Damien Echols in his backyard. This photo is believed to have been taken after the murders and before the arrests.
Damien's Demons, Part Three
Threatening harm to others.
In various instances in his mental health notes Damien is alleged to have had physically or verbally threatened to harm or to threatened to kill
Threats to his family.
The allegation that Damien threatened to kill his mother, Pamela Hutchison, appears a number of times in his mental health records. This overlaps with the incident in which Echols is said to have threatened to kill his father.
Exactly what happened is difficult to piece together. The potential witnesses would be Damien, his family and the police. The police report is limited to describing Damien as suicidal. Damien's father later also described this as a situation in which Damien was suicidal.
There are other clues, although not direct ones. On page 102, it says Damien was admitted to St. Vincent's "because of the parents calling the police and his being admitted through the Emergency Room because of alleged threat to the parents."
The other major clue as to a threat against his mother comes as part of the social work notes on page 145. Here the social worker cites an interview with Damien's mother and father and notes "17 yr old male brought to ER by mother + natural father because pt has been increasing depressed + has been making statement daily that he was going to kill himself or others. . . told grandmother today he would cut his mother's throat."
A non-specific and more benign note appears on page 20: "Mrs. Echols reports that Damien has attempted to fight with her on occasion." Other allegations of threats to his mother can be inferred as being part of "threats to parents" discussed below.
Did Echols threaten his father, Joe Hutchison? The incident that brought him to St. Vincent's was described above and on the previous page, including his father's denial of being threatened. Nevertheless, in subsequent notes, threatening his parents' lives was linked to Damien being hospitalized in Oregon, given as a reason for the revocation of his parole, and even the cause for the incorrect assertion that he was placed in juvenile detention in Oregon. As a cause for the hospitalization in Oregon:
Damien reportedly threatened to kill his father while in Oregon and also threatened to eat him. Damien was subsequently placed in St. Vincent's Hospital until arrangements could be made for him to come to Arkansas. Damien, however, denies this. (p. 82)
Threaten to kill dad - when went into hospital in Oregon. (p. 360)
It was also linked to the incorrect assertion that Damien was put into juvenile detention in Oregon. "Threatened to kill his father and subsequently father had him placed in Juvenile Detention Center in Oregon." (p. 407)
Jerry Driver described this incident during his December 1993 interview, saying that Joe Hutchison had called him.
Um, the dad called me and said that he was he didn't, he did not say anything about weapons, uh he said that he intended, that Damien intended to kill him. . . Um, he uh, he called me up and said that they had sent him home, he didn't ask if he could come home, he just said we've sent him home because he went crazy one night and threatened to kill me and we went the hospital and he jump around and said he was going to eat me. He said come on I'm going to eat you up. . .
In spite of saying there was no weapon, Jerry Driver is listed as an informant on page 366:
threats to kill dad. Threats to live (sic) both parent (slash threats eat alive).
He is also listed as a source for the information on page 374:
While in Oregon, several times had threatened to kill his father. On one occasion, Damien made a plan to "slash my parents' throats and eat them alive."
Driver used this incident to revoke Damien Echols probation and send him to juvenile lockup when Echols returned to Arkansas.
Violation of probation by threatening the life of his mother and father and refusing to obey their lawful commands. (p. 345)
Which then made its way into subsequent hospital records.
. . . picked up for violation of probation threatened to slit parents throat and eat them alive. (p. 357)
There is one instance in Exhibit 500 where Damien is cited as the source of a threat to his father. In the report from Craighead County Juvenile Detention Center includes this comment: "He [Damien] also told staff he threatened to kill his father, and eat him." (p. 464)
During his testimony, Echols confirmed two significant aspects: he had locked himself in rooms with knives and he did say he would eat his father alive.
Echols: They called the police because I was locking myself in my room and was about to commit suicide.What happened? It is telling that with the admission to St. Vincent's his mother was willing to pass along the secondhand statement "told grandmother today he would cut his mother's throat" and yet not mention anything of firsthand information of threats or even secondhand threats about his father with a knife. It should also be noted that although threats of violence were alleged, there were no violent actions.
