The Victims The Place Time It Was The Crime The Investigation The Convicted
The Victims The Place The Investigation Time it was The CrimeThe Convicted



Symbols of West Memphis Sports Team

West Memphis High Blue Devil and West Junior High Blue Imp.

Satan in this investigation.

"Authorities aren't ruling out anything in their investigation, [Chief Investigator] Gitchell said, including the possibility of gang or cult activity, though he said he saw no evidence of either."  West Memphis Evening Times, May 11, 1993.

"Do you believe in God - devil?"
"Do you believe in white or black magic?"
"Do you have or own a Bible?"
-- From a 32 item questionnaire specially prepared for this case.

     Although arguments would later be made to support the occult nature of the crimes, no such claims were present in the early written summaries or the profile sent to the FBI.  There were no ritual markings or emblems found at the crime scene, nor was there any physical evidence that rituals had taken place there in the past.  The mutilation of the bodies was savage but not systematic. 

    There were those in the police who believed the most likely perpetrators were sexual deviants, transients passing through town, or a truckdriver from the adjacent truck wash, the Blue Beacon.  (Another, even larger truck stop was just one more lot away.)  Sensibly, patrons credit card receipts were collected and their names checked.  The first suspects brought in for questioning were transients and passersby, those who had raised suspicions during the door to door interviews, and those that were seen in the vicinity that night.

First bulletin seeking suspects

First broadcast looking for suspects, 10:38 pm, May 6, 1993

    Other officials from the very beginning suspected that a cult was at work.  Steve Jones was in his mid-thirties and worked for Crittenden County as an assistant juvenile probation officer.  It was he who discovered the floating shoe that led to the discovery of the bodies.  Staying at the scene as the first child was drawn out of the water, he immediately connected the murder to one of his parolees, stating "Looks like Damien finally killed somebody."  Then, as an officer noted, he suddenly became ill and left.

    Jones, along with his supervisor, Jerry Driver believed that there was devil worshipping and satan-based crimes occurring in Crittenden County.  After noting "a marked increase" in what they termed "satanic-related graffiti" they sought advice from Little Rock cult consultant Steve Nawojczyk.  Other evidence of cult activity included dead animal carcasses and campfires.  (Some attributed these to hobos passing through.)  Driver and Jones put into place a preventative plan.  For over a year they patrolled the county looking for signs of cult crimes.  In particular they were concerned about human sacrifices taking place on the nights of full moons.  

    Jerry Blackwood Driver had been named the chief juvenile intake and probation officer in March 1992.  By that time, he was in his fifties, married with three children.  This new venture was a step down.  He had spent 20 years in the airline business in Memphis and Miami.  He told reporters that when he had worked in Miami flying cargo runs to Haiti, he'd become familiar with voodoo.  After his piloting career, he started a couple of businesses, but they didn't last long.  Now, as a county employee he was making less than $20,000 a year and soon headed for bankruptcy.

    Shortly after becoming Chief Juvenile Officer, Driver met Damien Echols for the first time.  In May 1992, Echols was arrested with his then girlfriend Deanna Holcomb, and charged with burglary and sexual misconduct after they attempted to run away, and hid in an unoccupied trailer after it started raining.  Echols told Driver an elaborate story about the 3 or 4 cults in West Memphis, and animal sacrifices but didn't give him any names of these people.  Echols would claim he was feeding him stories.  

    The difficulties of proving the existence of this cult and the finding the names of those involved would be a recurring theme in the investigation.  Many residents passed along rumors, some claiming strange smells from the nearby woods, bands of painted people, one even claiming to have seen a sacrificed baby.  Two witnesses would come forward saying they were members of a satanic cult, but these witnesses seemed to be in the throes of schizophrenia.  Fifteen year old Ricky Climer (probably the more coherent of the two) said he belonged to the cult for almost five years and told implausible and unsubstantiated stories about their having beaten up a police officer, having hung one woman and killed another.  When asked if there was violence at these meetings, Climer replied,

Climer: Uh, you know sometimes it be flat out violence, you know, getting into fights and stuff, uh then again sometimes it would be like, you know, you're be sitting there, you know, the next you'll start thinking of some cartoon characters. Let's say, the little guys in blue
Ridge: Smurfs
Climer: Yeah, Smurfs, things like that and the next thing you know, you be, all of a sudden somebody will be running at you, and the Smurf has a heart on his arms and he will be running at you and stuff, you know.

    Such statements rendered Climer unusable as a witness (although he was on the prosecutor's witness list, he was not called.).  As with other evidence in this case, these statements could be interpreted in any of several ways.  Did their participation in a cult drive them mad?  Was the cult a haven for the mentally ill?  Or did their mental illness inspire nonsensical and devilish illusions?  Fundamental problems remained.  There were few consistencies between these stories and no corroborating evidence.  

    Only one witness, Victoria Hutcheson, would testify at trial as to the existence of the cult stating that she had gone with Damien to the beginning of a meeting but left before anything happened.  She has since recanted her testimony apologizing for the damage she had done saying that, upon reconsidering, she was drunk that night and passed out on her lawn.  (The prosecution also made the case the crimes were satanic in nature through the testimony of Dr. Dale Griffis.)

    The day after the bodies were discovered Steve Jones accompanied police lieutenant James Sudbury to visit Damien Echols at his trailer.  They took photos looking for scratches on his torso (none were visible).  They took notes about what they considered odd answers to their questions.  They would ask Echols in for further questioning at the beginning of the next week.

    This resulted in a second wave of suspects brought in for questioning:  Wiccan teenagers and alleged members of local cults.  (This second wave started just five days after the disappearances.  A third wave of suspects would be called in during the coming week including local sex offenders and follow-ups from the tip hotline.) Chris Littrell and Murray Farris, teenage heads of a local meeting of Wiccans were interviewed.  They named the members of their recently formed groups and passed along rumors regarding Damien Echols and others.

   Witchcraft and its practitioners would become one of the centers of the investigation.  Other suspects, including ones with no seeming connection to the occult would be asked, do you know Chris Littrell?  Murray Farris?  Damien Echols?

Damien Echols
Continued with:
Focussing on Damien Echols

early questionnaire

Early draft of questionnaire.  
[Question] 27 Believe in white or Black Majic? 

Expression - bobului or Pentigram?  
28 Have or own a Bible?

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