpatory has already been addressed by the court on it’s own merit. Consideration by the court of this evidence, and all other evidence whether presented at trial or not is in effect, giving the state the power to decide guilt or innocence and makes the rule 37 “ruling” moot.
This is a very wide berth for both sides, and in this author’s opinion, a “be careful what you wish for situation” for at least one defendant, if not all three, ultimately.
Ditched In A Ditch
Because of the snafu that no detectives were notified until early morning on May 6th, detectives were trudging through the crime scene they did not yet know was a crime scene; until Detective Mike Allen saw the unmistakable yellow cub scout hat and a child’s sneaker floating in the stream.
While Mike Allen attempted to retrieve the items by leaning over the creek with his hands on a tree on the opposite side, he lost his footing on the muddy bank and slid into the murky aquatic coffin of the missing boys.
Allen’s foot slid underneath the first victim, and caused the naked, hogtied and badly bruised body of Michael Moore to float to the surface at approximately 1 PM.
Chris Byers and Steve Branch were found by Detective Bryn Ridge approximately one hour and 45 minutes later 25 feet downstream, face down, and fully submerged and were located by the apparent purposeful placement of sticks jammed into the mud. The sticks had items of the boys clothing wrapped around the bottom ends.
Byers and Branch were also naked, hog-tied and badly beaten; Stevie sustained significant gouging wounds to the left of his face and Chris was emasculated. Despite the fact that the coroner was 2 hours away, all 3 victims were removed from the ditch and placed on the banks, all three were still bleeding from their wounds and covered by black plastic while WMPD continued to collect evidence from the scene. County workers were enlisted to pump out the stream to collect evidence.
Also at the scene, was Crittenden County juvenile probation officer Steve Jones who suggested detectives speak to Damien Echols. Lt James Sudbury and Steve Jones paid Echols a visit the next day.
Satanic Panic No Manic Yes
Satanic Panic. Throw that phrase into any equation and I already do not believe it. This crime was in no way connected to a cult or an offering of sacrifice of any kind.
In December 2008 I had an opportunity to consult with retired 35 year FBI Behavioral Science Unit chief, Special Agent Ken Lanning, in a different case that showed elements of “Satanism”.
If he says there is no ritual activity associated with this crime, there is no better authority, and he does.
It should be noted prior to the prosecution phase of the murders, the FBI advised John Fogleman not to proceed with that angle as the motive.
I respect that on the surface some believe that Echols was singled out because he had jet black long hair, wore all black, carved a pentagram into his chest, etc. That is until the 500 pages of his medical reports and prior criminal record were released.
However, what I do NOT respect, is that at no time was Echols singled out for any other reason than his OWN WORDS and his OWN ACTIONS.
In a recent episode of True Crime By Aphrodite Jones, Misskelley’s former attorney Dan Stidham, now working pro bono assisting Dennis Riordan et al, calls the west Memphis three “throwaway kids”.
He goes on to say that they were arrested because they were dirt poor with family problems and WMPD was under terrific pressure to make an arrest.
Mara Leveritt, a reporter for the Arkansas Times who wrote a book on the case called Devils Knot and who also participated in the HBO series, has continued to be very outspoken that the police and prosecution railroaded these kids.
Leveritt helped start the west Memphis 3 innocence project in 2008 when Lorri Davis refused to open the books of Arkansas Take Action, but has since joined the ATA movement, which is said to have raised well over a million dollars and actively seeking donations today.
There is no dispute whatsoever that Echols, Baldwin and Miskelley lived in squalor with broken families and all three lines of parentage were wrought with mental issues and extreme poverty.
There is much dispute however that prior to their arrests, although several locals pointed the finger directly at Echols and through association Baldwin, that WMPD focused only on them.
In fact, the first time Jason Baldwin’s name came up in connection with the murders was from Damien Echols himself. That’s right, in his questionnaire answer he gave during an interview at WMPD on May 9, 1993; he suggested Jason Baldwin and L.G. Hollingsworth could be responsible. (insert image)
There were well over 100 witness interviews, dozens of warrants for hair and blood samples from various individuals, local sex offenders, out of state relocation’s and the like being scratched off the list as the investigation progressed, as well as witnesses passing polygraphs, thus eliminating them.
The indisputable truth is that these teenagers had a long criminal and violent history in this tiny community.
They all had the same probation officer that knew all of them for years, spent enough time in the community and received updated mental health progress reports to suspect Echols initially, absolutely.