Allegations of threats to other family members are few. Jerry Driver is listed as a source for the statements on page 374. "The father felt threatened as his wife's and other child in the home." The parents were also cited as scared, although not because of specific threats. "They [the parents] are frightened of him and what he can do, not only to them but to other children that reside in the home (2 others). (p. 150)" The two others were his younger sister, Michelle Echols and his half-brother Timothy Hutchison.
Threats to others
Damien was alleged to have threatened Deanna Holcomb's father. This was said to have taken place at the time of Damien and Deanna's arrest. However this did not appear in the arrest report:
5/19/92, 4:45 pm. Crittenden County Sheriff Department. This defendant [Damien Echols] was arrested after a report from the co-defendant's mother was received by Marion Police Department reference a runaway. Officer Stone of the Marion Police Department located these defendants inside the closet area of a vacant mobile home in Lakeshore estates, and observed that both subjects were partially nude from the waist down. Officer Stone transported both subjects to the lakeshore Grocery and the undersigned was contacted. Upon arriving on the scene, the undersigned charged both subjects with Bruglary and Sexual Misconduct. Both subjects were transported to the county Jail where juvenile intake officer Jerry Driver was contacted. Investigating officers John L. Murray/Inv. and Joe Stone, MPD.
The arrest report only lists charges of burglary and sexual misconduct. Later, Damien was put on probation on the charges of breaking and entering and second degree sexual misconduct.
Although no charge was made for threatening anyone (along with no police notes), Driver would later inform Damien's parole officer in Oregon: "Damion threatened to kill his girlfriend's parents." (p. 467) Furthermore, Damien's files regularly reflected the "fact" that he was on probation for threatening to kill his girlfriend's parents. "Damien was on probation due to threatening to kill his girlfriend's parents." (p. 82, 368, 405). Driver goes on to describe the threat as being to "kill officer. kill gf's dad." (p. 366)
So what happened? This note was scribbled across a Charter Hospital intake sheet:
Damien and his girlfriend were having sex when arrested. Burglarly, breaking entering, disorderly conduct, sexual misconduct, terroristic threatening in which he threatened to kill a guy and throw in the front lawn. (p 168) [further down the page under Clinical Criteria:] Verbal threats to others to kill people when upset.
This would suggest such an incident took place, but it is, like many sources, confounded by referring to charges that were never filed and hence calling into suspect the additional information. Also on this intake page it misstates Damien's suicidal ideation as a suicide attempt: "In Juv. detention past 2 wks. and co sherriff reports pt. tried to hang himself w/a bed sheet while there" (p. 168)
Pamela and Damien Echols were interviewed by a social worker at Charter Hospital and gave this further background on this event.
Approximately two weeks ago, this 17-year-old and his 15-year-old girlfriend ran away from home. Damien stated that the reason the couple ran away from home was because the adolescent female's parents forbade the child from having any visitation or contact with Damien. According to Damien and his mother, Pam Echols, they had tried on several occasions to meet as families to discuss the differences that the girlfriend's family about her seeing Damien Echols. Informants state they were not able to reach any type of agreement and that, on several occasions, the girlfriend's father became verbally abusive, and at times, threatening. On approximately, 5-30-92, Damien Echols and his 15-year-old girlfriend were arrested. Damien was charged with burglary, breaking and entering, disorderly conduct, sexual misconduct, and terroristic threatening. . . The 15 year-old girl had been forbade from having any contact with Damien. She violated her parents, had contact with Damien, and the two ran to a vacant house. (p. 232)
Damien provided these further details:
The patient stated that they did not steal any objects that were in the home and further indicated that the home that he and his girlfriend were in at the time was vacant. He states he did not break into the home, that it was unlocked. He also states he was not belligerent at the time of his arrest. He states, "I was real sad, but not mean." (p. 237)
On one page he characterizes their plight in terms that echo "young love."
