Over the past several months this site has received a number of “comments” critical of my conclusion that the West Memphis Three—Echols, Baldwin and Misskelley—are guilty of killing three eight-year-old Cub Scouts in West Memphis, Arkansas in May 1993. A general theme emerged from these comments; namely, that three “dumbass teenagers” could not have committed such a heinous crime without leaving some evidence of involvement. These WM3 apologists proceed on the erroneous presumption that the State of Arkansas prosecuted, and convicted, the three teenagers without any evidence of guilt.
Police investigators gathered substantial evidence in the case. Some of it was direct evidence based on witness accounts while most of it was circumstantial from which an inference of guilt could be reasonably drawn. I will list some of this evidence to refute the assertion that there was “no evidence” against the three teenagers. While some of this evidence has been discredited in various ways, much of it remains open for each person’s own determination of its credibility. The evidence is:
Misskelley’s confessions. Before the arrest of Echols and Baldwin, Misskelley gave a series of detailed and explicit confessions to the police. Some of the information provided in the confessions has been legitimately called into question, but core facts exist. Misskelley went to the police. He implicated himself, Echols and Baldwin in the murders. While he recanted the confessions after speaking with his father, the fact remains that he did confess. WM3 apologists cite his 72 IQ as a primary basis for attacking the reliability of the confessions. The same borderline retarded IQ could also be used to attack the reliability of his recantation.
Echols was questioned by the police four days after the boys’ bodies were recovered. One of the investigators asked Echols how he thought the boys had been killed. He responded: they had been mutilated, they were thrown into water, they may have drowned, and one of the boys had been mutilated more than the others. Echols testified at trial he had read about the crime details in the newspapers, but no such details had been reported prior to his description—something he was forced to admit to on the witness stand. A reasonable inference can be drawn that Echols’s crime descriptions, at the very least, indicates first-hand knowledge about the crime, especially since he made several statements to, and in the presence of, other people indicating first-hand knowledge about the crime before his arrest.
There was some fiber evidence seized from the Echols/Baldwin residences which may have linked the two teens to the crime: fibers found on a robe belonging to Baldwin’s mother were “microscopically similar” to fibers from one of the boys shirt; and a fiber found on the cap of a relative of Echols was similar to those found on one of the boys. While this forensic evidence does not conclusively link either man to the murders, its presence does allow for some reasonable inference of guilt to be drawn.
A knife was used in the mutilation of the boys. Echols and Baldwin were both linked to a similar survivalist-type knife before their arrest. A witness saw Echols with a knife similar to the one found in the lake behind the Baldwin residence. No clear link was ever established between either Echols or Baldwin with the lake knife, but it is “indirect evidence” that should be considered. The police had some reason to search the lake and found a knife with the words “Special Forces Survival Roman Numeral Two” on the blade. Echols and Baldwin were “close buddies” who shared the same “fuck society” attitude which blended perfectly with Echols’s clinically diagnosed violent psychosis.
Echols and Baldwin shared the same interests in Gothic dress, heavy metal music, and occult literature and symbols. Misskelley was a troublemaker always looking for the next fight. A combination of these forces were potential triggers for a violent event. And then there are those Alford guilty pleas. An Alford plea undermines the WM3 apologists “no evidence” assertion. While an Alford plea is not a “judicial confession” like an ordinary guilty plea, a person entering an Alford plea must stipulate that the State has enough “evidence” to convict should there be a trial. So attorneys for the WM3, as well as the killers themselves, believed State prosecutors had enough credible “evidence” to re-convict them had they secured a new trial.
WM3 apologists scoff at this evidence as “no evidence” yet they have publicly lynched Terry Hobbs (the stepfather of one of the murdered boys) in the court of public opinion because a single strain of hair found several years ago in the clothing of one of the boys put Hobbs in a “profile” of the hair. One respected forensic journal had this to say about “hair evidence:”
“Hair is considered class evidence. Alone (without follicle cells attached), it cannot be used to identify a specific individual. In the best case, an investigator can identify a group or class of people who share similar traits who might share a certain type of hair. For example, the investigator can fairly confidently exclude people with Asian and African ancestry as producers of the blond hair found at a crime scene. She could also compare the hair collected with hair from a blond suspect. However, even though the hairs may share characteristics, they may not necessarily be from the same source.
“Hair can easily be left behind at a crime scene. It can also adhere to clothes, carpets, and many other surfaces and be transferred to other locations. This is called secondary transfer …”
Assuming that the single strain of “Hobbs’s hair” is in fact Hobbs’s hair, it is far more likely than not that little Stevie picked up the hair at home and transferred it to the other boy’s clothing because they played together. WM3 apologists, including one of those renowned FBI “crime profilers,” believe that one man killed the boys and did so in a rage because the boys misbehaved—and they say this profile matches Terry Hobbs. Anyone who believes that Terry Hobbs (anyone else) “went off his rocker” and tortured and mutilated three 8-yeat-old boys because they wouldn’t behave or in some other way “pissed him off” should have their own rocker checked.
I’ve never been absolutely convinced, based on the evidence in the public record, that there was sufficient evidence of guilt against the WM3. What convinced me of their guilt is their collective behavior before the crime, after the crime, during their imprisonment, and finally and most importantly, the way they gobbled up the Alford plea deal like a pig in slop.