Thus the concept of “supervised probation”.
Taking The Myth out of Mythunderstood
Damien Echols is the son of Pam and Eddie Hutchison. Pam was plagued with psychological issues her entire life which included nobody knowing where she was adopted from, and Eddie left the family after he got his first and only moderate paying job.
Jack Echols, Pam’s next husband, adopted Damien and his sister Constance Michelle. According to medical and social records, Jack Echols sexually abused Michelle and was verbally and physically abusive to all. Pam left Jack and resumed her relationship with Hutchison in the months before the murders. Their rented trailer had one working door and no bedroom for Damien.
There are no elementary records for Damien, and by both parents accounts, he lived his early childhood in a shack in the middle of a field with no water or electricity.
In the 18 months prior to the murders, Damien Echols was arrested for trespassing, sexual misconduct and committed to a psychiatric hospital for the second last time.
He was suspended from school seven times the year before, once for lighting a fire in the back of class, the last time because he clawed the face of Shane Divilbiss, a romantic rival for the affections of Deanna Holcomb, who was arrested with Damien a few months later.
Damien’s last commitment, while living with the recently relocated family in Aloha Oregon was caused by Echols threatening to slit his mother’s throat and drink her blood, and subsequently eat his father.
Pam and Eddie Hutchison were so concerned about Damien’s behavior and his threats to them, they refused to allow him back into the home and sent him on a bus back to Arkansas.
The Hutchison’s moved back to West Memphis 6 weeks before the murders and Damien moved back in. Damien is suspected to have burned down his Father Andy Jack Echols garage and part of his trailer according to his friend Chris Littrell. Pam Echols Hutchison Metcalf is currently on disability for depression.
According to Damien’s OWN application for Social Security disability benefits, he was suffering from homicidal, sociopathic and suicidal ideations, manic depression and schizophrenia:
The exhibit known as the “500”, as in 500 pages of medical records tells the story the prosecution could not, due to the exclusion of “prior bad acts”. There was great concern about Damien’s escalating propensity for violence, so much so his probation officer removed the dog and cat skulls from his bedroom and expressed and great concern for acts against others. He felt the natural evolution of his violence was going to be humans 18 months prior to the murders.
Damien was told at the hospital that he could be the next Ted Bundy, he replied I always knew
In her first police interview, Pam tells WNPD Hutchison that packed up and left her the night before the boys were missing, and took everything to his Mother’s by 9PM.
Pam described Damien as upset and crying over the incident.
In her subsequent deposition in September 1993, now represented by Damien’s attorneys, Val Price and Scott Davison she recants this happened on this evening. Echols told detectives Damien was normal, and that he had no problems. It was not until detectives prompted her that they knew of his hospitalizations through his probation officer that she even admitted he was on medication. I have dubbed her the Cindy Anthony of West Memphis.
HUTCHISON: I THINK HE’S A PRETTY DECENT YOUNG MAN, I’VE NEVER HAD ANY PROBLEMS WITH HIM.
HUTCHISON: NO, HE WASN’T FAIRLY NORMAL, HE WAS, HE WAS MUCH BETTER THAN NORMAL.
SUDBURY: SO AS FOR AS DISCIPLINED?
HUTCHISON: HE WAS NEVER DISCIPLINED PROBLEM, NO
The Echols lived mostly on and off with Randy and Susan Sanders, Randy is a convicted sex offender and felon.
He was arrested for public masturbation 3 months before the murders.
Charles Jason Baldwin
Jason is the son of Larry Baldwin and Angela Baldwin Grinnell, his divorced parents who are also second cousins. Three months before the murders, Jason’s mom was involuntarily hospitalized for paranoid delusions after Jason found her bleeding from self-inflicted injuries and called 911.
Angela’s second husband and Jason’s step-dad, Terry Grinnell went to live at his Mom’s. Five years before the murders, in Shelby County, it is believed Jason started a fire in the bedroom of the family home. Baldwin was on probation since he was 13 for criminal mischief and most recently for shoplifting in May 1993. Since Echols return from Oregon, Baldwin’s grades were on the down slide and he was warned that if he missed school it would violate his probation.
On May 5, 1993, Angela and her live-in boyfriend Dink Dent had an altercation and she kicked him out the following day, after public announcement the boys had been murdered.