"They say we think we think we know everything - that we're too young to really love each other." (page 29)
Although there is no further clarification as to what happened, at least in Damien's mind he was considering violent actions. These were described more fully previously. In brief:
Damien states that he was able to work his fingers loose, moved over and was able to slip the safety off of the police officer's gun which had been left in the police vehicle. Damien freely admitted he had plans to shoot the girlfriend's father if he acted in an aggressive manner toward the girl. (p. 383)
This has an air of fantasy to it. Being able to only free one's fingers enough to remove the safety of a gun is not close to being able to hold the gun, aim and fire it. Also, officers, the large majority of the time, do not leave their firearms unattended near the arrestee. Regardless of whether it was a fantasy, it represents murderous ideation.
There is one statement that seems to attribute an acknowledgement of making threats to Damien: "Hx has been dictated as of this date 9/16/92. . . .has agreed to threatening to "kill" others (particularly male authority figures)." (p. 417, "kill" in quotations in original) In this instance it is referring to a history (Hx) and may be referencing the previous day's intake history which did not source Damien as admitting or agreeing that he made this threat.
The other mentions of threats to people that can be found in Damien's documents relate to brief and general comments and might refer to the above events: threatening others (p. 370), denies threatening others (p. 398), involved in terroristic threatening (p. 175), etc. Other times, the general term "murderous ideation" and synonyms are used (p. 141, 156, others) often in denial (p. 107, others).
Acts of Aggression
In contrast to threats or murderous ideation, Damien was said to have been involved in the following acts of aggression:
Violent acts and attempted acts of aggression.
There are notes on four pages saying Damien was alleged to have chased a child with an ax and attempted to burn down a house (these two are always mentioned together). These were always phrased as "supposedly" or as part of a denial, or both. "Supposedly, Damien chased a younger child with an ax and attempted to set a house on fire. He denied this behavior." (p. 92, others) There is no further documentation of these alleged incidents.
Damien is said to have initiated fights with peers. These include biting, kicking and attempting to claw out the eyes of a classmate (also called enucleation). The instance of biting is only mentioned once:
Did bite a male peer; however, this was in a fight type manner. (p. 84)
As is the instance of kicking:
Time out for physical contact c peer - during processing pt admitted he kicked peer & knew appropriate alternatives. Initially denied contact, but was compliant c time out. (p. 308)
The attempt to claw out the eyes (or an eye) of a classmate is mentioned several times: "He said prior to admission he did attempt to enucleate a peer's eye at school." (p. 92); and, "Damien admits to a hx of violence. He says he attempted to enucleate a peer @ school." One note includes a rare instance of Damien expressing a reason for his behaviors:
Admits to having been suspended 7x this past semester for initiating fights at school; starting small fires, cussing." States in one fight he almost gouged out the victim's eyes.
Denies feeling violent - sees it as a release - "Sometimes I have to do this not because of being angry – sometimes I'm confused." (p. 29)
Damien's description of almost gouging out the victim's eyes may have been exaggerated. He was only suspended for three days for this fight (p. 220). Damien's fingernails were described as being filed to a point in his June Charter Hospital stay (p. 38), but this was not noted in subsequent admissions.
Other references to acts of aggression were spoken of in general terms: physical confrontations at school (p. 236), extreme physical aggression towards others (p. 258), beat up peer (p. 308), other similar examples can be found. These may refer to the above events or else to further unspecified events.
Damien was said to have started two fires at school (p. 236). One is described as being in the chemistry class (p. 279). One instance of firestarting is described in more detail:
Wet toilet paper roll threw it against a light bulb it exploded started a fire, rolled himself in a blanket. . . watching fire was bored. (p. 178)
In summary, in contrast to the absence of acts of violence against his family or adults, Damien did have a documented history of fighting with his peers and antisocial behavior such as firestarting.
[Continued in: Damien's Demons Part Four]
Damien in his backyard, looking the other direction.
Copyright © 2008 Martin David Hill
Site Design By Michael Gillen