Jason was responsible for looking after his younger brother Matt, and step-brother Terry Jr. now that his parents had separated. The night Jason was arrested, his step-dad was again living with the family, and Angela returned home from work to find WMPD searching their home.
She became hysterical and began screaming at Terry, accusing him of turning Jason in for the reward money. Jason was at Damien’s house the evening of their arrest on June 3, 1993; they turned the lights out and hid under the bed when WMPD came to place them into custody.
Jessie Lloyd Misskelley, Jr.
Jesse and his brother with special needs were abandoned by their Mother when they were toddlers. Jessie’s’ older brother was eventually institutionalized a few years later.
Jesse was on and off probation since he was 11 years old. Most recently, one month before the murders, he was convicted of beating up a 13 year old girl.
In the weeks following the murders, Lee Rush, the live-in girlfriend of Jessie’s father, was awakened on more than one occasion by loud sobbing in the middle of the night coming from Jessie’s room.
When she asked him what was wrong, he simply told her that he was upset his girlfriend was moving away.
As detectives were waiting in the living room of the Misskelley trailer for the CST team to arrive to exact the search following Jessie’s arrest, Lee told them that story three times. She claimed she “knew something was wrong”.
Mr. Misskelley stated that Jessie might have been there, but he did not murder those kids.
Buddy Lucas, a friend of Jessie’s, would tell investigators after his arrest that Miskelley confessed to him the day after the murders that he was there, and asked him to take the blue and white adidas shoes he had been wearing.
Preponderance Or Propaganda
I have watched countless interviews, and opinions where an “expert” believes the west Memphis three are wrongly accused, it is usually followed by- ” ..there is no physical evidence to tie them to the crime..” For starters, that is inaccurate. There is voluminous amounts of physical and trace evidence, albeit circumstantial.
They were not wrongly accused, there was a confession by someone involved trying to make it look like he was not, by skewing facts so he could get the reward money for turning in Baldwin and Echols and buy his dad a truck.
That does not sound like a mentally challenged minor, it sounds to me like he told his Dad he was there, but did not do anything could he tell the cops the truth with his permission? I am referring to the first confession, subsequent two others with the corrected facts and his admission FOLLOWING his conviction against his attorneys advice. I will analyze both his statements as they relate to the evidence in Part 3.
Since when does a DNA sample, found on items handled by multiple people, which does not match a suspect, exclude them? Most specifically, when there are partial profiles available from serology that do not EXCLUDE them?
NEW PROSECUTION EVIDENCE TIED TO ECHOLS AND BALDWIN
Exclusively on www.blinkoncrime.com, during the course of our investigation of the case file, new and additional evidence has been uncovered linking Damien Echols and Jason Baldwin to the murders.
The INFAMOUS BR1
A plastic bag with the Road Runner Petro logo found at the scene containing inter alia a black thermal t shirt size Medium, a khaki short sleeve button down shirt size L, men’s size 33-34 Jordache jeans, a pair of white socks recovered from the pipe near the scene. A red fiber found on Michael Moore ‘s boyscout shirt, which was microscopically similar to a red and white pullover shirt of Echols, was also found in this bag.
Although the fiber matched one from the victim, and one belonging to Echols, investigators could never tie-in the bag to one of the suspects.
When Echols was interviewed on May 9, he told Gary Gitchell that he was a roofer and worked for Alderson roofing. This is also confirmed by some of his medical records.
In the only deposition Eddie Hutchison gave, he told detectives he worked at Petro.
Although he purposely never referred to it as Road Runner Petro, www.blinkoncrime.com was able to trace the names of his supervisors back to the Memphis, TN Road Runner Petro.
Alderson Roofing & Metal shares a parking lot with Road Runner Petro.
I submit, either connection ties “Icky” to the Road Runner bag. To date, no personnel from either Road Runner or Alderson roofing has been interviewed. No responses to our requests for interviews have been received by this articles publication.
One thing that most experts have agreed on, with a few exceptions to be discussed later is that the injuries to the boys did not come from a knife. The defense strongly believes that the knife found in the lake behind Baldwin’s trailer was not used and I agree that the “grapefruit is not just for breakfast anymore” stunt by John Fogleman was ridiculous and should never have been allowed, and stricken at a minimum. However, I do think Jason Baldwin was the owner of the primary weapon used in the assault and murders of Chris, Stevie, and Michael on May 5, 1993.
The day before the murders, Tuesday May 4, 1993, Jason Baldwin traded 3 t shirts for a curved “throwing” knife, and a mountain climbing ice pick. On Friday May 8, 1993 Jason had his little brother Matthew return those items, he had kept hidden under his bed for the last few days, claiming “somebody was going to accuse him of using them.”
On May 11, 1993 Billy and Kenny Newell turned the weapons over to WMPD.
Statement of Kenny Newell
Jason was over at our house and Billy wanted to
trade something for some shirts. And the only thing
Billy has good enough to trade is the weapons. Billy
picked the shirts he wanted and they traded. And 3
or 4 days later Jason’s little brother brong the pick
and the nife back and got the shirts but we didn’t
find the testement shirt so he still has it.
Jason Baldwin and his brother Mathew Baldwin
lives west from our house at the street right before
the last one by the fild 3 or 4 trailers down on the left.
Billy Newell is my brother. The first trade took place at the early part of last week. The second trade took place
at the last part of the same week.
This statement was completed at 6:28PM on the 5-11-93
The Newell brothers were never called as witnesses, and the ice axe seems to have been put on the shelf after there were no latents detected.
Based on visual analysis of the crime, autopsy macros and photos I have reviewed, 14 experts reports, trial testimony and witness statements to the fact that Jason Baldwin’s post offense behavior had him get rid of it through a peripheral party PRIOR to any LE interaction indicating he was a suspect, it is my personal opinion this weapon was used in the commission of these murders. Please see similar axe image close ups:
I do not profess to have any earthly idea why this ice axe was not previously compared to the wounds in this case as a possible murder weapon, but our analysis finds this instrument is consistent with the wounds sustained by the victims in this crime, encompassing ante-mortem, perimortem and postmortem inflictions of all three boys.
WARNING GRAPHIC WARNING GRAPHIC WARNING GRAPHIC WARNING GRAPHIC
Complete Autopsy Files on each victim can be found here. Viewing autopsy images of a graphic nature is highly upsetting to most people, if you are one of those, I would encourage you to leave the site as I am making an extended entry here so one must click the next page to view as an opt in permission following the warning.
WARNING GRAPHIC WARNING GRAPHIC WARNING GRAPHIC WARNING GRAPHIC
Complete Autopsy Files on each victim can be found here. Viewing autopsy images of a graphic nature is highly upsetting to most people, if you are one of those, I would encourage you to leave the site.
The following information is not intended to take the place of the full and complete autopsy reports available , it is for demonstrative purposes of support as to the possibility that the mountain climbing pick, subsequently referred to as ice pick, is a possible murder weapon. I refer to relevant injuries only, and in some cases I have cropped images to illustrate only those and protect the privacy of the victims.
Situated on the left parietal scalp was a dove-tail type laceration measuring 3/4 by 1/8 inch. At the inferior margin of the wound was an extension patterned contusion in the form of an upside down “L”; the vertical portion measured 1/2 inch and the horizontal portion measured 1/4 inch. Moore’s left side surfaced when it was “dislodged” by Mike Allen’s foot.
Stevie had large gouging wounds to the left side of his face, they are believed to be perimortem as they have sections of skin torn from the inside of the cheek and described as “interrupted” cuts. Byers gouging wounds are referred to as similar in Dr. Peretti’s report.
*Image too graphic refer to description only*
Q. Okay. And using that if you could explain to the Court 15 your biggest concern regarding this not being a bite mark. 16 A. My biggest concern of it not being a bite mark — if you 17 look at this one with this curve and this curve and this curve 18 and this curve (INDICATING) — there are curved lines all over 19 this poor victim and even deep gashes which also have a similar 20 curvature which show up better on the side view — the left 21 side of the face. 22 Q. Doctor, could you refer to that exhibit number on that? 23 A. Exhibit Thirteen M is the blow-up, and that’s the blow-up 24 of the original Ten M.
The only one of the three that does not have a cause of death related to drowning, bled to death from a gouging wound to his penis and scrotum. In original trial testimony, Dr. Peretti testified it could have been caused by the “Baldwin” serrated knife, other knives, or a piece of broken and jagged glass.
*Image Too graphic* Refer to description
In subsequent hearings, Expert following expert has testified that this was NOT a cutting wound, but a wound that was “tearing” in nature. What several experts also testified to, was that the victims were covered with “curved wounds.”
To be continued : Part 2 A continuation of the evidence in the case against the West Memphis Three .